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It is not good for Man to be alone

February 14, 2019

 

The Old Testament reading today for Mass is as follows:

 

The LORD God said:  
“It is not good for the man to be alone.
I will make a suitable partner for him.”
So the LORD God formed out of the ground
various wild animals and various birds of the air,
and he brought them to the man to see what he would call them;
whatever the man called each of them would be its name.
The man gave names to all the cattle,
all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals;
but none proved to be the suitable partner for the man.

So the LORD God cast a deep sleep on the man,
and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs
and closed up its place with flesh.
The LORD God then built up into a woman
the rib that he had taken from the man.
When he brought her to the man, the man said:

“This one, at last, is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
this one shall be called ‘woman,’
for out of ‘her man’ this one has been taken.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother
and clings to his wife,
and the two of them become one flesh.

 

The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame.

-The Book of Genesis, chapter 2:18-25

 

The Name "Adam" is a Pun


The first thing to note is that the Hebrew "Adamah" is a pun. It means Man meaning the whole of humanity, but also this particular male named Adam. We can thus think of this Second Creation Account as a kind of Thought Experiment: what if Humanity, Man, were only males?
E.g. Man: {male1, male2, male3, ...}

 

What we find is that Adam, or Humanity, is quite lonely. He may play with the plants and brutes yet have nothing to say to himself. Something is lacking in such a view of humanity.

 

Here we see the need for the feminine. If Man were simply the set of all females, something would be missing. Note here that in Genesis 2 you don't find language of Man in the "image of God." This isn't to say the two accounts are contradictory, only that they highlight different aspects of what it means to be "Man."

 

That language is absent in the second creation account ,and instead you find Man"speaks" and "names" things. Man is a speaking thing. The problem here is that given the kind of thing he is, he has no one to talk to. Cows don't make for good conversation partners, nor snails or snapdragons, though all are quite lovely in their own way. Man is thus in need of a second subset to be complete or capable of perfection as a set. Thus, Eve.
E.g. Man: { {male1, male2, male3, ...}, {female1, female2, female3, ...} }

 

The Name "Eve" is a Pun

 

The Hebrew for "Eve" is Chavvah which means "life-giver." If you check the Greek (LXX) you'll find Eve is named "Life" (Ζωή). Ζωή /"zoe" signifies the "principle of life," i.e. the soul. The Greek "bios" from whence we derive "biology" is used to denote living flesh or tissue. In other words, Eve herself life, a living soul, and not just dead flesh.

 

One reading to this is that, while woman came from man (Eve from Adam), henceforth all men come from women (children from the womb of mothers). This points to a mutual dependence of the two sets upon one another, not just in a day to day sense, but as a species. It is easy in a Post-Christian Liberal Democracy full of sex and gender wars that without reproduction and rearing Man would simply cease to be. No male and female, no new human souls.

 

The second bit about the mutual dependence has to do with the rib. The rib also signifies life in some mediterranean languages. So life is taken from Adam, and Eve/Life is made out of it. Life from life, male from female, Man from Man. The feminine is like the masculine but not exactly the same. Body types is the simplest way to see this. Genitals and reproductive systems, even statistical generalizations about shoulder widths, where fat or muscle sits or forms, all show male and female to be similar and dissimilar. For this reason we could say the two are asymmetrically complimentary. The two are meant for each other, the same kind of thing, but not meant to be the same in particular.

 

I'm not advocating for a "Role" Theory here. I'm striking at the more fundamental, ontological and existential state of Man: male and female. The feminine comes from the male here, and yet man finds himself and is completed in the feminine. Similarly, I'm not advocating for a Lutheran "all Christians are called to marriage" theology. We're talking about the sets male and female, not about individual males or females. Likewise, we're speaking of the set of human, not individual humans.

 

Male and Female are two Existential manifestations of Man

 

Thus we can say that both males and females are fully human, yet different in existence. A particular person's body and soul makes up a singular nature or substance which we call "human nature." It just so happens there's two way general ways in which this substance manifests. The two form the one "Man."

 

This Man is a speaking thing, a naming thing, but also a thing made to communicate and share life with one another. If Man was lonely among the animals it was not because either was bad, on the contra, God pronounces all creation good in the first account of creation (Genesis 1). The problem is that Man is a kind of thing such he needs a mutual communion among persons to be fulfilled. He cannot talk to himself, but must talk to another. The attempt to treat pets as babies or friends is today is not unlike Adam's attempt to find a fit helpmate among the animals. It just leaves one lonely.

 

The last line about the two being unashamed signify that neither had Pride. There is a kind of shame which is a product of being "found out" and the ensuing shame is one's conscience judging them. Man had no reason to feel such shame because they lived in supernatural friendship with God. We reachieved that state via Baptism, come to it again after sin by going to Confession and being absolved, and we grow closer to it by receiving the eucharist.

 

The Genre of Genesis is Mythos, not History

 

The 1890's saw the rise of a group in the U.S. called the "Fundamentalists." They posted pamphlets and handed them out trying to argue against Darwinism. They were upset with the theory of evolution because they thought Genesis was a historical account. Most of the Church Fathers disagreed with this. We see Origen, the School of Alexandria, and many others saying Genesis is an allegorical tale from the earliest days. The School of Antioch tried to say the tale was "plain," what we'd today call "history." They lost the fight in the 300's AD. Anyhow, the Fundamentalists were something like a Neo-School-of-Antioch trying to say Genesis was plain history.

 

There are a few problems with this reading. Genesis 2 says "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife,and the two of them become one flesh." But Adam didn't have a father and mother, he was the first man in the tale. Whoops, I guess it's not history but ends by telling us it was always a parable.

 

Many were surprised to hear of St. Pope John Paul II's theology of the body in the 20th c. read Genesis in such a philosophical way. He actually was doing so in the vein of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross who was also a philosophical Catholic of the 20th c. But if you'd like to see proof of early Christian thinking more like what you read here and less like "Genesis is History," check out St. Gregory of Nyssa's On the Making of Man circa 300's AD.

 

Painting: The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man; by Peter Paul Reubens, Counter-Reformation painter

 

 

 

 

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