What does it mean to be formed from dust?

(RiderOnTheClouds) #1

I’m going to make a case for why I believe Adam was not literally created out of dust, but rather that this was intended to be a statement about human nature.

Genesis 2:7:

Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

Genesis 3:19:

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return."

We see in several biblical passages that the grave/underworld is described in dusty terms:

Job 17:16:

Will it go down to the gates of death? Will we descend together into the dust?"

Psalm 30:9:

"What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

We also find the underworld in the Epic of Gilgamesh is referred to as the ‘House of Dust’.

We see then that the Israelite’s and other Ancient Near Eastern people associated dust with the afterlife. This is why we return to dust when we die. Dust therefore has connotations of death and mortality.

With this in mind then I do not believe that one is automatically forced to believe that Adam was created out of dust by god. For this could easily merely be a description of human mortality, which is one of the things which makes us what we are. Indeed, it would appear that this may very well be the entire purpose of Genesis 2-3, a tale about human nature, including how we are naturally fallible.

(Jon Earnshaw) #2

Working on the assumption that most of Genesis 1 to 6 is a mix of metaphor, parable and prophecy (also a perfect description of how Yeshua (Jesus) spoke) with the occasional element of fact/truth thrown in, I would say that the ‘made from dust’ is a fact/truth element. There appear to be many verses in the Genesis creation which are connected to the real world. Whether this was done consciously or unconciously by the writer or even by Divine guidance we don’t really know. The connection here is similar to Carl Sagan saying ‘we’re all stardust’ where all the living elements of the universe were created millions of years ago from parts of the universe which were dying such as stars which had come to the end of their life and imploded . Google ‘Carl Sagan stardust’

(Larry Bunce) #3

I once read a book where the author said that the Bible had been written by potters, so that its imagery was based on forming living beings from clay. A completely literal reading of Genesis would certainly suggest a potter creating Adam directly from the clay, as is stated in the old hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” (Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.)
The word “dust” has several meanings beyond just household dust, generally with the property of worthless or inconsequential. (British dustbin = American wastebasket)
The creation of Adam from dust is an amazingly concise image, and certainly does not rule out gradual evolution of humans from more primitive ancestors.

p.s. Knowing that most “old” hymns were written in the late 19th to early 20th Centuries, I looked up when “Have Thine Own Way” was written, and found out 1902.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #4

Except then the Hebrew writers would have used the word ‘Kowkab’ (Stars) or ‘Shamayim’ (Heavens), not ‘Adamah’ (ground), to describe the dust which humans were made from.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #5

But Genesis 2 places less emphasis on clay than other creation stories, where clay, not dust is usually the material from which man is formed. Still, the use of the verb ‘Yatsar’, often used to describe moulding an object from clay does suggest a link with forming something from clay. I would suggest, given this, and the reference to the breath of life, that the author of Genesis 2 took the Egyptian myth of Khnum fashioning man from clay (he did this both to the first man and woman and to all humans in the womb) and deliberate changed the material to dust in order to give a desired message.

(system) #6

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