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The Hipporhinostracow and other animals

I have a vague recollection of the little book called Milliganimals in which Spike Milligan poems described a whole range of weird hybrid animals.  Here is the said poem:

Such a beast is the Hipporhinostricow
How it got so mixed up we'll never know how
It sleeps all day and whistles all night
And it wears yellow socks which are far too tight.

If you laugh at the Hipporhinostricow
You're bound to get into an awful row
The creature is protected you see
From Silly people like you and me

This has nothing to do with what I've been thinking about but it came to mind when I was thinking of a title for this post!

In a few weeks we begin our 'Animally Theme' set of services, which will be a mix of approaches, some using some of the animal metaphors which abound in the Bible and some that look at ethics.  The first one will focus on creation and will be an exciting experiment as it'll be the first time we try a new approach to church whereby I start the service then leave with the Sunday School and someone else takes over the adult part.  After my holiday we will planning this service, but inevitably ideas swim around my subconscious and now and then float into consciousness.

Genesis is a much misunderstood part of the Bible and it seems a lot of commentators get rather defensive in their approach to its early chapters.  The two creation stories - chapters 1 and 2 -  seem to cause a lot of squirming as people try to make one coherent whole rather than delighting in the differences.  I'm not about to get into a J/E/P debate but it was a concept I found freeing when I first discovered it.

Anyway, this is rambling even by my standards. Genesis 2 is the story that floated into my mind in a way I find rather fascinating.  In this account God makes a lovely garden then fashions a man out of clay to live in it.  God then goes on creating, making from the clay all sorts of land creatures and then brings them to the man to give them names. I was really struck by this - the creator hands over this power and responsibility to the created.  God could have said 'look here's a hipporhinostracow' but God brought the creature to the man who said 'giraffe'; God could have said 'here is stripy creature like a horse' but man said 'zebra.'  Somehow the significance of this had never really struck me before (I can be slow sometimes)... in this amazing role reversal the creator brings new creations to the created, if not for approval, then at least in humility.

In Genesis 1 we see a God who makes things and says 'wow, that's pretty amazing, I'm pleased with that.'  Now in Genesis 2 we see a God who, maybe even a little tentatively, comes to man with his new life-form and says 'look, I've made with this, what will you call it?'  I need to do a whole load more thinking (and non-thinking) about this before my ethics sermon scheduled for September but for now I will enjoy my image of a delighted God running up to Adam and saying 'look what I've made...'


  • I Love Trevor Dennis' description of God creating the animals - its starts by God trying to get the kangaroo design right so when he tries to jump so he doesn't end up on his head! (Imagining God)

  • Thanks Julie, I'd forgotten that book lying in my ever-increasing 'must read' heap. Just dug it out and read it - BRILLIANT! The whole Bible in a short story, wow.

  • One of my favourite memories of being in pastorate is the effect of looking at Genesis 2 like this had on one older lady in the Bible study group I led. The image I painted was of God and Adam, Creator and creature, sitting together whilst every animal that God had made passed before them.

    "What's that one called?" asked God.
    "Dog," said Adam.
    "And that one?"
    "Horse. Sheep. Cow. Cat. Elephant. Duck. Duck-billed platypus."

    I think there's something magical not just about the honour that God does to Adam to allow him to name the animals, but also in Adam's simple acceptance of the task. No protesting that he's not worthy, or not up to the challenge. No questioning that surely God should tell him what the animals are called. It's a picture of two friends taking each other seriously, affirming each others value, and simply enjoying working together.

    God and humanity working in perfect harmony - now that would be worth seeing!

    PS - I wonder what language Adam used to name the animals. Obviously it wasn't English, but what was it?

  • Thanks Radical, that's wonderful - just exactly where my thoughts have bene going. The Trevor Dennis book Julie recommends uses this idea and extends it beautifully so that, for example, the 'fall' includes people forgetting how to do just this. He has God doing things like skimming stones and splashing in the sea with otters... wonderful stuff.

  • Triceratops...

    Oh sorry, that's one I made earlier!

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