Dec 14, 2017 in Research

The Story of Genesis Through The Sistine Chapel

The book of Genesis is the first book in the Old Testament that describes the origin of the human generation. It talks about creation of both living and non-living creatures on the surface of the earth. In Genesis 1, a six-day creation of the both heavenly and earthly features is explored. All plants, animals, heavenly bodies, and other non-living creatures were created by the power of God in six day. On the seventh day, having completed His creation duty, God appreciated the work of His hands felt it was wise to have a rest. All the creatures except man were made by the power of word. God said ‘let there be’ and there was. Man was creature in the last day (sixth day). God made man in His own likeness and image (Carroll, and Stephen 56). He took the clay and moulded to creature man who was given the power of dominion over other creatures. Just as other creatures had their partners; God felt it was wise to create for Adam a helper by the name Eve. The Bible (in the book of Genesis) further describes Adam’s generation to fall of man. In Genesis 6-9, God commands Noah to build an arch as He prepared His people for destruction of the universe through floodwaters. Only Noah and his family heed to the call, the rest of the generation were destroyed by the food (Carroll, and Stephen 70). God then promises not to destroy the universe with water but fire. How does this creation story in Genesis compare with that of Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo?

The Lord God created heaven and earth in six days. However, he took rest on the seventh day blessing, sanctifying and admiring everything he had created and appreciated it. In both the bible and Michelangelo’s interpretation, we see that God creates by using commands (‘Let there be…’). In contrast, the bible identifies God’s personal name as Yahweh, Michelangelo does not refer to Him anywhere by that name (Meegan 81). In either case, God did create man in his own image and likeness. Much as the bible mentions man was moulded from clay/dust, Michelangelo’s interpretation does not mention this form of moulding. Much as the bible and its tradition attributes the Genesis story as the birth to Moses, scholars especially the likes of Michelangelo consider it a composite work, a product of many hands and periods brought and added up together. The genesis story consists of eight acts of creation over six days, framed by an introduction and a conclusion in both cases. There is an act of division: day one divides light from darkness, day two the "waters below" from the "waters above,” whereas day three land from sea (Carroll and Stephen 62). Day four populates darkness and light with sun, moon, and stars; day five populates seas and skies with fish and fowl and finally land-based creatures and mankind populate the land.

Man is given the dominion to rule over all living creatures on earth, given the order to go forth to multiply and fill the earth. Adam goes ahead to name all creatures and everything that exists on earth. Having created man (Adam and Eve), God places them in the Garden of Eden. However, God forbids them from eating of the tree of knowledge of evil and good. Satan goes ahead to hoodwink Eve who eats a fruit from the forbidden tree. She shares the same with Adam. Through this disobedience, God gets mad and casts them out from the Garden of Eden. In contrast, Michelangelo paints an artistic scene in which God appears twice. On one side, God creates the heavenly bodies. On the other side, back to the viewer, God exposes the dual moons of his own posterior that balance nicely with the celestial moon to the far right. Even though God’s posterior is integral to Michelangelo’s idea of the Divine, it is used as just one element in the interpretation of the narratives of Genesis story of creation (Graham-Dixon, and Michelangelo 51-60). The bible show cases the fall of man when they disobey God and are cast out from the Garden of Eden, similarly Michelangelo’s artful representations are about the entry of sin through the fall of Adam, cleansing of humanity by Noah’s flood waters and persistence of sin after the flood. In contrast, the Christian understanding of the fall and the immediate removal from the Garden of Eden is evidence of man’s own sinfulness, instead of a celebration of one’s innermost emotional growth and a show of maturation. Michelangelo whereby the retaliatory angel thrusts the point of the sword into Adam’s jugular as the banished pair cringe in fear captures the Christian interpretation. Expressions of sheer dread and pain cover their faces. The point of that sword having been thrust into the jugular of Adam, which in this case is the crown of God’s creation, has also banished the busy, yet mute God (Meegan 81).

In yet another comparison, God punishes Adams generation by making a covenant with Noah to build an ark as He prepared to bring a flood to sweep away everything. In contrast, we find that through this cleansing by the floodwaters, man does not however stop sinning.

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