Genesis v. 1-3.

June 28, 2010

Chapter V.  The propagation of Adam and his posterity, and the years of their lives up to Noe.


St. Chrysostom: “A great and indescribable treasure, beloved, is concealed in the words that have just been read.  And I certainly know that many, seeing the catalogue of names and clinging to a superficial reading, think that there is nothing more in what has been said than mere names.  But I beseech you all: do not simply pass over those things that are contained in the sacred Scriptures.  For nothing is written here that does not have great richness of senses, seeing that the prophets spoke under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and for that reason these things, written by the Spirit, contain within themselves an enormous treasure.  And do not wonder that I promise to show you many and hidden riches of thoughts in this list of names.  For there is not a syllable, not a letter in the sacred Scriptures, in whose depth there is not some great treasure: and so it is fitting for us, led by divine grace and illuminated by the Holy Ghost, to approach the divine words” (xxi. 1.).

This is the book of the generation of Adam. In the day that God created man, he made him to the likeness of God.  He created them male and female; and blessed them: and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot a son to his own image and likeness, and called his name Seth.

1-2. “This is the book of the generation of Adam.”

“I beseech you to attend to the wondrous wisdom of this prophet; nay, to the teaching of the Holy Ghost … See, therefore how he leads back to the opening, and takes up earlier material once more.  Why, and for what reason?  Because he saw those at that time bring great signs of an ungrateful soul before themselves, and become no better from what had happened to our first parent, but rather rush into the same depth of malice.  For the one born from him, stirred up by envy, rushed at once to kill his brother, and so sustained a most heavy punishment, as we earlier taught your charity: and his posterity profited nothing from this chastisement, but wrapped themselves in greater evils, as you heard yesterday: Lamech telling his sin to his wives, and decreeing a punishment against himself.  Because he sees their malice increase bit by bit, like an evil humor spreading itself throughout the whole body, he checks the impetus of malice, and leaves the generations from Cain to Lamech, lest they be thought worthy of memory, and instead makes a kind of new beginning, wishing to soothe the grief of Adam and Eve, into which the right hand armed against Abel had thrown them: thus is the narration ordered” (ibid.).

2. “And called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”

St. Jerome: “Adam: that is, man [homo].  Now the name of man is fitting for both man [viro] and woman [feminæ]” (LHQG).

St. Bede: “Adam, like Enos, is translated man, but Enos’s name means man in such a way that it can only be applied to the male; but Adam can be applied to both sexes; whence it is rightly said that He called their name Adam: that is, man.  Now just as in Latin, man [homo] has its etymology from the ground [ab humo], because man’s flesh took its origin from the ground, so among the Hebrews Adam is named from the earth, because man was formed from the slime of the earth; whence Adam can also be translated Earthly, or Red Earth.  Further, among the Greeks man has another etymology: for he is called ἄνθρωπος, because he ought to watch the heights and lift the eyes of his mind to gaze on heavenly things.  Now in the name Adam, apart from the interpretation by which it means man, there is another mystery which ought not to be passed over in silence.  For it has four letters: A, D, A and M, from which letters the four points of the compass also take their names in Greek.  For among them the east is called ἀνατολή, the west δύσις, the north ἄρκτος, the south μεσημβρία; and it was greatly fitting that the name of the first man should mystically contain all the regions of the earth, since they were to be filled through his progeny.  Now when it says, and called their name Adam, and adds, in the day when they were created, it clearly shows that Adam and his wife were made on one and the same day, that is, the sixth of the new world; and that his wife was not created from his side separately, after the sixth of seventh day” (In Principium Genesis II col. 78).

3. “And begot a son to his own image and likeness”

St. Chrysostom: “Did I not say well at the beginning of this sermon that nothing is placed rashly or without usefulness in holy Scripture?  For see now what diligence this blessed prophet used.  Adam, he says, begot a son to his own image and likeness, and called his name Seth.  When he spoke of the earlier son, Cain, he signified nothing of this sort, evidently indicating beforehand Cain’s propensity to evil; and rightly: for he did not preserve his parents’ morals, but immediately had recourse to malice.  Here, though, he says, to his own image and likeness; that is, of the same morals by which he who had begotten him, that he might preserve the same characteristics of virtue, express his father’s image in his deeds, and be able by his virtue to make amends for the sin of his father.  For Scripture does not speak to us of bodily features and characteristics when it says, to his own image and likeness: but rather of the state of the soul, so that we may learn that Seth would not be like Cain” (xxi. 3.).

St. Bede: “Certainly Adam was created to the image and likeness of God, because he was created immortal in soul and flesh.  But after he defaced the image and likeness of God in himself by sinning, he begot a son to his own image and likeness: that is, mortal, corruptible, capable of reason, bound by the guilt of his own transgression, and unable to be freed except by the grace of that same God, His Creator” (In Principium Genesis II col. 78).


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