Genesis, and the rise of People, and Man and Woman

While reading handy pull-out debate of Women Bishops in the Church Times (Church Times, 18 January, 2013), I came accross the article by Judy Stowell.

She begins where the debate about women always begins : Genesis. She makes the point that when we first meet Adam, the Dustling, the person made of Dust, he stands here for all human kind. From her reading of the Hebrew, Adam at this point is not really a he, but a proto-human, the perfection of humanity. It is in Genesis 2 that we learn that it is not good for Adam to be alone, so he is made to sleep. Here is where the interesting bit comes.

What arises from that sleep is two different beings. Adam is no more (whatever our poor English translations say), and rather Iysh and Ishshahi arise. Man and Woman.

Men and Women, then, were made at exactly the same time. While the Man retained the name From the Dust(but I prefer “Dustling”), Eve gains her own name. It may seem to some that this is a complete re-reading of Genesis, but it’s actually been staring people in the face for years. I am, in fact, slightly annoyed with myself that I didn’t see it earlier.

Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’
So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

From the end of Genesis 1:26-27, NRSV.

God, in Genesis 126-27, creates Male and Female as equal, at the same time. This is simply bourne out in Genesis 2, but it is lost in the inadequacies of translation.

Thus, man and woman are uniquely, and equally, made in the image of God, and brought into direct relationship with Him. Of course, in Genesis 3, these two new beings who don’t work in concert, but rather work individually, begin to pull away from God.

Now, it may seem to some that this argument upholds the notion that man was designed to be with a woman, but I would say that that is not so. If the sexless Adam is perfection, then and it is not good for this sexless Adam to be alone, then it’s partner could be anyone. The deeper theological point is that it was not based on gender that God decided that sexless Adam needed a partner, but it was rather that God saw that sexless Adam needed love and companionship. True, in this first instance God creates a woman to be with man, but there is no declaration here that it should ever be thus.

There is another interesting theological point that this raises. Jesus is seen as being the First Adam. Is this a subtle theological nuance that we’ve been missing because of our lack of understanding of the Hebrew? Jesus is not just a man, or even standing in the place of men, but rather more profoundly, in the place of all people. The sexless Adam, the symbol of perfection, the one that stands for people, rather than a gender. Jesus, then, stands in the place of all people. Something that we can see worked out in his ministry, and in his death and resurrection.

~BX

*Addendum*

*Peter Myers* makes the point that Is can also be translated “husband”, and Ishshahi can also be translated “wife”. (Church Times, 18 January 2013, p3 of the pullout). He argues that because Adam and Is are used interchangeably throughout the Old Testament that they could not mean two different beings. He points to Genesis 2:23, which he says read “she was taken out from Is“. He makes the point that Adam is used in the preceding verse 22, suggesting she was taken out of both Adam and Is. He suggests that what has changed is that Man is now married to his Wife.

I would personally counter that the fact that Eve seemed to have been, in his words “taken out of Adam and Is” suggests two different beings.