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Question 335

I take you have heard of Lilith, according to Jewish folklore, from the satirical book Alphabet of Sirach onwards, Lilith appears as Adam's first wife, who was created at the same time and from the same dirt as Adam however if you read Genesis 1:27. 'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him male and female created he them.', however in Genesis 2.22 'And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.' What is the Orthodox teachings on this as I am confused to say the least?

   

 

Answer to Question 335

 

Modern Western Scholars have for years tried to say that chapter 1 and chapter 2 of Genesis are two completely different creation stories and also possible written by two different authors. The first wife Lilith story is supposed to be from Babylonian mythology but was used in Jewish midrashic writings to explain the two different versions of the creation story. 

 

Before we look at if Genesis actually has two creation stories let’s look at the claim by these modern scholars that Genesis borrowed from the Babylonian creation myths. 

 

Of course when comparing two different accounts of creation there are going to be some similarities because they both have to account for the creation of the world and its inhabitants, but that does not mean that one borrowed from the other. Such similarities between Genesis and the Babylonian myth are man being created from the earth, the rivers of paradise and the cherubim as guardians to paradise’s entrance, but these are where the similarities end. When they come to why man was created, his relationship with God and the cause of the fall they have nothing in common. Genesis could not have borrowed from the Babylonian or any other myth because no other myth has the form of man’s fall. In Genesis man is created immortal and in a state of innocence and his purpose is to attain union with the God that created him in his image and likeness. Because of free will, he falls from this purpose and becomes a mortal being that is now in a state of death. The Babylonian account has man created for the sole purpose of being a slave to the gods. 

 

The Babylonian myths have no account of a primal man and woman “falling from a state of innocence”. There was no “fall from innocence” because man was made in the image of the gods, some of whom, are portrayed as slaying each other in various conflicts (shedding each other's blood), murdering their fathers and mothers, engaging in incest with their own children, being unfaithful to their spouses by having extramarital sex with others and even propositioning humans for illicit sex too, as well as being sponsors or patrons of cultic acts of prostitution with male and female prostitutes in temples. In the Babylonian myths all the immoral and despicable activities of humankind existed before man’s creation because they were engaged in by the gods, so there could be no “fall from innocence” for primal man and woman for man cannot be “better” than his “immoral creators” in whose image he was made! In the Babylonian myth man’s immorality is not because he fell from grace but because he was made in the image of immoral gods and goddesses. 

 

According to archaeological finds the Babylonian myths are dated to the 12th century BC whereas Genesis is dated to the 15th century BC, so the Biblical account existed at least three centuries before the Babylonian account. We would not claim that the Babylonians borrowed from Genesis to write their myths just because they have some common similarities, but neither do we accept that Genesis borrowed from the Babylonians. What is most probable is that they both derived from a more ancient source going right back to Adam who himself obtained the knowledge of how the world was created by divine revelation and the rest by self experience. Moses could also have received this knowledge through divine revelation or even through handed down tradition. This is not so improbable if we accept that Adam was created about 5 or 6 thousand years before Christ and that men up to Noah lived for almost a thousand years. In the thousand years of Adam there would of course be many generations, but the stories could be verified by Adam until his death. Many ancient religions for example have sacred trees that they worship; these could all have the same root in the tree of life of Genesis, but this again is just another theory and wishful thinking because nothing can actually be proven. A Babylonian cylinder dated 2200 BC contains all the elements of the Adam and Eve story, Male, Female, Serpent and Sacred Tree, yet it may be Babylonian divinities that are represented on the Seal and not a Babylonian version of Adam and Eve.

 

Let’s now look at the two chapters off Genesis. The first chapter of Genesis is a chronological order of creation and gives the general lines of creation showing that the visible world was created as the habitat for man whom God created to have dominion over the fish, fowl, animals and any other living thing. The second chapter again mentions some of the creations and the creation of man, which some scholars have claimed proves that there are two creation stories and probably two different authors. The second chapter is not a different version of the general line of creation, it doesn’t follow a chronological order because it has already done so in chapter one so it must be trying to say something else. The second chapter is supplementary to the first chapter and gives more emphasis on the supernatural gifts with which man has been endowed with so that he may be capable of partaking in the eternal and perfect divine blessing. Thus in the first chapter it simply says that: "God made man, according to the image of God made He him, male and female made He them." In the second chapter we are given the details of how man was created, how God formed man from the dust of the earth and how he breathed into his face a breath of life. The first chapter simply says that he made them male and female, the second chapter gives the reason and details of how Eve was formed from Adam's rib. Also in the second chapter there is mention of paradise as the perfect habitat for the man that God has endowed with such special gifts that make him stand above all other creatures. There is also mention of the first commandment, and a hint on their still innocent condition.

 

 Between the two chapters there is a difference in the order of creation e.g. in the first chapter man is created last, but in the second chapter man is presented as being created before the animals. If we accept the fact that the two chapters are not a contradiction in terms then we are open to see that they are harmonious to each other. The first chapter as already said follows the chronological order but the second follows the honorary order. It wants to stress that the whole world was created for man and by mentioning him before the animals and plants it doesn’t want to show that man was created before them, but to show man’s value, dominion and honour above everything else. 

 

When in chapter two its says that “the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; let Us make for him an help meet for him.” and then it immediately follows with “out of the earth God formed yet further all the wild beasts of the field, and all the fowls of the heaven; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them” this is not a second creation story. The Bible clearly mentions that the reason why the animals were brought to Adam was so that he would give them their names. The reason why it is mentioned immediately after God said “let Us make for him an help meet for him” is because the bringing of the animals to Adam had a double purpose. The one to name them and the other so that Adam could see that all the animals were in male and female pairs and by seeing them as such it would stimulate and arouse in him the desire to also have a mate. Once this desire had been aroused God then proceeds to create woman from Adam’s rib. The account of Eve’s creation clearly shows that the two chapters are not different versions of the creation story but complimentary. In the first chapter we are given the general account of creation and it simply says that “male and female made He them.” The second chapter give us the reason and the details of how Eve was created.