This week we begin the third lecture in the Theology of the Body series. It will focus on the second account of Creation, which the Holy Father calls “Subjective” and “Psychological.” To reiterate, this is not to say it is untrue, but rather that it is concerned with the experiences of Adam and Eve.
The Holy Father begins delineating these two because he would like us to join him in seeing that the First chapter establishes truths whose conclusions we may not violate by conjecture through reading the second chapter or otherwise. As with all good theology, he is establishing foundational groundwork, by which we may come to discern not only his line of thought, but to think along the same lines through careful attention to his method.
Pope John Paul II’s program is to show that the second chapter of Genesis is the revealed experiences of what is established in the first chapter. Therefore, he establishes the first chapter as objective, a guiding principle, a foundational lens, and the second as that from which we shall derive the experiences of Adam and Eve and therefore ascertain the “values” which we previously discussed when we talked about the second lecture. In so doing he has established a “control” or an axiom, a foundational principle or set of principles by which he can guide our subjective reading of the texts.
By reading in this way, he has established a set of rules by which we cannot misinterpret wildly the texts, or miss the point by veering off into miscellaneous details which are not consequential the points I raised previously which I will repeat here for the sake of clarity as we move on.
1) Man is a creature, His universe is established by God
2) Man is created in the Image of this God
3) Male and female both share in the divine image
4) This Divine Image is somehow irreducible from the maleness and femaleness it is established in
These I think are the 4 main points of the Holy Father’s reading of the text, which of course he will add detail to later on. I think these four are sufficient.
Anyways, let’s move along and see how the Holy Father lets the “objective” first chapter guide his reading of the “subjective” second chapter.
The Holy father has established an objective reading, the 4 “values” I listed above which we are to carry as we read the second chapter of Genesis. Yet, he will expound on these values through their subjective appropriation in the experiences in the lives of Adam and Eve.
The Holy Father admits that experience is subjective, meaning there’s no codified universally binding manner in which we experience the goods and norms of Creation. Yet, as we internalize these in a subjective manner, these are still very good, and apply universally and appeal to our experience in a general objective sense. The values are true, yet their truth is apprehended experientially, “subjectively” if you will.
The Holy Father has a phrase (Typical profundity) which has, to be honest, left me a bit confused. I will present it here, and we will work through it. “…we should note that the entire text, in formulating the truth about man, amazes us with its typical profundity, different from that of the first chapter of Genesis.” (To be honest, this whole section left me feeling in over my head, so i talked to some Catholic friends who are in university studying the TOB and also emailed Michael Waldstein who translated the Theology of the Body recently under the title: Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body.) I got some answers later on on this particular phrase, as I kept reading, and rereading, but it took a while to get it to sink in.
Let’s do a short aside, as I wait in real-time for some answers. I guess it’s nice to finally hit a wall. I mean, I don’t suppose to know of master everything in the first reading, but I find myself genuinely stumped about how to appropriate this phrase. It’s humbling, and I appreciate that, because it reminds me that the transformative process is a joy both in visible growth and a trial in stretching oneself.
(20 minutes of real time later…)
I suppose after re-reading for about 20 minutes in real-time I now have an answer which satisfies me. It might not be right, but if that’s the case I will update later. I suppose the “typical profundity” which the Holy Father lays before us means the distinctive type of profundity. I believe he means it amazes us with how profound it is, and what type of profundity it is. I suppose this would make sense because of what follows and also because of the Holy Father’s intention to highlight what he as termed the Psychological aspect of the text.
(About one hour real-time later…)
Dr. Michael Waldstein replied later the evening this was written with: “He is saying that Genesis 2-3 has a different kind of depth than Genesis 1. He does not want to anticipate what the distinctive depth is, but he explains it later.” (emphasis added, because I’m happy I was right. Yes, it may seem totally logical to some of you; it hit me like a wall, and forced me to slow down.) I liked it though, caused me to pay more attention.
(rewind to about 20 minutes real time later…)
Pope John Paul II says “It can be said that it is a profundity that is of a nature particularly subjective, and therefore, in a certain sense, psychological.” The reason he draws on the word psychological here is to establish a framework through which we engage the actual experiences of Adam and Eve as recorded by the text. Further, the text does really profoundly establish a sort of psychological framework for itself, by entering into the intimate details of the creation of the man and the woman. This text fills in the gaps on a personal level. The Holy Father says, “The second chapter of Genesis constitutes, in a certain manner, the most ancient description and record of man’s self-knowledge.” To be certain, the Pope is aware that the intent of the text is not a comprehensive psychology of man, but he clarifies this in the blockquote which will end our examination of this section:
A reflection in depth on this text—through the whole archaic form of the narrative, which manifests its primitive mythical character(1)—provides us in nucleo with nearly all the elements of the analysis of man, to which modern, and especially contemporary philosophical anthropology is sensitive. It could be said that Genesis 2 presents the creation of man especially in its subjective aspect. Comparing both accounts, we conclude that this subjectivity corresponds to the objective reality of man created “in the image of God.”
Pope John Paul II is saying that this second chapter of Genesis provides us with a core understanding of the elements which form a psychology. It provides us with a certain psychological and philosophical understanding of what humanity is. It provides us with a grasp at the mind and soul of the humans and their interactions. This will presently develop into the third chapter which is the first testimony of human conscience. The Holy Father concludes affirming that this second chapter corresponds as in-depth revelation to what has come before in the first chapter.
Next week we will focus on what Waldstein has clued us in on for the following post, “[The distinctive depth provided in Genesis 2-3] is the focus on the experience of the body,” and particularly shame.