Monday, June 16, 2008

Eden's Gardener

Let’s reflect on the Garden of Eden into which Adam was placed. I have always been surprised at the brevity of the Bible account contrasted with the overwhelming volume of extra-biblical commentary. One thing seems clear from Genesis 2:15: Adam had work to do as Eden’s gardener. According to various translations, Adam was instructed to work it, tend, dress, keep in order, cultivate, till, and take care of it. He was also given the task of naming the animals. He did so with full knowledge of their unique characteristics. Perhaps this biological cataloguing took a long time. His knowledge seemed to have a foundation in observational skills. Finally, God provided a helper named Eve.

We are not told in Genesis 1-2 that the garden was supernaturally insulated from any death or discomfort. The text, in its brief account, does not make this clear, and may indicate otherwise. The garden, therefore, was not “perfect” as we envision perfection; I cannot imagine that a perfect garden would need working, tending, dressing, cultivating, and tilling. Most people do not think about what may have been happening outside the garden in the worldwide biomes of our home planet. The fossil record of living creatures across our planet clearly shows a flow of successive life forms hundreds of millions of years ago on up to the present. In past posts we have stressed that these millions of years do not imply evolution. Rather, the record of life in the fossil record points to sporadic and sudden major creation events. Therefore, a timeline of millions of years does not imply evolution.

The creation of Adam and Eve and their placement in Eden is not merely a mythical, wishful theological construct. Secular scientists have come to the conclusion that, based on mitochondrial DNA studies, all humans now living descended from one (or a few) women in a single location near northeastern Africa. Likewise, based on Y-chromosomal DNA studies, all humans now living descended from one (or a few) men in a single location near northeastern Africa. The exact date, tens of thousands of years ago, is uncertain, but compared with the wide variety of hominid species of limited ability preceding them, it is certain these modern humans are set apart from earlier hominids by a wide margin. This is based on their advanced cognitive ability, craftsmanship, artistic expression, and religious activity. This affirms the startling verse in Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (NIV).