The Bible in Its Traditions

Genesis 2:20

M Sam

20  And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him.

20  And Adam gave names to all the cattle and to all the birds of the sky, and to all the wild beasts of the field, but for Adam there was not found a help like to himself.

20  And Adam called each of the living things by their names: all the flying creatures of the air, and all the wild beasts of the land. Yet truly, for Adam, there was not found a helper similar to himself.


Visual Arts

7–25 Creation of Adam and Eve

Creation revealed by redemption

Hubert van Eyck (1366–1426) et Jan Van Eyck (1390–1441), Ghent Altarpiece (opened), (oil on oak panel, 1432), 3.75 × 5.20 m, St. Bavo's Cathedral, Ghent, Belgium.

Public Domain © Wikicommons→


All of the personages depicted in the altarpiece are oriented towards the Lamb, immolated yet victorious. He the being from which biblical history and, more generally the history of man begins to be revealed and transfigured (cf. Jn 1). Moreover, the history of the Covenant since the creation of humanity forms a constellation around the savior. Adam and Eve are at the most extreme distance from Christ. The darkness which surrounds their bodies symbolizes their Fall in the Garden of Eden.

Curiously, they do not stand at the beginning of the tableau as they do at the beginning of Scripture, but they frame either side of the work of Salvation. Their destiny enters into a different temporality. The linearity of the chronology disappears thanks to a unique moment of grace from which all takes meaning: the sacrifice and the triumph of the Lamb. The Lamb, clouded by a pure white light, cleanly contrasts with the pallor of Adam and Eve, still affected by the consequences of Original Sin. The spae thus models another understanding of time. The history of things is replaced by the history of their signification.

From Paradise gifted to Paradise lost

Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378–1455), Creation of Adam and Eve (bronze, ca. 1425–1452), baptistery door, "The Gate of Paradise," Florence.

Public Domain © Wikicommons→


Here, the sculpted relief transform our ordinary "perspective." That which is distant is blurred in favor of that which is near. Thus the angels bit by bit merge with the infinity of heaven while the scene of the Creation and the Fall of Adam and Eve present some distinct forms and clear traits. This new method, where depth and movement are conjoined, is a signature method of the Renaissance which owes its paternity to Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1517). In this representation, God ascends and distances himself inasmuch as Man embraces his own existence to the point of cutting himself off from Him by sin. While this progressive effacement of God, paralleled with the slipping of Man towards the exterior, is a direct effect of this new Italian technique, it also allows us to understand how much creation implies separation between man and God. 

The Golden Age before the ages

Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568–1625) et Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640), Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (oil on panel, ca. 1615), 74.3 x 114.7 cm.

Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague, Public Domain © Wikimedia commons→, Gn 2–3

In this scene of the earthly paradise the animals are depicted in the background amidst luxurious vegetation, while Adam and Eve are in represented the foreground. Eve, in taking the apple offered by the serpent, is just about to disrupt this sweet harmony wherein "the wolf dwells with the lamb" (Is 11:6; 65:20). This was the morning of the world, and we are just at the threshold of the Fall: the painter seems to cast a nostalgic glance over that bygone age of perfect concord both between God and man and between man and the rest of creation. This bestiary is depicted in coherence with the Christian vision of the world, and particularly in its conception of Time. Indeed, it is God who creates the animals, but they are entrusted to man, who is given the task of naming them (Gn 2:20). And it is Noah who would later save them. This tableau is much more than a simple representation of animals: the painting becomes the support of an experience of the world that invites the spectator to engage himself in a reflection upon Creation in cultivating contemplation and meditation. In the 17th c., such paintings would function of edifying the spectator by showing the inexhaustible diversity of nature animated by the divine breath, given to man and manifesting the goodenss of God. Artistic pleasure unites itself with spiritual edification (P. J.-M. N.).


Still dwelling in an earthly paradise, the animals have no suspicion of the imminent Fall. The luxurious vegetation, which  continues to be fecund according to God's primordial design, is likewise unconscious of the tragedie which awaits it. In the foreground, however, Adam and Eve are ready to eat the forbidden fruit. The loss of this sweet harmony between all levels of being—God, man, men and women, man and creation, animal with animal, etc.—marks the diffusion of evils in the whole of nature, and not only in human nature.

It is not good for man to be alone

Gustave Doré (1832-1883), The Creation of Eve, (Gravure sur bois, 1866)

Public Domain © Wikicommons→


This engraving focuses particularly upon the Light of creation. While God is traditionally represented as an artisan in the iconography of the Creation, here he is depicted as an element of the universe. His causality, admittedly direct, is less tangible. Eve is not taken from Adam by the hand of God, and it is for this reason that her creation acquires a stronger spiritual dimension. The more literal image is lacking, and another one, more visual, is born. In this sense, the creation of the first woman is not the result of divine craftsmanship but the fruit of a divine gaze, a gaze that is the source of her life. The role of the Light in nature is, at root, none other than that here. By it, flora increase and grow abundantly. Likewise, Eve receives this mysterious gift.