My research interests in terms of academic publication focus primarily on ancient Greek literature. Over the years, I discovered what I truly loved – stories.
Not just any story. Stories that have been preserved, transmitted, and read over centuries. Stories that have been preserved, transmitted, and read over centuries are stories that perpetually generate meaning. Stories that do not are lost and forgotten over time.
One of these meaning-making stories is the etiological myth of humanity in the Book of Genesis. In this story the Hebrew god Yahweh forms Adam and breaths the breath of life into his nostrils, bringing to life the first human.
At first glance, this story seems simple enough: a god creates a human.
Why do so many people around the world continue to read and cherish this particular tradition? Stories that are preserved, transmitted, and read over centuries possess multiple layers of meaning. Like an oil painting, they possess literary texture.
Part 1: Yahweh plays the role of the divine potter. He gathers the soil of the land [adamah] and shapes it into Adam [adam]. A clever pun, but it also presents a profound anthropology – to be human is to be tied to the land. We are creatures of the soil beneath our feet and the soil underneath our fingernails. From adamah we came and to adamah we will return. If we forget this we forget what it means to be human.
But this god-shaped soil is not a living thing – it has no life, no anima.
Part 2: Yahweh plays the role of the divine musician. He blows into the nasal canal of the inanimate adam. In the Greek version of this tradition, the god “breathes [ἐμφῡσάω] into the flute.” Adam is a musical instrument and the divine breath brings this instrument to life. Yes, we are creatures, but we are also creators. If we forget this we forget what it means to be human.
Each one us are divinely inspired music makers. And together, we are the orchestra of life, bearing witness to what it means to be human.