Friday, June 19, 2009

How Many Adams?

The creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 are usually said to complement each other, with Genesis 2 being considered a "more detailed" or "close-up" recounting of what is stated more generally about the creation of plants, animals and men in Genesis 1.

But is the Genesis 2 account of the creation of the male adam/ish and the forming of the female ishshah indeed a retelling of the Genesis 1 creation of the male and female adam?

When reading Genesis 1, one sees that singular nouns are used to refer to plurals - e.g., "tree," "bird," "beast," "cattle," refer to the creation of "trees," "birds," "beasts," "cattle," etc. A natural reading of Genesis 1:26-30 (apart from Genesis 2 and 3) would be that God here created the human kind just like he had created the kinds of water creatures and flying creatures and land creatures – i.e., several or many male and female humans. The subsequent blessing and command to the adams to take over and fill the earth and rule all its creatures makes more sense if given to a large group of people. Note that just before this, God had given a similar blessing and command to all the water creatures and flying creatures, not just to a single pair.

(The verbs re: the blessing and command are plurals, as is the expression of what God intended for the adam before he made them. While the plurals could refer to or be directed to a single male and female pair, in the context it makes more sense to see them as referring to or being directed to many humans.)

Also, a Genesis 1 creation of many adams helps solve the problem of where Cain got his wife, if she was not a sibling, and possibly renders moot the need to suggest (as some do in an effort to reconcile the two accounts of man's creation) that the single Genesis 1 adam might have been a hermaphrodite, being both male and female, before YHWH God took the female out of the male's side as described in Genesis 2.

Genesis 5:1-3 seems to conflate the two creation accounts into the creation of a single adam, and as our text of Genesis now stands, I suspect it's impossible to cleanly separate what might have been two separate accounts (though scholars have tried to do this - see, e.g., The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliott Friedman). But does the fact that they are read and taught as being a unified whole mean that they actually do complement each other or were originally meant to, or that they can be perfectly harmonized?

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