14.6.07

for all eves

having recently read this post from ugleyvicar I thought it might be worthwhile writing something from the radical perspective about men and women.

This will come in installments - First, Eve:

I think that my own views are firmly rooted in what I believe happens in Genesis and then in the entirety of Scripture. Firstly I believe that the best Hebrew translation of Genesis 1:27 reads like this:

'So God created humankind (ha'adam) in his image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.'

in this translation we recognise that the word ha'adam is not 'man' as some would say (which is iysh in Hebrew), but is the human being made from the dust or the adamah. Some people translate it 'dustling' or 'groundling' or 'earthling' (that last one reminds me of little green men though) Anyway, the point is made that the being made from the dust is created as male and female. These Hebrew words are continued in Genesis 2, where the adam is put to sleep and the male (iysh) and female (ishshah) wake up. The term adam then becomes the personal name for the iysh, before this names are not used. In this sense the adam who goes to sleep is not the iysh who wakes up and the bringing of the ishshah to the iysh is as much a defining moment to the iysh as it is to the ishshah. This is not a 'naming' in the sense of hierarchy or ownership, this is a recognition that male and female are defined by the other - you cannot have male without female and you cannot have female without male.

This 'one flesh' relationship breaks down after the couple's disobedience. Relationships are broken by disobedience: relationships to the Creation, relationships to God and relationships to each other. The man will now dominate the woman and she will desire her husband to the point of risking death through childbirth (the context in which this description is given)

the consequences of this break in the 'one flesh' relationship are seen very quickly in the history of God's people - the woman is 'named', Eve, this time with a sense of ownership, this is no longer 'one flesh' but is 'owner and owned'.

Wives are dispensible - they can be given to Pharoah (Abraham and Sarah)
concubines are acceptable and dispensible - they can be murdered and cut into pieces (the Levite and the concubine)
daughters are possessions - they can be raped and forgotten (Absalom and Tamar - ignored by David)

This is the dire consequence of hierarchy in male/female relationships.

7 comments:

Revd John P Richardson said...

I think the notion of the original 'adamah' as androgynous doesn't really hold up. Even the words of Genesis 2:18 go against it: "The Lord God said, 'It is not good for ha-adamah to be alone. I will make a helper ['strengthener'] suitable for [Heb: 'over against'] him.'"

However, biblical and extra-biblical tradition shows the passage was not understood, nor was to be understood, in this way. In Tobit 8:6, Tobias prays, "Thou madest Adam, and gavest him Eve his wife for an helper and stay: of them came mankind: thou hast said, It is not good that man should be alone; let us make unto him an aid like unto himself."

Again, in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, we read, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." There is no break in thought between v 13 ("Adam ... then Eve", the condition of Genesis 2) and 14, "Adam ... the woman" (the condition of Genesis 3.

Also 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 would mitigate against this understanding: "For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." Compare this with 11-12, which describes the situation now: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman."

The language entirely presumes that Adam (as originally made) was 'a man' from whom came 'a woman' (not the other way round, Paul notes - a comment which would be meaningless if Adam was not gendered), whereas today "man is born of woman".

jody said...

I don't understand the 'adamah' to be androgynous, which means neither male nor female, but that which is the whole human being, encompassing male and female. It is not right for a human being to be alone, because human beings are made in the image of God and, as such, are made for relationship. In making the male and female from 'ha'adam', there is a visible sign in our bodies that we are inextricably linked to the other for our definition.

with regards to the exegesis of the NT writers, I believe that they are exegeting the text in a way very differently from how we understand exegesis today. Exegesis was more fluid, in order to make a point, than we would allow today - for instance in 1 Tim did Paul not read Gen 2? Adam was stood next to Eve! Who was deceived exactly? No, the point was to write to a church in whom the worship of the female was becoming an issue. With regards to the 1 Cor passage Paul is first repeating the common interpretation of the Adam and Eve story, in which domination of the male is extrapolated, but, in fact Paul reverses this when he says 'In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of the man, NOR IS MAN INDEPENDENT OF THE WOMAN.

Paul is pressing home the point 'this is what you think, but this is how it is in Christ'.

I would suggest that this is also the way to read Eph 5. 'This is what you say - children obey parents, slaves obey masters, wives obey husbands; nothing strange there - this is what I say - parents don't exasperate your childre, masters remember there is only one master, husbands love your wives, respect them and treat them well.'

Paul is quite good at subverting the status quo.

Revd John P Richardson said...

Just as a point of fact, androgynous is generally accepted to mean not 'neither male nor female' but 'having both male and female characteristics'.

I have to say, though, I simply find this thesis untenable from the texts involved. Take Genesis 2:22-23:

"And made he, Adonai Elohim, the rib which he had taken from ha-adam into a woman (ishshah) and brought her to ha-adam. And said ha-adam, "This at last is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh."'

I can't see this any other way than God takes a rib from ha-adam and brings the woman to ha-adam, and whereupon the same ha-adam speaks, and identifies this as his bone and his flesh.

Furthermore, he concludes by saying, "This shall be called ishshah, because this was taken from ish [me-ish]."

Brown-Driver-Briggs comments on the preposition "me-", that it is a "prep. expressing the idea of separation, hence out of, from, on account of, off, on the side of, since, above, than, so that not — 1. with verbs expressing (or implying) separation or removal, whether from a person or place ..."

The woman is clearly idenfitied as being taken from the man.

It seems to me that the other assertions you make to interpret other passages depend too much on an reading which goes hard against the text.

(Moreover, the notion that 'ha-adam' is put to sleep and two beings wake up makes the putting to sleep bit rather too veterinary for my liking!)

jody said...

I guess I was taking androgynous to be a kind of ambiguous state, half male and half female - which is not what I think 'ha'adam' is. 'ha'adam' is the whole human being, encompassing all of what it means to be male and female, however to be a human being made in the image of God means to be designed for relationship - it is not good for 'ha'adam' to be alone.

if 'ha'adam' is 'man' in the XY sense, then what is the point of using the term 'ha'adam'? 'iysh' only appears when there is 'ishshah' - I maintain that there is no male without female, it is nonsense to try to define male without female and female without male, they are defined by the other.

I also suggest that you must have difficulty reading Gen 1:27. 'ha'adam' is, literally, 'dustling', the thing made from the dust or 'adamah' so how is this gendered? Also, immediately after the sentence indicating the creation of humankind - 'God created 'ha'adam'' - is the explanation of this creation - 'male and female, he created them'. The doublet of Hebrew narrative is evident - to create 'ha'adam' is to create male and female.

with regards your comments about reading against the text in the NT, I would suggest that it is difficult to read Eph 5 and not come up with the idea that Paul is subverting the culture of the time. Why bother to make the statements that are obvious - slaves submit to your masters etc - unless you intend to use the obvious as the foil for the subversion?

Revd John P Richardson said...

I think I can only reiterate the points I made earlier. All the language of the text points to the usual reading of 1 Timothy 2:13, "Adam was formed first, then Eve"

The ultimate question is, what sort of continuity are we to understand there being between Adam pre Genesis 2:21 and Adam post Genesis 2:21?

Your argument about male and female each being defined by the other reminds me of the exact same point I was making a while ago on the Fulcrum site! However, a thing may 'be' what it is, without 'being known' for what it is, until something else gives it definition - but this does not necessarily imply change in the thing itself.

Thus, famously, on the adverts, a sheet may 'be' gray rather than white, but only be shown to be so when the truly white sheet is put alongside it. Thus a thing can 'be' male, but not be known to be male until there is a corresponding female for the comparison to be made. Yet the 'male' thing itself need not change.

jody said...

well John, I thought your argument on Fulcrum was that male and female is defined by relationship and because, you suggested, God is male, then Creation is female and Creation is necessary for God.

A suggestion I think I said was fairly universally accepted as heretical.

I would also like to see you define 'grey' without using the words 'black' or 'white' (or any other colour)

Revd John P Richardson said...

You haven't quite got my argument as I was presenting it. Is the Fulcrum thread still linkable? Perhaps you could post the link if it is and people can have a read for themselves.

(As to definitions, I can't help wondering about defining good without referring to evil - but at that point my brain starts to hurt.)

Clearly many of our concepts: light-dark, hot-cold, tall-short, big-small, are 'relational'. I see male-female as included in this list - so in that, we agree. (Unless I'm really missing something here.)

The degree of continuity between Genesis 2:20 and 2:22, however, is important.