Many Different Readings of the Creation Narratives

As we turn to the first three chapters of Genesis, we see two different creation narratives, the work of two distinct theological perspectives we now know.  Marc Brettler interprets the J writer’s creation account (Genesis 2:4b-3:24) as a story about immortality lost and sexuality gained.  Even more generally, this creation account has much to say about the ways in which men and women have related to each other throughout history.

What does this creation account have to say to us about gender roles? In what ways might this prefigure what’s to come in the rest of Genesis?

What are the implications of Brettler’s interpretation of the J creation account?  Can you weight it against other interpretations of Adam and Eve’s transgression?  For example, how else has Adam and Eve’s transgression been interpreted?  How is this a story about sexuality being “gained” by humans?

However, human sexuality and gender relationships is just one way to look at the creation accounts in the Bible.  One of the most infamous passages in the entire Bible (and one that we’ve spent some time talking about) is Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.” Other translations have more infamously rendered this charge as having “dominion” over the earth.

In this moment, and later in J’s creation account, what are the environmental consequences of God’s assigning humankind rule over the earth? How do we see that rule being depicted in the early chapters of Genesis?  What does (or has) this rule looked like in terms of human responsibility to the environment in the post-biblical tradition?  In what ways does this text speak to our modern ecological crisis?

Note: Those interested in this issue may also want to take a look at Lynn White, Jr.’s famous essay, “The Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis.” White’s article was published in Science in the late 1960s, and it has since been extremely influential in the debate about the “Judeo-Christian” tradition’s culpability in destroying the environment. Any comments on these questions or the article by White?

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About Andrew Battista

Andrew Battista is Librarian for Geospatial Information Systems at New York University
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One Response to Many Different Readings of the Creation Narratives

  1. Ashley Lee says:

    Genesis 1 merely mentions female as a product of creation with man. There is not differences, no specific gender roles. Genesis 2 the woman is created to cure Adam’s loneliness. The first mention of woman is that she shall be made as a ‘helper.’ The word ‘helper’ insinuates not in the lead. Therefore Man was the leader and woman the help. This idea is developed on and carried throughout Old Testament Scripture. Where woman were not to lead but to be a help, mostly in the home with domestic responsibilities.

    In the story of creation it also mentions that Man should leave his father and Mother and cling to his wife, not the other way around. I’m not exactly sure how this carries on through out the Old Testament but I would assume that it would affect the marriage laws as well as courting.

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