Questions about the creation of Eve

  • Question 105 – from DW, USA

    God says in the Bible “It’s not good for the man to be alone, I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis chapter 2, verse18).
    I have three questions about this passage
    a) “It’s not good” Was God capable of creating a situation that was not good?
    b) “Man to be alone” I thought God walked in the garden with him, can you be alone while in the presence of God?
    c) “A helper suitable for him” What did Adam need help with? Tending the garden? Or naming the animals? He wasn’t under a time constraint was he? As far as companionship, remember we were created for Jesus’ good pleasure, and purpose, there is no marriage in heaven or eternity, if there is something more that we need than Jesus, there is a problem.

    This is actually a refined version of a question DW asked previously, and some points are worth reiterating. It would seem that the creation story found in the first few chapters of Genesis is a merging of two accounts. The first describes, in general terms, the creation process that brought the world into being in seven days. There is then an abrupt shift in emphasis in Genesis chapter 2, verse 4, which introduces “the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” This second version deals with the specific creation of named human beings, Adam and Eve, their subsequent Fall and loss of a Golden Age.

    Some people go to great lengths to prove the scientific accuracy of the Genesis account. There has been some speculation recently whether the story of Eden is an ancient folk memory concerning the fall of civilisations in ancient Africa and the Near East due to sudden climate change approximately six thousand years ago, which coincides roughly with the Biblical chronology (see ‘Why Deserts will Inherit the Earth’, The Independent, 5 June 2006). Or it may be a myth, in the technical sense of the word, i.e. a true story that has been explained supernaturally because the writers lacked the scientific language necessary to objectively describe it.

    Whatever the case, these early chapters of Genesis do present some seeming contradictions. Taking the accounts at face value, it is probably best to approach these three questions individually.

    a) If two different stories were merged into one (as seems to be the case from textual evidence) it would explain why God terms everything as “good” in Genesis chapter 1, verse 31, but then later on there can be an aspect of this ‘completely good’ creation, which is ‘not good’. Additionally, from later chapters, it seems that God has allowed creatures an element of independent free will, meaning that even if God’s initial creation was perfectly good, it contained within it the possibility of falling away from that initial state and become less than perfect.

    Adam’s loneliness is the only thing described as ‘not good’ before the account of the Fall. One explanation for this is that: “Humanity is created as a social being, and is meant to exist in relation with others.” [Alister McGrath, Christian Theology, 1994, p.235]. Being made in the image of God (Trinity) naturally presupposes this. It could be assumed that Adam would want to relate to others like him, in the same way that God, within the Godhead, exists in interpersonal relationship. Adam need not have wanted this, but once he did, this unmet need would have made the situation ‘not good’.

    Alternatively, it may just be the phrasing. There is an old joke that God made Adam first and then got started on an upgrade – Eve. In a sense this may have a grain of truth in it. God’s ongoing interaction with the world is shown by the attempt to improve creation that is already good, as God seeks to bring about the best world possible. While this image of God giving creation a ‘tweak’ is over-anthropomorphic, the creation of both Adam and Eve as individuals has already occurred after God’s ‘sabbath rest’ from creation (chapter 2, verse 2), implying that creation did continue after the six days of Genesis chapter 1.

    b) In the account, God put Adam into Eden, but did not necessarily live there with him. In chapter 3, verse 8 (after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by taking the forbidden fruit), God is said to be ‘walking in the garden in the cool of the day’. The use of a specific time of day implies that God was not always walking in the garden with Adam. The story itself implies God is absent when the serpent has its fateful conversation with Eve in chapter 3, verses 1-6.

    This is an interesting phrase though, with God depicted almost like a country landowner, inspecting his estate in the early evening when strolling around it is cool and enjoyable experience. The anthropomorphism of God at this point is another reason why many people regard this story as an allegory and not literal truth.

    c) If these creation accounts are read as allegory, then they seek to explain, in non-scientific terms, why humanity takes the form of two genders. ‘Helper’ is a very interesting choice of word here, and possibly reflects later religious thought being ‘read back’ into the account of origins. Most primitive religions of the Middle East revolved around fertility practices and reverence of the ‘life-bearing mother’. As Israelite religion sought to establish worship of the ‘male’ Yahweh, it would be natural to promote this creation account where the female is subordinate to the male, a ‘weaker’ gender introduced as a ‘helper’ to the ‘stronger’.

    The idea that human beings exist solely for God’s pleasure has entered into popular theology in many churches. This idea has been particularly highlighted by the book The Purpose Driven Life, written by American pastor Rick Warren, where it is explicitly spelled out as the first of five purposes for every human being (op. cit., published by Zondervan 2002, pp 63ff). There is a good Biblical basis to this point of view, but it does not necessarily mean that God is selfish about creation.

    To put it another way, being made for God’s pleasure does not limit the actions and activities of human beings, as long as those activities bring pleasure to God. Again the phrase ‘created in the image of God’ crops up. Human beings, as image-bearing creatures are designed to be relational and as such need other creatures that they can relate to, so that they do not feel ‘alone’.

    God could have created every human being the same way Genesis records him creating Adam. Asking why God introduced sex into the equation by creating a new gender leads to pure speculation. Perhaps it was to introduce a random ‘chance’ element into things. Maybe it was a necessary part of allowing free will. It is impossible to know, but Adam’s relational need for a helper does not contradict the idea that all human beings exist because of God’s creative actions and for God’s pleasure.

    Posted on