In the Garden
Do you know how many creation stories there are in the bible?
Two… Surprised? How many flood stories? Two. There are many “doublets” or repetitions of stories in the bible that scholars attribute to a near literary certainty that, apart from the epistles of the New Testament, the books of the bible weren’t written as an author would write a novel, but compiled as a film documentary would compile sources to weave a story.
These ancient Hebrew books as we’ve come to know them, comprise various sources that scholars have reconstructed using internal clues: the specific name of God being used, language dating from different periods, discrepancies in details. In the Genesis creation story, the two traditions are simply laid side by side with no attempt to harmonize; the differing details weren’t meant to be harmonized. Six days or one day, God hovering over chaos or starting with land and mist, man created last and all at once as a race or first with just one man and woman. We want to resolve these differences into one true story, but the differences themselves tell the truth of the story.
Until we lose our obsession with literal readings of sacred books, we’ll miss their intent.
We can’t know God, how God relates to us until we see God as both transcendent creator speaking the cosmos and all life into existence from on high—and a craftsman getting hands dirty fashioning one man out of mud and clay, breathing life into his nostrils, waiting to see what he will call the animals in the garden…intimately connected. And we can’t know ourselves until we see that we are both the final pinnacle of God’s creation, royal figures, God’s image representing God’s rule on earth, and also vulnerable, fallible servants in the garden who don’t even know we’re naked.
We think only one thing can be true at a time. The ancients knew better.
That life is a paradox of seeming contradiction that tells a whole truth. Until we can embrace the mystery at the heart of life, we can’t follow the Way of Jesus, the vulnerable relinquishing in the second half of life that leads us back to the Source.
Our first home. In the garden.