The following assignment for year 11 (Form 5) or year 12 (Form 6) students has proved a successful means of introducing the Biblical text to students in a way that cannot be objected to by students or even the most humanist of educators. The exercise can be used in the biological or social sciences and has been found a very useful stimulant to class endeavours. The assignment is one part of a complete text in trial used in some Queensland schools.
Can you account for the similarities in the following traditions on the origin of man and woman?
Myths and Legends of Australia
(Collected by A. W. Reed)
As he walked through the Earth the Man that was the thought-power of Baiame (the Creator Spirit) was lonely. Strange feelings surged through him, undiscovered desires. He needed a companion to share the wonder of the world and he sought for one fruitlessly.
Can you account for the similarities in the following traditions on the origin of man and woman?He went to Kangaroo, and Wombat, Snake and Lizard, Bird and Flying Fox, Fish and Eel, Insect and Earthworm, but in vain he was kin to them because they loved the Great Spirit, but there was only a little part of Baiame’s mind in each of them, and it was not enough to satisfy the hunger of Man’s spirit.
He turned to trees and to grasses and to flowers. Their beauty intoxicated him, but they appealed only to his senses, for the eternal spirit of Baiame had not been conferred on them. The flaming flowers of the waratah, the golden glory of the wattle, the scented leaves and the grey bark of the eucalypts were a delight to eyes and nose. He drew deep breaths of fresh perfume, but still his soul was not at rest.
In the evening he went to sleep near a grass yacca tree. All night he was troubled with strange dreams, in which his desires seemed to be on the point of fruition. When he awoke again he found the Yhi (sun) had thrown her rays across the plain. They seemed to be concentrated on the tall flower stalk of the yacca tree. He gazed at it for a long time, until he was aroused by the sound of heavy breathing. He looked round and was astonished to see that the whole animal creation had gathered together on the plain. In the air was a feeling of expectancy.
He looked back at the tree. It was changing. The flower stalk grew shorter and rounder. Limbs began to form, and with a shock Man realized that the tree was changing into a two-legged creature like himself.
But there was a difference. The limbs were smooth and soft, rounded breasts swelled before his eyes, there was a proud tilt to the shapely head. Man held out his hands to Woman. She clasped them and stepped gracefully across the grassy base of the tree. Man held her in his arms and together they surveyed the waiting world. The animals danced with delight and then ran off into the distance, satisfied that the loneliness of Man was ended.
Genesis Chapter 2 (paraphrase)
The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden as its gardener, to tend and care for it. But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.”
And the Lord God said, “It isn’t good for man to be alone; I will make a companion for him, a helper suited to his needs.”
So the Lord God formed from the soil every kind of animal and bird, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever he called them, that was their name. But still there was no proper helper for him.
Then the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep, and took one of his ribs and closed up the place from which he had removed it, and made the rib into a woman, and brought her to the man.
“This is it!” Adam exclaimed. “She is part of my own bone and flesh! Her name is ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.”
This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife in such a way that the two become one person. Now although the man and his wife were both naked, neither of them was embarrassed or ashamed.