I began this series by asking why is it important for 21st century Americans to share a common understanding of “what it means to be humans?” My answer to that question was because it is the one thing that affects every thought we have that includes humans – others and ourselves. And then I pointed out that if your beliefs about God are linked to the words of Genesis, then your understanding of what it means to be a human includes “humans are created in the image of God.” This is the second blog in this series and it is about the first activities that took place on the Sixth Day of Creation.
Keeping things in context is essential for creating accurate understanding of the words of Jewish and Christian Scriptures. For some readers, some of the things you are about to read may challenge your understanding of certain verses. That’s normal because of the linguistic model we use to translate the ancient Hebrew text into English.
We let the words of the ancient texts tell their own culturally and historically accurate stories
instead of reading our stories and theologies into the words of our Bibles.
When we find differences between the ancient meanings of the words of the Bible and our beliefs, we work to discover the origins and histories of our beliefs and why they differed. Now let’s review some highlights of activities on previous days that led up to the events on the sixth day.
● Prior to Creation: Immersed in absolute darkness is a deep primordial ocean with a surface above which an unnamed god with a RUACH ELOHIYM hovers. The creation process that follows is the result of the will of the unnamed god and nothing else.
● Day One: Mysterious form of light created, distinctions made between light and darkness, light named “Day,” darkness named “Night,” first use of the TOV Standard, first unit of time created.
● Day Two: Solid dome-like structure made below the surface of the deep ocean creating two completely separate bodies of water, solid dome-like structure named “Heavens.”
● Day Three: Waters inside solid dome-like structure commanded to “gather” into one place and named “Seas,” in the previous place a “dry thing” appears and is named “Earth,” Earth commanded to cause plants and trees to sprout and grow, and the Earth does as commanded.
● Day Four: Two great lights and the stars are made “set in” the solid dome-like structure like a jeweler sets precious stones in a bracelet, they give light on Earth which is for signs, seasons, days and years.
● Day Five: First creatures with a soul created, they live in the Seas, winged creatures that fly created, new water creatures empowered to be fruitful, multiply and fill the waters, and winged creatures empowered to multiply upon the Earth.
All of those things had to take place before the creation of humans, because in many cases, if they had not been done first the environment required for human survival would not have existed.
The Creation of the ADAM
The first action that takes place on the sixth day is the creation of animals.
God said, “Let the Earth bring forth a living soul like her kind; a large animals, smaller animals, and wild predator of the Earth, like her kind. And it was so.
God made the wild predators of the earth like her kind, the large animals like her kind, and every small animal of the Earth like his kind.
And God saw that it was TOV.1
It is very important to understand the roles of the Earth and God in the creation of animals.
1. The Earth brought for an Earth soul with appetites, desires and longings linked to her. In Hebrew a soul is the seat of appetites, desires and longings. The Earth soul is the seat of appetites, desires and longings of three kinds of animals – one of which devours the other types of animals as food.
2. After the Earth brought forth an Earth soul, God made the physical bodies of the animals. They share many things in common, but have important physical differences.
3. God measures His work with the TOV Standard. For an act to measure TOV it must be beautiful and pleasing to the Creator’s eyes because lives are protected and preserved, made more functional and the quality of life increased. What God saw was TOV. 2
Next is the account turns to the creation of humans.
God said, "Let us make
ADAM in our image, according to our likeness;
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and
over the cattle, over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps
on the earth."
Simply by understanding the roles of the Earth and God in the creation of animals, answer the question of who the “us” is. The real question raised by the text is “What is “ADAM?” According to the context and ADAM is a “them.” They will have an Earth soul too, with her appetites, desires and longings. They will be creatures that exercise dominion over other creatures, including the animals. The Hebrew word “ADAM” has these meanings – people, men, man or be a name “Adam.”
God created the ADAM with His image;
with the image of God He created him;
male and female He created them.4
You may also have noticed that we used “with” instead of “in” – “with His image.” Let’s breakdown what happened here.
1. The ADAM is a creature created by God.
2. The ADAM is a creature with the image of God.
3. The ADAM is a “him.”
4. The “him” is “male and female.”
5. The “male and female.” is a “them.”
6. The ADAM is a “them.”
We have now answered the question above and understand how ADAM is a “them.” In the next blog I will discuss what “the image of God” means.
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1 Genesis 1:24-25a
2 The traditional definition of “TOV” is good. Our definition is based on the context of its use in the first creation account.
3 Genesis 1:26
4 Genesis 1:27