Day 1: In the Beginning

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and earth: This simple statement that initiates the first book of the Old Testament reveals that God is eternal, i.e., his existence transcends time, and all time is eternally present for Him. Second, God is omnipotent. Everything that exists originated with Him. By his Word, he brought all of creation into existence without the use of pre-existing materials. Finally, God alone is the Creator, and He has authority over all creation. We affirm God as Father and omnipotent Creator when we pray the first lines of both the NICENE CREED and the APOSTLES’ CREED (CCC 268, 279-280, 290-295)


Ch 1:2-3 Creation was a work of each Person of the Trinity. Because God is entirely one in the three divine Persons, each Person of the Trinity participates equally in EVERY DIVINE ACT. The Spirit of God….waters: God the Holy Spirit was active in the creation of the world, and the Rite of Blessing of Baptismal Water at the Easter Vigil acknowledges this role:


“O God, whose Spirit

In the first moments of the world’s creation

Hovered over the waters,

So that the very substance of water

Would even then take to itself the power to sanctify…”

(*Roman Missal, Easter Vigil, 46)


In the prologue of John’s Gospel, we read how Christ, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” and “was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:1-3) God the Father creates through his Word, God the Son. (CCC 243, 292, 702-704, 1217-1218)


Ch 1:3 The light that pierces the darkness symbolizes the light of faith, which God gives to those to whom he wishes to reveal himself. (CCC 298)


Ch 1:4-31 Because God is All-good and All-loving, everything He creates is good. The created world gives glory to God by serving human beings. It is a gift of God bestowed on humanity to be developed, and we are entrusted with its care. The Church has always taught the inherent goodness of creation, particularly in the face of certain heresies such as GNOSTICISM, which viewed the physical world, including the human body, as intrinsically evil. God created the world through his eternal wisdom in a systematic and orderly fashion. Contrary to the beliefs of most pagan religions at that time, Genesis reveals that heavenly bodies and the various components of the created world ARE NOT DEITIES; rather, they are creations of the ONE TRUE GOD that reflects God’s wisdom and intelligence. The human being is the pinnacle of creation, since man and woman have been created to enjoy a personal relationship with God. (CCC 295-299, 309-310, 2402)


Ch 1:26-29 While material creation reveals vestiges of God’s beauty, power, and intelligence, human beings, who are spiritual AND corporal are made in God’s own image and likeness. Human nature comprises a material body and an immortal soul. This union of both the physical and the spiritual represents a microcosm of the ENTIRE CREATION. Because we are made in God’s image and likeness, possessing intelligence and free will, the human person enjoys an exalted dignity and a capacity for a loving relationship with God. (CCC 36, 225, 343, 355, 1702-1705, 2427, 2501, 2809)


Ch 1:26-27 Let us make: Christian tradition has long understood the use of the plural here as pointing possibly to the fact that each Person of the Trinity was involved in the act of creation. Let them have dominion: The sense here is of stewardship rather than unlimited control. Good stewardship requires a judicious use and distribution of the goods and resources of the earth so the freedom and dignity of every human person is acknowledged and everyone’s right to participate in the good of creation is respected. Human solidarity should always be oriented toward ensuring that everyone has his or her basic needs met-including food, water, and shelter-and that natural resources are sustainable for future generations. (CCC 307, 1942, 2402)


Ch 1:27-28 Be fruitful and multiply: The first man and woman were created by God in the state of marriage as the first “communion of persons.” Marriage, therefore, is of divine origin and as such represents a sacred covenant that must be kept permanent. Because God is love and we are created in his image, we have an intrinsic and fundamental vocation to love. For the great majority of people, this love is expressed in marriage, which is a reflection of the intimate love between the divine Persons of the Trinity. Beyond the bonds of marriage, man and woman were created not as solitary beings but as social beings who can only find and live their true vocations in relation to others. (CCC 371-372, 383, 1601-1607, 1652, 2331)


Ch 1:28-31 Fill the earth and subdue it: The intelligence, free will, and power of reason given to human beings make it possible to bring creation to completion through work and ingenuity. The good of creation are resources that are meant for the common good of everyone, present and future. Wasteful practices and unbridled accumulation of the earth’s resources constitute sins against the Seventh Commandment. There is an obvious moral dimension to our dominion of nature: It is not to be exercised capriciously or destructively but rather responsibly and generously. (CCC 307, 373, 2415, 2456-2457)


Ch 2:1-3 On the seventh day God rested and contemplated the goodness of his creation. By blessing this day and making it holy, he established what would become the Sabbath rest under the Mosaic Law. All of creation is oriented toward the Sabbath, which provides us the opportunity to worship and adore God, our Father and Creator. It is our duty to respect the natural law that God has written into creation and on the human heart. An important aspect of the natural moral law is to acknowledge God’s goodness and infinite transcendence. It follows that a more focused worship of God includes a special day called the Sabbath. (CCC 314, 345-348)


BY GIVING US THE SABBATH, God affirmed that our lives need to be structured by both work and rest. The observance of Sunday as the Christian day of rest and worship intends in part to allow the faithful to rejuvenate their minds and bodies as they worship God and build relationships within the family, culture, and society. Leisure activities are encouraged as long as they do not infringe on the time for proper worship that should be given to God on that day. Time with family, works of mercy, and works of charity are activities that help sanctify the Lord’s Day; attention should also be given to PRAYER, MEDITATION, REFLECTION, SPIRITUAL READING, and other such exercises that nurture our spiritual lives. The Sabbath, or Sunday, is of such importance that the Church views it as a human right and a serious obligation, not a mere privilege, and one that must be permitted by civil authorities and employers. (CCC 2184-2186)


Ch 2:7-9 In the second story of creation, we see both the physical and spiritual aspects of human beings. Man was formed out of the earth, giving him a physical body, and then God breathed into the “BREATH OF LIFE,” animating him and endowing him with a spiritual SOUL. The Hebrew ruah means both “breath” and “spirit.” Our origin from the dust of the earth and our eventual return to it after death is a reminder of our mortality and the need to be prepared for death through repentance from sin. For this reason, these verses and the first seven verses of Chapter 3 are read at the liturgy for the FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (CCC 362, 364-368, 382, 703)


Ch 2:8-15 Several truths of creation are expressed here. Before sin entered the world, work was not a burden but a joyful activity derived from human nature. When placing human beings in the garden to till and maintain it, God explicitly entrusted them to be stewards of his creation and to share, albeit in a finite way, in his creative power. (CCC 373-379)


Ch 2:17 Created in the image and likeness of God, human beings enjoyed a state of original holiness and justice and there was NO SIN, SUFFERING, OR DEATH. God endowed them with intelligence and the ability to reason freely. These gifts enabled them to choose God’s friendship and love, to obey his commandments, and to participate in his creation. Since man and woman were endowed with the capacity to make choices, willful disobedience was a possibility. In giving them the one command not to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, God tested our first parents’ love and fidelity. A failure to obey this divine command would, according to God’s warning, result in death. Death, in this case would signify the loss of innocence, friendship with God, and eventual physical death. (CCC 374-379, 396, 400, 1006, 1008)


Ch 2:18-25 Man and woman were created in a state of marriage, and their marital love has two purposes: the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of children, which is a cooperation in the creative power of God. They were created as complementary partners, being equal in the dignity of reflecting God’s image. As “helper” to man, woman is NOT subservient; rather, she shares in God’s providence and care by providing loving service. The man reciprocates by assisting his wife and respecting her exalted dignity. God’s use of the man’s rib to make woman is symbolic of the personal connection between them and their intimate communion of love. It is also a prefiguration (TYPOLOGY!!!) of the Church, which was born out of the side of Christ on the Cross. (CCC 369-372, 1605-1608, 1652)

Ch 2:24 Marriage involves a mutual act of total self-giving between a man and a woman. They become “one flesh,” a reality symbolized in the marital act and lived out in the unity, exclusivity, and permanence of the marriage covenant. This union is deepened through loving fidelity, a mutual spirit of service, and growth in friendship, which is bolstered by the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony and a strong spiritual life. (CCC 1625-1632, 1643-1644, 2335)


Ch 2:25 Before sin entered the world, the first man and woman had no experience of lustful desires; they lived in harmony within themselves, with creation, and with one another. This state of being, free of pain or death, is referred to as “original justice.” Only after the Fall did they clothe themselves as a consequence of feelings of shame due to concupiscence. (CCC 375-376)


Psalm 19 The heavens: This signifies the place of eternal glory, but can also include all of creation. Day to day...course with joy: Through contemplation of the beauty and harmony of the created word, EVERYONE can arrive at the knowledge of God’s existence. Through diligent reflection of the vast and varied assortment of created things, the human mind can see a finite glimmer of the many aspects of God’s reflection. The law of the Lord is perfect: Like creation itself, God’s Laws proclaim his glory. Fidelity to his Laws, precepts, and Commandments bring fulfillment, moral perfection, and happiness to the human person. The Law glorifies God since it leads every individual to an encounter with God and everlasting life. Who can discern his errors?: The psalmist prayed that God forgive even the sins he had committed unwittingly. A DAILY EXAMEN OF CONSCIENCE enables us to recall our sins so that we might repent and seek reconciliation with God and neighbor in the Sacrament of Penance. This Sacrament is REQUIRED of ANYONE who has committed MORTAL SIN and is recommended as a regular and even frequent practice to grow in humility and charity. (CCC 299, 325-327, 1435, 1454, 2041-2043)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)


Key Event 1: Creation (Genesis 1:2:24)

By speaking, God creates “the heavens and the earth”, a phrase referring to all that exists, both the spiritual and the material (CCC 290). Brought forth from nothing, all creatures depend upon God for their very existence at every moment.

  • The trajectory of western civilization is based on the uniqueness of Gen 1 and 2

  • In other religions, creation is born out of violence or sexual acts i.e greek myths

  • “Bara” is the Hebrew word for creation out of nothing which is unique to Christianity

  • Creation is because of God’s sheer goodness

  • CCC 1: “God, infinitely perfect and blessed in Himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in His own blessed life.”

  • In other creation myths, man is created to be slaves to the gods because gods think work is beneath them

  • God did not create us to be his pawns, or his entertainment, or his slaves

  • There is no other world-view that believes that all human beings are created in God’s image and likeness except for the Judeo-Christian world

  • God creates man for 3 purposes: 1. Labor 2. Leisure 3. Love

  • The word “helper” is used 21 times in the OT and 19 of those times it is used in reference to God

  • Eve is not substandard or beneath Adam

  • When God created Eve, He did not take her from his head to lord it over him, nor from his foot to be walked upon by him, He took her from his side to walk with him, from beneath his arm to be guided by him, and from near his heart to be loved by him.

  • The world that God made is good (for now), because He is all good

Dustin's Insights


FLOR. 1: Gn. 2:5


The Creation of Adam and Eve

On the sixth "day" of creation, before bringing creation to its consummation in the sabbath rest, God created Adam (man) from adama (the ground) and, thereafter, created Havva, the mother of all the living (from the hebrew hay, or "living") to be the wife of the first man (NABRE). God, in the creation narrative, brings forth Adam from pre-existent matter and, since it is "not enough” (NABRE) for him to be mere matter, God breathes spirit into him, ensouling his flesh, making him a composite of matter and spirit. It is at that precise moment, when God blew into his nostrils the breath of life (Gn. 2:7), when flesh was adorned with spirit and when spirit was sublimely enrobed with flesh, that "man became a living being" (Ibid.). The implantation of the rational soul in the image of God (Gn. 1:26-27) made adama truly adam.


While the narrative set forth in the Book of Genesis "uses figurative language,” it, nevertheless, “affirms a primeval event, which mysteriously took place at the beginning of the history of man” (CCC 390). It is presented in "simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of people” who were “little cultured” compared to people in this present age, yet it states “principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation” under the “help of divine inspiration” (Humani Generis 38-39). Its essence—if not its accidents—indeed “pertains to history in a true sense” and “must in no way be considered on a par with” mere myths, even though the use of mythological language—often similar to, or even derived from, the myths of other surrounding cultures—is employed in order to convey essential truths concerning human nature (HG 38, 39).


Periodizing Eden

While scientific concerns “are not the primary interest of the sacred author," (Bergsma and Pitre, 2018), there are some clues in the text as to when we might be able to periodize the historical setting of the Eden narrative.


According to the narrative itself, Adam's role in the garden was to "till'' (Hebrew: abad, or "work") and "keep" (shamar, or "guard") it, giving him a primarily horticultural and agricultural function (Bergsma and Pitre). Prior to Adam, “there was no man to till the ground" (Gn. 2:5). The use of agricultural terminology here is of great significance for periodizing the events of this narrative because the sacred author takes care to note the "absence of cultivated plants,” for “agriculture had not yet started” (Bergsma and Pitre).


Consequently, it seems likely that the loose chronology of the narrative depicts man some time during the Neolithic period. I am of the opinion that the fanciful, yet well intentioned, view that the narrative is set around the well-established emergence of homo sapiens as a species some 300,000 years ago is inadmissible. If it is to be believed that the pair of homo sapiens called Adam and Eve existed as historical persons—not merely as literary and theological plot devices—it seems probable that they existed fairly recently in human history, certainly not as the first homo sapiens but as the first to have received the distinguishing quality of rational souls, making them, in this sense, the first "true" human beings. Though they shared their material nature with the homo sapiens who preceded them, it is this unique grace of possessing rational souls which allowed them to exercise agricultural dominion over creation in imitation of, and in communion with, their creator.


The Evolutionary Record

If the “origin of the human body" is derived from “pre-existent and living matter,” which the Eden narrative itself states to be the case, man's body being formed from the ordinary ground (which is to be interpreted not as the literal ground but as pre-existent matter), then “the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God” and infused in to the body by an extraordinary act (HG 36).


Of course, such a claim is not purely in the domain of scientific inquiry, since it would be difficult to attempt to falsify such metaphysical claims with recourse to physical means, but such an assertion seems, at least, to be more in line with the scientific record of the evolutionary origins of the human species, being “distinct from, but in harmony with the results of observation" (St. John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences: On Evolution, 4).


Such a view accords with God's act of extending creation over six "days"—or 13.7 billion years—instead of in an instant: a "divine pedagogy" through which "God communicates himself to man gradually," preparing him "to welcome, by stages, the supernatural revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate word, Jesus Christ" (CCC 53), willing to create a world “‘in a state of journeying’ towards its ultimate perfection" (CCC 310) in him, guiding all of creation "to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth" (CCC 314).


Even further, taking into account the complete history of salvation, as set forth plainly in the whole of Sacred Scripture, it is "reasonable" to "expect" (Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P., "Defending Adam after Darwin") that creation would "not spring forth complete from the hands of the creator (CCC 302) but would gradually, in "the fullness of times... sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Eph. 1:10), that "God may be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).


In my view, it would seem utterly incoherent to claim that all things were created already in a state of completion, for such a claim would seem to negate the necessity of the "happy fault," the truly necessary sin of Adam, which “earned, so great, so glorious a redeemer" as Christ (from the Exsultet). It is clearly ascertained from the annals of salvation history that this was not at all the case. The history of man, using the word of Servant of God Hans Urs von Balthasar, is a “theodrama” consisting of the patient manifestation of God's providence. As God, surely, “does whatever he wills" (Ps. 115:3), he could have willed otherwise, but he did not.


The Historical Record

Only fairly recently in the history of this grand theodrama did human beings begin to exercise agricultural dominion over creation, the genesis of agriculture occuring during the Neolithic period, which dates from c. 10,000-4,500 BC (12,000-6,500 years ago). Significant events which occurred either during or around the Neolithic period include:


  • Holocene Climate Optimum

    • A warming period which may have facilitated the rise of agriculture and during which many ancient civilizations emerged

      • 9,000-5,000 years ago


  • Founder Crops Cultivated

    • Emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chickpeas, and flax (Zeder, 2011)

      • By 9,500 BC


  • Population Boom

    • Globally, the rise of agriculture "caused unusually high rates of population growth" (Gignoux, Henn, and Mountain, 2011; Biraben, 1980; Armelagos, Goodman, and Jacobs, 1991).


These events lead me to strongly believe that the Eden narrative is set some time very close to the emergence of human civilizations, not the mere appearance of homo sapiens in the evolutionary record. Civilization—at least to some degree—implies the presence of rational souls, and agriculture—at least in the view of Sacred Scripture—requires the infusion of rational souls into homo sapiens. Why is this so?


Sharing in the Divine Nature

Humanity's destiny—its very essence—is bound up in agriculture because agriculture is an exercise of spiritual and material "dominion" over creation (Gn. 1:26, 28), which belongs to God principally (Ps. 24:1) and to Adam and his offspring instrumentally, for humanity's destiny is "to share in the divine nature (2 Pt. 1:4) and in the plenitude of sacerdotal and regal authority as a "royal priesthood" and a "holy nation" (1 Pt. 2:9, cf. Ex. 19:6).


The Divine Scriptures speak of the purpose for which humans were created when they proclaim: "You have given [them] rule over the works of your hands, put all things at [their] feet (Ps. 8:7) and, elsewhere, "In your wisdom, [you] have established humankind to rule the creatures produced by you and to govern the world in holiness and righteousness” (Wis. 9:2-3).


Following the Eden narrative, the words used to denote Adam's agricultural function of working in and guarding the garden appear next in Scripture to describe the function of the Levitical priests (Bergsma and Pitre). In essence, Adam's role is to be the “mediator of a covenant between God and creation," the first priest (Bergsma), eventually coming to fruition in the high priesthood of the good things that have come to be” in Jesus Christ, the "one mediator between God and the human race" (1 Tm. 2:5, cf. Heb. 9:15, Heb. 9:11). Indeed, in the book of the prophet Ezekiel, Adam is "portrayed as wearing priestly attire," specifically the stones on the breastpiece of the High Priest of Israel (cf. Ex. 28: 17-21; Beale, 2018). Adam was the first priest, and the Garden of Eden was the first temple (Beale; Wenham, 1987; Barker, 1991; Kingsmill, 2009).


Similarly, the authority given to Adam to name creatures in the garden is a function which "fully belongs to God" but is "deputed to Adam as vicegerent,” the first creature to exercise a regal function over creation (Bergsma and Pitre). Man's ability to govern the earth—to "subdue it" and "have dominion over it” (Gn. 1:28)—is what distinguishes him from all other creatures, for "man is, by nature, a political animal” (Aristotle), endowed with reason and created for the purpose of being able to share in his creator's infinite beatitude as "heirs" (Rom. 8:17), for "God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him” (CCC 299). It is no wonder that, some time following the development of agriculture, human beings began to organize themselves into civilizations with political hierarchies. Adam's dominion extends to the whole of creation, tending to it as a vicegerent and son of God, coming to fruition in the messianic kingship of Jesus Christ, the "King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rv. 19:16).


Agriculture is a locus around which spirit and flesh are intertwined, human beings only rightfully being called so when they were able to till and keep the garden of God, in contrast to every other creature who could not because they were not created in the image of God, infused with rational souls, able to exercise loving dominion over the world in holiness and righteousness. The genesis of agriculture was the first event which demonstrated that humankind could exercise a sacerdotal and regal function over creation because the Garden of Eden, itself, "was a kind of primordial garden temple for the worship of God and communion with him" (Bergsma and Pitre). In Genesis, man finds his beginning in the Garden of Eden; in the Revelation, man finds his consummation in the garden of Heaven (Rv. 22:1-2).


Bibliography

Armelagos, George J., Alan H. Goodman, and Kenneth H. Jacobs. The Origins of Agriculture: Population Growth during a Period of Declining Health. Population and Environment 13 (1991): 9–22.


Barker, Margaret. The Gate of Heaven: The History and Symbolism of the Temple in Jerusalem. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 1991.


Beale, G.K.. Adam as the First Priest in Eden as the Garden Temple. The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 22, no. 2 (2018): 9-24.


Bergsma, John and Brant Pitre. A Catholic Introduction to the Bible: The Old Testament. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018.


Biraben, Jean-Noël. An Essay Concerning Mankind's Evolution. Population, Selected Papers 4 (1980): 1–13.


Gignoux, Christopher R., Brenna M. Henn, Joanna L. Mountain, ed. Ofer Bar-Yosef. Rapid, Global Demographic Expansions after the Origins of Agriculture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108, no. 15 (April 12, 2011): 6044-6049.


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John Paul II. Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The Quarterly Review of Biology 72, no. 4 (Dec. 1997): 381-383.


Kingsmill, Edmée. The Song of Songs and the Eros of God: A Study in Biblical Intertextuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.


Pius XII. Humani Generis. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1950.


St. Charles Borromeo Seminary. "Rev. Nicanor Austriaco, O.P.: "Defending Adam After Darwin." YouTube Video, 1:07:16. December 12, 2017.


von Balthasar, Hans Urs. Theo-drama: Theological Dramatic Theory: Prolegomena. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988.


Wenham, Gordon J.. Genesis 1-15, Volume 1. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.


Zeder, Melinda. The Origins of Agriculture in the Near East. Current Anthropology 52, no. S4 (October 2011): S221-S235.