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Creation of Adam or Creation of God?

Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” is a famous section of the Sistine Chapel ceiling painted in 1511. It illustrates the biblical story from the Book of Genesis in which God breathes life into Adam, the first man. But was Michelangelo hinting at a different story?

Take a closer look at this painting. First, Adam is very much alive. Is he reaching to God or is God reaching to him?

If you know anything about human anatomy, the depiction of God inside the human brain is unmistakable. I would speculate that Michelangelo was actually saying that God is a creation of man. Man created God in his own image.

Michelangelo was a well educated, multi-talented genius. He no doubt realized that there is nothing outside of the human imagination to prove anything written in the Book of Genesis. Of course he could never admit these ideas in his time, but was this painting a clever way to speak his own mind?


7 thoughts on “Creation of Adam or Creation of God?

  1. Bim says:

    “But was Michelangelo hinting at a different story?”
    I certainly believe that Michelangelo could very well have been placing some ‘hidden messages’ in his artwork. Artists have been known to do that for years.

    “Adam is very much alive.”
    Well, Adam would be alive after God created him. Genesis 2:7 states that God breathed the breath of life into him and he became a living soul. One has to consider the ‘life’ that God breathed into Adam was that of a spiritual life. Life consisting of a soul and a spirit. One can’t assume that Adam was an inanimate sculpture prior to God breathing into him the breath of life. I’ve always seen the painting as God just finishing the creation of Adam … not just starting.

    “Is he reaching to God or is God reaching to him?”
    I’d say possibly a little bit of both. However, I still see it as the moment right after Adam’s creation, which means their hands are just retreating.

    “The depiction of God inside the human brain is unmistakable”
    I wouldn’t agree that one could declare it as being unmistakable. I’d say it’s certainly an interesting observation. The shape around God also resembles an anatomic human heart. I’d say it’s equally ‘unmistakable.’

    “I would speculate that Michelangelo was actually saying that God is a creation of man. Man created God in his own image.”
    Interesting observation. I would speculate (if the shape is a brain) that Michelangelo is possibly saying(I wouldn’t want to speculate what he was actually saying) that all of God’s creation came from the mind of God. After all … the ‘brain’ is in the heavens … it’s not Adam’s brain. Adam’s brain would be in his head. I would further speculate (if the shape is a heart) that Michelangelo may be saying that the creation of Adam came from the heart of God.

    I would also add that the ‘brain’ or the ‘heart’ could easily be Michelangelo’s. He could have been making a statement about God being a matter of logic and intellect(brain) or a matter of the soul/spirit(heart).

    “Michelangelo was a well educated, multi-talented genius.”
    Absolutely. I have always appreciated and related to Michelangelo … especially the artist and multiple talents.

    “He no doubt realized that there is nothing outside of the human imagination to prove anything written in the Book of Genesis.”
    “It’s illogical to make a declaration of Michelangelo’s belief’s by looking at one painting. It’s a further flaw in logic to couple such a declaration with the term, “no doubt.” There are plenty of geniuses that fully believe in God as well as the biblical account of creation. So, this statement really doesn’t stand up.

    “Was this painting a clever way to speak his own mind?”
    I believe this painting indeed was a clever way to speak his own mind. However, one can’t assume that what was in his mind was a dark disbelief in God which he had to hide. To find out what was in Michelangelo’s “well educated, multi-talented genius” mind, we would have to let Michelangelo speak for himself. That would be logical. Here are a couple quotes:

    “Many believe – and I believe – that I have been designated for this work by God. In spite of my old age, I do not want to give it up; I work out of love for God and I put all my hope in Him.” – Michelangelo

    “I live and love in God’s peculiar light.” – Michelangelo

    “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.” – Michelangelo

    It appears to me, Michelangelo might well be offended at someone drawing him into their apostasy with “no doubt”. Again, I believe this painting was, indeed, a clever way to speak his mind and his heart.

    Interesting speculations, Cindy … it points all the more to another great intellect clearly stating their belief in God.

  2. Cindy says:

    Hi Bim, thanks for visiting and for taking the time to write. I keep forgetting to “unlink” my blog from facebook. Your comments are fair and your criticism is constructive, but so many others just get annoyed with me and I don’t like to get people all riled up over religion (or politics).

    Anyway, one of the wonderful things about art is that it can be interpreted in different ways by different people.

    With this in mind, just a few comments.

    I don’t see an anatomically correct heart.

    I would also disagree that God is finishing his work. I see man reaching out for answers to questions he can’t answer. Gods have always been used to fill the gaps for things we don’t yet understand. But of course this is just a different interpretation.

    “He no doubt realized that there is nothing outside of the human imagination to prove anything written in the Book of Genesis. ” Ya, you are correct here; “no doubt” is a bad choice of words. Who knows how much doubt Michelangelo had, if any. I should speak for myself and say that I have no doubt that what is written in the Book of Genesis is false. Of course I’ve got centuries of science to back my beliefs, lots of knowledge that Michelangelo did not have access to.

    As for religious debate, I’d rather not go there with people who have faith, because that is basically what debating always boils down to and that is a leap of faith. You took the leap, I didn’t. End of story;-)

  3. Bim says:

    Yeah, art is definitely open for interpretation. I’ve done drawings that some have labelled ‘demonic’. Maybe, some day, somebody will blog about me having a cynical view of God.

    It’s so refreshing that I can leave a comment here and not have it itnterpretted as an attack. I was trying to just comment without bringing in the argument factor. It accomplishes so little. I really commend you for accepting my comments. Obviously, nothing was read with anger. There wasn’t any intended in my writing.

    I love Michelangelo’s work and his mind. I wrote a paper on him back in High School. I also have a couple books on him. Fascinating man.

    No, I definitely see the brain shape clearer than the heart. I did find a few heart pictures that bear a resemblance to the shape … but it was mainly stated for the interest of interpretation. No need for debate here either.

    Interesting post, Cindy. Hope the kids feel better soon.

  4. Chris Hull says:

    Can I just say I love this?

  5. Cindy says:

    Your drawings are awesome Bim. Aaron still has a caricature that you did for him years ago on the back of a paper plate. I like your sense of humor too. I’m just burnt out when it comes to debating religion. Nothing personal.

    Both Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci were amazing and way ahead of their time.

    Chris, I’d love to meet you some day. I know we would get along great!

  6. Nicholas says:

    Auntie Cindy, I love the insight about God being enclosed in a form much the same shape as the human brain. I’d never noticed that before! The side-by-side comparison you did is really illuminating. How interesting!

    Just one comment about the Book of Genesis. Genesis has TWO creation stories back to back — not one. In the first chapter of Genesis, which opens “in the beginning of the creation of the world,” God (named Elohim) begins creating light, day, night, earth, water, living creatures in each of the spheres, and then, on the sixth of the seven infamous days, he creates humankind: “man and woman alike, he created them,” at the same time.

    But then, in the second chapter, which opens with its own claim that “this is the way the world was made,” God — now named Yahweh — reverses the order identified in Chapter One. Man is made first, and then Woman is made from his rib, and then the rest of creation is made and given to Adam to name. These two creation myths plainly contradict each other, and the people who compiled the Bible were surely aware of it.

    Genesis is a *compilation* of myths and ideas from at least two of the four primary sources of the Pentateuch. Less an account of the beginnings of the world, it can more accurately be seen as a summary of humanity’s myths of the Creation (such as the Babylonian Enuma Elish, with which the Genesis accounts share much in common) that existed up until that time. Genesis, then, is not really about the history of the universe; it is really a history of religion itself. Fundamentalist Christians and dogmatic atheists can both be guilty of Biblical literalism, which the construction of Genesis itself obviously discredits. If Michelangelo was so intelligent, he could have believed in God and loved the Church and been fascinated by the rich treasures of the Hebrew Bible without feeling pressured to interpret Genesis literally!

  7. Cindy says:

    The entire Bible is a collection of myths, which have been passed down and changed over time. In fact, we don’t even have the original manuscripts, and even those were written by men. It’s kind of like that telephone game we used to play in school. We would all line up in a row and someone would whisper a story to the next person and so on down the line. By the time the story got to the end of the line, it had been changed and exaggerated so much that it was often unrecognizable from the original.

    It scares me that so many fundamentalists Christians take the bible literally, especially here in the US. This really shows our ignorance.


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