The seminal story of the first humans' relationship with God.
February, Lectionary Year C
WORKSHOPS & ACTIVITIES:
• ARTS – make salt clay relief maps of the Garden of Eden
• BEAT BOX – create a rhythm routine based on key elements of the story
• GAME – Around the Garden (based on Ship to Shore)
• KITCHEN – Waldorf salad
• COMPUTER – Awesome Bible Stories: Adam and Eve; Let's Talk; Cal & Marty.
Genesis 2.4 - 3.24
“The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed." (New King James Version)
After story time in church, all will meet in central Sunday school area for gathering time, brief review, then to scheduled
BACKGROUND NOTES & OTHER NEAT INFO
Two creation stories.
The story of first humans Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden is the second of two creation stories that start off the book
of Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible.
Although the Eden story appears second, it is thought to be older, dating from around the 10th century BCE. It emphasizes
vitality and growth.
The creation story that appears first, with its unforgettable line, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth..."
(New King James Version), was written later than Adam and Eve, and it emphasizes the structure and order of creation.
Neither creation story actually came first.
In the introduction to this material in her book, Stories Seldom Told, Lois Wilson has quite a concise helpful overview for
getting one's bearings on the Adam and Eve story. Wilson writes: "The first three chapters of Genesis were not the first Bible
stories to be written... These creation stories were actually written after the Exodus event, to provide a background, a wide
canvas, for the subsequent stories of Israel and her people and their destiny."
Were Adam and Eve really real?
Lois Wilson again has a brilliantly precise answer to this in the above introduction: "They should not be understood as historic
individuals, for they represent 'humankind' and 'mother of the living.'"
Northrop Frye provides another helpful explanation for understanding the context of this story. The explanation is found in
an essay/book called "Creation and Recreation," in Northrop Frye on Religion: "The truth of the story of the fall of
Adam and Eve does not depend on the possibility that an archaeologist may eventually dig up their skeletons. It depends on
its power to convey the present sense of alienation in human consciousness, the sense of being surrounded by a nature not
ours. Such a myth bears the same relation to the Law of the first five books of the Bible that a parable of Jesus bears to
the teaching of the Gospel."
[*NB — In his work, Frye attaches very specific meaning to the word myth. To him, myth means a sequence of words organized
so that narrative line has priority; in other words, a set of words selected to convey a specific plot or series of events
happening to specific characters over time. To boil it down further, myth to him means essentially story. To Frye, myth most
certainly is NOT an imaginary, unreal or untrue entity.]
To answer more pointedly the question that heads this subsection, Adam and Eve remain viscerally and symbolically real.
Isn't this story rather unkind to women?
Not if we keep in mind that the characters of Eve and Adam are symbolic rather than historical. Frye again has a terrific,
I would say must-read, examination of the symbolic tenets of this story his book Words with Power, in a chapter called
"Second Variation: the Garden." Here he notes that Eve is the "supreme and culminating creation in the J account." In effect,
she represents the anchor in the principle of human community bound up in humanity's relationship with God. As such she is
essential to alleviating the sense of alienation from God, in other words to the process of redemption, referred to above.
What's a symbol?
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines symbol as "a thing conventionally regarded as typifing, representing or recalling something,
esp. an idea or quality (white is a symbol of purity)..."
What's all this business about the apple?
Once more, this tale has to be read — and taught — symbolically. Our prototypical humans were happy as clams,
puttering around the garden in the buff, before they took a bite from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil. After acquiring this knowledge, they became ashamed of their bodies and scrambled to cover up.
So what went wrong? Again according to Frye in Words with Power, our protagonists acquired a "moral knowledge"
that was "disastrous when attached to a sense of shame and concealment about sex, and was forbidden because in that situation
it ceases to be a genuine knowledge of anything, even of good and evil."
Further, as "the tree of life was not forbidden to Adam and Eve before, it seems to be only the possession of the new knowledge
that makes it dangerous."
Perhaps the term 'original sin' is a little harsh
To be sure, the term 'original sin' (which doesn't appear in the Biblical text of this story) is unhelpfully offputting, and
makes Eve seem like a pretty serious offender for causing humans to be turfed out of such a nice piece of greenspace.
In view of the commentary cited here, it might be fairer to say that what happened in this story was our symbolic first humans
acquired a sudden , shocking awareness of their remoteness from God. Awareness of this distance remains the central truth
that this myth expresses. Efforts to close the gap represent attempts to return after a fashion to this paradisal state.
Why we love this story.
The last word on this subject should go, I think, to the introductory notes on Genesis in the New Oxford Annotated Bible:
"Because of the mythic and legendary character of much material in Genesis, it is less often used now than it once was as
a reliable source of historical information. Yet, perhaps partly as a result of its long process of formation, the book of
Genesis has proven its ability to speak to people of varying cultures and times. It is not just a story about things happening
in a bygone age. It is a crystallization of Israel's most fervent beliefs and hopes as expressed in genealogy and vivid narrative."
Needless to say, fine artists through the ages have been inspired by this story. Here's one that pretty much sticks with all
of us — Michelangelo's 'Creation of Man' from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, circa 1512 or so. To see it, click
This verse from Montreal poet AM Klein has been oft cited in Canadian anthologies. A university professor who influenced me
greatly declared Klein one of her favourite poets. That's always been good enough for me. From AM Klein's 'Portrait of the
Poet as Landscape' of 1948:
Therefore he seeds illusions. Look, he is
the nth Adam taking a green inventory
in world but scarcely uttered, naming, praising,
the flowering fiats in the meadow, the
syllabled fur, stars aspirate, the pollen
whose sweet collision sounds eternally.
For to praise
the world — he, solitary man — is breath
Getting back to the garden is arguably the key theme in the traditions of folk songs and spirituals. Here's one called 'Oh
Freedom,' arranged by Roger McGuinn. To hear it, click here. Scroll down to the Archive on the right hand side, then click the link to this title, then the link to the .mp3 file.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
• What stands out for you about the Adam character?
• What stands out for you about Eve? Name some traits you admire about her.
• What stands out for you about the God character in this story?
• Do Adam and Eve seem real to you? Can you describe how?
• Name some objects from this story that have become symbols, meaning they come up again in all kinds of other stories,
right up to Harry Potter. [Trees, snake, water, mist, fountain, rivers, apples, other fruit, gates, angels, swords, flame...]
What abstract ideas have these objects come to symbolize?
• What does 'original sin' mean to you.
Please find below suggested workshops for this unit. For each one, when you are in real time with the children:
1. Quickly review or recap the story with them before starting activity. Each week, see how much more detail each group of
kids can supply on the story they've been studying.
2. Link or explain your activity to the current story.
Arts -- Salt dough relief map
Activity -- using salt clay, have the children depict what they think the Garden of Eden would look like. Apply clay to pie
tin or paper plate and build up rivers, valley, trees, people, etc.
Why -- To allow them to think about what it's like to have a relationship with God that is worry free and pure love, and depict
that in terms of the the natural world.
Materials -- Salt clay, pie or paper plates, perhaps some findings like toothpics or construction paper scraps.
Recipe for salt clay -- 1 cup flour, 3/4 cup salt, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup cooking oil, food coloring (try making 2 or
3 colours). Mix dry ingred together, then gradually fold in wet.
Kitchen -- Waldorf salad
Activity -- Toss together this dish with trademark apples to highlight the apple symbol in this story.
Ingredients -- 3 or 4 apples, unpeeled, cut from the core, and chopped into bite size pieces (about 3 cups), 1/3 cup raisins,
2/3 cup chopped celery, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon sugar
Directions -- Toss all to coat with mayo and sugar.
Game -- Around the Garden (variation on Ship to Shore
How to play:
Kids start in middle (forest)
Leaders calls out locations:
Tree of Life -- one wall
Tree of Good and Evil -- 2nd wall
Angel with sword at gate -- 3rd wall
Serpent's lair -- 4th wall
Eat an apple -- do action
Hide in bushes -- act out
Cover with leaves -- act out
Pack up to go -- act out
Do this a few times, then call 'Back to the forest,' and start again with new caller.
Beat Box -- create rhythm routine
Why: will reinforce main plot points and actions in the story.
Divide into 4 groups. Each group does 1 set of actions or sounds. Could be something like this:
Grp 1 -- "Rise and shine" (stretch arms wide and yawn, repeat line 3 or 4)
Grp 2 -- "Apple pie, Yum," Apple pie yum... (pretend to eat and chomp piece of pie)
Grp 3 -- "Run and hide, run and hide..." (curl up in ball and cover head and eyes)
Grp 4 -- "Time to go, time to go..." (turn backwards and walk away as if waving to friends as leave on a trip, slump, look
Practice in separate groups. Then try it together, first with all doing each new set of actions in sequence. Then do like
a sung round, starting with Grp 1 first, then Grp 1 starting 2nd action, etc, with Grp 4 finishing last on last action (harder
to explain than to do.)
Computer -- Adam and Eve (Awesome Bible Stories), Let's Talk, Cal & Marty.
The Awesome Bible stories retelling is very fun to watch, and there is the word game activity with Gabby. But I felt as I
viewed all this that I might need another interactive activity, particularly to hold an older class.
With Let's Talk, you could draft conversations between the main chars, Adam, Eve, God and Serp.
With Cal and Marty, you could create a memory game that would be useful for this wonderful story -- so studded with beautiful
prose, so jam packed material leading to loaded questions!
Revu -- Activities from Garden 1
Drama -- play. Click here for the scripts.
Kitchen -- apple turnovers
Computer -- various activities suggested including digital photo essay and/or mock newspaper or email newsletter.