1. BEGINNINGS: Questioning the Mosaic Record
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1 1 5 Beginnings Questioning the Mosaic Record In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light, and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day . . . So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them . . . And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it . . . And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field. E ver since 1611, when the King James Bible first appeared, these words have introduced Bible readers to Adam, the father of the human race. With sonorous majesty these words give voice to a doctrine that has circulated since ancient times, stretching back through the Geneva Bible and Miles Coverdale’s translation, Saint Jerome’s medieval Latin Vulgate and the Greek Septuagint, to the Aramaic Targums of the early Hebrews. It is the doctrine of Creation, the story of beginnings—of the heavens and the earth, of light and dark, of sun and moon, of plants and animals. It is a chronicle that positions humankind at the pinnacle of the 2 adam’s ancestors narrative. It tells how we came to be here, what life was like in the morning of the earth, why human beings come in male and female forms, where evil originated, and how ugliness entered the world. And here, in the cradle of creation, stands one individual, Adam, the first man. To leave nothing to the imagination, pictures in Bibles would soon give visual expression to the world’s first couple, newly minted, fresh, pristine, unspoiled. Take, for instance, the magnificent Bible published by the Edinburgh -born John Ogilby (1600–1676), sometime dancing master, theatrical impresario, translator, bookseller, publisher, and cartographer. The author of a series of folio travel books on various countries—Britain, Japan, and Africa among them—and a road atlas of England and Wales under the title Britannia in 1675, when he was in his seventies, Ogilby reissued in 1660 the large folio Bible published by John Field the previous year.1 This hugely expensive text, illustrated with what were called “chorographical sculps,” included a plate engraved by Pierre Lombard depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden at the moment of their fall from grace (fig. 1). The lavish abundance of Eden’s original perfection, not to mention its portrayal of both the harmonious and the fabulous, only served to anticipate the colossal cost of their banishment from its glories. Other illustrations reinforced this picture of the world’s first occupants enjoying the glorious surroundings of the Garden of Eden, with its lush vegetation , peaceful river, and tree of life. In 1615, for example, Jan Breughel the elder (1568–1625) placed Adam and Eve in a tropical paradise surrounded by bountiful plant and animal life. In his Historie of the Perfect-Cursed-Blessed Man of 1628 Joseph Fletcher showed them strolling peacefully among camels , elephants, and lions. In 1629 John Parkinson, himself an apothecary with an extensive physic garden, used an illustration of a superabundant paradise superintended by Adam and Eve as the title page of his work on plant cultivation in flower gardens, kitchen gardens, and orchards (fig. 2).2 Such portrayals , of course, were the latest expression of a long-standing convention in Western religious art: Adam and Eve were to be found in stained-glass windows , in large medieval maps known as the mappaemundi, and in tempera wall paintings. Later they would feature in works of natural history such as Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s Sacred Physics (1731–33), in which the cycle of creation was pictorially depicted using the best available scientific evidence and culminating in “Homo ex Humo”—the creation of man, the...


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