In Genesis 2:19 we read:

And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.

Adam naming the animals from

In Jewish thought, naming something is a creative and performative act. To know a name is, famously in the scene of the burning bush, to have a grip over it.

So in Genesis 2:19, a Jewish text that is formative of the Jewish mind, we find the source of hermeneutics and the resolution to the Genesis Creation debates?

In this verse we see that God is the creator but Adam is the meaning-maker. God cedes the domain of meaning in his Creation to his human creatures. Interpretation begins. One presumes that since Eve was not yet made at this point in the 2nd Creation narrative, there was not yet hermeneutical disputes. The inner turmoil of not being able to choose between different yet valid ways of describing reality comes with the Fall. This means Adam didn’t have to dispute over Brontosaurus or Apatosaurus! He knew what the right one was.

Adam, Eve and pet dinosaurs

This verse, seen through the Jewish lens, also clarifies the sillyness about Genesis 1-2 being proto-scientific. It isn’t. And the argument against such a reading doesn’t need to draw on geology, cosmology or evolutionary biology. The text alone will suffice. This should suit the so-called fundamentalists who seek to elevate the importance of the text by arguing for “Creation Science” (and hence ironically subjugate the text below whatever holds sway as “scientific” in any given generation).

The quest for an answer to our Origins is a quest for meaning. But in Genesis we see God as the source of Being. By permitting Adam to shape meaning through the naming process, the text sets us in a world whereby our quest for meaning is a quest that is not simply going to be resolved by reference to God. YHWH is the source of our being and he is also, in the text, the source of our authority to create and shape meaning. But by letting humans occupy the sandpit of meaning, it means that humans must find meaning in a source that includes God the Source and other sources. The story of meaning is more complex than just answering “God did it”. It must be. Because God, as depicted in Genesis, intends for it to be.

Your Correspondent, As usual, is either writing brilliance or crap. Or drab boring nonsense. But nothing else.