The start of the second creation story does not fit smoothly with the first. Let’s not reconcile the stories, but savour each on its own terms. Here we get humans in a garden as the closer focus of the older Jahwist voice.
Over the decades, I’ve enjoyed the Hebrew play on words of humanity made of clay and breath, adamah and ish, to create gendered adam and issah. God makes a hermaphrodite, and separates it into 2 partial beings needing others.
Back in lush southern Ontario by Lake Huron, I’m relishing the waters swelling from the water table in rivers. Their names allude to central Africa source, and Nile, then Tigris Euphrates: a ‘Fertile Crescent’. The imagery remains poetic.
The humans may be nourished by anything in the garden. However, God warns that eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil will have a consequence of mortality. One original hermaphrodite vegetarian immortal gets the word.
Only then does God add creatures, so the h’adam will not be alone. The human gets to name the creatures, construing its context. However, the one human is alone, without a peer companion. Human is distinct from non-human.
Let’s not confuse the way the first story framed ‘what is it to be human in creation among creatures’ with this alternative. Nor let us reconcile or ‘fix’ them before we sweat it out. Stakes are eugenics, euthanasia, technology, ecology...
Take a ‘paper doll’ figure, and rip it in half from head to crotch. Jahweh God takes each from the side of the other, raw wounds and raged edges and all, in my reading of this second story. We seek others, forever, to be less incomplete.
Let’s echo the Hebrew play on words: God took one hermaphrodite vegetarian immortal hu-man and took it apart into a-man and wo-man, distinctive, complementary, yet of the same hu-man essentials, called ‘flesh and bone’.
Each leaves our partial household of origin, the prior generation’s attempt to become less incomplete, and re-forms that ‘flesh and bone’ essential humanity, with others. Some of us make several, serial attempts.
Compulsory binary heterosexism is a rude narrowing of the vision. Admission of our needs for others to be less incomplete re-sets a lot of ‘normal’ standards as they exceed statistical description to claim moral authority against minorities.
The closing note affirms this first pair, torn from the solitary original, was naked and unashamed. The distinction is made with their future state, and ours, which we confess as ‘clothed and shamed’. Sartor Resartus, as Carlyle wrote.
Close your eyes – what do these two look like? Now look again for your assumptions of secondary gender features, skin pigmentation and hair, relative size and shape, and ‘fitness’ or abled-ness. Try a few more ‘torn paper dolls’.