“Creation: In the Garden” Genesis, Revised English Bible
The Biblical story of Adam and Eve contains images, characters and themes familiar to many in modern society. This creation story is recounted in all three major Western faiths; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In the version found in the Revised English Bible, God made Adam from the dirt of the earth in order to have him work in the garden called Eden. After that, God placed a giant river, the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. By doing so, God provided food and water for Adam. The story goes on to explain how the river flowing through Eden eventually split into the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in ancient Mesopotamia. Next, God also created animals to be companions. Then he brought them to Adam to receive names. Finding no animals to be suitable companions for man, God “put the man into a deep sleep and, while he slept,… took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh around the place” (Bible as/in Literature, 8). Using this rib, God created then woman and brought her to Adam. Although both Adam and the woman were naked, they felt no shame about it. This is how the story ends. This famous Bible story has had a profound cultural impact through its characters, symbols, themes and lessons.
The story of Adam and Eve, the first human beings, contains many archetypal characters, symbols, and settings. The most basic archetype is Man, or the Hero, as exemplified by the character of Adam. He can be considered a hero in the sense that he represents all of humanity on a journey towards truth. In this story, Adam is also a faithful servant to God. He willingly does whatever is requested of him. The woman, unnamed in this story, nevertheless, represents the faithful companion, another common archetype. The woman was developed to be a faithful companion for Adam. Finally, God represents the ultimate caretaker, providing for humans. According to Nancy Tischler in her book, All Things in the Bible, “God, the ultimate father of human-kind, established the rules of life, gave the law to his chosen people, and continues to adjudicate the breaches in that law, and set the appropriate punishment” (644). By setting down the law, God provides guidance. By creating a companion for Adam, God provides help and support. These qualities help to establish him as a caretaker. In addition to the archetypal characters, there are also symbols and settings that act as archetypes. The most basic symbol in this story is “Adam’s rib” which eventually becomes a woman. The rib was taken from Adam and used to make his companion. This object symbolizes the natural connection that man and woman have. Additionally, the major basic archetypal setting is Eden itself, or paradise. This setting represents what mankind could have or would have kept with obedience to God, “a garden of delights, free of all danger, the domain of the sinless men and women of earliest times” (Biedermann, 255). The garden paradise is an important setting in many stories. These archetypal characters, symbols and settings have had a great deal of meaning for Western cultures. The story contains many themes as well.
Recurring cultural themes are themes that can be found in many cultures. The lessons and themes in this story are important for several reasons. While there are no directly stated, obvious lessons in this part of the creation story, the story has many implied lessons. Firstly, this version of Creation helps to explain the existence of animals and where they received their names. The story reveals Adam, representative of mankind, to be technically a servant to God, subservient to him. It also explains how mankind should maintain obedience to God. The Encyclopedia World Mythology suggests that “obedience to God is an important theme” (“Adam and Eve”). At this point in the story, Adam and Eve have not yet disobeyed the directions of God. Another basic archetypal theme concerns the idea of alienation and isolation, as Adam is alone for the first part of the story, and God creates woman as a companion for man. They need each other not only to perpetuate the human race, but also to help each other.
The Adam and Eve story is significant for ancient cultures and modern cultures. Firstly, it helped to point Hebrews, Christians and Muslims towards the idea of Monotheism- a belief in one single god which is a basic tenant of these faiths. For modern cultures it is Aetiological– explaining where both human beings come from and the origins of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Tischler explains the profound Aetiological nature of the story thusly;
Together, these chapters provide the basic presuppositions of most of Hebraic and Christian thought about the nature of God, of humans, of the relationship between the sexes, of human relationships with nature and animals, and of the structure of the earth, the heavens, and the seas. (“Creation”,4)
The Adam and Eve story is also a Charterstory explaining the institution of marriage. The text indicates that this is “why a man leaves his father and mother and attaches himself to his wife, and the two become one” (Bible as in Literature, 8). Finally, this creation story is Instructional in that it informs human beings that they must maintain obedience to God.
The Adam and Eve story is interesting to me. I remember learning about this as a child and it seemed so simple and easy to understand. In school, we learn about Darwinism which suggests that Adam and Eve did not happen in exactly the same way as in the Bible. I understand the controversy, but it does not make the story any less compelling or interesting. As literature, this story telling about the Garden of Paradise and the origins of man is both fascinating and meaningful. It seems like it causes me to think about something new every time I read it.
"Adam and Eve." U*X*L Encyclopedia of World Mythology. Vol. 1. Detroit: UXL, 2009. 4-8. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 11 Oct. 2010.
Biedermann, Hans. Dictionary of Symbolism. (translated by James Hulbert) New York: Facts on File, Inc. 1992.
“Creation: In the Garden” Genesis, Revised English Bible. As found in The Bible as/in Literature. Ackerman, Warshaw, and Sweet (eds.) Glenview, Illinois: Scott Foresman, 1995. p. 7-8.
Tischler, Nancy M. "Creation." Thematic Guide to Biblical Literature. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2007. ABC-CLIO eBook Collection. 11 Oct 2010.
Tischler, Nancy M. "Trials, Courts." All Things in the Bible: An Encyclopedia of the Biblical World [Two Volumes]. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2006. ABC-CLIO eBook Collection. 11 Oct 2010.