Yesterday I attended a short talk by my dear friend Kate and her mom, Gail. These two brilliant women are champions of egalitarianism and the goal of their lecture was to simply start opening Christians’ eyes to the filters that inform our view of gender. They did a phenomenal job!
I thought that I had already heard most of the Scriptural justifications for egalitarianism, but they brought up one that was new to me. Essentially, they argued (briefly) against the complimentarian assertion that gender hierarchy is built into the creation story because God created Man first, and then he created Woman. Did God actually created a male (as in, the human being with a penis) first? (Incidentally—why would He do that? Why would He create a penis and sperm and testicles if the poor man could not use them?) What we translate as “man” and “woman” in Genesis hides the subtle differences in the Hebrew words, which at least put pause to that complimentarian argument.
Obviously, I am not an expert in ancient Hebrew. I don’t have a degree in Biblical Studies. But I have a brain and I can come to logical, rational conclusions. I has a college edumacation. Most importantly, I trust the Spirit to help us make right judgments. So I decided to look into this.
Using Bible.cc, I researched the Hebrew translation of the verses in Genesis in which God creates men and women.
The first creation account, Genesis 1:26-27, says: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
With just my knowledge of the English language, I notice first that even though God said, “Let us make man” [singular], in the next sentence He says, “Let them [plural] have dominion over the fish, etc.” Huh. Let’s look at what Bible.cc says. (I apologize for the rather blurry images!)
No mention of them, but the word translated as man is adam. Let’s look at verse 27:
God created adam both male (zakar) and female (neqebah). So adam does not necessarily mean specifically male. Ok. Moving on to the next creation account, in Genesis 2:7:
God created ha’adam out of the ground, and the word for ground is ha’adamah. So the meaning of adam is really more like ground-person. It has nothing to do with male genitalia. Genesis 2:18:
God saw that it was not good for the ground-person—we could even call it an earthling—to be alone. So God’s going to fix that by making an ezer kenegdo for it. Now, the discussion of what ezer kenegdo means is a whole other conversation that has already been covered by much smarter people than myself. I will summarize by saying: ezer kenegdo is more properly translated as “strength/power opposite/equal” and is often used in the Old Testament in reference to God Himself.
So God took part of adam and made something called issah. Genesis 2:23:
This is the verse that I think is most confusing. So then the adam declares that the name for this created being is issah (presumably the earthling with a vagina), because it was separated from is (the earthling with a penis). What’s missing here, for me, is the connection between issah and neqebah, and between is and zakar. But what is interesting is the fact that adam, which as we know includes neqebah and zakar, names both issah and is.
So the proposed reading from an egalitarian standpoint is not that it was man (the penis one) and then woman (the vagina one).
Rather, it was adam (earthling, possibly plural, both male and female) and then they were separated into the penis and vagina variations.
Again, I am not a scholar and I don’t pretend to be. This is quite simplified (biggest understatement ever), and I didn’t even go into the many other possible arguments like what does it mean for both male and female to be created in God’s image, and what does ezer kenegdo mean, and whether animals are higher than people because they were created first, and whether this means women or men are somehow incomplete without each other, etc. My goal in bringing it up here is that we would at least realize that when we read, “God created man” and “God created woman,” it is not as simple as we sometimes make it out to be.
What do you think? Does this argument hold any weight for you? Do you know some Hebrew and could help us out??