Parashat Bereishit

B’reisheet 1:1 – 6:8; Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10; Rev 19:6-16; 21:1-7 (John 1)

The mystics say that God made Adam in the image of the Heavenly Adam, the firstborn of all creation, the spiritual image of God. The theology of the heavenly Adam attempts to reconcile the conflict between the idea that God is incorporeal, that is without image and form, and the idea that man is created in the image of God.

The apostles say, "Yeshua is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15). "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature" (Hebrews 1:3).

Paul also alludes to the same mystical ideas when he states: “Just as we have borne the image of the earthly [i.e., Adam], we will also bear the image of the heavenly [i.e., Yeshua]” (1 Corinthians 15:49). Paul calls Adam “the first Adam” and Messiah “the second Adam.” According to Paul, “The first Adam is from the earth, earthy; the second Adam is from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47), “an impression of Him who was to come” (Romans 5:14). That is to say, Adam was made in the image of Messiah.

Tz’nah Ur’enah says, “Just as Adam was created in God’s image, so the Messiah is anointed by God, and God’s Spirit will be upon him.” God created Adam in His image, and the Messiah is the image of God: “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15); “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:3). Luke even refers to Adam as “the son of God” (Luke 3:38).

The Messiah, as the second Adam, provides humanity with a fresh start. In Messiah, the human race can go back to Eden, so to speak, and start over in perfect innocence and righteousness.

Adam’s name means “man.” Sin and death came to humanity as the result of one man’s sin. Through one single act of disobedience, Adam forfeited his right to the tree of life, so human death came through Adam. Death came “even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (Romans 5:14), which is to say that everyone dies.

It does seem frightfully unfair that one man’s single transgression consigns all humanity to death, but it is equally unfair that one man’s righteousness also offers all of humanity the reward of righteousness: “The right to the tree of life” (Revelation 22:14). Those who cast their allegiance with “the last Adam,” the life-giving Spirit, receive that reward.

Messiah is a second Adam, but unlike the first Adam, He did not transgress. If the first Adam’s sin was sufficient to merit death for all mankind, the righteousness of Messiah—the last Adam—is sufficient to merit life for all of us: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).

This is the hope of eternal life through the resurrection of the dead. Resurrection reverses Adam’s bane.

In the Beginning - Take 2

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. (Bereshit/Genesis 1:1)

It's that time of year again when we return to the beginning of the Torah. This is anything but "same old, same old." Yes, the words don't change year by year. And neither does their essential meaning, though I don't know if we will ever fully plunge their depth. Yet, apart from learning aspects of God's revealed Word that we never noticed before, it's amazing how much we forget year by year; and that's true even when we've been paying attention. But there's another reason why these ancient words retain their freshness: life in the world as we know it constantly changes.

Certainly there are fundamentals to human life on earth that have been constant throughout the ages, both the good and the bad. Expositors of Scripture often focus on this fact. Perhaps we feel the need to justify the relevance of the Bible to those who dismiss it as out of date. For example, in this very parsha (weekly Torah reading portion), when God confronts Adam and then Eve on their eating of the forbidden fruit, they both blame shift, something we human beings have been doing ever since (see Bereshit/Genesis 3:11-13). From this we learn our need to take responsibility for our actions.

It is good to point out how the Bible is full of content, which while situated in a distant time and setting, is easily relatable by people today wherever we might live. But are there not factors of our contemporary existence that are way beyond the Bible's scope? Isn't the truth of Scripture based on a worldview and culture so different from ours, so as to make much of its teaching obsolete, not to mention that its writers could have no way foreseen the world of the 21st century, with its technological advancements and apparent cultural progression? Even if you don't accept many of today's cultural categories and approaches to morality, how could the Bible provide answers to questions and issues of which the people of that day would have no clue?

The Bible's timeliness is not due to a focus on unchanging themes even though that is the way it is often taught. The stories in the Bible are not moralistic lessons. Neither is the Bible a collection of timeless sayings. There are some in the Book of Proverbs, but that's the exception. The rule is that the Bible communicates via stories, the technical term for story-like writing is "narrative." Most biblical narrative is historical. Even large non-narrative sections, such as the Psalms or the Prophets, are speaking within the context of historical happenings. The hundreds of commandments found in the Books of Moses are given within a specific cultural and historical setting. The New Covenant Letters are written to real people in real places, addressing specific issues. In almost no cases are the implications for or applications to our day spelled out for us. Rather, when we read the Bible, we are exposed to God's perspective on life and living. It is through these writings that God has ingeniously provided us with everything we need to address any and all issues we may encounter anywhere at any time. Garnering the knowledge and understanding from the Bible that we need to effectively engage the world in which we live can be hard work, but it's worth it.

For example, it's worth it to take the time to examine God's establishment of the human family as revealed in the first few verses of the Torah (see Bereshit/Genesis 1:26-30). Here we learn that man and woman are created, not as the product of natural causes, but both in and as the image of God. Also, we are created on purpose and for a purpose, being commissioned as stewards of the planet and that having children is key to our fulfilling our God-given roles. Chew over that for a while and see what happens. See what happens to your view of yourself, of marriage, of sex, of children, and your purpose for living. And that's just the beginning!

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