CREATION AND THE HISTORY OF THE EARLY WORLD
Part I: FROM CREATOR TO FATHER - ELOHIM TO YAHWEH
Biblical Period 1
Lesson #2

Beloved heavenly Father,
You created the cosmos; You fixed the earth upon its foundation and clothed the earth with mountains and oceans.  You brought forth life upon the earth and then You created Your masterpiece'man created in Your image and likeness'created in the image of grace and holiness and blessed with an immortal soul; man who was created to flow from You and to return back to You.  Help us to be ever mindful, Father, that Jesus Christ and the Sacraments of Your Church are the bridge by which we are promised our return to You in the heavenly Eden.  Send your Holy Spirit, Father, to guide us in our study. We ask this in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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"...ever since the creation of the world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting powers have been clearly seen by the mind's understanding of created things."
Romans 1:20

"I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers, at the moon and the stars you set firm'what are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him?  Yet you have made him a little less than a god, you have crowned him with glory and beauty, and made him lord of the works of your hands, put all things under his feet..."
Psalm 8:3-6

Scripture readings for Biblical Period 1: Creation and the History of the Early World

1.  Creation Genesis 1:1-2:4
2.  Adam and Eve/ the First Covenant Genesis 2:5-25
3.  The Fall of Man Genesis 3:1-24
4.  The Protoevangelium Genesis 3:8-24
5.  Cain and Abel Genesis 4:1-16
6.  Birth of Seth Genesis 4:25-26
7.  The Toledoth of Adam Genesis 5:1-32
8.  The Flood Genesis 6:1-8:15
9.  The Second Covenant/ Noah Genesis  8:15-9:1-19
10.The Tower of Babel Genesis 9:20-11:1-9

SUMMARY OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS

 

BIBLICAL
 PERIODS
CREATION PATRIARCHS
FOCUS FOUR EVENTS FOUR PEOPLE
THE
COVENANTS
Adam--------------- Noachide---------- Abrahamic-----------------------------------
SCRIPTURE 1:1-------- 3:1----- 6:1----- 10:1------ 12:1-------- 25:19- 27:19------ 37:1-50:26
DIVISIONS Creation Fall Flood Nations Abraham Isaac Jacob Joeseph
TOPIC EARLY HUMAN RACE HEBREW RACE
HISTORICAL ACCOUNT BIOGRAPHICAL ACCOUNTS
LOCATION FERTILE CRESENT
[Mesopotamia]
Eden-Haran (Syria)-Iraq
HARAN-CANAAN
[Syria-Palestine]
Cannan-
Egypt
TIME c. 2000 year period 281 years 81 years

(all Bible summary charts inspired by but revised from Nelson's Bible Maps and Charts)

 

Year?                                                   Year ?                          Year?                    c. 2000BC

Creation: ---------------------------------The Flood----------Tower of Babel---------------------

Adam--------------10 generations---------Noah--------------10 generations---------Abraham-

Genesis
B're'shiyt [Be re'siyth]

"Lord, you have been our refuge from age to age. Before the mountains were born, before the earth and the world came to birth, from eternity to eternity you are God."
 ~ Psalms 90:1-2

The story of Creation begins with the title of the book of Genesis, which is taken from opening words "in [the] beginning".  Our English title comes from the Greek word "genesis" meaning origin, source, birth, or beginnings, but the Hebrew title of this book, taken from the first words in Genesis 1:1, is "b're'shiyt" [bay-ray-sheet] which means "in beginning" or "in first". The prefix "be" [b'] in Hebrew can be translated as "in", "for", "through", or "with", while "re'shiyt", from the Hebrew root "rosh" [as in Rosh Hashanah or "head of the year"] has the meaning of "the first in place, time, order or rank [specifically a firstfruit]--beginning, chief, first, principal thing" [Strong's Exhaustive Concordance].  As in English, this word has a double meaning: "first" as in order and "first" as in power.  I could say that Jason is the "first" student in the class, meaning the first to arrive in the room, or I could say he is "first" in the sense that he is the brightest student in the room.  "Re'shiyt" was also the title given the "firstborn" son in a Hebrew family.  The "firstborn" was the "first fruits" of the womb.  He was "first" in the sense of birth order but also "first" in the sense of power or rank because as the heir he carried the power and authority of the father.

Question: What is Jesus' connection to Creation "in (the) beginning" if as Peter wrote "He was chosen before the foundation of the earth"?  Hint: can you think of some New Testament verses that identify Jesus as the "re'shiyt" of all Creation and the existence of Christ before the beginning of Creation?
Answer:  Both Colossians 1:15-20 and the Prologue [chapter 1] for St. John's Gospel address the pre-existence of Christ.  St. Paul presents Jesus as the active power behind creation.  He is the Word of God spoken to bring the universe into existence.

Read the Gospel of John 1:1-5 and verses 9a & b.

Question: How does John identify Jesus in verse 1?
Answer: As "The Word".

Question: What other word does John associate with Jesus [in addition to Jesus the "Life" in both verses 4-5 and 9?
Answer: Jesus is the "Light".

Question: As the "Light" of the world, what power does "the Light" overcome?
Answer: Darkness.

Keeping all this in mind please read Genesis 1:1-5: "In the beginning God created heaven and earth.  Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind sweeping over the waters.  God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light.  God saw that light was good, and God divided light from darkness.  God called the light 'day' and the darkness he called 'night'."

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity was a mystery that was not revealed to the Old Covenant Church but was first made known to the New Covenant Church by Jesus the Christ.  He spoke of Himself as the Son, of God as the Father, and of the Holy Spirit as the counselor who would be sent to guide the Church.  Please note that in Greek as well as in Hebrew the words "wind", "spirit" and "breath" are the same word.  "Ruah" is the word in Hebrew; "pneuma" in Greek.    In Genesis 1:2 it is God's Holy wind/spirit/breath that hovers above the waters of Creation.

Question: The Fathers of the Church [the disciples of the Apostles and their disciples in the first 3-4 centuries of the Church] taught that although the mystery of the Trinity was hidden from us in the Old Testament, the promise of that mystery was revealed in Scripture from the very first account of Creation.  Remembering St. Paul's and St. John's revelation of the pre-existence of Christ and His role in Creation can you see the hidden promise of the Trinity in the first three verses of Genesis? "In the beginning God [Elohim] created heaven and earth.  Now the earth was a formless void, there was darkness over the deep, with a divine wind [ruah] sweeping [more literally =hovering] over the waters.  God [Elohim] said, 'Let there be light, and there was light."
Answer: God, the Father = the first Person of the Holy Trinity; the divine wind = God the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Holy Trinity; and "God said"  =  the Word of God = the second Person of the Holy Trinity.  God's Word is the "Light" = Christ according to John 1:3-5 and 9: "[verses 3-5]...in Him was life, life that was the light of men; and light shines in the darkness, and darkness could not overpower it." Verse 9: "The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone..".

Also please note that the Hebrew word used for "God" in chapter 1 of Genesis is Elohim. "El" is the Hebrew word for "god", meaning any [false] god, or "God", the One True God.  The plural of "el" is elohim. In modern Hebrew this word is written in a lower case first letter when referring to false "gods" but in the Old Testament when referring to the One God the word is written both in the singular "El" and in the plural "Elohim" with a capital letter as it is in these verses of Genesis, which use the plural "Elohim"'consistant with the New Covenant revelation of the Most Holy Trinity as One God in 3 persons.

The order of the Godhead hidden in Genesis verses 1-3 may seem odd to you.  We usually speak of the Trinity in order of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit [see Matthew 28:19-20].  But the order of Father, Holy Spirit, and Son is the same order St. John uses in Revelation 1:4-5.  St. John also speaks of the Holy Spirit in association with the number 7 [see verse 4].  7 is one of the four "perfect numbers" in Sacred Scripture [the others are 3, 10, and 12].  The number 7 indicates fullness, completion, perfection, and is the number of the Holy Spirit. [Please see the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture" in the Charts and Resources section].

And so Creation begins with Jesus as the creative force through which all creation flows.  It is as St. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:16-17 "...for in Him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible, ..[...] all things were created through him and for him.  He exists before all things and in him all things hold together."

Please read Genesis 1:4-31.
According to a literal reading of the Creation account, all of Creation was formed in a six day period from evening to morning [indicating the cycle of the day which begins at sundown].  The Catholic Church does not require belief in a literal 6 day creation, nor does the Church oppose the belief in a literal interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 and 2

There are several different theories of Creation that 21st century Christian scholars embrace: 

Whether one believes in a literal six-day creation period is really not the issue.  The issue is do you believe that God is the author of Creation?  For those Catholic Christians who struggle with the question of evolution the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has set guidelines for what Catholic Christians must believe about Creation. One may believe in a literal 6-day creation or that God used evolution in some way [other than Darwinism], but in 1907 the Magisterium defined what Catholics must believe about the history of creation to be in accord with the teachings of the Church in the document by Pope Pius X: Pascendi Dominici Gregis.

WHAT CATHOLICS MUST BELIEVE ABOUT CREATION

  1. The creation by God of all things at the beginning of time
  2. The special creation by God of man
  3. The formation of woman from man
  4. The unity of the human race
  5. The original happiness of our first parents in a state of justice
  6. The divine command laid upon man by God to prove obedience
  7. The transgression of that command at the instigation of the devil in the form of a serpent
  8. The fall of our original parents from their primitive state of innocence.
  9. The promise of a future redeemer

[see Humanae Generis, Pope Pius XII;  Dr. S.  Hahn: Genesis 1-22: The Covenant as a Family Affair; Pope Pius X: Pascendi Dominici Gregis (Sept. 8, 1907).]

Question: Putting the arguments for and against evolution aside, what is the reason Scripture and Tradition gives for the creation of the world?
Answer:  Scripture and Tradition have always taught the fundamental truth that the world was made for the glory of God [Dei Filius, & CCC# 293] to show forth His love and goodness.

The goodness of God's Creation is repeated consistently through the first chapter as God the Holy Spirit "hovers" over Creation [see Genesis 1:2, the Hebrew word is "rahap"].  As He "hovers", He "sees" and judges each stage of Creation.

Question: How many times is the phrase repeated that God "saw it was good" between Genesis 1:3 and 31?
Answer: Seven times in Genesis verses 4, 10, 13, 18, 21, 25, and 31.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses God's goodness and glory in Creation beautifully in CCC# 294: "The glory of God consists in the realization of this manifestation and communication of his goodness, for which the world was created." 

God created all things not to increase His glory but to show His goodness and to communicate His love.  He simply has no other reason for creating than His love and goodness.  St. Thomas Aquinas wrote: "Creatures came into existence when the key of love opened His hand." 

We usually view Creation in Genesis as a progression of six days, but there is another way to view Creation and that is as two sets of 3 days.

Question: What was created in the first three day period?
Answer:
Day #1:
Light separated from darkness;
Day #2: Divided the waters to separate the earth from heaven;
Day #3: The land appears, separated from the water, and God created vegetation.

These three days of Creation can be summarized as:
Day #1 = Time;
Day #2 = Space;
Day #3 = Life:

all of which is judged to be "good".

Question:  What was created on the 4th day?
Answer: He made the sun, moon, stars and the planets.

Read Genesis 1:14-19 with special emphasis on verse 16.
Question:  What is the reason given for the creation of stars and planets?
Answer: to rule or govern the day and night.

Question:  What is created on the 5th and 6th days and what is God's final judgement on Creation? See Genesis 1:31.
Answer: On the 5th day He created birds, fish and sea creatures, and on the 6th day beasts of the land and man. Creation is judged to be "very good."

In this view of Creation for the first 3 days God creates time, space, and life and in the next 3 days, to govern or rule the first 3 days, God fills the first 3 days:

CREATES REALMS FILLS WITH RULERS
TIME [light from darkness] SUN, MOON, STARS, PLANETS
SPACE [heaven and the seas] FISH, BIRDS
LAND/ LIFE [dry land and vegetation] BEASTS AND MAN

[this view of Creation is known as the "framework hypothesis"]

The Creation of Man:  In Genesis 1:26 God says: Let us make man in our own image." Notice the use of the first person plural.  You may remember that the Hebrew word used for "God" in Genesis chapter one is the plural form "Elohim."  The first person plural is also used in Genesis 3:22: "Then Yahweh God said, 'Now that the man has become like one of us in knowing good from evil...". Christian Bible scholars have always seen this passage as another hidden revelation of the Trinity in the Old Testament.  Some scholars have suggested that God is referring to the angels of the heavenly court. However, never has it been suggested in either Jewish or Christian tradition that angels had cooperated in the creation of the world.

Question: What is unique about the creation of man?  Hint: Genesis 1:27.
Answer: Man is created in the "image and likeness" of God and was created to possess an immortal soul.

Notice in Genesis 1:27 the Hebrew word "bara", the verb "to create" is used 3 times [it is used a total of 5 times in chapter 1].  The Creation account of Genesis is full of 7's, the number of perfection, but no other book in the Bible has as many repetitions of 3's as the book of Genesis.  3 is the number of importance, significance, and the fullness of God's divine plan in Jewish tradition; for Christians it is also the number of the Trinity.  In Scripture the number 3 or the repetition of 3's is a signal that what is happing is of great importance.

Question:  What does it mean in Genesis 1:27 that man is created in the "image and likeness" of God?  Hint:  what are the attributes of God?  Also see Genesis 2:4-7.
Answer: In human nature man's offspring receive life and human characteristics like eye and hairs color, etc.  But God is spirit and so God gave His human children His spiritual attributes.  Man was created infused with the very life of God = grace.  In chapter 2 God breathes His very breath into man.  The first man is created in the image of righteousness, in the likeness of holiness, and receives the gift of grace--a gift of divine son-ship!  He is created to be an immortal, sinless being.  This unique condition separates man from the beasts that are created on the same day.  Man has a soul created by God and from that time forward, the spiritual soul of every human being will be created by God to be immortal; the soul will not perish but will only separate from the body at death [see CCC #s 355-366].  Infused with grace, Adam and Eve are uniquely united to God not just as "Creator" but as "Father".  The first Adam was created to be an immortal, sinless, son.

Genesis 1:27 has the 3rd repetition of "bara" = created.  This is the 5th time the word has been repeated since Genesis 1:1.  It is fitting, since in Jewish tradition 5 is the number of God's grace and in this passage our first parents are infused with God's grace in His act of creation! This infusion of the grace of divine life creates a covenant bond between man and God.  As we have already noted God is not only Creator, as He is of the animals, but He is Father.

As we continue in our study it is important to remember that creation, destruction, regeneration, and covenant are the main themes of the Bible.  The Bible begins in Creation and Covenant and ends in a re-Creation and a New Covenant.  A covenant is more than a promise and it is more than a contract.  Contracts are concerned with property--covenants are concerned with intangibles like truth, loyalty, and justice.  And most important from a Biblical perspective, covenants create family bonds.  We will be looking at the 7 Covenants between God and Israel and individuals within the Israelite Covenant in the Old Testament and we will find the Old Testament fulfilled in the final Covenant, the 8th which is the New Covenant in the blood of the Messiah [see the Chart of the 8 Biblical Covenants between God and man].

Question: Biblical Covenants contain blessings for obedience to the covenant bond.  How would you sum up the first blessings of the Covenant given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1:28-31?
Answer: They are given the blessings of fertility and dominion over the earth.

Please read Chapter 2 verses 1-7.

Question: What event is the climax of the 6 days of Creation?
Answer: The creation of the woman Eve!  Woman ["out of man"] is her origin; Eve ["mother of all living"] is her destiny [Genesis 2:23, 3:20].

Question: God [Elohim] rested on the 7th day. What day of the week is this?  It is the only Hebrew day that has a name.  Hint: what is the Jewish Holy Day?
Answer: The 7th day is Saturday, the Old Covenant Sabbath.

Question: If the 7th day of Creation is Saturday, what day of the week, as we know it, was the first day of Creation?
Answer: It was Sunday. The old Creation started on a Sunday.

The Hebrew word for "rested" is shabat and the Hebrew word for 7 is sheba [also written seba, or sheva; b and v are the same letter in Hebrew].  The Hebrew root word "saba"[sava], which means "fullness and completion" is the origin for both the Hebrew word for the number 7, the word "rested" and the name of God's Holy Day, what is referred to in English as the Old Covenant Sabbath [Shabbat in Hebrew].  On this holy day, the 7th day, the earth was full, creation was complete, and man entered into God's "rest".

Question: Why did God create the Sabbath?  Hint: the answer to this question lies in the link between the Hebrew words for "rested" = sabat, "seven" = shava [or sheba or seva], and "Sabbath" sabbat.
Answer: This day was created as a divine institution and as an expression of the Covenant bond between man and God.  Adam and Eve were to enter into "God's "rest" on this day, in full communion with their "Father" and Creator.  This is the beginning of man's covenant relationship with God.  Covenants are formed by oath-swearing.  Since the first covenant was formed on the 7th day, to swear an oath in Hebrew, "shava", is "to seven oneself"!  Oath swearing forms Covenants--Covenants form families.

Question: Why is it binding for humans in "oath swearing" to 7 themselves? 
Answer: Because that is what God did in the first Covenant at Creation.

This unique connection with 7s in Creation will be repeated in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, where there are an abundance of sevens signifying the fullness and completion of the history of man.  See The List of the 7s in Revelation in the Chart and Resources section.

Even though the Sabbath as a day solely devoted to worship will not be imposed as a Covenant obligation until the Sinai Covenant in Exodus 31:12-17, God is setting the example of the necessity of the communal relationship between man and Himself at the beginning of Creation.

Question:  What did Jesus teach about the creation of the Sabbath?  Read what Jesus had to say about the Sabbath in Mark 2:27-28.
Answer: Jesus taught the Pharisees when they criticized Him for healing and doing other activities on the Sabbath: "And he said to them, 'The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; so the Son of man is master even of the Sabbath.'"

Some scholars see Genesis chapter two as a second "Creation account", but Jewish and Christian tradition has never indicated that this section of Genesis is anything but the more detailed account of the creation of man after the general narrative of the Creation of the world.  Scholars who embrace the "two creations" theory point to the change in the name used to identify God from Elohim to Yahweh.  Names and changing names for one individual usually indicate a change in relationship.  We have personal names and titles [like Mom or Dad] in our personal/ family relationships but we may also be addressed as Miss, or Dr. or Professor in our professional or less personal relationships.

Question: Given the unique condition of God's Covenant relationship with our first parents what reason might there be for Moses to use the Covenant name revealed to him in the burning bush experience: "Yahweh"?
Answer: Bible scholars who do not see Genesis 1 and 2 as two different Creation accounts believe the change in God's name from "Elohim" in Genesis chapter 1 to "Yahweh Elohim" in Genesis chapter 2 indicates the change in relationship from the great Elohim of Creation to Yahweh Elohim the "father" of humanity.  God is no longer only the God of Creation, He is now the God of the first man and woman with whom He has formed a Covenant family bond.  He is now, "God the Father" and in this more intimate relationship it is fitting that God's Covenant name should be used to show the shift in that relationship with man and Creation.  For more information on the names of God in the Bible see the document "The Many Names of God" in the Charts and Resources section of this Study.

Genesis 2:4 begins the transition period in the relationship between God and Creation.  Here God is called Yahweh-Elohim.  Genesis 2:4b "At the time when Yahweh God [Yahweh Elohim] made earth and heaven there was as yet no wild bush on the earth nor had any wild plant yet sprung up...".   Please note if your translation has "LORD" in all capital letters this designation is the substitute for the literal translation "Yahweh".  "Lord" in a capital first letter and lower case letters is the translation of the Hebrew "Adonai", meaning "lord" as in "God who is lord".

 

Question: What day is it in Creation? 
Answer: Probably the 6th day.  Flowering plants and seeds had been created but no "wild" plants.  Creation is orderly.

For the Hebrew people from the time of Creation the day is measured from sunset to sunset [or from twilight to twilight].  Our measure of the day comes from the Romans for whom the next day began at 12 midnight [Pliny, Natural History, 2.79.188].

"Yahweh God [Elohim] shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being." In Genesis 2:7 God forms man from the soil of the ground. In the Hebrew there is "word play" between the words for man and ground. This type of word play is very common in the original languages of Sacred Scripture but is lost in the various translations.  It is from God's action of forming man that the first "man" [in Hebrew 'adam] comes from the "ground" [in Hebrew 'adamah].  This collective noun will become the proper name of the first man "Adam" [see Genesis 4:25; 5:1, 3].  The Hebrew word for "to blow" is "nephesh".  The Hebrew word for wind, or breath, or spirit is "ruah". "Nephesh" means being animated or brought to life by "ruah".  Man is brought to life by the very spirit/breath of God.

Question: What is the only other time in the Bible that God blows the breath of His spirit into man?  Hint: it is in the New Testament.
Answer:  In the Gospel of John 20:19-23 on Resurrection Sunday Jesus appears to the Apostles in the Upper Room, breaths on them and says "Receive (the) Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained."  The Apostles have experienced a "new life".

 

Please read Genesis 2:8-14

EDEN AND THE GARDEN OF GOD
[Hebrew =eden; Sumerian = eden; Akkadian = edinu]

"It will happen in the final days that the mountain of Yahweh's house will rise higher than the mountains and tower above the heights.  Then all the nations will stream to it, many peoples will come to it and say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways so that we may walk in his paths.' " Isaiah 2:2-3

It is in Eden in the East that Yahweh-Elohim plants a garden as the home for Adam.  The geographical term "eden" is significant.  The mention of this very ancient place name is exceedingly common in ancient Sumerian documents and is written as "eden" in ancient Sumarian [please note that all ancient languages in the Near East were written without vowels]. Sumeria was the first world civilization flourishing from c. 4500BC until the destruction of the great city of Ur c. 2357BC when Sumanian civilization began to decline.  By c. 2700BC great libraries had been formed in the cities of Sumeria; the library at Tello, for example yielded a collection of over 30,000 clay tablets.  Tablets from numerous Sumerian archives mention "eden" as a location for the earliest human settlement.

However the word "eden" is very rare in the writings of the next civilization, the Akkadians [conquered Sumeria to become the first world empire], where it is found as "edinu" and is based on the Sumerian "eden" meaning "plain or steppe".  This is significant because it certifies that the ultimate source of this place name was very ancient and must go back to the earliest cultural stratum of Mesopotamian civilizations.

Although much ink has been spilled in attempts to determine the exact physical location of Eden it is impossible to positively identify the site.  The evidence in Genesis seems to point to a location near the Persian Gulf where two of the rivers mentioned, the Tigris and Euphrates, still empty into the Persian Gulf, however, the devastating effects of the Great Flood could have changed the courses of many of the pre-flood rivers.

In the Jewish tradition the creation of the earth is seen as the creation of the earth as God's Temple.  Just as the desert Tabernacle will be fashioned in 7 days and Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem in 7 years with each facing to the East so too is the world, the Temple of God, fashioned on the 7th day.  In this context of Temple, Eden is the Holy Place and the Garden is the Holy of Holies where the presence of God resides.  The physical earthly Tabernacle and later Solomon's Temple will become the epitome of the world, a miniature of the Temple cosmos.

Question: What two trees are in the middle of the Garden of Eden?
Answer: The Tree of Life and the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Hebrew for the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, "eshadda't tob wara' " is difficult to translate.  Both "good" and "evil" are direct objects, and the ra' connotes not only moral evil but ordinary unfitness--"bad", as in "bad apple".

Question: If Adam is sinless and immortal why does he need the Tree of Life?  What purpose does it serve?  Hint: see Genesis 3:22
Answer: It is the symbol of immortality and is the sign of God's Covenant with Adam.

But is there another reason why it is in the garden?

Please read Genesis 2:10-14

Question: What is significant about a river "flowing out from Eden" from which 4 rivers water the earth?  What does the account suggest about the location of the Garden of Eden?  What are the 4 rivers?
Answer: Eden is on a mountain or a mountain plateau.  The Tigris and Euphrates are two rivers of Eden that are still great rivers today.  They flow from Turkey, through Syria and Iraq to the Persian Gulf.  The Pishon no longer exists but satellite imagery has detected the huge dry riverbed of an ancient river that flowed through the Arabian Peninsula.  It has been speculated that this ancient river watered this area from c. 10,000BC until it gradually dried up sometime after 3500BC. [see "The River Runs Dry", Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August, 1996]. Genesis 2:10-12 relates that the river Pishon flowed "around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold.."  The ancient river bed discovered by the satellites is located near Mahd edh-Dhahab, one of the richest gold mines in Saudi Arabia or Afric a and which may have been worked as early as 1000BC. The fourth river, the Gihon bears the same name as the stream that is the only water source for Jerusalem in ancient times as well as today.

In this imagery "water" becomes an important often-repeated symbol in sacred Scripture for the blessings of salvation. Just as the river that flows out from Eden feeds the rivers that bring life to the earth, so too will the "waters of salvation" nourish the Church from which "rivers of living water" [for Catholics the most Holy Eucharist] will flow out from the Church to bless the whole earth [see Ezekiel 47:1-12; Zechariah 14:8; Isaiah 27:6; Revelation 22:1] "Then the angel showed me the river of life, rising from the throne of God and of the Lamb and flowing crystal-clear..."].  The Fathers of the Church saw the rivers flowing out of Eden, home of the Tree of Life, as symbolic of the four Gospels flowing out from the Cross, the true Tree of Life.

"Blessings flowing out of Eden" is what the Jews would have been thinking of on the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem in the last year of Jesus' ministry when He interrupted the liturgical ceremony by crying out: 'Let anyone who is thirsty come to me!  Let anyone who believes in me come and drink!  As scripture says, 'From his heart shall flow streams of living water." [John 7:37-39]  It was on that day of the great Feast of Tabernacles that water from the Gihon stream of Jerusalem had been poured out on God's holy sacrificial altar.  Gihon is the name of one of the 4 rivers whose source was the river from Eden, the Holy Mountain of God. [For more references to the "mountain of God" see Ezekiel 28:13-14; Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:9; 25:6-9; 56:3-8; 65:25; Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45; Micah 4:1-4; Matthew 5:14]

That Eden was the original "Holy Mountain" explains the significance of the other mountains that will become important in the history of God's Covenant people as sites for God's redemptive acts and revelations.

Question: How many such "holy mountain" sites can you think of in Scripture?
Answer:

HOLY MOUNTAIN REFERENCE
1.  The Garden of Eden Genesis 2:10
2.  Noah's Ark rests on Mt. Ararat after the Great Flood Genesis 8:4
3. The substitutionary atonement of the ram in place of the sacrifice of Abraham's son Isaac on Mt. Moriah Genesis 22:2
4. Sinai Covenant on Mt. Sinai/Horeb Exodus 19:12
5. The site of Solomon's Temple on Mt. Moriah 2 Chronicles 3:1
6. Elijah's defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel ["carmel" is a Hebrew word for "garden"] 1 Kings 18
7. Jesus and the giving of the New Covenant law on the Mt. of Beatitudes Matthew 5
8. Jesus' official appointment of Peter as Vicar of the Church on the mountain at Caesarea Philippi Matthew 16:13-19
Mark 8:27-30
Luke 9:18-21
9.  Jesus prevailed over temptation on a mountain Matthew 4:8-11; Luke 4:1-13
10. The Mt. of Transfiguration when Jesus appeared in His glory Matthew 17 [Peter refers to this place as "the holy mountain" in 2 Peter 1:16-18]
11. Jesus is arrested in a garden on the Mt. of Olives; Jesus ascends to the Father from the Mt. of Olives Matthew 26:47ff
Mark 14:43ff
Luke 22:47ff
John 18:3ff
Acts 1:1-19
12. Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified was a lower elevation of Mt. Moriah Matthew 27:32-36
Mark 15:21-27
Luke 23:26-34
John 19:17-24

Please read Genesis 2:15-17 Covenants come with blessings, as well as Covenant obligations.

Question: What is the Covenant obligation that Yahweh imposes on Adam?  Hint: see Genesis 2:16-17.
Answer: The New Jerusalem translation records that Adam was to "cultivate" and "take care of the garden but that he was forbidden to eat from the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The Hebrew word translated "take care of" is shamar [shaw-mar'] which means "to hedge about, to guard, to protect".  It is the same word used in Genesis 3:24 when God banishes Adam and Eve from the Garden and posts the great winged Cherubim with fiery swords to "shamar" or guard the way into the Garden of Eden.  It is also the same word used in the command that the priests must "guard" the sanctuary of Yahweh to keep it from defilement [Numbers 1:53; 3:32].  The implication is that there was something to guard against.

Question: What is the covenant curse that would result if Adam failed to be obedient and keep the Covenant obligations?

Answer: If Adam ate of the forbidden tree he would "surely die" or be "doomed to die".

The Hebrew idiom is difficult to translate. The literal translation is that Adam would "die die" or "die death".  The verb "to die" is repeated.  There are no superlatives in Hebrew and so it is not uncommon for words to be doubled to show emphasis.  However, the ancient rabbis as well as the Fathers of the Church taught that this passage implies that there are two kinds of death: physical and spiritual.  Philo of Alexandra, a Jewish theologian of the 1st century AD wrote "But the death of the soul is the decay of virtue and the bringing in of wickedness."

Please read Genesis 2:18-25

Question: Now, for the first time since the beginning of the creation cycle, Scripture says something is "not good".  What is "not good"?
Answer: No suitable companion could be found for man.  It was "not good" that he should be alone.

Question: How does God form a companion for Adam?
Answer: God places Adam in a deep sleep, a sleep like death, and drew from within Adam the companion.  You could say that the man encompassed the woman who was drawn from his side.  This explains the title Adam gives the companion: "woman"= taken from man.

Question: If all this happened on the 6th day, what day was it when the man and his companion awoke?  What happened next?
Answer: It would be the 7th day and there would be a wedding--a covenant within a covenant!  It is Jewish tradition that the first wedding took place on the 7th day, the Sabbath.  That is why traditional Jewish weddings last 7 days!  The Gospel of John reflects this interpretation.  John's Gospel begins with "Creation" and the pre-existence of Christ and then-- if you count the days from John 1:29 there is "the next day" =day2; John 1:35 "the next day" = day 3; John 1:43 "the next day" = day 4; and then in John 2:1= "On the third day"--.  If you add the 4 days to the 3 days you come to the 7th day, and "there was a wedding at Cana!" [John 2:1].  St. John is repeating the Creation sequence from his statement of the pre-existence of Christ to the oral tradition that there was a wedding [of Adam and Eve] on the 7th day of Creation.

How does the Genesis account of Creation compare to the other ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian accounts of Creation?  In 1872, George Smith, a former bank-note engraver turned Assyriologist, stunned the world by announcing that he had discovered a Babylonian account of the Great Flood which has come to be known as the Epic of Gilgamesh.  It was an account which included the story of one family saved in a boat from a world-wide flood sent by angry gods.  The myth contained the account of the receding of the waters and the boat running aground on Mount Nimush at which time the hero, Utnapishtim, sent out a dove, a swallow and finally a raven. Then, four years later Smith published a collection of Mesopotamian myths and heroic legends that included an astonishing Babylonian account of the creation of the world.  According to Smith, and according to a number of modern scholars today, the Biblical account of the seven days of Creation in Genesis 1:1-2:4a was simply an abbreviated Hebrew version of a more ancient Babylonian folk tale.  This ancient Babylonian creation myth, now known by its Akkadian name Enuma Elis [pronounced eh-NOO-ma eh-LEESH], is recognized by historians for its importance to the history of ancient Mesopotamian religion but for Bible scholars the significance lies in its perceived connection to the Creation story found in the Bible and the question is the Biblical account simply a retelling of this Babylonian myth?  Enuma Elis is a poem consisting of a little over a thousand lines written in the ancient Akkadian language and inscribed in cuneiform on 7 tablets which tells the vivid and imaginative story of the creation of the world as a reflection of divine activities and relationships between Akkadian gods.  But does this strange and exciting story really resemble the Creation account of Genesis and the other Biblical references to the Creation? 

  1. Genesis chapter 1 is about the Creation, while Enuma Elis is about the creator-gods.  At the end of Emuma Elis the gods bless Marduk, the hero of the story who becomes a great king and founder of a civilization, while at the end of the Biblical Creation account, God, hero of the story, blesses and sanctifies the Sabbath, His final creation, as a time of "rest" uniting Him in fellowship/communion with man.
  2. In Genesis chapter 1 God judges 7 times that what he has created is "good", while in Enuma Elis the gods express approval for the hero-king Marduk several times and what he has promised to do or has accomplished.
  3. The two accounts vary considerably in tone. The Genesis account is a structured narrative, simple but stately in prose and marked by the use of repetition, formulaic language, and command/fulfillment sequences [ie. "God said, 'Let there be'...and there was..."].  All elements which convey divine planning and divine control.  Enuma Elis, in contrast, is a dramatic poetic narrative with elements tension offset by comic humor and blatant sexuality.

These myths translated by Smith and found to be similar to the Genesis Creation and great Flood accounts were the first of a series of such myths that were discovered and translated from older Sumerian documents as well as Akkadian, Babylonian, Hittite and even Egyptian accounts.  Smith's copy of Gilgamesh and the Flood came from the royal archive of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal [668-627BC]; however scholars have disagreed over the date of the actual tablet, some put it in the Old Babylonian period [early second millennium BC] and others date it to the time of Nebuchadnezzar I [end of the second millennium BC].  Later discoveries of ancient texts included other tales of the same Gilmamesh, but this time he was the warrior-king of Uruk, a much older account dating back to the Sumerian period in the third millennium BC.  In each case the stories had been reformulated to reflect the culture of the people who adopted and adapted the stories.  But the question remains, if Moses was indeed the Holy Spirit inspired writer of the Creation account and the Flood story did he copy earlier accounts by older civilizations or was his account, inspired by God from an oral or written history that had been passed down through the generations from Seth, son of Adam, to Noah's son Shem and then from Abraham to Isaac and his sons and then finally written down in Moses' time?  Of course, Biblical minimalists who do not accept Moses as the author of Genesis, would propose that the Israelite account was written down long after Moses in the time of the return from Exile in the 6th century BC.  As for the other accounts found in all the other civilizations in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, all of which have many similarities but many differences, isn't it just as possible that these myths represent a collective memory of real historical events that were passed down through generations and reinterpreted and retold without divine protection or intervention to prevent distortion in the retelling of the events?

Questions for group discussion:

Genesis 1:28 is the first blessing God bestowed upon mankind'the promised blessing of human fertility.  It was God's plan that in the covenant relationship of marriage a man and a woman become as ONE.  Human beings are given the blessing of fertility and the gift of becoming co-creators in cooperation with God.  With God's blessing at conception parents cooperate with the Creator by contributing their physical characteristics and God provides the immortal soul!

Question: How do we view this tremendous blessing in the modern age?  How do we abuse the blessing and what can we expect from such abuse? What does the Church teach about this blessing?  Did you know that prior to 1930 that not a single Christian denomination approved abortion or birth control? How has the view of this blessing of fertility in modern thought changed in the past 70 years?
Answer: For the Church's teachings on this matter see CCC#s 1653-54; 2366-67; 2398-99; 2368.

 

Question: If God created all things did God create evil?  If He did indeed create evil then can He truly be all that is good and righteous?
Answer: Both Scripture and Tradition teach that God is all good and that nothing tainted by sin or evil can exist in the presence of God, therefore, God could not have created evil.

Question: If that is the case, from where did evil come?  What was its origin?
Answer: It may help to find the answer to this very difficult theological question by looking at two powerful forces in nature: heat and light.  The antithesis of heat is cold.  According to the laws of physics what we consider to be cold is, in reality, the absence of heat. Everybody or object is susceptible to study when it has or transmits energy. Absolute zero (-460 degrees F) is the total absence of heat. All matter becomes inert and incapable of reaction at that temperature. Cold does not exist. We have created this word to describe how we feel if we have no heat.  What about darkness?  Does darkness exist? While it is true that God separated light from darkness, according to the Laws of Physics darkness does not exist either. Darkness is, in reality, the absence of light. We can study light, but not darkness. In fact, we can use Newton's prism to break white light into many colors and study the various wave lengths of each color. You cannot measure darkness. A simple ray of light can break into a world of darkness and illuminate it. How can you know how dark a certain space is? You measure the amount of light present. Darkness is a term used by man to describe what happens when there is no light present.

Perhaps these examples help us to answer the question did God create evil?  It is true that we see it everyday. It is in the daily example of man's inhumanity to man. It is in the horror of crime and violence everywhere in the world. These manifestations are nothing else but evil.  And yet, even though evil exists and God created everything in existence how could an all good and all holy God create a powerful malevolent force like evil? Perhaps the answer is that evil is simply the absence of God. It is just like darkness and cold – evil is a word that man has created to describe the total absence of the presence of our loving God. Therefore, God did not have to create evil. Evil is not like faith, or love, which flow from God.  Faith and love exist just as does light and heat. Evil is the result of what happens when man does not have God's love present in his heart. It's like the frigid cold that comes when there is no heat, or the absolute darkness that comes when there is no light.  It is the bitter cold and desperate darkness of the rejection of God manifesting evil in God's good creation.

Question: Is God present in your life?  If you never wore a cross around your neck or never told anyone that you were a Christian would the love that is God declare to the world that you belong to Him?  What signs are there in your life that identifies you as a Christian'a child of God reborn through baptism into the life of the Trinity?

Resources and recommended reading:

  1. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible,  [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1984].
  2. Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., [Bruce Publishing, 1965].
  3. The Five Books of Moses, Everett Fox, [Schochen Books, 1995].
  4. Sinai and Zion: An Entry Into The Jewish Bible, Jon Levenson, [HarperSanFrancisco, 1987].
  5. Walking the Bible, Bruce Felier, [Perennial, 2001].
  6. Paradise Restored, Bruce Chilton, [Dominion Press, 1994].
  7. Swear to God, Dr. Scott Hahn, [Doubleday, 2004].
  8. On Genesis, St. Augustine, translation Edmund Hill, O.P., [New York City Press, 2002].
  9. The Ancient Near East, edited by William H. McNeill and Jean W. Sedlar, [Oxford University Press, 1968].
  10. Many Religions--One Covenant, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, [Ignatius Press,1999].
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church,[Liguori Publications, 1992].
  12. Genesis, vol. 1: The Anchor Bible Commentary, E.A. Speiser, [Doubleday, 1962].
  13. Our Oriental Heritage, William Durant, [MJF Books, 1963].
  14. The Pentateuch as Narrative, John Sailhamer, [Zondervan Publishing, 1992.
  15. "The River Runs Dry", pages 52-56, [Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August,
  16. Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.