In Genesis, it is widely conceived that to go “forth and multiply”, means to have lots of children. But this ignores Christological exegesis that suggests going forth and multiplying means to spread the Word, to spread seeds of faith, to multiply the faithful. To see Our Lord in all of Holy Scripture is to see with the light of faith. If Church is Mission, then this stands from start to finish. This is what St. Augustine of Hippo reasoned and I tend to like the way he thought. Of course, it is not until the beginning of the NT, that the Church’s mission starts, yet the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures and the writings which were produced were done so by the chosen people who are our spiritual ancestors and so were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Maybe to go forth and multiply means to simply spread love - if by marriage or Church mission, both are given the eternal blessing, and so will be ‘fruitful’?!
Thank you, Tim. I can’t take credit though. St. Augustine reasoned this things in ‘Confessions’. I think you are right. Both are fruitful if blessed by our Creator - as you say, literal and spiritual. This also follows the character of the Bible all the way through - literal and spiritual, literal and spiritual. But I think the key here is ‘blessing’. Creation is a holy gift that comes with responsibility. In remembrance of the fact that Creation was made ‘good’. And so being fruitful and multiplying has to take on this dimension, IMO. As one MA tutor once put it: ‘relationship’. And this seems to identify with what you stated here: “The literal and spiritual senses are not exclusive of each other but form a unified whole.”
You gave credit where it is due and I will too. From the Catechism…
*The senses of Scripture
115 According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral and anagogical senses. The profound concordance of the four senses guarantees all its richness to the living reading of Scripture in the Church.
116 The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”
117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.
2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.
**3. The anagogical sense *(Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.
The word ‘fruitful’ is important. When we think of ‘fruit’ in Catholic terms, we think of virtue. In a sense, although it might seem that the literal sense is strictly to ‘pro-create’, and the allegorical is ‘evangelising’, really, as you said, they are not distinctly separate but rather inseparable. St. Augustine said that if this passage is to be taken absolutely literally then this would be impossible to write, for if the inspired writer names one physical element i.e:- trees, then why did the writer also not mention everything else that is in the physical world; meaning, that the physical elements mentioned in the account have to incorporate a deeper message, to have been included.
From this examination, and remembering something I learned from the tutor I mentioned earlier, I think the story could be like a hymn of praise, of celebration. Taking modern exegetical methods in place since the previous century, the form might suggest as such, especially with the repetition of words e.g: “And God saw that it was good”. I often imagine the early jews sat around telling stories in this way, a way that both the adults and the children could understand and enjoy.
I go further because I think that at the heart of the message of the Bible is child-like trust, all the way through. And if we take the spirit of joy and peace that is lived in the wonderful Holy Spirit, we could say that children’s songs and stories are, in a way, very profound, and cut to the moral chase, in the simple way they are conveyed, often repetitive, and which often speak of a universal innocence and gentle joy. A kind of dance or rhythm that life can be lived along to. And the fact that the very first creation story does seem to point to a song of praise and considering that stories were passed on by word-of-mouth as opposed to being written down, suggests that maybe we could do with approaching the whole of the Bible in this way - what is blessed and participated in, in a blessed way, in a truly lived way, with child-like trust, is the Way of the Lord.
Point being, the Way of the Lord is both literal and spiritual and so is as you say. Except that the literal in the case of the Genesis passage cannot be only to ‘pro-create’ but rather to pro-create in gratitude. And that means being aware of the gift that life really is and treating it as such. Life with responsibility. WIth meaning. The literal and the allegorical entwined. The practical never separated from the spiritual. The very first Bible account then immediately stands in opposition to death and evil, but with open welcoming arms for all to join in, in the dance of joy, the song of praise, the life of goodness!
…while appreciating that many have claimed the second creation story actually came first. The message is the same on both though except that the emphasis differs: one concerns itself with blessing; the other, sin.
Thank you for this. This is the point. What is ‘fruitful’. What is to ‘multiply’. In various translations the interpretation might be less than meaningful.
But because the words are used in various passages does not detract from the need to apply the same reasoning as discussed, because…
We trust the Holy Spirit is the inspired Author and The Word is to be found in the Bible throughout.
2a. Genesis, specifically: our Creator made Creation and saw that it was ‘GOOD’. This word is very important. So important, in fact, that it is used throughout the telling of the story.
2b. We know that for something to be GOOD, it must be blessed, and used in a good way. Else it would cease to be used for GOOD. All of Creation was blessed. This is what Genesis points out. The consequence of which means that anything we do outside of His blessing is NOT ‘good’; hence, the ‘second’ creation story concerning itself with sin. Which is why the stories appear in this order.
2c. So to simply pro-create cannot be separated from acting in a blessed way because to do so would be sinful, and irresponsible, therefore, ‘pro-creation’ is ‘good’ only when carried out with our Creator’s blessing (as we go onto to discover further in the second account).
For there to be Divine Wisdom in Holy Scripture there has to be an overall consistency. With separate books also being read as a whole. They cannot be treated as separate in totality. There is uniformity. Our Creator does not change the way He does things. And so if a truth is seen at the end, the process towards realisation will be found in the beginning. We cannot treat Genesis any differently as it also contains The Word.
Taking all this into account, we can see that to separate any act from its greater meaning in which it is set, is to take the act of the context that is GOOD.
Ultimately, our Creator cannot do anything that is not GOOD and HE cannot Will anything that is not GOOD, because His intention/s is/are PERFECT. So we cannot take His intentions and say they are not meant to be treated in a blessed way. Therefore, IMO, Genesis cannot be separated from the ‘blessing’ message and used for promoting physical relations without our Creator’s say-so. In all the accounts in which our Creator says to be ‘fruitful’, we have to take it, that He has given the ‘blessing’ to do so. Obviously, the world needs people in it, but the first account shows us that, and the second, that we are to fill the world in a way that remembers Him. Outside of this, of acting without remembrance and ‘relationship’, where is the blessing? The Word Incarnate goes on to fulfill/complete this blessing in the NT.
Well, the Pope did at one point, say that we don’t have to breed like rabbits to be good Christians! And yet, the passage does evidently speak about the message to do with the holiness of life, and therefore, in those terms, as you say “…marry her first”, would be to show responsibility. However, to “get a woman” is really a matter of discernment and also of sensitive personal encounter. Though St. Paul does suggest in the NT marrying as a viable Christian option.