Lesson: Genesis 2:18-24
18 The LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” 19 So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. 23 Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”
24 Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Genesis is the first book of the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy). The Torah also called the Pentateuch (five books) in Greek. Genesis covers the period from Creation to the deaths of Jacob and his 11th son, Joseph, in about 1,650 BCE, if the accounts are historical.
The Book of Genesis (like the Torah as a whole) is an amalgam of religious traditions, some of which are dated by scholars to about 950 BCE and some of which were developed as late as 450 BCE. Since the late 19th Century, Biblical scholars have recognized four major “strands” or sources in the Torah, and these sources are identified (among other ways) by their different theological emphases, names for God, names for the holy mountain, and portrayals of God’s characteristics.
In Genesis, there are two Creation Stories. In the First Story (Gen. 1:1 to 2.4a), God created humankind (men and women) in God’s image on the sixth day and told them to be fruitful and multiply (1:27-28). God rested on the seventh day.
Today’s reading is part of the Second Account of Creation that begins in Gen. 2:4b. This Second Account is attributed to the “Jahwistic” Source and is generally dated to about 950 BCE. This Source presented God’s name as YHWH (translated with all capital letters as LORD or LORD God) and gave God many anthropomorphic qualities such as speaking with humans.
In this Second Creation Story, YHWH formed an earthling/human (in Hebrew, adam) from the fertile earth/humus (in Hebrew, adamah). In today’s reading, the human “named” all other creatures (v.20). Naming something implied control over it. At the end of the reading, YHWH gave the human a “partner” (in Hebrew, ezer).
Ezer is not a word often used in the Bible, and it is usually used to refer to God as the “partner” of Israel. Accordingly, the partner/ezer (the female) of the adam should not be understood as being subordinate to the male. In today’s reading (somewhat amusingly), God created animals as the first attempt to find a helper/partner for the human, but then created a woman from the adam’s rib/substance to be the ezer of the man.
Verse 24 is quoted in today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark as a basis for prohibiting divorce.
Epistle: Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12
1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
2:5 Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. 6 But someone has testified somewhere, “What are human beings that you are mindful of them, or mortals, that you care for them?
7 You have made them for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned them with glory and honor, 8 subjecting all things under their feet.”
Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, 9 but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
10 It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. 11 For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, 12 saying, “I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters, in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.”
The Letter to the Hebrews was an anonymous sermon addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Jesus Followers which urged them to maintain their Faith in the face of persecution.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is sometimes attributed to Paul, most scholars agree that it was written some time after Paul’s death in 63 CE, but before 100 CE. The letter introduced a number of important theological themes. The first four chapters explored the word of God spoken through the Son.
In today’s reading, the author affirmed that the Son is the “exact imprint of God’s very being” (v.3) and participated in creation (just as Wisdom participated in creation as stated in Proverbs 8). He described the Son as superior to the angels, and re-interpreted Psalm 8:4-6 as referring to Jesus. The author stated that Jesus was made lower than the angels (as a human being) only “for a little while” (2:9).
Gospel: Mark 10:2-16
2 Some Pharisees came, and to test Jesus they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.” 5 But Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”
10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.
The Gospel According to Mark was the first Gospel that was written and is usually dated to the time around the Destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest gospel and forms the core for the Gospels According to Matthew and Luke (both of which were written around 85 CE). Over 50% of the material in those two Gospels is based on Mark. Because these three Gospels follow similar chronologies of Jesus’ life and death, they are called “Synoptic Gospels” for the Greek words meaning “Same Look/View.”
The issue of divorce was a difficult one in the First Century. Mark noted that under Jewish Law, only a husband could divorce his wife (v. 4), but Jesus emphasized the equality of marriage as described in Genesis 2:24 and noted that the permission for divorce in the Torah was given only because of “hardness of heart” (v.5). At this time, under Roman Law, both husbands and wives could divorce their spouses and the text recognizes this (vv. 11-12). In Matthew’s version of this discussion on divorce, Jesus gave an exception that a man could divorce his wife for unchastity (Matt. 19:9) but did not give the same exception for women.
The portion of the reading about little children is not about idealizing children but is an illustration of how one might receive the Kingdom of God. Children in the First Century had the lowest status in society and the Kingdom “belongs” to them (and to us) not by merit but by God’s love.