The Idea of the “Good”
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The Idea of the “Good”

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The concept of prayer didn’t exist until the first step outside the garden. And Adam and Eve’s prayers had to be maddened ones, predicated upon a new and shockingly acquired paranoidic consciousness, completely unlike their prelapserian paranoic1 state wherein the primal couple didn’t know hope or prayer inside the amoral edenic, in the egregious garden where anything was possible anytime.

And that is why you don’t notice the word “good” in the original account of creation in Genesis; that is, the “J” account, written around 1000 B.C.E. during the reign of Solomon—the account wherein Adam and Eve are formed of the dust of the earth and given life through the intimacy of divine breath, with God planting the garden and asking Adam to help him name things (cocreator?), and giving Adam and Eve the garden to “tend” and to “caretake”—as opposed to the “P” account, written around 400 B.C.E. during the high point of Greek culture, wherein Adam is told to “subdue” and “have dominion.” Hence the timeless Western duality regarding a human being’s proper relationship to nature: are we morally obligated to caretake, or are we free to subdue and have dominion?

In ancient Hebrew the word “good” (tov) meant pure or unalloyed. But there was no need to emphasize this notion in the J account because Adam and Eve were already in a paranoic state and free to think and do anything they wanted (except eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). And the Jews themselves, at the time of J’s composition, [End Page 285] had no need to be reminded of their purity, of remaining “unalloyed,” since, during the reign of Solomon, Jewish tribal culture was at its historical high point and the Jewish people were free, powerful, and culturally paranoic.

But in the second account of creation, the P account, which actually appears first in the Bible with “In the beginning” (even though it was composed six hundred years later by Jewish priestly leaders), the word tov repeats over and over, almost in incantation, as the methodical six days of creation unfold (“and God saw that it was good”). The Jewish priests undoubtedly believed that this paranoidic reminder—to remain “unalloyed”—was necessary at a time when Jewish culture was altogether threatened by an overwhelming Greek cultural hegemony. The P account appears, then, as a kind of coded lament for the Jews who feared for their identity inside the Hellenistic world, a lament for the lost splendor of high paranoic Hebrew consciousness that was, by 400 B.C.E., in decline.

And paranoic splendor was what the first couple experienced in their primeval garden before being cast out into the world’s premier wasteland, and the mystically great J author knew this.

The two Hebrew creation accounts were fused together by the redactors (Jewish priestly editors) around 200 B.C.E., and the result was two very different visions of God. In the earlier J account (which appears second in the text) God seems more like an artist, shaping and building and gardening and giving the breath of life; and in the later P account (which appears first) God is more like a magician, pulling creation rabbits out of a hat on a daily basis.

The shift from the God of J to the God of P is clearly a movement away from an ancient anthropomorphic deity one could be intimate with, to one who, in keeping with the Greek cultural emphasis on logos and the power of reason, was more distant and rationally powerful. In the end, the “believer” is left to decide which God is more likable: a God who shapes humans out of dust and intimately offers the breath of life, who likes to picnic in the shade of the garden; or a God who cranks out the machinery of the universe in a chronological and compulsive fashion; who, from a distance, grants us the right to have dominion.

It is also interesting to note here that in ancient Hebrew, Eve is actually created from Adam...