Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/158

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ADAM
ADAM
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of the sacred narrative, "he said: Let us make man to our image and likeness: and let him have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and the fowls of the air, and the beasts, and the whole earth, and every creeping creature that moveth upon the earth. And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them." Then follows the blessing accompanied by the command to increase and fill the earth, and finally the vegetable kingdom is assigned to them for food. Considered independently, this account of the Creation would leave room for doubt as to whether the word adam, "man", here employed was understood by the writer as designating an individual or the species. Certain indications would seem to favour the latter, e.g. the context, since the creations previously recorded refer doubtless to the production not of an individual or of a pair, but of vast numbers of individuals pertaining to the various species, and the same in case of man might further be inferred from the expression, "male and female he created them." However, another passage (Gen., v, 1–5), which belongs to the same source as this first narrative and in part repeats it, supplements the information contained in the latter and affords a key to its interpretation. In this passage which contains the last reference of the so-called priestly document to Adam, we read that God "created them male and female … and called their name adam, in the day when they were created." And the writer continues: "And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son to his own image and likeness, and called his name Seth. And the days of Adam, after he begot Seth, were eight hundred years and he begot sons and daughters. And all the time that Adam lived came to nine hundred and thirty years, and he died." Here evidently the adam or man of the Creation narrative is identified with a particular individual, and consequently the plural forms which might otherwise cause doubt are to be understood with reference to the first pair of human beings.

In Genesis, ii, 4b–25 we have what is apparently a new and independent narrative of the Creation, not a mere amplification of the account already given. The writer indeed, without seeming to presuppose anything previously recorded, goes back to the time when there was yet no rain, no plant or beast of the field; and, while the earth is still a barren, lifeless waste, man is formed from the dust by Yahweh, who animates him by breathing into his nostrils the breath of life. How far these terms are to be interpreted literally or figuratively, and whether the Creation of the first man was direct or indirect, see Genesis, Creation, Man. Thus the creation of man, instead of occupying the last place, as it does in the ascending scale of the first account, is placed before the creation of the plants and animals, and these are represented as having been produced subsequently in order to satisfy man's needs. Man is not commissioned to dominate the whole earth, as in the first narrative, but is set to take care of the Garden of Eden with permission to eat of its fruit, except that of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the formation of woman as a helpmeet for man is represented as an afterthought on the part of Yahweh in recognition of man's inability to find suitable companionship in the brute creation. In the preceding account, after each progressive step "God saw that it was good", but here Yahweh perceives, as it were, that it is not good for man to be alone, and he proceeds to supply the deficiency by fashioning the woman Eve from the rib of the man while he is in a deep sleep. According to the same narrative, they live in childlike innocence until Eve is tempted by the serpent, and they both partake of the forbidden fruit. They thereby become conscious of sin, incur the displeasure of Yahweh, and lest they should eat of the tree of life and become immortal, they are expelled from the garden of Eden. Henceforth their lot is to be one of pain and hardship, and man is condemned to the toilsome task of winning his sustenance from a soil which on his account has been cursed with barrenness. The same document gives us a few details connected with our first parents after the Fall, viz.: the birth of Cain and Abel, the fratricide, and the birth of Seth. The other narrative, which seems to know nothing of Cain or Abel, mentions Seth (Chap. v, 3) as if he were the first born, and adds that during the eight hundred years following the birth of Seth Adam begat sons and daughters.

Notwithstanding the differences and discrepancies noticeable in the two accounts of the origin of, mankind, the narratives are nevertheless in substantial agreement, and in the esteem of the majority of scholars they are easiest explained and reconciled if considered as representing two varying traditions among the Hebrews—traditions which in different form and setting embodied the selfsame central historic facts, together with a presentation more or less symbolical of certain moral and religious truths. Thus in both accounts man is clearly distinguished from, and made dependent upon, God the Creator; yet he is directly connected with Him through the creative act, to the exclusion of all intermediary beings or demigods such as are found in the various heathen mythologies. That man beyond all the other creatures partakes of the perfection of God is made manifest in the first narrative, in that he is created in the image of God, to which corresponds in the other account the equally significant figure of man receiving his life from the breath of Yahweh. That man on the other hand has something in common with the animals is implied in the one case in his creation on the same day, and in the other by his attempt, though ineffectual, to find among them a suitable companion. He is the lord and the crown of creation, as is clearly expressed in the first account, where the creation of man is the climax of God's successive works, and where his supremacy is explicitly stated, but the same is implied no less clearly in the second narrative. Such indeed may be the significance of placing man's creation before that of the animals and plants, but, however that may be, the animals and plants are plainly created for his utility and benefit. Woman is introduced as secondary and subordinate to man, though identical with him in nature, and the formation of a single woman for a single man implies the doctrine of monogamy. Moreover, man was created innocent and good; sin came to him from without, and it was quickly followed by a severe punishment affecting not only the guilty pair, but their descendants and other beings as well. (Cf. Bennett in Hastings, Dict. of the Bible, s.v.) The two accounts, therefore, are practically at one with regard to didactic purpose and illustration, and it is doubtless to this feature that we should attach their chief significance. It is hardly necessary to remark in passing that the loftiness of the doctrinal and ethical truths here set forth place the biblical narrative immeasurably above the extravagant Creation stories current among the pagan nations of antiquity, though some of these, particularly the Babylonian, bear a more or less striking resemblance to it in form. In the light of this doctrinal and moral excellence, the question of the strict historical character of the narrative, as regards the framework and details, becomes of relatively slight importance, especially when we recall that in history as conceived by the other biblical authors, as well as by Semitic writers generally, the presentation and arrangement of facts—and indeed their entire role—is habitually made subordinate to the exigencies of a didactic preoccupation.