A very thoughtful answer. Thanks.
Okay. I get where you’re coming from a bit better now. For myself, I see the kingly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 1, and the priestly metaphor as predominate in Gen. 2-3, although I flip-flop on how much ha’adam represents both priest and king. I’d just suggest that a vice-ruler is often a minor child invested with “the crown” but not yet mature enough to exercise that vocation. I’ll forego the scriptural examples.
You’re right that I keep the parent/child metaphor in mind when I read the story. I can’t help adopting Jesus’ perspective of God as Abba, and his nickname for the disciples was “children.” But I’m not one to say that scripture has only one “true” sense. I think scripture contains multiple meanings and metaphors. The primary metaphor of Gen. 1 for the original audience was Creation is a Temple, but that doesn’t exhaust the possibilities. Creation is also work, as you have pointed out elsewhere. In trying to think through the ramifications of “original sin” for past and present, I’ve found the metaphor of maturity more useful than the “kingly” metaphor.
True. God’s moral code is only a facet of God’s rule. But on this point I think the metaphor of kingship is causing you to import some ideas into the text. Just on a straightforward reading, the command is not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge, and the knowledge they gain when they eat the fruit is moral knowledge, not an understanding of God’s rule. What sort of accountability does God call everyone to?
Were the first humans “created in the image of God”? Yes. But don’t we say that every child is created in the image of God? Yet it’s obvious that not every child born into this world grows up with an understanding of God’s rule or God’s moral code. Nevertheless, God holds them accountable for something. Pulling all of that together, God’s call to A&E to “represent” him doesn’t require a conscious, specific understanding of what God requires of his “vice-regent,” just as God’s call to every child born into this world doesn’t require a conscious knowledge of God’s rule or his moral code. Everyone is accountable for what they learn and know, whether that includes knowledge of God or not; otherwise, how could God judge the world?
Coming back to the text, Gen. 2:7 relates God’s creation of ha’adam, which could be interpreted as God breathing his “image” into the human and bestowing the man with a “calling.” The priestly references begin with the description of Eden is a palace/temple complex, and the man is placed in the garden and given the task of guarding and tending it. These same verbs describe the priests’ service in the temple. What is the priestly task? To keep out what is evil and unclean. The man fails in his task, and the man and woman together gain the knowledge of evil. The priestly metaphor points back to evil and morality.
On the “relationship” front, what is the reason in the story for the woman’s creation? “It’s not good for the man to be alone.” The parade of animals weren’t suitable, so God created a partner for the man. What’s rarely pointed out is the fact that ha’adam wasn’t alone if God had an intimate relationship with him. For the man to be in need of companionship, he must have felt God’s daily absence much more than his presence. Like the rest of us.
I agree. My defense here is that even in early Genesis, the worship of YHWH appears among the other cultural developments in Gen. 4, and God’s specific “call” doesn’t occur until Abram is called out of the worship of “other gods” in Gen. 12. “Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods” Joshua 24:2.
Your second sentence is packed with possible meanings. Taking a stab at it, if a person is ignorant of the true God, is it immoral to worship the god(s) that they were enculturated to worship from childhood? Tough question. I’d say it’s not an immoral act within their culture, but does God view it as “sin”? On the one hand, their conscience would not condemn them, a la Paul in Romans 2. On the other, Isaiah practically equates idolatry with sin. Perhaps it’s a “sin of ignorance”? The Torah specifies sacrifices to “atone” for such sins. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I incline toward the notion that God judges those outside the covenant according to each person’s conscience and deeds (Rom. 2:12-16). If that’s true, I wouldn’t say it was immoral or sinful, unless human sacrifice was involved. But even if sins of ignorance aren’t held against people, that doesn’t mean their conscience doesn’t accuse them of other sinful deeds. Even when measured against the sliding scale of human morality, everyone knowingly violates the conscience sooner or later.
I’d say the A&E narrative is on one level a recapitulation of Israel’s history of violating the commandments and being expelled from their home. On another level, the narrative flow of Gen. 1-11 as a whole is a reply to ANE mythology and origin stories. I can’t locate it at the moment, but in one of Middleton’s essays he points out that in Gen. 1-3 Israel “universalized” its history onto human origins and creation itself. That’s another layer of meaning. No matter how sophisticated the interpretation, I personally can’t read the story and come away with anything other than the impression that it tells of the creation of the first humans.
I wouldn’t disagree with that. I’m simply saying certain evolved capacities are required before spiritual wisdom can even be understood and appreciated. Now, I’m not saying that humanity had no experience of God in the past. Eden is the garden of God’s presence, and the only “real” consequence of the “fall” is banishment from the garden – God’s presence. (The rest are spiritual explanations for present realities. The classic definition of mythology.) It can’t be proven, but I’m optimistic enough to believe that God was present, in some form or fashion, on Earth and with humanity from its earliest beginnings. But when we collectively chose evil, he removed himself from the scene and let us have our own way.
Totally agree. Well said.
I agree sinfulness is a state. I think it propagates as cultural knowledge. And sure, everyone alive hasn’t yet been judged by God. I can appreciate your hopefulness. It strikes me as universalism, though. (Not that that’s a bad thing!) Once the answer key is passed out, everyone makes 100 on the test. haha. I lean toward annihilation, but I don’t think any of us will know for sure until the last day.