Sunday, May 1, 2011

We are Adam

And the Lord God formed man [ha-adam = the Adam] from the earth [ha-adamah = atom/dust particles of the earth] and breathed into [Adam's] nostrils the breath of life, and man [ha-adam = the Adam] became a living being [nephesh = animal].  Genesis 2:7
I am a locally licensed minister.  I am seeking God's direction pertaining to ordination.  And I am a woman.

The following is an exploration of Genesis taken from Bonding: Relationships in the Image of God by
Dr. Donald M. Joy, Ph.D. (Evangel, p. 20-31).  I offer excerpts of it here (in black text) because God has used it to challenge me and the doctrines I equate with Christianity - doctrines God Himself challenged when He called me into ministry.  This study is one of many that invited me to consider my ideologies (in red) about being a woman, a Christian, and an American fundamentalist.  It all began with this:

The unfortunate translation of the Adam as "man" has thrown us into a "bachelor Adam" misunderstanding of God's creation of humans.

The bible text explicitly rejects the idea of a "bachelor Adam" Creation.  "The Adam" of Genesis 1:26-28 are clearly the male and female first humans: Image-bearers of the Creator God. It is clear because the repeated pronouns referring back to the Adam are the plural "them."  
Watch how clearly the male-female Adam species comes through when we ... provide consistent plural terms:  
Then God said, "Let us make [the Adam, the human species] in our image, in our likeness, and let them [See the plural? It has always been there!] rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
So God created [the Adam] in his [God's] own image, in the image of God he created [the Adam]; male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
God created the Adam in both  male and female models.
God blessed and empowered "them" not "him."
When God created [the Adam], he made [the Adam] in the likeness of God. He [God] created them male and female; at the time they were created, he [God] blessed them and called them "man" ["Adam"].  Genesis 5:1-2
Even the footnote enclosed with that deceptive generic pronoun which has deceived us English readers, "man" takes us to the bottom of the page ... in order to tell us the truth: "Hebrew adam."  It is a simple matter to return through the text and replace every masculine pronoun with the Hebrew noun "the Adam."

This "Adam" business is ... complicated by the fact that after the human failure and sin reported in Genesis 3, the male takes the species name.  Adam forever after denotes the first male in the human drama. But it is clear that Adam in Genesis 1 and in Genesis 5 includes both the male and the female: "They" are Adam.

God blessed and empowered "them," not "him."   

Dr. Joy goes on to say, 
I drank deeply at the fountain which intoxicated us with the idea that "men are in charge."  "Take control" is what we thought Adam heard.  And we bought easily into that model of masculinity ...  We are especially placed in charge of everything, we thought - the male bonus.  This reflective second look at Creation came with a painful jolt.  It is clear that God empowered the man and the woman: to produce children and to creatively manage this planet, "have dominion!" some translations read.  "Take charge."  But nowhere is one of them to dominate [have dominion or take charge over] the other...

The Genesis 2 story describes the formation of "the Adam" as solitary...

Solitary but not male...

then as a final Creation touch to make "them" truly "in the image of God" ...

a God, who the author points out is also referenced by the plural pronoun...

God splits the Adam...

God takes the solitary human creation and makes them two, one distinctly male and one distinctly female.

The surgery opens the tsela [Greek: pleura] and builds up the woman from ... parts of the Adam.  When finished, God has formed Woman [Hebrew: Ishshah] ... When the residual, left-over male parts revive, the first man [Hebrew: Ish] awakens...

But isn't it true that Paul teaches that the husband is the "head" of woman?

On the matter of "head" and man's responsibility in St. Paul, notice that translators have not served us well ... inserting a heading between Ephesians 5:21 and 22 which complicates the "head" and "submission of women" passage ... You can see that "submit" appears in [Ephesians] verse 21 and is bi-lateral.  What follows explains how submission and care work mutually - both ways.  What is frightening is that more careful translations tend to use italics to show where English words are provided when no Greek words are actually there.  So, the New American Standard on my desk, which observes this practice, honestly puts submission in perspective ... Inspired Scripture omitted "submission" or "subject to" specifically in addressing the woman's responsibility (verse 22) and allowed the term only in the double-edged verse (21): "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ."  And the entire focus of the verse is predominantly addressed to men on respecting their "body," their wife. 

Note the metaphorical use, not literal.  A wife is not a husband's body literally, but they are so intrinsically connected that what he does to her he does to himself, as to his own body.  Likewise, the husband is not the head of a wife literally; he is as interconnected with her as a head is with a body - they are one flesh.  The head doesn't rule over the body any more than the body rules over the head - they must submit to each other - as the Dr. Joy has pointed out that the text clearly states.  In fact, the entire relationship is then paralleled to Christ and the church, a relationship of mutual submission - that's right! Mutual! For Christ did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but instead became a servant submitting to death, death even on a cross.  If anything, being likened unto the head in this context means that the husband must lay down his life like a servant to his wife, and she should cherish his sacrifice the way the church cherishes the blood of Christ.

The teaching climaxes in the unity focus and insists that the head and body are "one" in the creation sense!

Furthermore, the end of the argument is this: "Neverthelesseach one of you must also love his own wife as he loves himselfand the wife must respect her husband."  Mutual submission.

So let us admit that our brokenness likely distorts what we see in Scripture.   And let us at least ask why translators have ignored the sense of the passage by the way they break it up with side headings which separate a sentence from its only verb.  Are they, too, in the grasp of their own brokenness and tendencies to control or their preoccupation with locking women into passive and idolatry roles?  Yet the text itself is an elegant corrective to the very errors we have tended to think it teaches.

In every Pauline reference to creation and to headship, his conclusion is always the same: Unity in God's sight.  "Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For if woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God" (1 Cor 11:11-12).  How much more sense does this passage make when we look at Genesis as Dr. Joy invites us to, stepping out of our English translation paradigm?  "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28).  And in the one reference Paul makes about women not speaking in the church, he says "I" do not let a woman speak in the church - not that God has ordained such.  He references this decision to his cultural paradigm that man was created first (which he has already debunked in 1 Cor 11:11-12) but which is still his cultural paradigm, one he tempers with mutual submission in Ephesians, so he honors it.  I would be particularly interested to know if he is referring to the church or the synagogue here, as well, but the point remains.

As I study Paul's letters to the churches I am discovering his attempts to help a people of diverse backgrounds and cultures in pagan, polytheistic world understand what is imperative in Christ.  He does not oppose cultural teaching, for example, that says women should cut their hair when they pray (or else cover it) even though he concludes by saying, "If you're going to be contentious about this, the church has no such practice."  Throughout his letters he encourages the people to continue in their cultural heritage when their cultural heritage does not corrupt the essentials of Christianity, such as with immorality, because his premise was that gentiles did NOT have to give up being gentiles in order to be Christian.  Thus, if your culture doesn't allow women to teach in church, great. That's not what is important as long as you are practicing mutual submission that precludes the exploitation of women as if they are not human.  If you're a slave, stay a slave - as long as you don't engage in the practices of the flesh.  Paul doesn't advocate slavery anymore than he proclaims a Christian doctrine of male dominance.  He continues to bring his point back around to what is important: Unity and mutual edification in Christ.

They - male and female - are Adam.  I think if we were to truly understand that, we might be empowered to embody the principles Paul described when he told us we are one, head and body, created for mutual submission in order to survive, in order to live, in order to reflect the image of God in which we were created.

They are Adam.

We are Adam
.