Some really great parallels today between our Old and New Testament readings.
Genesis 2 – Some things to note:
First, notice that God forms Adam out of the “dust of the ground”. Again, if the book is not read literally but read as using story and metaphor to describe history this is remarkably simple but profound way to reduce evolution down to its most basic premise. For lack of space I’m not going to explore the aspects of creationism v. strict Darwinism v. God directed evolution here. However, I find it remarkably telling the Bible’s poetic description of the creation of man is consistent with Science.
Second, note that in Hebrew, “Eden” means “virgin soil”. The text says the God planted the garden of Eden. I.e.., God places seed in the virgin soil. Note the parallel to what we read today in Matthew, when the seed is in the Blessed Virgin Mary. It should be easy to see that Mary is thus “the new Eden”.
Third, the woman is made from the man to be his “helper”. Helper does not imply subordination. God is our helper, yet no one would claim He is subordinate to us. Helper implies complementarity of the sexes.
Fourth, not also that woman is made of man. However, in Matthew we see that the Man (Jesus) is made of the woman (Jesus is conceived and grows in Mary’s womb). Thus in the New Testament God, reverses the process of Eden to undue the fall and bring about the new creation. It follows then that as Adam begot Eve (w God’s assistance of course) that Mary begets Jesus (again w/ God’s assistance). Mary is therefore the “new Eve” to Jesus’ “New Adam”.
Fifth, after the creation of Eve we see the institution of marriage when it is declared, “that is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh.” This is the first covenantal relationship. It is the establishment of more than an arrangement, more than an agreement, and more than a contract. It is the creation of Family. The two are no longer separate in the eyes of God, they are blood. They are responsible for each other. When reading the Bible always look for covenants. The whole story is about the repeated establishing of covenants with man, who subsequently fail and brake them, until the coming of Jesus who establishes a covenant that will be definitive and lasting.
Matthew 1: 18 -25
Note, that the text tells us that Mary “was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together she was found with child by the Holy Spirit…”. Several key points should be understood. First, in Hebrew culture the marriage was a two-step process – betrothal and then the coming together – there was a waiting period in between. However, the marriage was established at betrothal. Thus, to be with child from another man during the interim period would have been adultery. This is why Joseph has do consider divorcing Mary. Fundamentally, you can’t have divorce unless you’re married to begin with.
Next, we need to understand why Joseph would agree to take Mary into his home as his wife. The most obvious answer is, “because the Angel told him to”. However, it goes deeper than that. In the Jewish context Joseph is a decedent of King David. As we will read in the coming weeks David’s son once tried to overthrow him. To do this he took control of the palace and the army and then he took 10 of David’s wives as his own – he had marital relations with them. David recaptures his kingdom and God tells David to take the 10 wives back into his house, to care for them as his wives but to never sleep with them again. Of course, Joseph would have been familiar with this history. He would have immediately recognized the role into which he had been cast. He most likely would have been honored and humbled to take Mary into his home and he would have never approached her intimately as he would have recognized the Mary had become the, “spouse of the Holy Spirit”.
Joseph is told to name the child Jesus, which means “Yahweh saves”. This shows several things. This shows that Joseph is truly Jesus’ adoptive father because he given the right to name (but the Father in heaven retains his relationship because he is the source of the name). It shows Joseph has human parental authority over Jesus. It shows the Jesus is truly the heir to the inheritance of Joseph and by extension David. It shows the Joseph is a type of Adam because he gives name to the new creation.
Finally, we note the last sentence of the chapter, “He [Joseph] no relations with her [Mary] until she bore a son, and he name him Jesus.” To our modern ear this implies that they had relations after the son was born. However, the word “until” does not always imply a change in condition after the subsequent event. For example, the Bible says Jesus will, “reign until all enemies are under his feat”. Does this mean Jesus will not reign after all enemies are under his feet? Of course not. In addition, knowing the story of David and his wives related above we can see we should not read this until as implying the situation changed after the birth of Jesus.