Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
February 23rd, 2015 by Joel Watts

CTP Bible Study – HaAdam, Ish and Ishah (Genesis 2.18–24)

(there are questions at the bottom if you just want to skip to that point)

Plato’s Symposium will  factor into our discussion this week – as I have warned you several times now. If this link opens up correctly, you should see a paragraph beginning with “Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse…” Read this and the following two paragraphs.

Why?

Because this week we are going to go deep into Adam and Eve, or Ish and Ishah.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and ...

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553): Adam and Eve. Beech wood, 1533. Bode-Museum, Berlin (Erworben 1830, Königliche Schlösser, Gemäldegalerie Kat. 567) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are three words in the Hebrew. We miss them because of our English translations which are primarily based on usage already common. In other words, we get Adam and Eve, or even a generic man and woman, in our English bibles because that’s what we would recognize.

Before I go on, let me add the word “can” (as a blanket statement) when I am talking about Hebrew words. For this case, I am trying to limit the range of meanings specifically for Genesis 1 and Genesis 2–3.

  • Adam means human (generic, like humanity).
  • Ish means man
  • Ishah means woman

There are several stories about the creation of the first humans in and around the Ancient Near East (ANE). Often times, they are connected to the dirt (dust, earth) like it says in Genesis 2. One even mentions the creation of the Tigris and Euphrates along with naming the animals! (Founding of Eridu).

We something like this in Genesis 2.18–24. As I have said before, however, these creation stories aren’t easily straight forward. Rather, they are telling you something by challenging something.

Genesis 2.18–24 is different than the creation of HaAdam in Genesis 1.26–27. In Genesis 1.26–27 we have humanity created together and assigned the image of God. This is very important to us, even if we do not always understand the concept. In Genesis 2.18–24, a man is created and then after searching for the lock to his key, a woman is created. No mention of the image of God is made.

The image of God is ANE for “king.” Again, I’m making a generalization here. But, kings were the image of God, in a literal sense. Think of Pharaohs. They were gods on earth, or representatives of gods on earth.

There are different levels of looking at this story. One, we get to examine Genesis 1.26-27 as representing all of humanity while suggesting Genesis 2.18–24 is more representative of a group of people, perhaps Israel.

  • What if Adam and Eve represent some sense of a historical king or leader God spoke to in order to give His covenant?

We also can look at the story in Genesis 2.18–24 as archetypical of pairings. Some may call this “soulmate” (although we should be hesitant about thinking in terms of romantic love). And this is where Plato comes in.

I’m not saying, for sure, “Moses” and Plato sang from the same hymn book, only that these stories look a lot alike and following Christian tradition, I feel like we can use Plato.

Notice the similarities in action. Something has to be done (a need recognized by the divine). There is an operation (by the divine). There is a putting back together (by the divine). There is the taking of the “side” (or rib).

For Plato it is side. For us, because we want to see it as such, we say rib. But actually, the wording leads us to say side. As in, side like Plato.

The textual notes from the NET bible read,

  • Traditionally translated “rib,” the Hebrew word actually means “side.” The Hebrew text reads, “and he took one from his sides,” which could be rendered “part of his sides.” That idea may fit better the explanation by the man that the woman is his flesh and bone.
  •  Heb “closed up the flesh under it.”
  • The Hebrew verb is בָּנָה (banah, “to make, to build, to construct”). The text states that the Lord God built the rib into a woman. Again, the passage gives no indication of precisely how this was done.

So, what do we do with this information?

Often times, we see this passage used as a way to say women are second to men in the church and home (creation order). Other times, we see it related to debates about sexuality (Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!). So, what happens if this passage is meant to represent something more, sometime idyllic?

  • If helper/help mate is not really what is intended here, but more like “other half” (or correspondent), how does that transform debates on complementarianism?
  • If the “other half” is decided from above and pre-exists our earthly life, what does this mean in terms of sexuality?
  • What does it mean to have the image of God applied to all of the human race?
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

4 Responses to “CTP Bible Study – HaAdam, Ish and Ishah (Genesis 2.18–24)”
  1. Since there’s no action on Adam and Eve…

    Plato, Hebrew words for Adam and Eve, side versus rib, Greek, Christian…gnostic?

    (Note: I mention for academic purposes, not that I believe these texts)!

    “The Nature of the Rulers” i.e. “The Hypostasis of the Archons”.

    “These archons have bodies that are both female and male, and faces that are the faces of beasts. They took soil from the earth and formed their human, after their own bodies and after the image of God that had appeared to them in the water… The rulers plotted together and said, “Come, let’s make a deep sleep fall upon Adam. So Adam slept. The deep sleep they made to fall upon him, and he slept, is ignorance. They cut open his side…like a living woman. Then they repaired his side with flesh in place of her, and Adam had only a soul. The woman of spirit came to him and spoke with him, saying, “Arise, Adam.” When he saw her, he said, “You have given me life. You will be called the Mother of the living. For she is my mother. She is physician, woman, one who has given birth”.

    So Spiritual Eve gave Adam life. The physical Eve came from his “side”.

    More interesting, my Nag Hammadi text says “Bentley Layton notes that these terms used by Adam to describe spiritual Eve are based upon puns in Aramaic on the Semitic name of Eve, and since these puns are incomprehensible in Greek (or Coptic), they must give evidence of connections between an early stage of the text or tradition of The Nature of the Rulers and the Semitic world.” Also, “In its present form, the Nature of the Rulers is a Christian text (Note 1. The reference to Paul “the great apostle” and the citations of Colossians 1:13 and Ephesians 6:12 at the opening of the text.”

    How’s them apples? Obviously, it is a slow day, and I have nothing better to do!

    • that is awesome, Gary! Wish you were closer!

    • In trying to condense the major points, I should have completed a section of the commentary by Marvin Meyer. “The Nature of the Rulers is a Gnostic treatise classified by scholars as representing Sethian thought, which the author claims is being sent to an undisclosed recipient in order to clarify who the archons, or world rulers, are and how the struggle with the archons is to be carried out. In its present form, the Nature of the Rulers is a Christian text (note 1), but most of the material in the text is reflective of Jewish thought, with the typical Hellenistic flourish.”

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