Thursday, May 01, 2008


NPR quotes Anglican minister Martin Palmer as saying the following:
Palmer says priests and rabbis and imams know how to explain complicated, abstract ideas by using parable and metaphor. On this day, he tells a creation story from the ancient Jewish text, the Talmud.

"The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, 'You just created this wonderful world and now you've created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?' And God says, 'I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm doing.' And then the earth spoke, and the earth was afraid. And the earth said, 'These creatures, they will only rebel against me and harm me.' And God answers, 'I promise you that they will never be allowed to destroy you.'"

Palmer sees it as his job to help God keep that promise.
Talmud experts, is this in the Talmud?

Also, reader George Spragens suggests the following regarding the Nancy Pelosi quote:
"Biblical scholars" can't find the text House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is paraphrasing because they are looking for a stewardship-of-the-earth passage, not the social-justice passage Ms. Pelosi is referencing out of context: "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor him." -- Proverbs 14:31 (NRSV)
Her quotation could be a reworking of this passage with Genesis 2:15 in mind, in good midrashic form. But it still doesn't appear in the Bible.

UPDATE: Iyov suggests that Palmer's quote is "a highly twisted version" of b. Sanhedrin 38b, which Iyov quotes in his post. Reader Aaron Koller e-mailed to suggest this passage and others:
I'm not writing as an expert, but...
The text known to me is in bSan 38b and Genesis Rabbah 8:5, where the angels object to the creation of man, citing Ps 8:5, "what is man that you are mindful of him..." That's not a concern for the environment, but just a belittling of the value of humanity. (There are other version in GenRab, as well.) Something similar is actually in the Qur'an (2:30), as well as in Pirqe de-R. Eliezer 12.

Of course, maybe if we didn't think so highly of ourselves we wouldn't trash the environment -- but I don't know of any explicit guarantees like the one "quoted" by Palmer.
More's the pity. It would be nice to have one.

UPDATE (2 May): Simon Montagu agrees regarding b. Sanhedrin 38b and adds:
However, the classic Rabbinic source for environmentalism is Ecclesiastes Rabbah on 7:13:

בשעה שברא הקב”ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, made the first human, he led him past every tree in the Garden of Eden, saying, “Look at what I have made! See how beautiful and excellent they are! Everything that I created I created for you; take care not to damage or destroy my world, because if you damage it there is nobody else who can repair it after you.”