GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 19 SEPTEMBER
During the General Audience
in St Peter's Square on Wednesday evening 19 September, Pope John Paul II
gave the following address.
1. With reference to Christ's words on the subject of marriage, in
which he appealed to the "beginning," we directed our attention last week
to the first account of man's creation in the first chapter of Genesis.
Today we shall pass to the second account, which is frequently described
as the "Yahwist," since it uses the name "Yahweh" for God.
The second account of man's creation (linked to the presentation
both of original innocence and happiness and of the first fall) has by its
nature a different character. While not wishing to anticipate the
particulars of this narrativebecause
it will be better for us to recall them in later analyseswe
should note that the entire text, in formulating the truth about man,
amazes us with its typical profundity, different from that of the
first chapter of Genesis.
It can be said that it is a profundity that is of a nature particularly
subjective, and therefore, in a certain sense, psychological. The second
chapter of Genesis constitutes, in a certain manner, the most ancient
description and record of man's self-knowledge. Together with the third
chapter it is the first testimony of human conscience. A reflection in
depth on this textthrough
the whole archaic form of the narrative, which manifests its primitive
us in nucleo with nearly all the elements of the analysis of man,
to which modern, and especially contemporary philosophical anthropology is
sensitive. It could be said that Genesis 2 presents the creation of man
especially in its subjective aspect. Comparing both accounts, we conclude
that this subjectivity corresponds to the objective reality of man created
"in the image of God." This fact also isin
for the theology of the body, as we shall see in subsequent analyses.
First human being
2. It is significant that in his reply to the Pharisees, in which he
appealed to the "beginning," Christ indicated first of all the creation of
man by referring to Genesis 1:27: "The Creator from the beginning created
them male and female." Only afterward did he quote the text of Genesis
2:24. The words which directly describe the unity and indissolubility of
marriage are found in the immediate context of the second account of
creation. Its characteristic feature is the separate creation of woman
(cf. Gn 2:18-23), while the account of the creation of the first man is
found in Genesis 2:5-7.
The Bible calls the first human being "man" ('adam), but from
the moment of the creation of the first woman, it begins to call him "man"
(ish), in relation to ishshah ("woman," because she was
taken from the manish).(2)
It is also significant that in referring to Genesis 2:24, Christ
not only linked the "beginning" with the mystery of creation, but also
led us, one might say, to the limit of man's primitive innocence and of
original sin. Genesis places the second description of man's creation
precisely in this context. There we read first of all: "And the rib which
the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her
to the man; then the man said: 'This at last is bone of my bones and flesh
of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man'"
(Gn 2:22-23). "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and
cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gn 2:24). "And the man
and his wife were both naked, and they were not ashamed" (Gn 2:25).
Tree of knowledge
3. Immediately after these verses, chapter 3 begins with its account of
the first fall of the man and the woman, linked with the mysterious tree
already called the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" (Gn 2:17).
Thus an entirely new situation emerges, essentially different from the
preceding. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is the line of
demarcation between the two original situations which Genesis speaks of.
The first situation was that of original innocence, in which man (male
and female) was, as it were, outside the sphere of the knowledge of good
and evil, until the moment when he transgressed the Creator's prohibition
and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. The second situation, however,
was that in which man, after having disobeyed the Creator's command at the
prompting of the evil spirit, symbolized by the serpent, found himself, in
a certain way, within the sphere of the knowledge of good and evil. This
second situation determined the state of human sinfulness, in contrast to
the state of primitive innocence.
Even though the "Yahwist" text is very concise, it suffices with
clarity to differentiate and to set against each other those two
original situations. We speak here of situations, having before our
eyes the account which is a description of events. Nonetheless, by means
of this description and all its particulars, the essential difference
emerges between the state of man's sinfulness and that of his original
Systematic theology will discern in these two antithetical situations
two different states of human nature: the state of integral nature and
the state of fallen nature. All this emerges from that "Yahwist" text
of Genesis 2-3, which contains in itself the most ancient word of
revelation. Evidently it has a fundamental significance for the theology
of man and for the theology of the body.
The "Yahwist" text
4. When Christ, referring to the "beginning," directed his questioners
to the words written in Genesis 2:24, he ordered them, in a certain sense,
to go beyond the boundary which, in the Yahwist text of Genesis, runs
between the first and second situation of man. He did not approve what
Moses had permitted "for their hardness of heart." He appealed to the
words of the first divine regulation, which in this text is expressly
linked to man's state of original innocence. This means that this
regulation has not lost its force, even though man has lost his primitive
Christ's reply is decisive and unequivocal. Therefore, we must
draw from it the normative conclusions which have an essential
significance not only for ethics, but especially for the theology of man
and for the theology of the body. As a particular element of theological
anthropology, it is constituted on the basis of the Word of God which is
revealed. During the next meeting we shall seek to draw these conclusions.
1) If in the language of the rationalism of the 19th century,
the term "myth" indicated what was not contained in reality, the product
of the imagination (Wundt), or what is irrational (Levy-Bruhl), the 20th
century has modified the concept of myth.
2) As regards etymology, it is not excluded that the Hebrew term ish
is derived from a root which signifies "strength" (ish or wsh),
whereas ishshah is linked to a series of Semitic terms whose
meaning varies between "woman" and "wife."
L. Walk sees in myth natural philosophy, primitive and religious. R. Otto
considers it as the instrument of religious knowledge. For C. G. Jung,
however, myth is the manifestation of the archetypes and the expression of
the "collective unconsciousness," the symbol of the interior processes.
M. Eliade discovers in myth the structure of the reality that is
inaccessible to rational and empirical investigation. Myth transforms the
event into a category, and makes us capable of perceiving the
transcendental reality. It is not merely a symbol of the interior
processes (as Jung states), but it is an autonomous and creative act of
the human spirit by means of which revelation is realized (cf. Traite
d'histoire des religions [Paris: 1949], p. 363; Images et symboles [Paris:
1952], pp. 199-235).
According to P. Tillich myth is a symbol, constituted by the elements of
reality to present the absolute and the transcendence of being, to which
the religious act tends.
H. Schlier emphasizes that the myth does not know historical facts and has
no need of them, inasmuch as it describes man's cosmic destiny, which is
In short, the myth tends to know what is unknowable.
According to P. Ricoeur: "The myth is something other than an explanation
of the world, of its history and its destiny. It expresses in terms of the
world, indeed of what is beyond the world, or of a second world, the
understanding that man has of himself through relation with the
fundamental and the limit of his existence.... It expresses in an
objective language the understanding that man has of his dependence in
regard to what lies at the limit and the origin of his world" (P. Ricoeur,
Le conflit des interprιtation
[Paris: Seuil, 1969], p. 383).
The Adamic myth is par excellence the anthropological myth. Adam
means Man. But not every myth of the 'primordial man' is an 'Adamic myth'
which...alone is truly anthropological. By this three features are
aetiological myth relates the origin of evil to an ancestor of present
mankind, whose condition is homogeneous with ours....
aetiological myth is the most extreme attempt to separate the origin of
evil from that of good. The aim of this myth is to establish firmly that
evil has a radical origin, distinct from the more primitive source of the
goodness of things....
The myth, in naming Adam, man, makes explicit the concrete universality of
human evil; the spirit of penitence is given in the Adamic myth the symbol
of this universality. Thus we find again...the universalizing function of
the myth. But at the same time, we find the two other functions, equally
called forth by the penitential experience.... The proto-historical myth
thus serves not only to make general to mankind of all times and of all
places the experience of Israel, but to extend to mankind the great
tension of the condemnation and of mercy which the prophets had taught
Israel to discern in its own destiny.
Finally, the last function of the myth, which finds a motive in the faith
of Israel: the myth prepares for speculation in exploring the point where
the ontological and the historical part company" (P. Ricoeur, Finitude
Il Symbolique du mal [Paris: Aubier, 1960], pp. 218-227).
The etymology proposed by the biblical text is of a popular character and
serves to underline the unity of the origin of man and woman. This seems
to be confirmed by the assonance of both terms.
3) "Religious language
itself calls for the transposition from 'images' or rather 'symbolic
modalities' to 'conceptual modalities' of expression.
At first sight this transposition might appear to be a purely extrinsic
change. Symbolic language seems inadequate to introduce the concept
because of a reason that is peculiar to Western culture. In this culture
religious language has always been conditioned by another language, the
philosophical, which is the conceptual language par excellence.... If it
is true that a religious vocabulary is understood only in a community
which interprets it and according to a tradition of interpretation, it is
also true that there does not exist a tradition of interpretation that is
not 'mediated' by some philosophical conception.
So the word 'God,' which in the biblical texts receives its meaning from
the convergence of different modes of discourse (narratives, prophecies,
legislative texts and wisdom literature, proverbs and hymns)viewing
this convergence both as the point of intersection and as the horizon
evasive of any and every formhad
to be absorbed in the conceptual space, in order to be reinterpreted in
terms of the philosophical Absolute, as the first Mover, first Cause,
Actus Essendi, perfect Being, etc. Our concept of God pertains
therefore, to an onto-theology, in which there is organized the entire
constellation of the key-words of theological semantics, but in a
framework of meanings dictated by metaphysics" (P. Ricoeur, Ermeneutica
biblica [Brescia: Morcelliana, 1978], pp. 140-141; original title,
Biblical Hermeneutics [Montana: 1975]).
The question, whether the metaphysical reduction really expresses the
content which the symbolical and metaphorical language conceals within
itself, is another matter.