One of the greatest witnesses to the truth of the Christian Scriptures is the inherent coherence between the Old and New Testaments. Christians often take it for granted that the Old Testament provides many “types” which are fulfilled in the New Testament, perhaps the most prominent one being that of Jesus as “a priest after the order of Melchizedek” or as the “son of David.” However, there are also many other parallels between the two Testaments that go deeper than simple typology.
One such parallel is that of Creation as seen in Genesis and the Gospels.
The Genesis Story – Summarized
Genesis 1 records God’s creation of all that exists. In the first verses we get a glimpse of the Trinity working: the Father speaks forth His Word (the Son) and the Spirit hovers over the surface of the created waters, making order out of creation and gathering it together. God works for six days, creating man and woman on the sixth, and rests on the seventh day. Then, Genesis 2 records the creation of man in more detail while Genesis 3 records the Fall of man into sin through temptation and the resulting introduction of death and evil into the world.
Let’s consider some parallels between this high-level summary of Genesis and the Gospels. This is not meant to be exhaustive, but rather to give some areas for further study and reflection.
Creation / Re-Creation
The Gospels parallel Genesis in that they present a narrative of the “re-creation” of God’s fallen creation. This re-creation is accomplished through the Word, who came in the flesh, and results ultimately in the restoration of Fallen creation to the state of perfection in which God originally created it. This restoration and perfection will come in full at the resurrection and the new heavens and new earth, but is now here in a foretaste through the Church (as the Church is where God dwells among His people and where reconciliation among man and with creation happens, as seen most vividly in the Sacraments).
However, there are many facets of this theme of re-creation which are worth exploring:
Adam / New Adam
As mentioned, this is one of the more well-known parallels. St. Paul explicitly calls Jesus the “New Adam,” and indeed he is. God created Adam in the beginning in His image, but due to Adam’s sin, this image was marred. So, Adam – and us, as his descendants – have fallen from the perfect image of God in which we were created.
Jesus Christ, though, as the Son of God, is the perfect image of God (as St. Paul notes in Colossians). In his incarnation he united his divinity with sinless humanity, becoming the perfect man: the “New Adam,” possessing the perfect image of God.
As we are baptized and believe in Christ, he increasingly conforms us to his image through his grace (Paul calls this putting off the old Adam and being born anew in Christ’s image). This conformance will be perfected at the resurrection and we will again possess the perfect image of God in which God originally created humanity.
Eve / New Eve
An item less-focused on by Protestants is the connection between Eve and the Virgin Mary. The early Church fathers often referred to the Virgin Mary as the New Eve due to the parallels between the two women.
Eve was the first woman and was the “mother of all the living.” However, Eve was tempted by Satan to doubt God’s word, took and ate from the forbidden fruit, then enticed her husband to eat as well. This plunged them into sin and death.
There is a parallel in John’s Gospel. John 1 parallels the initial creation, even echoing the opening words of Genesis as the “Word became flesh.” Then comes the wedding feast at Cana in John 2 where Mary and Jesus are in attendance. The wine runs out, and Mary says to Jesus, “They have no wine.” Jesus replies, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Mary then tells the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Then, Jesus turned the water in the Jewish ceremonial jars into wine. John notes, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.”
Let’s consider the parallels, then, with Eve. Eve enticed Adam to sin; Mary entices Jesus, the New Adam, to manifest his glory as God. Jesus calls Mary “Woman,” a term of endearment at that time, but even more so a parallel of the fact that Eve was called “woman.” Eve doubted God’s word and sinned; Mary directs the servants to listen to God’s word. Eve was the “mother of all the living,” while Mary is the mother of the new living as she gave birth to God (she is the “Theotokos” – “God bearer”) and brought forth the first of the manifestations of his glory to give birth to the faith of the disciples.
In addition, in Genesis 3:15, God promises a “seed of the woman” who will crush Satan, this “seed of the woman” is the promised Savior who the Church throughout time (beginning in Genesis) looks to for salvation. Eve even seems to think that she gives birth to this Savior in Genesis 4 when she says, “I have gotten a man – the Lord” (in the original Hebrew). Yet, she gives birth to Cain, who spills the blood of his brother, rather than to the promised seed. The Virgin Mary is the fulfillment of the promise of the “woman” whose “seed” will crush Satan through the spilling of his blood and therefore be the Savior. Jesus’ calling of Mary “Woman” in John 2 reflects this reality of Mary’s identity as well as of his own.
Creation, Temptation, Fall / Baptism, Temptation, Victory
Genesis follows the pattern of God’s creation, the temptation of humanity, and then the fall into sin by humanity. It is worth noting that God places man and woman in a Garden and that they betray Him in this Garden through a Tree.
In the Gospels, we see Jesus’ baptism, followed by his temptation, and his victory over temptation. This is seen most clearly, perhaps, in Matthew’s Gospel. In Matthew 3, Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist. While Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, is in the water, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus, and the Father speaks and says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Thus, present in this scene are Father, Word, and Holy Spirit – along with the created water – echoing the first verses of Genesis. Rather than the initial creation, however, Jesus’ baptism marks the beginning of his re-creation or restoration of all things. He is restoring the world, ultimately removing sin and death from it at the end of the age, but it begins here in Matthew’s Gospel.
Then, Jesus is brought into the wilderness to fast and then be tempted by Satan. He is tempted with food, power, and to doubt God’s word. This parallels the temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden in Genesis. But, rather than being tempted in the lush pre-Fall garden of paradise, Jesus is tempted in the harsh, post-Fall wilderness of the dry desert. In addition, Adam and Eve were tempted with food, power (to “be like God”), and to doubt God’s word. As mentioned, Jesus is tempted with the same types of temptations, but he is victorious over the temptation, refuting Satan with God’s word.
In addition, later Jesus will be betrayed by Judas in a Garden (the Garden of Gethsemane), crucified on the “tree of the cross,” buried in a Garden tomb, and will rise from the dead in that Garden. Ultimately, the book of Revelation gives us a glimpse also of the fully restored creation in which man and woman again dwell directly with God in a Garden, like at the beginning in Genesis.
Six Days of Creation and Seventh Day of Rest / Christ’s Final Week
In Genesis, God creates all things in six days and then rests on the seventh day. The eighth day is the first day of the first week of the full creation. In the Gospels, Jesus enters into Jerusalem for his final week. He enters into the city on Sunday, the first day of the week. Then, he works all week, cleansing the temple and teaching his disciples. Finally, on Friday he is crucified and even cries out, “It is finished.” He is buried and rests in the tomb on Saturday, the sixth day, even fulfilling the Sabbath rest. Then, he rises from the dead on Sunday, the eighth day, and the first day of the new week of the new creation. It is for this reason that baptistries and baptismal fonts traditionally have eight sides; the shape symbolizes Christ’s victory over death and the rebirth into this victory which God bestows upon us at baptism.
Hopefully, the preceding provides some areas for further thought. The connections between the Old Testament and New Testament are fascinating and capable of exceeding a lifetime of study. The Scriptures are like a nut that is cracked: one half is the Old Testament, and the other half is the New Testament. Both halves are required in order to be complete. Through continual study of the Scriptures, the fullness and richness of God’s salvation of humanity, and all that this means, comes into clearer focus.
(Image: The Baptism of Jesus. Haskovo Historic Museum, Haskovo, Bulgaria. By Bin im Garten – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19435600)