The Bible in Its Traditions

Genesis 2:1–25

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And the heaven and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

And so the heavens and the earth were completed, with all their adornment.

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And on the seventh day God finished His work which He had made; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made.

And God finished on the sixth day his works which he made, and he ceased on the seventh day from all his works which he made.

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And God blessed the seventh day, and hallowed it; because that in it He rested from all His work which God in creating had made.

So God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it he had rested from all his works which God created and made.

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These are the generations of the heaven and of the earth when they were created, in the day that YHWH God made earth and heaven.

This is the book of the generation of heaven and earth, when they were made, in the day in which the Lord God made the heaven and the earth,

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No shrub of the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet sprung up; for YHWH God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground;

and every sapling of the field, before it would rise up in the land, and every wild plant, before it would germinate. For the Lord God had not brought rain upon the earth, and there was no man to work the land.

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but there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

But a fountain ascended from the earth, irrigating the entire surface of the land.

But a powerful spring gushed out of the earth, and watered all the face of the ground.

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Then YHWH God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

And God formed the man of dust of the earth, and breathed upon his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.

And then the Lord God formed man from the clay of the earth, and he breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.

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And YHWH God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed.

Now the Lord God had planted a Paradise of enjoyment from the beginning. In it, he placed the man whom he had formed.

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And out of the ground made YHWH God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And God made to spring up also out of the earth every tree beautiful to the eye and good for food, and the tree of life in the midst of the garden, and the tree of learning the knowledge of good and evil.

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10  And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became four heads.

10  And a river proceeds out of Edem to water the garden, thence it divides itself into four heads.

10  And a river went forth from the place of enjoyment so as to irrigate Paradise, which is divided from there into four heads.

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11  The name of the first is Pishon; that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12  and the gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13  And the name of the second river is Gihon; the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Cush.

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14  And the name of the third river is Tigris; that is it which goeth toward the east of Asshur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

14  And the third river is Tigris, this is that which flows forth over against the Assyrians. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

14  Truly, the name of the third river is the Tigris; it advances opposite the Assyrians. But the fourth river, it is the Euphrates.

15  And YHWH God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

15  And the Lord God took the man whom he had formed, and placed him in the garden of Delight, to cultivate and keep it.

15  Thus, the Lord God brought the man, and put him into the Paradise of enjoyment, so that it would be attended and preserved by him.

16  And YHWH God commanded the man, saying: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat;

16  And the Lord God gave a charge to Adam, saying, Of every tree which is in the garden thou mayest freely eat,

16  And he instructed him, saying: “From every tree of Paradise, you shall eat.

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17  but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'

17  But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat. For in whatever day you will eat from it, you will die a death.”

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18  And YHWH God said: 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him.'

18  The Lord God also said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. Let us make a helper for him similar to himself.”

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19  And out of the ground YHWH God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them; and whatsoever the man would call every living creature, that was to be the name thereof.

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20  And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.

20  And Adam gave names to all the cattle and to all the birds of the sky, and to all the wild beasts of the field, but for Adam there was not found a help like to himself.

20  And Adam called each of the living things by their names: all the flying creatures of the air, and all the wild beasts of the land. Yet truly, for Adam, there was not found a helper similar to himself.

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21  And YHWH God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh instead thereof.

21  And God brought a trance upon Adam, and he slept, and he took one of his ribs, and filled up the flesh instead thereof.

21  So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the place with flesh in its stead;

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22  And the rib, which YHWH God had taken from the man, made He a woman, and brought her unto the man.

22  And God formed the rib which he took from Adam into a woman, and brought her to Adam.

22  And the Lord God built up the rib, which he took from Adam, into a woman. And he led her to Adam.

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23  And the man said: 'This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.'

23  And Adam said: “Now this is bone from my bones, and flesh from my flesh. This one shall be called woman, because she was taken from man.”

24  Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be one flesh.

24  For this reason, a man shall leave behind his father and mother, and he shall cling to his wife; and the two shall be as one flesh.

25  And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

25  Now they were both naked: Adam, of course, and his wife. And they were not ashamed.

Reception

Music

1:1f,2:4 The Creation (Die Schöpfung) Composed between 1796 and 1798, with a public premiere in 1799, this oratorio is doubtless Haydn's masterpiece. Evocative of Haydn's profound religious faith, The Creation is a paean to the beauty and joy of existence as God intended it. Notably, the Fall is absent from the oratorio: it ends with Adam and Eve's first meeting. On the one hand, one could argue that this omission reflects the 18th century's optimism that generally rejected the concept of Original Sin, as seen in the thought of Voltaire and Rousseau. One the other hand, Haydn suffered bouts of melancholy and lived a harsh life before he found stable employment: perhaps for him, the fact of Original Sin is obvious, for its effects are visible everywhere; the goodness of creation as revealed in Gn 1-2, however, is not obvious and must be proclaimed as loudly as possible. Perhaps this is reflected in remarks Haydn made regarding the oratorio in an 1802 letter:

  • "Often, when I was struggling with all kinds of obstacles…a secret voice whispered to me: 'There are so few happy and contented people in this world; sorrow and grief follow them everywhere; perhaps your labour will become a source from which the careworn…will for a while derive peace and refreshment'" (Source→).

The Creation begins with a Prelude that depicts Chaos by withholding musical cadences from ends of phrases and gradually becomes more systematic to finally culminate in the orchestra and the choir coming together in a luminous chord for "let there be Light". Three soloists represent three angles who narrate and comment upon the six days of creation: Gabriel (soprano), Uriel (tenor), and Raphael (bass). The final act features Adam (bass) and Eve (soprano). Their lovely duet Holde Gattin may have been inspired by the duet between Papageno and Papageno in the Magic Flute.

Haydn's last public appearance was at an 1808 performance of The Creation. Biographer J. Cuthbert Hadden thus describes the scene:

  • "Naumann, writing of it, says that 'such an apotheosis of the master was witnessed as has but few parallels,' and this is no exaggeration. The performance, which was under the direction of Salieri, had been arranged in honour of his approaching seventy-sixth birthday. All the great artists of Vienna were present, among them Beethoven and Hummel. Prince Esterhazy had sent his carriage to bring the veteran to the hall, and, as he was being conveyed in an arm-chair to a place among the princes and nobles, the whole audience rose to their feet in testimony of their regard....When that magnificent passage was reached, 'And there was light,' they burst into loud applause, and Haydn, overcome with excitement, exclaimed, 'Not I, but a Power from above created that.' The performance went on, but it proved too much for the old man, and friends arranged to take him home at the end of the first part. As he was being carried out, some of the highest of the land crowded round to take what was felt to be a last farewell; and Beethoven, forgetting incidents of early days, bent down and fervently kissed his hand and forehead. Having reached the door, Haydn asked his bearers to pause and turn him towards the orchestra. Then, lifting his hand, as if in the act of blessing, he was borne out into the night" (Source→).

 Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), Gottfried van Swieten (livret), Die Schöpfung, (Hob. XXI:2), 1796-1798

William Cutter (dir.), The MIT Concert Choir→, © Licence YouTube standard

This performance→ employs the original German libretto, which is far superior to the English.

Visual Arts

7–25 Creation of Adam and Eve

Creation revealed by redemption

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) et Jan Van Eyck (1390–1441), Ghent Altarpiece (opened), (oil on oak panel, 1432), 3.75 × 5.20 m, St. Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium.

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

MEDITATION

All of the personages depicted in the altarpiece are oriented towards the Lamb, immolated yet victorious. He the being from which biblical history and, more generally the history of man begins to be revealed and transfigured (cf. Jn 1). Moreover, the history of the Covenant since the creation of humanity forms a constellation around the savior. Adam and Eve are at the most extreme distance from Christ. The darkness which surrounds their bodies symbolizes their Fall in the Garden of Eden.

Curiously, they do not stand at the beginning of the tableau as they do at the beginning of Scripture, but they frame either side of the work of Salvation. Their destiny enters into a different temporality. The linearity of the chronology disappears thanks to a unique moment of grace from which all takes meaning: the sacrifice and the triumph of the Lamb. The Lamb, clouded by a pure white light, cleanly contrasts with the pallor of Adam and Eve, still affected by the consequences of Original Sin. The spae thus models another understanding of time. The history of things is replaced by the history of their signification.

From Paradise gifted to Paradise lost

Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455), Creation of Adam and Eve (bronze, ca. 1425–1452), baptistery door, "The Gate of Paradise," Florence.

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

MEDITATION

Here, the sculpted relief transform our ordinary "perspective." That which is distant is blurred in favor of that which is near. Thus the angels bit by bit merge with the infinity of heaven while the scene of the Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve present some distinct forms and clear traits. This new method, where depth and movement are conjoined, is a signature method of the Renaissance which owes its paternity to Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1517). In this representation, God ascends and distances himself inasmuch as Man embraces his own existence to the point of cutting himself off from Him by sin. While this progressive effacement of God, paralleled with the slipping of Man towards the exterior, is a direct effect of this new Italian technique, it also allows us to understand how much creation implies separation between man and God. 

The Golden Age before the ages

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625) et Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (oil on panel, ca. 1615), 74.3 x 114.7 cm.

Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, Public Domain © Wikimedia commons→, Gn 2–3

In this scene of the earthly paradise the animals are depicted in the background amidst luxurious vegetation, while Adam and Eve are in represented the foreground. Eve, in taking the apple offered by the serpent, is just about to disrupt this sweet harmony wherein "the wolf dwells with the lamb" (Is 11:6; 65:20). This was the morning of the world, and we are just at the threshold of the Fall: the painter seems to cast a nostalgic glance over that bygone age of perfect concord both between God and man and between man and the rest of creation. This bestiary is depicted in coherence with the Christian vision of the world, and particularly in its conception of Time. Indeed, it is God who creates the animals, but they are entrusted to man, who is given the task of naming them (Gn 2:20). And it is Noah who would later save them. This tableau is much more than a simple representation of animals: the painting becomes the support of an experience of the world that invites the spectator to engage himself in a reflection upon Creation in cultivating contemplation and meditation. In the 17th c., such paintings would function of edifying the spectator by showing the inexhaustible diversity of nature animated by the divine breath, given to man and manifesting the goodenss of God. Artistic pleasure unites itself with spiritual edification (P. J.-M. N.).

MEDITATION

Still dwelling in an earthly paradise, the animals have no suspicion of the imminent Fall. The luxurious vegetation, which  continues to be fecund according to God's primordial design, is likewise unconscious of the tragedie which awaits it. In the foreground, however, Adam and Eve are ready to eat the forbidden fruit. The loss of this sweet harmony between all levels of being—God, man, men and women, man and creation, animal with animal, etc.—marks the diffusion of evils in the whole of nature, and not only in human nature.

It is not good for man to be alone

Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Creation of Eve, (Gravure sur bois, 1866)

Public Domain © Wikicommons→

MEDITATON

This engraving focuses particularly upon the Light of creation. While God is traditionally represented as an artisan in the iconography of the Creation, here he is depicted as an element of the universe. His causality, admittedly direct, is less tangible. Eve is not taken from Adam by the hand of God, and it is for this reason that her creation acquires a stronger spiritual dimension. The more literal image is lacking, and another one, more visual, is born. In this sense, the creation of the first woman is not the result of divine craftsmanship but the fruit of a divine gaze, a gaze that is the source of her life. The role of the Light in nature is, at root, none other than that here. By it, flora increase and grow abundantly. Likewise, Eve receives this mysterious gift.