A Primeval Revelation

Anthony Zimmerman
Letter to editor
Homiletic and Pastoral Review
February 1994
Reproduced with Permission

Editor. The otherwise insightful update on the creation story in Genesis presented by Father Stanley Jaki, O.S.B. (HPR, August- September 1993), has one glaring hiatus: it omits reference to dependence by the author of Genesis upon an original revelation which God gave to our Adam and Eve.

Christ referred to this Primeval revelation in his teaching about monogamous marriage as God had arranged it at the "beginning" (cf. Matt. 19). Pope John Paul draws rich lessons about matrimony from this original revelation (see especially Catechesis on the Book of Genesis, September 5, 1979-April 2, 1980). He mentions the ancient "covenant" which God made with mankind at the beginning, obviously through a primeval revelation (September 26, 1979).

The Council of Trent defined that God originally constituted Adam in the state of holiness and justice; the definition does not mention in so many words that God spoke to Adam by way of revelation, but takes this for granted. For God would not elevate them to the supernatural state without also giving them instructions corresponding to their supernatural state and goal.

We correctly assume that our Adam and Eve instructed their children about the revelation they had received, and so provided the human race with an original catechesis; this likely included teachings of faith, a primeval form of the ten commandments, sacred rites, and prayer. Human culture was initially based on the primeval revelation, and so fanned out with peoples to all parts of the globe.

Fr. Jaki rightly shows that the text of Genesis is not a scientific account of how creation took place; but if he makes Genesis a first-time revelation, which is in no way a continuity of the primeval message given to Adam and Eve, he is very probably incorrect in that assumption.

"Thou shalt" and "Thou shalt not" is part of all cultures. People around the globe know the commandments: "Adore the Lord your God; honor father and mother; do not kill, do not steal, nor commit adultery; do not lie, do not envy." Absolute values of this nature, shared by humans everywhere, can have their foundation only in an Absolute Supreme Being, once proclaimed through revelation.

Native Americans, hunter-gatherers living here before the white man arrived, celebrated creation stories with song and dance. The Iowa Indians, grateful to the Creator, sometimes raised their hands laden with gifts toward heaven during the festive dance, to show their joy in him.

The Lenape Indians typically began their Thanksgiving Festival with words such as: "Now we shall meet here twelve nights in succession to pray to Gicelemu'kaong, who has directed us to worship in this way." They called God their "Father." They spoke of the soul's journey to God after death; the Milky Way was thought to be the path to heaven.

We are all heirs of this primeval revelation. Japanese people spontaneously speak about God and eternity at funerals, when bidding farewell to the departed. Most of mankind, deep down, know the Creator.

Even atheists, if they are logical, must first conceive of a God whom they then choose to ignore. This God made himself known to our first ancestors, and knowledge about him is now rooted deep in she heart of lasting human cultures.

If the author of Genesis had no knowledge about the original revelation by way of ancient legends and inheritance, he would have been more ignorant than other people around him. And that is absurd. The magnificent account of Creation which he wrote is much more likely a newly inspired version of the ancient and primeval revelation which God originally gave to Adam and Eve.