‘God saw all that he had made, and he saw that it was very good.’
Is the tube map true?
London doesn’t look anything like the Tube map says it does. I’d never use it if I was going on a walk around London. But I’d definitely useit to plan a journey on the Underground.
So is it true or not?
Different texts convey truth in different ways – even within the Bible, which is the Word of God. Some books are history, some are poetry, some are law and some are prophecy, to give a few examples.
Find a Bible and take a look at each of these books. See if you can work out what they are just from looking at the first verse:
Song of Songs
So what is Genesis?
What kind of map is it, and what kind of journey is it taking us on?
I wouldn’t use Genesis Chapters 1-2 to revise for my biology exam. But I can use it to understand who God is and what it means to be created by him.
Genesis is what is called a pictorial, or sometimes mythical, narrative – it expresses truth in a poetic and indirect manner.
The creation hymn in Genesis was written during a time when the Jewish people were living in exile in Babylon, a pagan nation, surrounded by ideas about creation that were very different to their own. The creation account is designed to remind the Jewish people how God is in fact very different from the ‘gods’ of the Babylonian religion.
The Babylonians believed that:
- The gods control and manipulate human beings
- The gods have no personal relationship with human beings
- The world is a battleground between equally powerful but opposing cosmic forces
Now take a look at these passages from Genesis 1-2. How is the true God different from the Babylonian gods, andhow do we see that in Genesis?
Genesis 1:1-3 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void...Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good.
Genesis 1:27-28 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’’ ... So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them.
Genesis 2:16-18 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”
Michelangelo, God Dividing the Waters and Earth,Sistine Chapel. Sr Carino likes pictures.
‘Let us make man in our image and likeness.’
From these passages, we can see that there is only one Creator, God, who is ultimate goodness. God takes delight in his creation, and especially in humanity. We see that there is a compatibility – or affinity – between God and humanity; they’re not at war with each other. God creates human beings free and wishes them to know him personally and to co-operate with his plan of loving goodness.
What does it mean to be the image and likeness of God?
Looking at someone in a mirror isn’t the same as looking at that person – everything's back to front, for one thing. But it gives me a good idea of what that person is like, even though a person’s reflection isn’t truly who they are.
It’s the same with God. God has a reflection in the world: us. We aren’t the same as God, of course, but human beings show forth in creation something of what God is like. This is what Genesis means by telling us that we were created in the ‘image and likeness’ of God.
This is what the Church says:
Gaudium et Spes 12: For Sacred Scripture teaches that man was created "to the image of God," is capable of knowing and loving his Creator, and was appointed by Him as master of all earthly creatures that he might subdue them and use them to God's glory... But God did not create man as a solitary, for from the beginning "male and female he created them". Their companionship produces the primary form of interpersonal communion. For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential.
CCC 355-357: "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them."Man occupies a unique place in creation: he is "in the image of God"; in his own nature he unites the spiritual and material worlds; he is created "male and female"; God established him in his friendship.
Of all visible creatures only man is "able to know and love his creator"… he alone is called to share, by knowledge and love, in God's own life.
He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. And he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead.
From each of the two quotes above, pick out the key ways that we are created in the image and likeness of God.
Is there any overlap between your two lists?
Which do you think is the most important way and why?
Once you’ve done that, let’s look back at Genesis 2.
You have a list of the ways in which we are made in the image and likeness of God.
What evidence do you find for them in Genesis 2?
And here’s a tricky one...
Why does God say he will make man in ‘our’ image and likeness?
Michelangelo, The Creation of Adam, Sistine Chapel. Told you I liked pictures.
Knowledge and love
1,000 points if you said the most important way in which we are made in the image and likeness of God is ‘our ability to know and to love.’ We find that in both the Catechism and Gaudium et Spes. We are God’s image because we know and love, and so does God.
So here’s a problem. What’s love, and what’s knowledge?
Pope Benedict XVI is worried about this too:
Deus Caritas Est 2:‘We speak of love of country, love of one's profession, love between friends, love of work, love between parents and children, love between family members, love of neighbour and love of God. So we need to ask: are we merely using the same word to designate totally different realities?’
Let’s work it out. Which of these do you think is most like what the Church means by love?
1 - I love the ending of ‘Avengers: Endgame’ (but I am not going to spoil it for Sr Carino.)
2 - I forgive you for what you said to me yesterday, because I love you.
3 - I love chocolate, it is my favourite food.
4 - I love my friends and I love spending time with them.
Which of these statements do you think is most like what the Church means by knowledge?
1 - I know how ‘Avengers: Endgame’ ends (but I am not going to spoil it for Sr Carino.)
2 - I’ve never prayed before but I know what happens in all of the Gospels.
3 - I know that I shouldn’t call my sister fat because I know that it makes her unhappy.
4 - Do you know my best friend? Knowing what you’re like, I think you two will get on really well.
Did you notice any difference between the statements? Some of them are ordered towards people and what is good for them (‘I know I shouldn’t call my sister fat,’ ‘I love my friends,’) and some are ordered towards objects (‘I love chocolate’; ‘I know how ‘Avengers: Endgame’ ends.’)
This is a difference that the Church picks up on too. This is what the Catechism says about love and reason (our ability to acquire knowledge and use it to make sense of the world):
CCC 1765 [Love is] aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed.
CCC 1704 &1706 By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator... By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him "to do what is good and avoid what is evil." Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbour.
Love and knowledge are closely linked. Both knowing (using our reason) and loving are designed to point us towards what is truly good. When we know that God is the Creator of all, and we know what is good and what is evil, then we are set free to truly love God and those around us by desiring and willing what is good.
When our love and our knowledge is ordered towards people rather than objects, and towards goodness and truth rather than that which is opposed to goodness and truth, that is when we become more closely conformed to God and are truly his ‘image and likeness’.
Hieronymus Bosch, The Creation of the World, Prado Museum. OK don’t worry this is the last one but it’s a good one. Look, it opens up and...
...inside you’ve got the GARDEN OF EDEN!!! Woo! Anyway, that’s all for this month!