What is Man? Relationships, sin and salvation (Chapters 3 and 4)

Adrian Graffy on the official 2019 statement from the Pontifical Biblical Commission on biblical anthropology.

Man and woman
When Pope Francis asked his Pontifical Biblical Commission to produce a teaching document on biblical anthropology, it is arguable that uppermost in his mind were questions regarding human relationships. In the third and by far the longest chapter of the recently published document What is Man? A Journey through Biblical Anthropology, the Commission begins with the tale of the creation of woman as helper to man. The chapter will consider three kinds of human relationships: between man and woman; parents and children; and brothers and sisters. The starting point, Genesis 2.21–23, sees the man finding the long-desired ‘helper’. The first words spoken by man in these ancient tales of Genesis are to the woman. They are an expression of delight: ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!’ (2.23) The Commission gives generous coverage to the Song of Songs, the biblical book which in similar style celebrates conjugal love (158–163). The theme is taken up again in ‘parabolic stories’ (165) like Ruth and in wisdom teaching as in Ben Sira (168).

Chapter 3, with a genuine pastoral concern, gives extensive attention to the ‘problematic situations’ arising from polygamy, mixed marriage and divorce (171–180). It affirms that separation between a married man and woman can sometimes be a defence of marriage as it should be lived. Such action might in certain circumstances witness to ‘the beauty and sanctity of the bond’ (178). The document reflects the pastoral sensitivity shown in Amoris laetitia.

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