Dealing with Genesis’ Creation Accounts in the Second Temple Period, 1 — J.P. Garcia

image-01-smallA single reading of the two creation accounts quickly makes their divergent nature apparent. In Gen 1 [henceforth: G1] male and female are created in the ‘image of God’ (v. 27), while in chap. 2 [henceforth: G2] man is ‘formed’ (יצר), not ‘created’ (ברא), ‘from the dust of the ground’ (‏מן האדמה; v. 7); woman is created from the ‘side’ (צלע) of man several verses later (v. 21). Additionally, G2 records the planting of the Garden of Eden as well as the naming of the animals. There is an inherent tension, even perhaps a paradox, between Genesis’ Creation accounts.

In the Second Temple Period, interpreters approached the tension between these divergent narratives differently. Josephus, the first century historian, who significantly rewrites the seven-day creation of G1 omits the ‘image of God’ and instead utilizes the language of G2. “But on the sixth day he made the four-footed animals, making both male and female. On this same day, he also formed man” (ἔπλασε; A.J. 1:32c [ἔπλασεν: LXX Gen 2:7]). Josephus reemphasizes G2’s manner of creation only a few lines later, crediting it to Moses philosophizing (φυσιολογεῖν): “And God formed man taking dust from the earth: ἔπλασεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον χοῦν ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς λαβών” (1:34).

In a poetic section of Ben Sira, the language of G1 and G2 are harmonized. “The Lord created human beings out of earth (ἐκ γῆς), and makes them return to it again …He endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image (καθ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐνέδυσεν αὐτοὺς; 17:1, 3).” In an extended metaphor depicting the vanity of idols and their maker (the potter; v. 7) the author of Wisdom of Solomon refers to both coming from and returning to the earth,

  • And working evil, he forms from the same clay (ἐκ τοῦ αὐτοῦ πλάσσει πηλοῦ) an empty god, which from just before was created from earth (ἐκ γῆς γενηθεὶς) and after a little returns from where he came, [when] the debt of life is demanded back. (15:8)

Wisdom in an earlier section refers again to the first creation account. “Because God created man as immortal, and in the image (εἰκόνα) of his own eternity he made them” (2:23). Yet, another possible allusion to G1 may lie in the personification of wisdom in 7:26, “For she is the radiance of everlasting light, an unspotted mirror of the working of God, and image (εἰκὼν) of his goodness.”

Check back next Wed for part II…


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