Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Adam as male and female

There have been quite a few posts about the first human and maleness, on Nick's blog, and Bryan L's, then Nick again, TC, and James Pate.

In comments, I referred to an androgynous Adam. Here is the original passage from the Genesis Rabbah.,
    And God said let us make a human, etc... R. Yermia, the son of El'azar interpreted: When the Holiness (Be it Blessed) created the first human, He created him androgynous, for it says, "Male and female created He them." R. Samuel the son of Nahman said: When the Holiness (Be it Blessed) created the first human, He made it two-faced, then He sawed it and made a back for this one and a back for that one. They objected to him: but it says, "He took one of his ribs (tsela')." He answered [that it means], "one of his sides." similarly to that which is written, "And the side (tsela') of the tabernacle" [Exod. 26:20] Theodor and Albeck 1965 p. 54-65
There is a discussion of this passage on JewishEncyclopedia.

One reason why I presented this passage was to demonstrate that the text of Genesis does not tell us that the first human was male. We may assume that this human was male, but the word for the first human was simply adam. This human was not called ish until ishah was taken out.

We know that adam does not necessarily designate a male human since 32,000 young women were called adam in Numbers 31.

When the topic came around to the Passover lamb having to be male, I pointed out that the red heifer had to be female. Apart from the priesthood, in which only intact males of a certain tribe could participate, there are few other roles which require maleness in a absolute sense. In the Hebrew scriptures there is at least one woman prophet, judge, landowner, warrior, builder and householder.


Inseparable said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
G said...

Interesting thought about the gender of Adam.

Can we see if there was any opinion on Adam's gender from the New Testament writers? "for a man is not of a woman, but a woman is of a man, for a man also was not created because of the woman, but a woman because of the man" and "for Adam was first formed, then Eve,and Adam was not deceived, but the woman, having been deceived"

I really don't feel confident that I understand two NT passages I quoted. I feel that I am missing too much background info to make any conclusions.

Then the Gnostics wanted to see it the other way around.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for your post and for linking to the others' too!

Here's what Willis Barnstone says in quoting Pierre Grange:

"Years ago God was a woman and in the Hebrew Bible he even began as several gods. Genesis 1:1 reads 'In the beginning the gods (elohim) created heaven and earth.'"

Jane said...

Thank you for this Suzanne. Helen Schungel-Straumann has done some work on this and it was quite an eye-opener listening to her talking about it. Reminds me I must post Schungel Straumann's talk to the fem theol blog.

Anonymous said...

If Eve was created of Adam's rib, then males should lack a rib...which they don't. However, there is something which females lack, and I think it's a possibility that it is THAT thingy which Eve was created from. In other words, it's possible that Adam is in fact male, but known today as female. And, Eve may have been called female in those days, but now is called male. Scientifically, only females can bear children. Males cannot produce offspring without females; however females can produce offspring without males. Considering this fact alone, it stands to reason that God created Adam(female) first, animals second, and Eve(male) third. Adam was lonely; men do not get lonely! Furthermore, I believe that sex is the act of returning to Adam what is rightfully his, and because Adam needs his "thingy" back to produce more people. It's sort of like a repetitive cycle ---the "rib" being ripped away and a new product is born. It also explains menstruation! Eve was strong, as SHE was needed to help the animals and to give Adam the affection HE needed. Females are the ones who need affection---not males. Men rule the world today, and as long as they do, you will never see a fruit tree planted along a highway, and the highway will always be gray.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


The New Testament passages relate back to the Greek version of Genesis, in which the Hebrew adam is sometimes translated as anthropos and sometimes as Adam.

Anonymous said...

I do not see Adam as androgenous, but as unstated until the woman is formed and what is left is the man.

Don Johnson

G said...

I still feel I don't know how Paul might have understood the gender of Adam as in 1 Corinthians he is using ἀνήρ as the woman’s κεφαλὴ and that the woman came from the man ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς The LXX translate both adam and Ish as ἄνθρωπος.

Not that I have any problem with the idea of a androgynous adam, I am just trying to understand how Paul might have understood Adam vs the maleman

Gen 1:27 καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον(אדם)κατ᾿ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν, ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς.

Gen 2:23 καὶ εἶπεν Αδαμ Τοῦτο νῦν ὀστοῦν ἐκ τῶν ὀστέων μου καὶ σὰρξ ἐκ τῆς σαρκός μου· αὕτη κληθήσεται γυνή, ὅτι ἐκ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς (אישׁ) αὐτῆς ἐλήμφθη αὕτη.
Gen 2:24 ἕνεκεν τούτου καταλείψει ἄνθρωπος(אישׁ) τὸν πατέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ τὴν μητέρα αὐτοῦ καὶ προσκολληθήσεται πρὸς τὴν γυναῖκα αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔσονται οἱ δύο εἰς σάρκα μίαν.

1Cor. κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ
1Cor 11:8 ἀλλὰ γυνὴ ἐξ ἀνδρός·

Kristen said...

Paul does seem to see Adam and Eve as two distinct beings, that Adam, the male, came first, and Eve was formed from Adam-- not that Adam and Eve were once one androgynous being.

I have been interpreting the 1 Tim. 2 passage, "for Adam was created first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but Eve being deceived--" as being related to the idea of "let a woman learn" earlier in the passage. If Adam had more experience from having lived longer, and then Eve, with less experience, was deceived, then the idea could be that women, with less experience in the culture of 1 Tim. because of having been denied learning in the past, should not be teaching at this time.

But if Adam and Eve were one being, both "Adam," -- wouldn't Eve still have Adam's memories after being separated from him? And thus we could not say she had less experience and was deceived?

Anonymous said...

Kristen, John Chrysostom wrote that in Genesis God was using language that humans could understand, not necessarily language that exactly explained how God created. With regard to beginnings, I find letting go of a very literal understanding has helped me, both with Genesis and with 1Tim. We don't know how God created Adam and Eve, and we don't know what Adam's greater experience consisted of in his longer lifespan. That's not the point. Eve was deceived- and Adam was not without responsibility. We all get to be human beings. (unless people monkey with the doctrine of the Trinity so that women become less than human...)

Dana Ames

Kristen said...

Dana, FWIW, I don't take the Genesis story literally. But I believe it's important to read the texts as they are worded, to understand the message they are trying to convey. It does seem to me that Paul was using the Adam-and-Eve story to give an example of "deception" and the part it can play in the issue of teaching, in the 1 Tim. 2 passage. The issue is, did Paul see Adam-before-Eve as androgynous? I'm not seeing that in the text. And if he did, then my best guess as to his intended meaning may not stand up as well. But an understanding of Paul's mentality is hard to reach, 2000 years later, so it may be a moot point whether he thought of Adam as androgynous before Eve, or not. . .

Anonymous said...

Sure it's important to read the texts as worded. Which is why I think Paul had no concept of Adam-before-Eve as androgynous and is indeed moot to a reading of him.

Not trying to argue- I just think that sort of question misses the point, even the point of Suzanne's post. What makes the best sense to me is that "adam" in early Genesis means "human being" or "humanity", and "Adam and Eve" denoting and connoting the first "sociologic unit", if you will, that knowingly rejected God. Whether they were two individuals or the first of the species Homo sapiens, doesn't matter to me, and I don't think it mattered to Paul in 1Tim.


Anonymous said...

Males would not lack a rib. If the sheaf that covers the rib is carefully pulled back the rib will regrow, ask a reconstruction surgeon as they make use of this source of bone for certain reconstructive surgeries.
Apart from the above I really don't think that regenerating a rib would be too hard for God.
Either way the lack of a missing rib really doesn't have any relevance.
If you don't take Genesis literally then you remove the foundations on which the rest of the Bible rest.
Why is there suffering in the world? The fall in Genesis.
Why is marriage one man and one woman? Genesis.
Why is there death in the world? Genesis.
Why do we need a saviour? Genesis
Why do we wear clothes even? Genesis.
The list goes on and on, but if we cannot take it literally then we have no real reason, foundation or proper explanation for so much.

Either Genesis means what it says or it means nothing at all.
But then respect for the word of God seems sadly lacking in much of the thinking here.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Anonymous,

Welcome. I have been discussing the ambiguity of the original language. I don't know what the correct intepretation is.

Thanks for commenting.

Anonymous said...

in a search i came across this blog and topic....
as i skimmend the comments i did not notice any reference to the question of the difference in adams in terms of the verb made as in genesis 1:26 asah..make... and the verb bara ... create ... in 1:27 and the verb yasa...formed.. in 2:8 and the subject yahweh elohim in the forming and just elohim in the making and creating of adam and in the making the suggestion of god as plural in his actions and in the creating the suggestion that the action was singular ...
which perhaps theoretically might be significant

significant too perhaps
that in chapter 5 eve is not mentioned and perhaps that is because the adam spoken of in chapter 5 is not the formed one of that happens in chapter 2 of genesis

i wonder if this means that in a way the occurences of chapter 5 and some of the following chapters are about an occurence that happened before adam and eve and that adam and eve are a repeating of the cycle of creation that failed and neede to be repeated with adam and eve in order to correct the sins that happened before the forming of adam and eve
and thus they would be parallel in many ways to what happened to adam and eve but be of a time before adam and eve....

Anonymous said...

In Genesis 1:26 its says, "Let us make adam in our image" , and verse 26 says, "So God created adam in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them". Now that is saying that adam was both male and female, though only one person. Just like God said "Let US man adam in our image" , and "in the image of God HE created them". This shows that adam was singular, yet plural. Just like God.
In Genesis 2:21-22 it says "he took ha-adam's tsela and closed up the place with flesh.Then Yhwh God made a woman from the tsela he had taken from ha-adam" Now most bibles will say it was a rib that God used to make Eve, but tsela actually means side. And by looking at other passages in the old testament you can see that tsela specifically means half of a side. Meaning there are two halves that make a whole.
In Daniel 7:5 we see that the Hebrew word for rib is actually ala.
So when Adam says to Eve you are bone of my boneS and flesh of my flesh he means that literally. And they become one flesh. Two halves becoming a whole. And that is also why God hates divorce.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say. If Adam lost a rib that doesn't mean men are supposed to have one less rib. Use common sense guys. Today, if you lose a rib, it grows back. Same goes for Adam. If he loses a rib, it grows back. Plus, its called DNA. If the rib gets taken out, the DNA to make that rib is still there. When Adam was made all his DNA was there, including for his rib. And you can't change DNA code.
One more thing: In Genesis 1:27 and the other verse, I think in the original it says ha-adam, meaning the/a man. Yet most English translations omit the article. :(