My love and I had lunch with two friends on Friday. The company included a theologian, and myself, a student of comparative religion, both interested in the relationship between religion and ecology. So it’s maybe not so surprising that we found ourselves talking about just what exactly it is that happens in the second chapter of Genesis, that is, the Bible’s “creation 2.0”. And as we had to admit we weren’t quite satisfied with our knowledge of the subject, of course the book was opened.
Having created Earth, Higher-Power wants the proto-human (person/ze in the English translation, human/3rd p. pronoun in Finnish) not to be alone, so Higher-Power starts to create animals and birds (Gen. 2:18-20) from the soil, so that the human being would have somebody to be with. But instead of finding a suitable partner, the human being names the creatures presented, but doesn’t find them suitable company. (According to some philosophers of language, naming includes and indicates assuming a stance of power in relation to the named – how could the human find equal company in something that is presented to them as in need of naming?)
But if we don’t take account the power of naming, this myth presents the creation of living beings as aiming to being in relation to another. The human needs a partner, so a variety of choices is presented to them, until a suitable match is found – by Higher-Power splitting the proto-human in two. Only in meeting themself, looking at them as at oneself does the human find peace. A theology of meeting merging with a theology of existence?
Looking at the first chapter of Genesis (Gen. 1:26-27), this time I found the phrase “likeness of Higher-Power” strongly associated with the meeting of Moses with Higher-Power (Exodus 3:14), where Higher-Power describes Themself by claiming “I am who I am.” To me, this association was a whole revelation in itself, even though I’m not very much into believing in (a personal, written in capitals) Higher-Power right now. That the Bible describes a human being as the image of a Higher-Power who doesn’t have to define Themself to anybody, is to me a very powerful indication of the above mentioned theology of meeting. Not defining people we meet by our standards is only possible if we make an effort to get to know them – know them well enough to see them as whole human beings, existing (created, even?) in and of themselves, not because they (might) mean something to us. I am who I am, so you are probably who you are too. If only I could understand it fully enough to live by it!