When Does The Person Begin?




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"Each One of Us is an Icon of the Beginning"

The creation of man

'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them' (Gn 1: 27).

The first connection between the breath of life and the living creatures (Gn 1: 20 and 24) that move upon the earth (cf. Gn 1: 28) comes at the end of the work of creation when the creatures other than man (cf Gn 1: 29) are given the food of plants: "And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food" (Gn 1: 30).  Although it could be argued that in so far as man can eat some green plants for food, that he is in an indirect and remote way included in this category of things which has the breath of life in it.

When it comes to the second account of creation there is already the canonically prior fact that the first use of the 'breath of life' as an expression of what makes a thing living, was its specific application to the animals.  So it is not until the second account of creation that Adam is specifically described as brought to life by the breath of life which the Lord God breathed into him: 'In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth ... the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being' (Gn 2: 4-7).

The creation of woman differs again from the creation of man: 'So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man' (Gn 2: 21-22).  This fact clearly parallels the mystery of the Church coming forth from the side of Christ424; but it could also pertain to the mystery of the difference between the Son who is generated by the Father and the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father425.

The origin of man in the context of original sin

God will put enmity between the serpent and the woman, 'and between your seed and her seed' (Gn 3: 15).  This is rather striking from the point of view of the fact that while genealogies run through the male line (cf Gn 4: 17-5: 32), it is God who refers to a male descendant of the woman (cf. Gn 3: 15) as her seed.  This gives the impression of an implicit understanding of the woman as bearing the seed of children just as, it seems, plants and trees are seed bearing (cf. Gn 1: 29): a seed which characteristically brings forth each thing 'according to its kind' (Gn 1: 12).  Furthermore, this sort of idea is essential to St. Paul's understanding of what kind of body426 God will give to a thing at the resurrection: 'But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body' (1 Cor. 15: 39).

Secondly, God addresses the woman: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children ..." (Gn 3: 16).

Thirdly, God speaks to the man: "you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gn 3: 19).

Fourthly, in direct contrast to the sentence of death just pronounced on Adam and therefore in a spirit of remarkable optimism 'The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living' (Gn 3: 20).

Finally, there yet seemed to be a possibility that the man would live forever if, that is, he remained in the garden and eat of 'the tree of life' (Gn 3: 23) but then God 'drove' the man out of the garden (Gn 3: 24).




References
424 Cf. CCC, art 766, page 201-202.    Back
425 Cf. also LTF, art 6, page 6.    Back
426 Cf. DOB, page 101: Body.    Back

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