According to the verse 1:27, humankind is introduced as an image of God and in the next verse reproduction is addressed. It is stated in verse 1:28, “God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth,” this demonstrates that God in a way has instructed humankind to reproduce since they are unique in relation to other living things. The usage of the word “blessed” showcases that reproduction and perhaps having kin is a blessing from God and a gift. This gift of life may also be more of a blessing since the two verses (1:27 and 1:28) highlight that humankind differs from other living things since having sovereignty and control over other living things is stated. Continuing in the second chapter, the notion of reproduction becomes more detailed as the story of Adam and his rib being used to create Eve is stated here. “And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man,” through this linear notion of creation, human reproduction is acknowledged again. Verses 2:23 and 2:24 showcase the strength of kinship by using words lie “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” and introducing familial lineage by using father, mother, wife and saying that they all become one flesh. This shows that kinship is valued and there is a sense of importance placed on lineage and family relations.
When looking at the language and differences of interpretation used with these verses, however, differences in the Jewish and Christian uses of Genesis arise. For instance, in verse 1:28, Judaism views “Be fruitful and multiply” as a commandment. We discussed in class how not reproducing would in sense be a sin since it essentially going against a commandment of God. This simple understanding of the interpretation has shifted and heavily influenced how human reproduction, kinship, and fertility are valued in Jewish communities as a whole. This approach to human reproduction has shaped how the Jewish community is more favorable towards alternative reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization (Seeman 346). Additionally, just looking at the fact that Israel has the highest Jewish population and is also leading in IVF technologies by supplying the highest amount of IVF clinics just demonstrates how that biblical ideology has manifested into modern practice. However, the idea of kinship and marriage has deviated from traditional interpretation despite the concept of reproducing still remaining central. In Susan Kahn’s work Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel, the stories of the women showcases that varying idea of kinship. These women are all single and would like to have kids enforcing the fact there is no need for marriage especially with the existing technologies in order to have a child. In fact, the idea of having a child seems to be embedded in what is expected in marriage as one woman tells the story of how she found out her husband was infertile and divorced him a few years later (Kahn 11). Although it doesn’t explicitly say that was her motivation for divorcing him, it is implied and this showcases that was a large factor in her decision.
As for the Christian usage of Genesis specifically within the first two chapters, the same verse (1:28) is interpreted as a sense of encouragement but not a mandate. Human reproduction and a child is seen as a gift and blessing, but not a mandatory practice. Since the language “gift” and “blessing” is used (157), that in a sense hints at selectivity since a gift is not meant for everyone and something is no longer a blessing if it is granted to everyone. In class, we discussed how purity and celibacy are valued more, especially in the Catholic church. Additionally, the Catholic church is not as supportive of alternative measures for reproduction as Judaism is, which is apparent in the Donum Vitae. There is a sense of apprehension over the use of science and technology when interfering with human reproduction as stated, “science and technology are valuable resources for man…but they cannot themselves show the meaning of existence and human progress.” When it comes to specific artificial reproduction technologies, the Catholic church prohibits all practices except for homologous in vitro fertilization since other practices such as heterologous IVF is seen as “contrary to the unity of marriage, the dignity of spouses & vocation proper to parents.” It appears that there is an emphasis placed on familial ties and ensuring that the child has a family, which I interpreted an emphasis placed on kinship in general. The Donum Vitae also adds that artificial reproduction cannot interfere with the natural process of reproduction and is not meant to be used by single women where they need sperm or egg from an external individual (159).
By looking at the Donum Vitae, the Book of Genesis and from class discussion, I was able to draw conclusions that within the Jewish community there is an emphasis placed on human reproduction and having a child over the unity of marriage and having a traditional family, while the Catholic Church placed an emphasis on maintaining the moral integrity of the child and ensuring that the child is not hurt and has filial relationships with parental origins. Although I understand there are a lot more complexities and nuances to artificial fertilization and how both the Church and Judaism have differing perspectives, I decided to focus on continuing interpretations of the first two chapters of Genesis to align with discussions we had in class on Tuesday.
Catholic Church. Congregatio Pro Doctrina Fidei. Instruction on Respect for Human Life in Its Origin and on the Dignity of Procreation: Replies to Certain Questions of the Day. Washington, D.C.: Office of and Promotion Services, United States Catholic Conference, 1987. Print.
Kahn, Susan Martha. Reproducing Jews: A Cultural Account of Assisted Conception in Israel. Durham [N.C.]: Duke UP, 2000. Print. Body, Commodity, Text.
Seeman, Don. “Ethnography, Exegesis, and Jewish Ethical Reflection.” Ethnography, Exegesis, and Jewish Ethical Reflection: The New Reproductive Technologies in Israel. 2010. Kin, Gene, Community (2010) 340-362. Print.