Ever notice that when Genesis 1 organizes it’s creation narrative into six consecutive days, the second day is the only one at the end of which God actually doesn’t say “it was good”? Well, Kabbalists have.
Bachya ben Asher ibn Halawa, a 13th-14th century Rabbi commenting on Genesis 1:6-8 says:
The Midrash asks why does it not say ‘It was good’ in the Creation story on Monday? It answers that on that day Purgatory [Gehinnom] was created… and our Sages say that another reason was because on this day argument and dispute were also created, as it says: ‘And to divide water from water’. … If it cannot be said ‘that it was good’ about an argument and a dispute that was for the sake of rectifying the world and making it inhabitable, how much more so can one not say this about an argument and a dispute causing chaos in the world.
The explanation of this is that Monday, the second day of the week, is the beginning of duality, therefore it is called ‘day two’, and it is the cause of all division and dispute. When the Sages say that argument, dispute and Purgatory were created on that day, we may understand from this that anyone who initiates an argument or a dispute will be judged in Purgatory. Since argument, dispute and Purgatory were all created on this day we learn that it is a destructive day; therefore our Sages prohibited anyone starting an undertaking on a Monday, and they said, ‘One should not begin things on a Monday.’ For a similar reason it is prohibited to eat food items in pairs, for that is something which causes damage. This is why the Sages have said that a person should neither eat nor drink things in pairs. The argument and dispute that was on the first Monday are the origin and cause of all later arguments and disputes.
~ The Kabbalistic Tradition: An Anthology of Jewish Mysticism, Edited by Alan Unterman, 48-49.
So then, we can say facetiously, but also with some genuine theological conviction, that Mondays really are Hell [Gehinnom translates to Hell, though the idea Jews often entertain of Gehinnom is the notion of purgatory, but I’ll leave that point aside]. As far as a liturgical view of cosmogony is concerned, rooted in the liturgy and revelation of Israel, Mondays really do represent the division of all things, and the separation makes possible the existence of evil and separation from God, along with separation of man and neighbor.
Given that the Church Fathers often spoke about Jesus’ resurrection as the eighth day of creation, I wonder if Christians might baptize this insight. Perhaps when Jesus said things like the following:
‘Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father,
and a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.
He was indicating, in a sense, that he had come to bring a new creation. To do Mondays over again, so as to ‘make all things new’ (Revelation 21:5). Perhaps this helps shed some light on why Jesus said this in the context of going on and on about having a ‘Baptism‘ to undergo:
I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on, five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three;they will be divided:
father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’
Jesus referred to his crucifixion as a baptism. That seems rather puzzling to some, and though I think it makes a lot of sense of baptism, there may be a fear that these words were thrown back onto Jesus’ lips by the early Church, which had inherited from St. Paul a theology of Baptism which understood it to be a participation in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Instead, however, suppose Jesus historically referred to it as a baptism – might he have had the theme of new creation in mind? After all, the term baptism was indicative, in Jewish thought, of new creation – from Noah’s flood baptizing the earth to the nation of Israel coming out of the Red Sea as a newly born nation of God, baptism was always ‘about’ new creation. Could Jesus have had the Genesis narrative in mind if this were his theme?
Perhaps he did have Monday in mind, and if he did, then he intended to ‘Baptize’ Mondays, such that, at long last, God could say ‘and it was good’. Where modern readers read Jesus as saying ‘I have come to start arguments’, perhaps his immediate audience understood him to be saying ‘I have come to start a new creation, starting with a new kind of separation, a new kind of division – and it will not just be between Israel and the world, but will divide even in Israel, even in your very households’. I think that’s an interesting thought to contemplate, and it certainly fits the thinking of Jesus of Nazareth if we take him to be all about new creation. Perhaps there’s another anachronistic worry about whether anyone in Jesus’ day shared anything like Bachya ben Asher’s interpretation, but one need only point out that Bachya ben Asher referred to various traditions already extant already asking these questions at least as far back as the Mishnah. Moreover, whether we can find historical evidence of Jesus’ contemporaries talking about the second day in these ways, it certainly isn’t unthinkable for a first century Jew to have such an interpretation, and so it is far from implausible that Jesus and/or his contemporaries would have had such a view of Mondays. Finally, it bears noting that Jesus and his contemporaries do not have to have had a full blown view of Monday as the day typifying the creation of hell – so long as Jesus and his contemporaries recognized that the second day of creation was the day on which division was introduced into creation, so that Jesus’ referring to separation could have reflected the implication of a creation narrative.
In any case, such a reflection was really more for the fun of being able to theologically justify the claim that Mondays are ‘hell’ than it was intended to be any kind of serious theological proposal. But who knows, maybe there’s something to this.