The first of these frescos is the most famous and best known piece of art in the world, rivaled only perhaps by DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Of course, this is the Creation of Adam. The focal point of the piece is often the tender and nearly touching fingers of God and Adam. The way the scene is laid out by Michelangelo, we see a few very important theological points that are given to us in the first two chapters of Genesis.
First is the simultaneous connection with and separation from God. Man is created in God’s image, so he is similar to God – presented in the fingers – but also separate and distinct. Michelangelo has us note that Adam is over here and God is over there, distinct, just as is done in every day of creation, God’s work is a work of distinction: the heavens from the earth, light from the darkness, the animals of the air and those of the sea. And here, on the last day, we see man created, both similar in God’s likeness but also different in his humanity. This distinction also explains something essential we learn in Genesis 2:18. It is not good for man to be alone, because in his aloneness, he does not fully represent God who is in His very nature communal.
But what is seldom noticed and appreciated in this piece is that God has the answer to man’s problem of original solitude. What is that answer? It is her. There she is, tenderly, lovingly and safely tucked under God’s arm. Eve. Note how her left hand is grasping God’s arm. How do you think God feels about woman? She is the answer to humanity’s problem, completing the man and humanity as well. This takes us to another wonderful part of Michelangelo’s ceiling.
In the Creation of Eve, we witness her being taken from the man’s side by God. A number of years ago, I got to visit the Sistine Chapel, spending more than an hour just taking it all in, which is not really enough time given what we are presented there. I noticed something that really took me by surprise. It was the fresco which occupied the center of this very famous ceiling – can you think of one more famous? The center fresco is not what you would expect – the Creation of Adam. That honored position is given to the Creation of Eve because she is the crowning of creation, that which makes the conclusion of creation complete. These two pieces teach us profound things about what it means to be human.