In seminary, my Hebrew professor gave us a simple hermeneutic, a method of interpreting Scripture. Take any verse or passage and, if this was all you knew, ask these questions: 1) Who am I? 2) Who is God? 3) What am I to do? Our study of Patricia K. Tull’s Inhabiting Eden began in earnest this week with our guest conversation partner, Sarah Wells Macias, asking that first question of the group: Who are we? Who are humans in the grand scheme of things?
We began by reading the Genesis 1 creation story as a group, with a couple of us taking each role. Reading it this way really highlights the poetic structure of the text. Creation begins with a short, direct statements that accomplish one thing: “Let there be light!” But by the end of the poem, things are more complex, with great, teeming masses of living things. If we think about the emergence of life on earth, it’s a lot like that, starting off slowly and then an explosion of diversity filling the earth.
Our close reading revealed a few things. Someone noted that God does not say that creation is good; God saw that creation is good. That is, creation isn’t good by divine decree, but because it is good and God is the first to see that. We also noticed that on the sixth day, where God sees that it is “very good,” it is not referring to the creation of humanity, but to the whole of creation. We are but a part of the grand poem of creation.
We then moved on to the second creation story. One thing that is being brought home to me in this series and some supplemental readings is the centrality of the land, the earth, the soil in the Bible. In this story, we focused on the origin of humanity, which is the earth. (Note, this is also the origin of all the animals, so we have that in common.) We have a primordial connection to the earth. However, we act as if our creation was a separation from the earth, as if we no longer have anything to do with it. Perhaps we should instead remember where we came from, remember that we are children of the earth as much as we are children of God. Perhaps we make more of that distinction than we ought.