Monthly Archives: July 2011
In my last post I made some comments on the Genesis story and how the Hebrew might point to a deeper reality somewhat obscured by our English translations. I shared my post with an online community of Christians with whom I interact from time to time. Many enjoyed the post and resonated with the ideas expressed. But one member voiced some concern with making scientific statements from religious texts and that perhaps I was distorting things a bit. He joked a little and said that ‘When God saw that it was not good for man to be alone, He didn’t halve Adam and make a Bruce.’ Of course I completely agree, and this comment, though said in jest, shows that he didn’t fully understand what I was getting at with the halving idea. It also made me want to substantiate my arguments a little more. What follows is drawn from my response to his concerns:
My point is definitely not that God simply split the male Adam in half and that the two halves were thus the same i.e. a potential Adam and Bruce. In fact quite the opposite. My point is that biologically life began as One non-sexed reality. Later this single celled androgynous organism evolved into male and female and continued the long stretch of evolution that would eventually produce our Adam and Eve.
So back to Genesis:
While I fully understand that Genesis is not a scientific document I do believe it is a text inspired by God and thus able to speak to realities that both include scientific reality and go beyond science to the spiritual and metaphysical.
In the first creation account (Gen 1:26-27) the text in the Hebrew says that God created ‘adam’ (which is really just a play on the word ‘adamah’ meaning earth/ground/dust) in His Image. It goes on to say that he created this ‘earth/human being’ or ‘adam’ as both male (zakar) and female (neqebah). So here in the opening chapter of Genesis we have ‘adam’ referring to the entire human race both male and female, not just the male half.
In the second creation account, ‘adam’ appears for the second time. Here it also seems to indicate simply a human being (Gen 2:5) needed to cultivate the land. Genesis follows this pattern with ‘adam’ representing simply the unsexed human creature created from the earth. Of course I don’t think this means that the historical Adam was an androgynous or hermaphroditic human being – but I do think this MIGHT speak to the reality of life starting out as ONE undivided reality which predated the emergence of gender based life.
That the story should not be taken literally/scientifically seems to be quite clear at various points. The poetic formulation of the days of creation is one such point, the presentation of the animals to the ‘adam’ is another. All these creatures seem to be sexed creatures of the male and female variety but the poor old ‘adam’ seems to be the only creature without such a mate. So God gives the ‘adam’ a little spiritual anesthetic and removes one of his ‘tsela’ (Gen 2:21).
In our English bibles we read that God removed one of the ‘adams’ ribs. This is the only time in the whole Old Testament that ‘tsela’ is translated as rib. Unfortunately the only other use of the term rib, is found in the Aramaic book of Daniel and thus cannot be directly compared with the Hebrew. But ‘tsela’ does appear more than 40 times and all other times the word is translated as ‘side’, or associated terms. Thus I put forward that what was taken from the original ‘adam’ was not a rib but a side – the female side to be exact. Now I’m no Hebrew scholar, though I do enjoy researching, but this translation is supported by a number of Jewish scholars and rabbis, especially those who appreciate the mystical aspect of the text.
Only once God has taken the woman from the ‘adam’ is the original ‘adam’ referred to as man/husband (ish) and the new being referred to as woman/wife (ishah). Their relationship is immediately shown to be one of cleaving in which the two will become ‘One Flesh’ again. I think this supports my case, as man cleaves to his missing half rather than his missing rib. From here on the ‘adam’ often indicates the male person and ‘ishah’ the female.
Only in Genesis 3:20 is the ‘ishah’ given a name, ‘Chavvah’ (Eve) because she is the mother of all who ‘Chayah’/’Chay’ (live/living). At this point it becomes clear that the male human being continues to be known simply as ‘adam’.
In chapter 4 ‘Adam’ and ‘Chavvah’ the original husband/man (ish) and wife/woman (ishah) have been expelled from the garden and life as we know it begins. They love, they fight, they buy a house and have babies ;), some of whom turn out well, others, not so much. But just in case we forget that though the ‘adam’ now refers to the male human being in the family it wasn’t always so, the story ends with just such a reminder.
In Genesis 5:1 we are told that we are reading the book of the generations of the ‘adam’ in the day that God created the ‘adam’ in His own Likeness. Male and female He created them and blessed them and called THEIR name ‘adam’ in the day when THEY were created. And subsequently Adam dies.
After Adam’s death the word ‘adam’ continues to be used to denote the entire human race both male and female (e.g. Gen 6:1 and on).
In conclusion I’ll leave you with another interesting fact to add to this little investigation. The belief in the androgynous nature of the first human being is actual quite a cross-cultural phenomenon. It is found explicitly or implicitly in the writings of the Hindus, Greeks, Romans, and Sumerians, as well as in our case, the Jews and Christians. This link will give you more details should you wish to explore some of these other accounts. While I find the author’s research interesting, I wouldn’t go along with his rather literal approach to the data, but as I said I believe these myths point to the spiritual and metaphysical truths behind the story.