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The Creation of man – I (Genesis chap. 2, verse 7)

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground …

Compared to the first version of the story of creation (cf. Gen 1:27) we observe a significant difference. In the first chapter of Genesis “God created mankind in his own image.” Gen 1:27 doesn’t tell what was the result of God’s activity; the text merely says that God created man in “in his own image”, but without specifying how man was actually created. In the second account of creation, instead, it is clearly stated: the man is a sort of statue, a strange statue, made of dust … a statue made by a God imagined as a craftsman.

However this different way by which God is imagined doesn’t indicate that the author is speaking about a God different from that of the first chapter. We just have different authors who imagined God in different ways, because they lived in different places. Probably the author of the second account of creation – (Gen 2.5-25) – lived among the Jews who weren’t exiled in 587 BC in Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. They continued to live in Judea.

It may be that the author was a farmer, having a strong relationship with the land, unlike the Jews who lived in Babylon that were part of a cosmopolitan and urban environment. Therefore the author wrote the account using the images of the land in which he lived. God acted as a potter, shaping vessels from clay. The text says that God “formed a man from the dust of the ground”. In Hebrew, the word “ground” is “adamah”. It’s the arid land, in which a rush of wind can raise a cloud’s dust. God formed man using not “adamah”, but the “dust”, in Hebrew “afar”. How is it possible to make an object using the dust?

In Hebrew, man is “adam“, a word that comes from “adamah”. This linguistic resemblance  represents the relationship of Genesis’ author with the land. Saying that man was formed from the dust, the author probably wanted to show us that man’s nature is more “ethereal” than that of an object molded with clay. But this is just an hypothesis. Anyway he had to be very conscious to not be like the other living creatures. That’s what we’ll talk about next time.

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Simone Venturini

Writer and Researcher at Vatican Secret Archives, Professor of Bible at Pontifical University of the Holy Cross od Rome

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