Separation is a result of sin. But Ephraim Radner points out ( A Brutal Unity: The Spiritual Politics of the Christian Church , 428) that “separation also lies at the center of creation: God separates, or literally ‘divides’ light and darkness, waters and earth (firmament), day and night (stars . . . and through this division he creates what is good.”

“Separate” is badal , which also names the “distinctive integrity of divine holiness.” Thus, “to live before God is to be divided one from another, and turned, alone, toward the one who creates.” Not just holiness but love depends on such separation: “Love is that which gives life to something outside itself; it moves away; it allows for distance and even death. And so love creates the cascade of division that finally embraces death itself.”

There is something to that, for sure, but I have two reservations: First, that the separations of creation are part of a process that ends in union. Adam is separated from his rib, but the rib becomes Eve, and the two are made one flesh. This is division as a pre-requisite for love, but love heals the wound gloriously. Second, that the final line in Radner’s statement seems to imply that death is an inescapable aspect of the fruitful divisions of creation. I can agree with that in a sense (Adam’s deep sleep being a kind of death). I don’t think Radner means to imply that death as we know it is inherent to creation, but if not I’m not sure what I means.

Articles by Peter J. Leithart