Some Scripture scholars believe the author of Genesis is a woman. Though they can set forth technical arguments for their position, they keep making the point that those sections of the book for which this specific theologian is responsible contain deep insights into our human situation, something which, they believe, women seem better able to reach than men.

The author writes during the reign of Solomon, the high point of Jewish history, 10,000 years before Jesus. Everything seems to be gong well -- at least on the surface. Even Jesus would later refer to "Solomon and all his glory." These truly were Israel's "happy days."

Yet in the middle of this prosperity, the author notices something most people overlook. "If things are so perfect," she asks, "why are we wearing clothes?" She knows we don't put on clothes every morning just to keep our bodies warm (Gen 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7).

Hidden

Anthropologists have yet to discover a culture or a people that doesn't cover some part of their bodies (perhaps not the parts we cover). Because the same body parts aren't hidden from view in every time and place, psychologists believe such covering is simply the outward sign of an innate human reluctance to reveal all of ourselves to those around us. We're so afraid of the pain which total openness brings that we always keep something of our self hidden.

The author couldn't have employed a better symbol of disorder in our daily lives. She initially informs us at the end of chapter 2 (cut from Sunday's liturgical passage) that the man and woman were naked immediately after their creation, but they felt no shame. Then, after each eats from the forbidden tree, she mentions, "The eyes of both were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves."

Finally, Yahweh discovers them hiding in the garden, hears their excuse and asks, "Who told you that you were naked?" The author insightfully connects sin with clothes.

This means that if Jesus, as Paul writes to the Romans, came to reverse the disobedience of our first parents, His reversal has something to do with the concealing of our true selves (Rom 5: 12-19). One dimension of Jesus' grace and justification must revolve around revealing ourselves to others; not holding back, but letting others know who we really are. We're to return symbolically to our created state of nakedness.

Tempted

This insight makes Jesus' temptations in the Gospel ever more significant (Mt 4: 1-11). All commentators agree: The three specific enticements which Jesus experiences at the beginning of His ministry in Matthew and Luke are actually the enticements which Jesus' church continually experiences in its mission of imitating Him. Because the Christian and the risen Jesus are one, their temptations are the same.

Each Gospel temptation springs from a surface way of living one's faith:

* Striving only to care for people's physical needs -- "One does not live on bread alone";

* Concentrating on whatever will get us the headlines -- landing unharmed after jumping from the temple parapet; and

* Lusting after power -- "All these I will give you, if you will prostate yourself and worship me."

In every one of these cases, we're tempted to cover up our real selves -- the selves which God created -- and to concentrate on the things which make us look good to others.

(02-14-02)