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