10.9.09

Wrestling with one word in Greek and another in Hebrew and sometimes wondering if I am not going a little insane

Today I have been agonising over 'oude' and 'adamah'. So just an average day in the life of Rachel Marszalek, then. I really need to make sure I do not lose touch with the people all around me. I have been feeling probably overly-pleased with myself, muti-tasking child-care, educational play and theological study which actually amounts to bunging big chicken drumsticks and jacket potatoes in the oven and whilst they're cooking, taking your children to the park to watch them play whilst you swot up on a nearby bench on your Greek and Hebrew, huh, what Greek and Hebrew, I haven't even started those modules yet.

Anyway, I have been asked about whether I find any inconsistency in the use of 'man' in Genesis 1 and 2. In my TNIV, we have 'human beings' made 'in his own image'. The TNIV explain their logic here, even though it' s pluralised when it needn't have been. Could they have said 'a human' because that is what we have in the Hebrew? In Genesis, chapter one, in Hebrew we have: 'the human'. Even when the woman is created in Genesis 2, the first human remains 'the human', in Hebrew. Referencing them both, we expect to hear of 'the man and his woman', but we read 'the human and his woman'. The human is a man, a man with a woman, eventually but the Hebrew text does not want to call him a 'man' but 'the human' , just as it does not want to call him 'Adam' but 'the human'. The fact that the human is a man, and is Adam, does not mean that the Hebrew means a man, any more than it means Adam.

I'm wondering whether translations which refer to Adam as 'man' in Genesis 2 do so to capture that this distinction of male to female becomes known once woman is recognised, having been taken out of 'the human'. There are now two who complement each other perfectly, who are to work in unity to represent the human that is a reflection of God who is made up of a community. We can even see how the sexual act works as a real illustration of the 'one flesh' ideal.

There is of course a whole field of Biblical Studies investigating the relationship between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 and these are only my initial investigations. If anyone could recommend any further reading resources, I would be most grateful. 

John Goldingay has more to say on these issues:

John Goldingay
We may begin with the opening chapters of Scripture, because sexuality is an important theme in both creation stories (insofar as it is appropriate to distinguish two). This is actually rather striking. One would hardly have expected either a religious text or an account of the origins of the world to have been so interested so soon in the significance of humanity’s male- and femaleness.
Genesis 1 comes to its first climax with the creation of a God-like humanity (its second climax is God’s enjoyment of his rest day). The verses are allusive over wherein the God-likeness consists. (Indeed, much is allusive in Genesis 1-3, not least over matters to do with sexuality. Probably we have tended to build too much doctrine and ethics on these chapters too easily, and need to be a bit more reticent in our handling of them.) There is no suggestion that humanity’s God-likeness consists in its reasoning power or spiritual nature. Insofar as the context offers any guidance, it consists in (or perhaps rather implies) humanity’s being put in control of other creatures (1:26) and in its being created male and female (1:27; only this second gloss on ‘God-likeness’ is mentioned when the formula reappears in 5:1-2). Apparently the God-likeness of humanity is only present in the combination of male and female. Certainly humanity itself is only present in this combination. Adam - in this context - is not male; it is a word like ‘mankind’ or ‘humanity’ or homo sapiens. It is then further defined as ‘male and female’. There is about humanity both a unity and a plurality. Genesis 1, then, immediately subverts the suggestion that the male is the ‘natural’ human being, the female being a deviant type. Only man and woman together make real humanity. Together they hear God’s word, receiving his blessing and his commission to multiply as families, to exercise power in the world, and to enjoy its produce. Genesis indicates no differentiation of role in the fulfilment of this commission, nor any internal hierarchy within humanity.
It is now fashionable (but not necessarily therefore wrong) to read Genesis 2 in a similar egalitarian way. Here, too, God forms ‘a human being’: adam again, but not here a collective, and the context here stresses the link between adam and the adamah from which it was made (hence Phyllis Trible in God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality - on which much of this section depends - translates ‘earth-creature’). In the first part of the story, effectively the creature is sexually undifferentiated. When differentiation appears, a divine awareness of the being’s incompleteness appears with it. God thus forms another human being as a companion for the first, one who stands over against him. (‘Helpmeet’ has misled people. ‘Helper’ does not suggest a subordinate; God himself is often people’s ‘helper’ in the OT! Perhaps the image of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside to be our helper and companion [John 14] helps to get the impression in Genesis 2 right.)
The identity of being which is shared by these two people is expressed by the picture of one of them being built up from a part of the other. Their equality is perhaps suggested by the fact that the part is a rib. As the midrash put it, woman is not made from man’s head, to rule him, or from his feet, to be trodden down by him, but from his side, to stand alongside him. It is when she stands alongside him that the man becomes aware of himself as a man, in the company of a woman (ish, ishshah). He addresses her as a person over against himself (he does not name her - as if he were in control of her - in the way he did the animals). The loneliness of the sole human being is overcome through the gift of another in whom he recognizes identity, yet also the differentiation of sexuality which is a means of their communion (and not, in the first instance, of anything else - eg procreation)...
Read the rest here

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