Creation of Adam MICHELANGELO
There are two different Genesis accounts of creation: The first is Genesis 1:1-2:3 in which we have the common story of creation in six days; the second is Genesis 2:4-25 in which the order of creation is different: God creates man first, then the animals and brings them to Adam for naming, and then God creates Eve from Adam’s rib. The first is generally cited by Christians (and perhaps Jews and Muslims) as giving the correct order of creation, of which man and woman are the final and crowning glory. Many also cite it as determining periods of one day for each act of creation; the second is cited by Christians (Jews and Muslims?) primarily for the story of the seperate acts of creation of Adam and of Eve. Michelangelo takes the second story of the creation of Adam for the theme of his painting, Creation of Adam, on the ceiling of the Cistine Chapel. Is he saying this is literally what happened? Or is he saying that Adam was “made in the image of God?” Or is he commenting on what it means that “man” is created in the image of God?,” Can it be all of these?
I had read of a medical doctor’s (I think a neurologist) interpretation of Michaelangelo’s Creation of Adam as God imbuing man with the gift of the brain and intelligence. I thought that was a novel interpretation, but when I presented that painting to my Sunday School class, Shari, a mental health counselor, immediately exclaimed, “Why that is the human brain and brain stem!”
Teilhard de Chardin attributes the phenomenon of human intellect and self-awarenessas to a function of highly complex organization of matter in the human brain. See http://www.godweb.org/chardin.htm What is interesting to me in de Chardin’s statement is that it would suggest that the difference between the human brain and that of other animals is one of degree, not of kind. The other aspect of de Chardin that I admire is his wedding of matter with spirit, rather than the historical dualistic separation of the two.
Dietrich von Bonhoeffer wrote the following meditation on this painting:
THE LOVE OF THE CREATOR FOR THE CREATURE
“Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). This is also what Michelangelo meant. Resting on the young earth, Adam is so solidly and intimately connected with the ground on which he lies that in his still dreamy existence, he himself is quite unusual, quite miraculous, and yet still a bit of earth; indeed, it is precisely this complete unity with the blessed soil of the created earth that reveals the full glory of the first human being. And in this resting on the earth, in this deep sleep of creation, the man now experiences life through bodily contact with the finger of God – it is the same hand that made the man that now touches him from a distance and awakens him to life. The hand of God does not hold the man nearer, clasped in his grip, but sets him free, and its creative power becomes the longing love of the Creator for the creature. The hand of God in this picture in the Sistine chapel reveals more knowledge about the creation than many a profound speculation.
From, I Want to Live These Days with You.
It seems to me remarkable that the ancient stories in the Bible maintain so much of their original form despite developments in Judaism diverging from the literal myth; likewise that through Christian transmission of those sacred documents there is no obvious manipulation of those stories to justify Christian doctrine. Therefore, it seems to me that the form of those mythologies that were passed on are likely consistent with the original myths, themselves.
Accepting that, my following commentary will be based upon the myths, as stated in scriptures which are shared by Judaism with Christianity and Islam. If that is objectionable, how does one explain the literal differences between the first creation myth and the second, which incorporates the story of the Garden of Eden?
Since the second story of creation and the Garden of Eden are the basis of later Christian concepts of original sin, I will begin with a discussion of that story:
The second story begins in Genesis 2:4, at which time no plant had emerged. In Genesis 2:6 and 7 we are told that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into him the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Then God planted a garden in Eden, where he placed the man. Thereafter, God causes every tree to grow, including the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Then, God places man in the garden (Genesis 2:15). God tells the man that he may eat of any tree except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Then, because “it is not good that the man should be alone” God creates the animals, and Adam is given the right to name them. But God finds that the animals do not adequately provide the man with help, so God places him into a deep sleep and from the man’s rib God forms woman and brings her to Adam (Genesis 2:20 – 23). And so, Adam and Eve roamed the Garden of Eden.
A serpent presents itself to Eve and convinces her that the fruit of the forbidden tree is good, and she presents it to Adam. Their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked, so they sewed fig leaves to cover themselves. Then one day, as God is walking through the garden, when he calls for Adam. Adam admits that when he heard God’s voice, he was afraid because he was naked; therefore he hid. Genesis 3:1 – 11. Yes, God punishes Adam to a life of toil, Eve to bear children and pain and be submissive to Adam, and the snake to slither upon the ground (Genesis 3:14 – 19). God does not evict Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden because of their disobedience, but rather, because the Lord God and the other gods discovered that Adam had become as one of them, to know good and evil; and they feared that he would also eat of the tree of life and live forever (Genesis 3:22, 23).
So what does the story tell us? Life is hard work and pain, but man and woman are infused with the breath of God. In the first story, Genesis 1:26, the Lord God says, “let us make man in our image after our likeness.”
Nothing in the story indicates that man sinned or that his or her offspring would inherit sin: only that paradise was lost.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Creation_of_Adam for an excellent and in depth analysis of the painting.
Read what Frank Lynn Meshberger, MD wrote of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam at:
For an excellent video showing the location of the above painting of Michelangelo, its context in the Sistine Chapel and expert analysis and commentary on that chapel and its art, see http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/sistine-chapel-ceiling.
See http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/michelangelo.html?searched=Creation+Adam+MICHELANGELO&highlight=ajaxSearch_highlight+ajaxSearch_highlight1+ajaxSearch_highlight2+ajaxSearch_highlight3 for for poetry by Michelangelo concerning the link between the art of sculpture, the human body and God.
Links to my site: