Genesis 1:27 makes clear the equality of men and women as imaged after God’s own self. What then are we to do with the second creation account, the one where Eve comes from a rib, lives as a helpmate, falls for the forbidden fruit, and ultimately gets kicked out – with Adam, it must be admitted – of the garden?
What we could do is think about not what the story says to us, but what it might have meant to its first hearers. And why. Because this second account is not a happy story. It includes wrong decisions, deception, secrecy, shame, and ultimately, punishment. And the story has long been used as instructive. But cultural deconstruction – a critical literary process that requires the reader to reverse her cultural expectations – reveals a few interesting ideas:
1) Adam and Eve live as nomads, freely partaking in the riches of God’s garden. When they leave God’s garden, they are cursed with the responsibility of making their own garden, of becoming agrarian, a cultural system that requires specialization of tasks, a system rife with all kinds of inequality.
2) The curse is echoed in the murder of Abel, a shepherd, by his brother, Cain, a farmer. Cain is physically marked with his curse. And he builds a city, further covering over (exploiting?) God’s garden with his own constructions.
3) The people who passed down this creation account, generation after generation, were a nomadic people. They had sheep. And goats. They traveled (except for when they were slaves). Continued conflict with their agrarian, sometimes urban, neighbors led them to build cities of their own, to request a king, to collect wealth. To stop living as nomads.
What, then, if this creation account – the one that seems to cause us so many problems around sin, around male-female relationships, around identity – were a story of what went wrong with “those” people rather than a story of how “we” were created? What if this account is an explanation early Israelites gave to their children in order to make sense of their crazy, sinful, and out-of-balance-with-God’s-world neighbors?
What then are we to do with the second creation account