Speaking of the Garden of Eden, we all know that there has been great debate over the past 150 years regarding the first three chapters of Genesis, one that recently flared up again on a few blogs. Questions such as “Did God create the world in six 24-hour days?” “Does the human race have only two parents?” and “Is evolution compatible with the Genesis account?” have dominated the discussion. However, it seems to me that these are the wrong questions, as they are not the questions the sacred author was trying to answer.
Instead, the author of Genesis is trying to answer more fundamental questions – questions that every human person asks in the depths of his heart, questions that every religion tries to answer. What is amazing is that in story format and a modicum of words (under 2,200 in the RSV translation) he does answer them. Here are the questions he addresses – and answers:
- Who created us? Why were were created?
- Are we made simply for this world, or something greater?
- Why is everything so wrong here? Why is there suffering, evil, and death? Is Someone going to do anything about it?
Religious and philosophical tomes by great minds have been written about these questions, and none are as insightful as this short section of the Bible. Creation, love, sin, death, hope: all are deftly handled in Genesis 1-3. Everything else in the Bible is simply the result or fulfillment of the events conveyed there.
Ultimately, the Genesis account is trying to answer the questions of “Why” and “Who,” not “What,” “When” and “How.” Only once in the Bible (in Job) is the question of how God created the world addressed, and God’s response is basically, “It’s a God-thing, you wouldn’t understand.” The authors of the Bible – and God – seem unconcerned about us knowing the details of creation; they are more interested in deeper questions. If we are asking the right questions, Genesis 1-3 is ready to respond with some pretty amazing answers.