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“It is not Good that the ‘Mensch’ Should be Alone; <BR>I Will Make Him/Her a Helper Fit for Him/Her” (Gen 2: 18)

“It is not Good that the ‘Mensch’ Should be Alone;
I Will Make Him/Her a Helper Fit for Him/Her” (Gen 2: 18)

by Walter Vogels

from Êglise et Théologie, 9 (1978), p. 9-35

To prove that women cannot perform the official function of teaching in the christian assembly, the Roman “Declaration on the question of the admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood” states: “For Saint Paul this prescription is bound up with the divine plan of creation (cf. l Cor 11: 7; Gen 2: 18-24): it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact”.(1)

This simple sentence touches upon two contemporary problems which are most complex. It raises the question of biblical interpretation, and of this so-called “divine plan of creation” which seems to determine the relations between man and woman. A quick look through recent books and periodicals convincingly shows that the methodology in biblïcal exegesis and the present status of women in society are both attracting a great deal of attention.

Our study contains three sections. We will first reflect upon some methodological principles used in biblical exegesis. Secondly, we will evaluate the current exegesis of Gen 2: 18-24 in which this “divine plan of creation” apparently is found.(2) Finally, we will attempt to arrive at a new understandïng of this biblical text.

I. Hermeneutical Problems

The Roman document refers to a particular biblical text (1 Cor 11: 2-16), in which Paul asks the woman to wear a veil when she prays and prophesies, while he does not request this of the man. “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man” (v. 7-8). Paul thus bases this difference upon an argument taken from Gen 1-2. The Roman document comments on the veil and says: “such requirements no longer have a normative value”,(3) but the document still considers the reason why Paul imposes the veil as normative and calls ït “the divine plan of creation: it would be difficult to see in it the expression of a cultural fact.”(4) We get the impression that the proof is still valid, but not what the proof attempts to prove. How do we determine what is “the expression of a cultural fact”, and therefore subject to change, from what is “the divine plan”?

After the document has referred us to Paul, we are sent back a step further since Paul, being an exegete himself, refers to Genesis. Without analyzing everything Paul says about Gen 1-2, we can easily say that his statement: “man is the image of God” (1 Cor 11: 7) as opposed to the woman “made from man” (v. 8) would not find much approval from modern exegetes. Paul, in considering the man as the image of God (v. 7), refers to Gen 1: 26, which belongs to the P-tradition, while his concept of the woman being taken from man is narrated in Gen 2: 21-22, which is attributed to the J-tradition. Most exegetes would question the validity of constructing a theological argument based upon a mixture of the two traditions, Paul seems to choose only those verses which are helpful in proving his point.(5) Even worse, Paul did not properly understand Gen l: 26. It is not said that man, as opposed to woman, is created as the image of God. On the contrary, the text affirms that ’adam, i.e. a human being, mankind, male and female, is created in the image of God (Gen 1: 26-27).(6)

We have here an interesting case of a document referrïng to a text of the New Testament, which in turn refers to the Old Testament. We are thus faced with the complïcated problem of how the New Testament interpreted the Old.(7) We can at least say that these interpretations are not normative, as can be seen from several examples. A classic example is in the Epistle to the Hebrews where it is said that Melchizedek is eternal because he has neither father nor mother (Heb 7: 3); we realize that this is reading an awful lot into the brief account of Melchizedek in Genesis (Gen 14: 18-20). Not only did the New Testament interpret the Old, new readings and interpretations were already given to older texts in the Old Testament writings themselves. When the oracles of the prophet Hosea, originally addressed to the Northern Kingdom, were reread in the South, new insights were given to them (Hos 1: 7). This is an example of the famous problem of the actualization of the Scriptures.(8) So we see that already in biblical times people reread the scriptures from their own perspective. Their interpretation was shaped by the new historical circumstances in which they were living. This has been the case throughout the centuries.

The history of the interpretation of Gen 1-11, of which the text here under study (Gen 2: 18-24) is a part, stimulates us to rethink some of our methodologies. When the Bible was the only source of information concerning creation, there were no difficulties. Why would one have doubted that God completed his work of creation in six days, or that he built the woman from the man’s rib? As the human mind probed complicated questions and as the scientific method became more refined, theories concerning the origin of man and his universe began to appear. These conflicted with the Biblical account. The time of the intervention of the Biblical Commission over the historical value of the three first chapters of Genesis (June 30, 1909) was not that long ago. We could recall the painful and difficult discussions which followed to determine precisely what these Roman documents said or did not say. As we look back at these documents, we feel that they said “yes, these chapters are historical”. But from the time they were published onwards there seemed to be a gradual shift in the interpretation of these documents. What had originally been read as “yes” came to be read as “no, these chapters are not historica!”.(9)

This famous struggle between science and the Bible is a rather unfortunate one, sometimes tragic, sometimes comic.(10) We all know that the sacred writer of Genesis, like other biblical writers, saw the earth as flat and not as a globe revolving around the sun. Such misunderstanding resulted in the condemnation of the scientist Galileo by Pope Paul V in the name of the Bible.(11) But we also have an opposite case in which science affïrms its discovery and method by use of Scripture. In the mid 1800’s, discussion arose in ecclesiastical circles concerning the morality of anaesthetics. James Young Simpson, a Scottish physician, discovered that the best proof of its morality was in the Bible. Since God had already practiced anaesthesia on Adam, so that he could take the rib to make the woman, the use of anaesthetics could not possibly be immoral.(12)

These are just two of many examples which show how we have used and abused the Bible. In one instance, the Bible was used to condemn the results of scientific methods; in the other, it was used to validate those methods. It has taken us quite some time to realize that the purpose of the Bible is not to teach us science. The biblical accounts of creation were expressed by a culture far different from our own. We now realize that and accept their scientific interpretation as inaccurate according to today’s knowledge. Though our reading of these biblical texts has changed, hopefully it has also been enriched.

New sciences have appeared, which have given us a much deeper and richer understanding of who men and women are. The sacred writer did not have access to, nor was he influenced by the information which today’s modern sciences of sociology, anthropology and psychology have offered to us. His society was one in which woman was definitely subservient to man.(13) Are we thus to interpret his writing as dogmatic in its regard to man-woman relationships, or are we simply to accept the mode of those relationships as cultural? Are we not forced to return to the same Scriptures enlightened by these new human sciences, and perhaps understand the texts differently? All the mistakes of the past, including the severe condemnations and human hurt, should be a lesson for us to have some kind of prudence in our attitude towards new sciences. Hopefully we have learned something from history.

Biblical exegesis using the historico-critical methodology believes itself to be very objective, to reach and to understand what the sacred writer had in mind, in his context, in his Sitz im Leben. Much research has gone on to discover the ipsissima verba... But in the study on woman in the Bible we notice some very surprising things, as we shall further develop in our second section. It may be sufficient here to give one typical example. Until very recently nearly all exegetes were men and Eve was often presented as the temptress.(14) Within the past few years more women have been working in the field of biblical studies and Eve, far from being the temptress, has become the first theologian.(15) We can certainly raise some questions while reading these two opposed interpretations, written by men and women, who supposedly apply the same objective historico-critical method. Who can prove who is right or wrong? Or rather must we not admit that we never can read a text “objectively”? Can any person be completely objective? Paul wanted to prove something, and turned to the Scriptures to prove his point. The Roman document wanted to prove something, and turned to Paul.

It has been said often that we have to take off our own glasses to read the Bible and to try to see the meaning intended by the author.(16) But the author too had his glasses. Are ours worse than, his? We cannot simply put his glasses on; we live in another world. The Bible can only maintain its richness for us, if we read it with our own glasses on. We cannot merely reread the writer’s story, his story must become our story.(17)

The Bible has had a great impact upon mankind. Various periods of history have read it differently: the Old Testament period rereading its own texts, the interpretations of the first Christians in the New Testament times, the patristic exegesis and parallel with this the rabbinic exegesis, the middle ages, and so on. We have hoped and believed that the historico-critical method of exegesis was the final answer, but times are changing and new methods are arising: the psycho-analytic approach, the structural analysis, and the materialistic reading of biblical texts. The classical method is under attack and we are searching for new and more meaningful ways to interpret Scripture.(18) We must be cautious not to pretend to practice exegesis and to accuse others of eisegesis.

Our effort while studying Gen 2: 18-24 will not be a continuous search for what the Yahwist intended to say in his time for his readers. We want to return to this text, and read it from a contemporary perspective where the relations between men and women have changed and are still changing. The discovery of Galileo was an event which has forced us to reread the Scriptures in a deeper way. Might we also suppose that our new understanding of man-woman relationships influence and enrich our reading of the Scriptures?(19)

II. Equal but Superior and Inferior

It is a most exciting experience to go through the history of the exegesis of Gen 2: 18-24. This text has attracted the attention of many believers: the Fathers of the Church had much to say about Adam and Eve, so did the Rabbis and Jewish tradition; scientists have had problems with it; poets and painters have been inspired by it.(20) Believers and unbelievers alike know the story of Adam’s rib, which has become the source of numerous jokes throughout the ages.

If we limit ourselves to the more recent exegesis of this text we can notice a great change in its interpretation. From amongst the numerous studies, let us start with one which summarizes rather well the position of most exegetes ten to fifteen years ago. J. de Fraine gives the following commentary on Gen 2: 18-24:

Whatever may have been the nature of that part of Adam’s body which was taken from him, the meaning of the narrative is clear enough: man and woman constitute an indissoluble unity. The woman can be thought of only as a part of the man. By means of this image, three ideas are expressed:

1) The solid bond between husband and wife (Eph 5: 28-29);

2) The special dignity of the man: “because a husband is head of the wife” (Eph 5: 23). For this reason: “woman is the glory of man” (1 Cor 11: 7). On the other hand she must be subject to him (1 Tm 2: 12-13).

3) The natural equality between man and woman (1 Cor 11: 12).(21)

When compared with earlier works, De Fraine’s commentary is most generous in its description of woman’s relationship to man. Yet, is it not strange that on the one hand he says that man and woman are equal, while on the other hand he says that woman must be subject to the man? Such an attitude, which has been characteristic of both theology and exegesis,(22) is also expressed in the recent Roman document. Some rather legitimizing explanations have been given such as, equal does not mean identical, but that each person has his/her own function.(23) But let us be honest, basically this means: man and woman are equal, but he is superior and she is inferior. This was considered the meaning of the biblical text (Gen 2: 18-24), and constitutes “the divine plan of creation”.

Influenced by the Woman’s Liberation movement and also the increased number of women exegetes, this text has been reread and reinterpreted. The result now being: man and woman are equal, but she is superior and he is inferior.

We will now examine the most significant arguments of the exegetes belonging to the first group, and compare them with the arguments of the second group, to see who will win the battle for superiority in equality!

1. The Man is created first

The author of 1 Timothy obviously considered this a valid argument for the subservience of woman. “During instruction, a woman should be quiet and respectful. I am not giving permission for a woman to teach or to tell a man what to do. A woman ought not to speak, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards” (7 Tim 2: 11-13). And indeed, according to the J-tradition the man is the first work of creation (Gen 2: 7). Therefore, the man was first in the mind of the Creator, everything was given to him. Obviously, the entire story centers around him. We might also remember the prominence given the first-born son in the biblical narratives.924)

But these arguments are now reversed. The concept of the first-born cannot be invoked here. The fact that the woman appears at the end of creation, far from showing her inferiority, proves her superiority to man. All exegetes know that in the priestly account of creation mankind appeared as the last work of the last day (Gen 1: 26 ff.). They all agree that the whole story was built towards the creation of mankind, everything was ready to receive mankind as king of the universe. If in all logic we apply the same principle, then we must admit that the woman, who was created last in the J-tradition (Gen 2: 21-22), must also be the crown of God’s creation.(25) There are a number of mythological texts as well as quite a few jokes stating that God after creating man and the animals got more experience. He did not succeed too well in the creation of the animals,(26) but finally created his masterpiece, the woman. The special dignity of the woman is further stressed by the fact that God only took counsel for her creation (2: 18), as he did for the creation of mankind in the P-tradition (1: 26).27 And finally, man’s creation is narrated in a single verse (2: 7), while the creation of woman is much more elaborate, thereby emphasizing her importance.(28)

2. The Woman is taken from the Man

This is considered another strong argument showing the superiority of the man. Paul makes reference to such superiority when he says: “for man was not made from woman, but woman from man” (1 Cor 11: 8). And indeed, the biblical text says that Yahweh took the rib min hâ’adâm “from the man”. Necessarily, the whole is superior to the part.(29)

An argument from such a position can have some rather strange conclusions. The sacred writer says that “Yahweh God formed man of dust min hâ’adâmâh from the earth”. Here is expressed exactly the same min “from” as in the account of the creation of the woman. Consequently, the earth from which man was taken, must be superior to the man. It can be argued that life is of a superior quality when it is derived from life as is the case of woman. In such an argument, man would be considered inferior, since he was created from non-living matter.(30) As to the manner in which man and woman were created, some exegetes place considerable stress upon the different verbs used to describe the creation of each. Though Yahweh “fashioned” man (2: 7), he “built” the woman (2: 22). Since “built” in Hebrew connotes a reliability which is not suggested in the previous verb, the vocabulary alone confirms woman’s superiority.(31)

3. The Woman is the helper of the Man

Yahweh puts the man in the garden to take care of it; he clearly indicates that everything is centered towards the man. Having entrusted the garden to man, God wants to give him even more: “It is not good that the man should be alone: I will make him a helper fit for him” (2: 18). So the woman was made as his helper.(32) Paul seems to agree with this, when he writes: “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor 11: 9). Much has been written on the words “helper”, “fit for him”, and what this entails. In actuality, the “helper” has most often become the “servant”.

A more precise study of the word ‘êzèr “helper” has shown that it is rarely used for a human being. Most often it refers to God. God is the helper of man.(33) Yet it would be difficult to consider man superior to God. The “helper” therefore does not imply that woman is inferior to man,(34) but rather it implies that man needs her, he cannot live without her. Thus when Genesis speaks of woman as man’s helper, it places her in a relationship to man similar to that of God when it speaks of him as man’s assistant.(35)

4. The Woman is weaker than the Man and was therefore tempted first

Not only did the man know that he was superior to the woman, but the serpent also was aware of her inferiority. The history of exegesis once again provides us with a rich variety of explanations as to just why the serpent tempted the woman first (Gen 3: 1). The answer is very simple: since woman is weaker and more curious than man, the serpent had a greater chance of success.(36) And from there followed the long tradition of Eve the temptress, while man was almost totally innocent. “In woman was sin’s beginning, and because of her we all die” (Sir 25: 23); “Adam, was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tm 2: 14).37

The obvious reason why the serpent speaks first to the woman is because of the symbolism in the story. The serpent, who is related to the cult of fertility and fecundity speaks to the woman because it is she who gives life.(38) It was not an uncommon practice in some ancient Near-Eastern cultures for women to visit the serpent-goddess that they might have children, but this was done with the consent of their husbands. “And the women said, ‘when we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out libations to her, was it without our husband’s approval that we made cakes for her bearing her image and poured out libations to her?’ ” (Jer 44: 19). It is this type of approval which took place in the garden: “She gave some also to her husband who was with her” (Gen 3: 6). The whole text seems to suggest that he was there with her, from the beginning, and did not object whatsoever.

Several exegetes are now inclined to reverse the roles. According to them, the woman seems to be the superior figure of the story.(39) The serpent chooses her because if she eats, the man will automatically follow her behavior. The woman does the talking, she gives the answers, she interprets the divine commandment, she appreciates and judges, while the man simply takes the fruit and eats. She comes cut as a much stronger personality, while he only thinks of his stomach. The following commentary is typical for such an understanding of the text:

Still, there is something comical in the image of the man standing there and never entering into the conversation at all, never intervening to stop the temptation, leaving the woman to do the talking, thinking, deciding, acting, and only at the end reaching out his hand to accept and eat what his wife put into his hand. Such an interpretation certainly turns the tables on all claims for the natural inferiority of the woman.(40)

For years, many have thought of Eve as the temptress and of Adam as her poor innocent victim; now, surprisingly enough, some refer to Eve as the theologian and to Adam as the brute.(41)

5. The Woman is supposed to listen to the voice of the Man

A very strange argument arises from Yahweh’s condemnation of the man after his sin “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife...” (Gen 3: 17). This is considered very bad because it is not the husband who should listen to his wife; he is the head of the family, therefore it is she who should listen to the voice of her husband.(42)

Realistically, such a conclusion is highly unlikely. In the whole text the woman never spoke a word to her husband. The text simply says: “She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it” (3: 6). There is a word play in the text around the verb “to listen to the voice”. Emphasis should not be placed upon whether the man or the woman listen to and obey one another, but whether they both listen to and obey the voice of Yahweh: “they heard the voice of Yahweh” (3: 8), “I heard your voice” (3: 10). The man should not have followed his wife, whether she invited her husband by her word or by simply passing him the fruit.

Jean M. Higgins comments on this even further. She suggests that since Eve did not speak (3: 6), “because you have listened to the voice of your wife” (3: 17) does not refer at all to the action of Eve, but rather to Adam’s own defense (3: 12).

God’s reply picks up this defense: “Well, then, since (you say your excuse is your wife gave it to you, implying that) you listened to the voice of your wife (as if that, or anything else, could be more important than listening to the voice of your God) and ate of the tree which I commanded you not to eat... Here is your punishment”.(43)

We could go on and on, reading the same texts, using the same methods, and proving that man and woman are equal, while at the same time proving that one is superior to the other.(44) Such reasoning is based upon a mentality of desire and struggle for power. Even the word “equality” is too often linked with the idea of equal rights, implying that someone who has been oppressed has finally obtained equal treatment. In the Biblical tradition that struggle for power between human beings appears only after sin has been introduced into the world, “yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen 3: 16). The “ruling” is not normal, it should not be the case. That the man rules over the woman is not part of God’s original plan, it is rooted in sin, it is evil.(45) If one accepts the interpretation that the woman’s “desire” is her desire to control her husband, then the text would already refer to the struggle of the sexes.(46) None of this is normal. What is described here is the state of disharmony resulting from sin. In Gen 2 we have a description of something most beautiful, a dream world, an ideal, a wishful thinking.(47) In a world ruled by love, no one speaks of rights, equality, superiority, oppression, liberation. It is evil and sin which opposes and divides us.

An old Jewish text of the Talmud has captured this in a very beautiful and poetic way.(48)

Woman was created from the rib of man,
not from his head to be above him,
nor his feet to be walked upon,
but from his side to be equal
near his arm to be protected
and close to his heart to be loved.

III. MENSCH: MAN AND WOMAN

To avoid the shortcomings of the preceding commentators, we will try to apply a new methodology.(49) Though we do not propose a complete structural analysis of the text, our approach is inspired by some of the presuppositions of this method.(50)

1. We respect the text as we have it now. The historico-critical exegesis has shown us the difference between Gen 1: 1-2: 4a and Gen 2: 4b-25 attributing the first to the P-tradition and the second to the J-tradition.(51) An example which is often cited to compare these two traditions is the order in creation. In P, man and woman were created together (Gen 1: 26-27), while in J man was created, first (Gen 2: 7) and the woman much later (Gen 2: 20-23).(52) Some exegetes have even suggested that we have here two different, even contradictory conceptions of woman.(53) But while insisting upon the differences of these traditions, we have lost the sense of unity.

Did not the final redactor, who placed these two chapters one after the other have some kind of reasoning? If the text were all that contradictory, would he not have made some other arrangements? The whole text is perhaps more harmonious than has often been suggested.(54) So, let us take the entire text as it stands. A. J. Greimas, who has developed a method of structural analysis, insists upon this principle: “en dehors du texte pas de salut” (outside of the text no salvation).

2. A narrative has its own particular structure and respects a specific grammar, called the narrative grammar. Each story can be composed of various sub-narratives. The section under discussion (Gen 2: 18-24) can be easily considered as such a narrative, though part of a larger story, it is complete in itself, and as we will see, it contains some of the basic elements of the narrative structure. It is only by respecting these structures, that a text can function and produce sense.

3. A text plays on basic oppositions. Language, like any other way of human communication, is symbolic, and semiotics shows how meaning appears by contrasts. For example, a red light is only a stop light when it is contrasted with a green light; which of the two is first or last, which is superior or inferior is irrelevant. The one takes its meaning by being placed in opposition to the other.

4. A last observation concerns vocabulary. The Hebrew text of the creation story uses three different terms: hâ’âdâm, ’îš, ’îššâh. In the English vocabulary we have only two terms: man and woman (in French: homme — femme). This can cause confusion. The term “man” in some cases can refer simply to a human being, a male or a female; or it may indicate a “man” as opposed to a woman. Like Hebrew, the Germanic languages have three terms. In German we have: Mensch, Mann, Frau; in Dutch: mens, man, vrouw. Such designation avoids all possible misunderstandings. “Mensch” is the common term applicable to both man or woman. We will therefore use this German term in our study whenever we speak about a human being without specification of sex. A problem remains though. In German, the term “der Mensch” is masculine, and is therefore referred to by he or him, but it would be more accurate to use both pronouns he/she or him/her.


The beginning of the story describes a kind of desert, because there was no rain (Gen 2: 4-5), and also “there was no ‘adam to till the ground (hâ’adâmâh)”. Consequently, the first thing God does is: “Yahweh God fashioned hâ’âdâm of dust from the ground min hâ’adâmâh” (v. 7). Normally, exegetes consider this the creation of the man because later on in the story we read the description of the creation of the woman, and also, because later in Genesis ’dm used without the article becomes the proper name of the first man: Adam. Instead of looking at what follows, we should look at what has preceded our narrative and begin reading our story after chapter one. There we already come across the same term: “Let us make ’âdâm” (Gen 1: 26), “God created hâ’âdâm in his own image [...] male and female he created them” (Gen 1: 27). Here the term ’dm is used as a collective term for mankind, the Mensch.(55) All exegetes agree that ’dm has this meaning in Gen 1: 26-27.56 With this in mind, when we reach Gen 2: 5 we should in all logic understand the text as “there was no Mensch (= nobody) to till the ground” (v. 5). Therefore, God decides to create mankind “Yahweh God fashioned the Mensch of dust from the ground” (v. 7).(57) The text does not speak of a man but of a Mensch.(58) The man is not created first, but Mensch.

God then plants that beautiful garden, and “Yahweh God took the Mensch and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it” (v. 15; cf. already v. 8). The garden is thus given to mankind, not only to a man, but to the Mensch. And this is in perfect correspondence with what we observe today, for both men and women “cultivate” the earth. Such interpretation is in full harmony with the preceding story of the P tradition where God told mankind to “conquer the earth” (1: 28).

There is but one restriction, “And Yahweh God gave the Mensch this admonition...” (v. 16-17). It is not only the man who receives this commandment, it applies to the woman as well, as we shall see very clearly in the story of the fall (Gen 3). “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, ‘You [plural] must not eat...” (3: 2-3). Exegetes have wondered how the woman was informed of this divine commandment. Did the man tell it to the woman? Did she also receive a “revelation” from God? Though there are numerous other explanations to this age old question, they all become irrelevant in out suggested explanation.

The text now reaches the narrative under discussion: “Yahweh God said, ‘It is not good that the Mensch should be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him’ ” (v. 18).(59) The Mensch is a social being, which is true not only for the man, but also for the woman. “Helper” here does not mean that the Mensch would need someone to help cultivate the soil. The Mensch as a human being already has this function. But the Mensch needs someone to relate to. It is not good for a man to be alone, but neither is it good for a woman.(60) In the P account, after God had created the Mensch, male and female (Gen 1: 26-27), he said that “it was very good” (1: 31). While here in the J tradition, God sees that it is “not good”, because there is not yet the relational dimension in the Mensch.

God then creates the animals like the Mensch from the ground. “So out of the groundmin hâ’adâmâh Yahweh God formed every beast...” (v. 19), and God brings them to the Mensch and “The Mensch gave names to all cattle...” (v. 20). This name-giving indicates the dominion of the Mensch over the animals, which again corresponds perfectly with what the preceding chapter had said: “and let them be masters of the [...] cattle...” (Gen 1: 26). This had been said about the Mensch even before the distinction between male and female had been mentioned (1: 27). “But no helpmate suitable for a Mensch was found for him” (v. 20), the animals are not relational creatures for the Mensch. Only a Mensch can really relate to a Mensch; no animal can ever take the place of a human person.

The writer goes on to speak about the creation of man and woman in the story of the rib, just as in the P story God created the Mensch as both male and female (1: 27). Many questions have been raised about the meaning of this story and the reason why woman was made from man’s rib: is the rib symbolically related to the moon;(61) is it not merely the rib of man but his whole side;(62) is it related to some popular stories of the tail;(63) is it simply a word expressing life?(64) Whatever the explanations may be, something is taken from the Mensch and two new beings appear. Though the ancient theories of androgyne(65) may or may not have inspired the sacred writer, the concept involved is very similar. Out of one creature two creatures appear; mankind has two facets.(66) And now “the Mensch exclaimed: ‘This one at last is bone from my bone, and flesh of my flesh. This one shall be called woman ’îššâh for this one was taken from man ’îš” (v. 23). There now appears for the first time in the story woman ’îššâh and man ’îš.67 Previously, there was only the Mensch. Upon waking up out of his sleep he recognizes that he is a man and that he is in the presence of a woman.68 Earlier, while in the presence of the animals the Mensch had recognized himself as a human being. The notion “man” has no meaning when there is not “woman”, for the one receives identity from the other. If there were only “men” or if there were only “women”, we could only speak of Mensch. Here now the Mensch has received his perfect counterpart. Man and woman, complement each other because there is not a totally different

dgen 2: 18 31

dcreature created69 since it has been taken from the very same bone and flesh.70 In the meaning of the animals, Mensch has expressed authority over them (v. 20). Here, no human being has authority over the other: “this one shall be called...” (v. 23). Men and women call men “men”; and call women “women”.71 Neither is superior or inferior; these concepts, are totally irrelevant for this text.

d“Therefore a man ’îš leaves, his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife be’îšto and they become one flesh” (v. 24). The sacred writer is very accurate in his use of the two new terms: man and woman. The two had been one in the beginning, there was only a Mensch. The Mensch has become man and woman, they are now to return to each other as individual persons, to become one again.72 This re-union may eventually create new life, a Mensch in the womb of the mother, until the child appears as a male or as a female. This text affirms what is said in the Priestly story, after the statement that the Mensch is male and female they were instructed to “be fruitful and multiply” (1: 28). We may also notice

d32 WALTER VOGELS

dthe detail that it is the man who leaves his father and mother to join himself to his wife. 73

dAfter this description of the ideal world, our text moves on to the story of the Fall, describing the present world in which we live. Once again, the writer is precise in his terminology; together as man and woman they have sinned. “So when the woman ha’issah saw the tree [...] she ate, and she also gave some to her husband le’isah, who was with her, and he ate” (3: 6). Some manuscripts have: “and they ate”, stressing even more their common action.

dIn the story of the divine judgment the term ha’adam Mensch reappears, though it was commonly interpreted as referring only to the man, in most instances it applies to both man and woman. The punishment of the Mensch, a life of toil ending in death (v. 17-19), applies equally to both man and woman.74 If it applied only to man, then according to the text, woman would never die! But the sacred writer saw around him and realized that besides these sufferings which were common to both, the woman has more to undergo. The new life which she brings into the world is a joy, but only after much pain in childbearing (v. 16a),75 and because generally speaking she is physically weaker than man, man has often abused and oppressed her. The woman has kept her desire for her husband, but he has abused it, “yet your desire shall be for your husband isek and he shall rule over you” (v. 16b).76 Once again, the writer is very precise in his choice of the term ’îš, he speaks very clearly here about deformed man-woman relationship.

dThat “the Mensch called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (v. 20) may indicate this broken

dgen 2: 18 33

dharmony. It is only now that he gives her a name. Even though the name Eve may sometimes be considered a title of honour, here it shows his dominion over her, which is different from his cry of recognition “this one shall be called...” (2: 23).77

dThe story concludes with the expulsion from the garden, where the term Mensch is used once again (vv. 22-24). “He drove out ha’adam the Mensch” (v. 24). Indeed it was both the man and the woman who were expelled from paradise. “Therefore Yahweh God expelled him from the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he had been taken” (v. 23). This corresponds perfectly with our interpretation: the Mensch was taken from the ground, and the Mensch has to till the ground; as we have said before this is true for both man and woman.

dThe above interpretation78 was based upon some presuppositions inspired by structural analysis.

d1. By taking the text as it is, we noticed the harmony which existed in the two biblical stories of creation. The two traditions have basically the same teaching: God creates the Mensch (1: 26 // 2: 7); the Mensch appears at the same time as male and female (1: 27) or as woman and man (2: 23). Both, as man and woman, create new life (1: 28 // 2: 24), both as Mensch have the common mission to work at the development of the world: “to conquer the earth” (1: 28) or “to till the ground” (3: 23; cf. 2: 5.15); both again as Mensch are masters over the animals (1: 26.28 // 2: 19-20). What we did not develop in our study is that both as Mensch have a special link with God, “Let us make ’dm Mensch in our own image, in the likeness of ourselves” (1: 26.27). “Then [Yahweh] breathed

d34 WALTER VOGELS

_into his [’dm, Mensch] nostrils a breath of life” (2: 7; this breath of life is special for the Mensch, it does not take place in the creation of the animals 2: 19). /P>

_2. Every text respects a narrative grammar. It would be most enlightening to give a full structural analysis of Gen 2: 18-24. We could determine the different “actants”: sender and receiver, object and subject, opponent and helper. We could also study the different functions; the qualifying, main and glorifying tests, which are present in the text. One principle of structural analysis is very evident in this narrative and helpful towards its understanding, A narrative always begins with something negative, an absence or a lack, and concludes with a positive, the fulfillment of what was missing or a restoration. A story then is the transformation of a negative into a positive. By being aware of such a principle one will find great correlation between the beginning and the end of a story.79

_This kind of movement is very evident in our Genesis narrative (2: 18-24). In the beginning of the text Mensch is one; Mensch is alone. This is considered a lack, something is missing, it is not good for the Mensch to be alone (v. 18). And thus, our story can begin. At the end of the story Mensch is again one, but the Mensch is no longer alone, because Mensch is man and woman, “and they become one flesh” (v. 24). A transformation has taken place, the oneness which was loneliness has become a oneness of relationship.

_3. A text always plays on basic oppositions.80 This is made even more clear in this story by some of the word plays.81 To see this we must keep in mind the clear distinction between Mensch, man and woman. The writer has played with several popular etymologies: between ’dm and ’dmh: Mensch and ground. Mensch

dgen 2: 18 35

dwas taken from the ground (2: 7; 3: 19.23), to till the ground (2: 5; 3: 23), and he will return to the ground (3: 19). Thus we are aware of a very basic relationship between Mensch and ground. Another opposition exists between Mensch and animals (2: 20). And still another popular word play exists between ’îš - ’issah, man and woman.82 As mentioned previously, our writer is very precise. When he refers to that very special relationship between the two, he uses these terms. Once again, this stresses that there can only be a man if there is a woman.

dCONCLUSION

dThe concepts of superiority or inferiority, even of equality seem to be absent from this biblical story (Gen 2: 18-24). A “divine plan of creation” in which man would be the head of the woman is not apparent. The text speaks about the Mensch who is a relational creature, which he lives as man or woman. In the beginning this was a very unique and harmonious relationship, in which the two were really one (2: 24). Sin destroyed something of this relationship, and introduced struggle for power and oppression, concepts of superiority, and equality (3: 16). We still dream of that lost ideal, and many men and women have attempted to restore that unique relationship,83

dWalter vogels, W. F.

dSaint Paul University

Footnotes

1. Declaratio “Inter insigniores,” Acta Apostolicae Sedis, 69 (1977), § 20, p. 106.

2. Another article in this issue will treat the N.T. texts.

3. Declaration, § 20, p. 106.

4. Declaration, § 20, p. 106.

5. A similar argument has been used by some exegetes in their interpretation of Gen 6: 1-4. The “sons of God” are simply the men, because man is created in the image of God, while the “daughters of men” would be the women, because the woman is taken from the man. Cf., J. B. Bauer, “Videntes filii Dei filias hominum,” in Verbum Domini, 31 (1953), pp. 95-100.

6. One is therefore surprised to still read such an argument to prove that the Biblical tradition considers the female inferior: “For example, in the Old Testament the female is not regarded as fully human. Only the male is human, i.e. created in the image of God” (H. W. Richardson, Nun, Witch, Playmate. The Americanization of Sex [N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1971], p. 12).

7. On the question of the New Testament interpretation of the Old, e.g,, K. Stendahl, The School of St. Matthew and its Use of the Old Testament (Acta Seminarii Neotestamentici Upsaliensis, XX; Uppsala: Almqvist and Wiksell, Lund: C.W.K. Gleerup, 1954).

8. F. Dreyfus, “L’actualisation a l’intérieur de la Bible,” in Revue Biblique, 83 (1976), pp. 161-202, especially “Le fondement de l’actualisation a l’intérieur de la Bible; l’unité diachronique et synchronique du peuple de Dieu”, p. 165 ff.; “actualisation et fidélité à la parole primitive”, p. 194 ff.

9. Pont. Commissio de Re Biblica: Responsum VI, 30 Junii 1909 de charactere historico trium priorum capitum Geneseos, in Enchiridion Biblicum, Romae, 1956, n. 336-343; The letter to Cardinal Suhard, “de tempore documentorum Pentateuchi et de genere litterario undecim priorum capitum Geneseos”, 16 Januarii 1948, in Enchiridion Biblicum, n, 577-581; The Encyclical Letter “Humani Generis”, 12 Augusti 1950, in Enchiridion Biblicum, especially n, 615-618. For some further comments H. Renckens, Israel’s Concept of the Beginning (N.Y.: Herder and Herder, 1964), pp. 234-243; H. Cazelles, Introduction à la Bible, tome II: Introduction critique à l’Ancien Testament (Paris: Desclée et Cie, 1973), on “Interventions du Magistère Ecclésiastique”, pp. 134-139.

10. A. D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (N.Y.: Dover Publications, 1960), 2 vol. [= 1896].

11. A. D. White, A History of the Warfare..,, vol. I, chap. III develops the whole story of Galileo, pp. 114-170. In reference to the condemnation of Galileo in 1616 by Paul V, “The doctrine of the double motion of the earth about its axis and about the sun is false, and entirely contrary to Holy Scripture” (p. 138).

12. A. D. White, A History of the Warfare,.., Vol. II, on the question of “Theological opposition to inoculation, vaccination, and the use of anaesthetics,” pp. 55-63. “Simpson wrote pamphlet after pamphlet to defend the blessing which he brought into use [i.e. chloroform]; but he seemed about to be overcome, when he seized a new weapon, probably the most absurd by which a great cause was ever won: ‘My opponents forget’ he saïd, ‘the twenty-first verse of the second chapter of Genesis; it is the record of the first surgical operation ever performed, and that text proves that the Maker of the Universe, before he took the rib from Adam’s side for the creation of Eve, caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam’” (p. 63). This was in 1847.

13. R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel. Its life and Institutions (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961): “The position of women, widows”, pp. 39-40; P. K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female. A Study in Sexual Relationships from a Theological Point of View (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1975): “Women in the Old Testament and in Judaism” pp. 86-94; R. H. langley, “the Role of Women in the Church,” in Southwestern Journal of Theology, 19, (1977), pp. 60-72, “Women in Judaism,” pp. 61-63.

14. G. von Rad, Genesis (London: SCM Press, 1961): “The one who has been led astray now becomes a temptress” (p. 87); J. M. Higgins, “The Myth of Eve: The Temptress,” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 44 (1976), pp. 639-647, where she gives interesting quotations along this line.

15. P. Trible, “Biblical Theology as Women’s Work,” in Religion in Life, 44 (1975), pp. 7-13. “Eve is a theologian, as seen in her conversation with the serpent in which she both quotes God and supplies a commentary on the quotation (Gen 2: 2-3)” (p. 8). Not only Eve, but a few other women of the Bible receive a rather important role: “Ruth the radical; the women (the Hebrew midwives) of the Exodus, deliverers; the woman of the Song of Songs, poet and dancer; Ms. Job the wise woman; and Eve the theologian: figures of faith from the world of ancient Israel” (p. 12).

16. M. J. Williams, “The Man/Woman Relationship in the New Testament,” in Churchman, 91 (1977), pp. 33-46, especially p. 33.

17. On this question see the comments on the book of D. Nineham, The Use and Abuse of the Bible, Macmillan, in The Expository Times, 88 (1977), pp. 193-196. “It is impossible, therefore, to apply the Bible directly to our own situation since that situation is new and unique — ‘we “have not passed this way heretofore” ’. The ‘story’ which the New Testament writers were led to tell cannot be our ‘story’; we have to tell our own [...] This will not be simply a fresh understanding of the biblical ‘story’, [...] and will emphatically not be a ‘translation’ of that story. Only our ‘story’ will meet our situation. Yet our ‘story’ will be linked with the New Testament ‘story’ since by ‘thinking after’ the thoughts of those people in the past we shall have our understanding deepened and enlarged” (p. 195); J. Ashton, “What Use is the Bible Now?”, in The Month, 108 (1977), pp. 185-190; L. Grollenberg, “De vraag van het feminism aan de Bijbel,” in Tijdschrift voor Theologie, 15 (1975), pp. 378-393 gives a few interesting observations on methodology in this respect.

18. A few recent publications on the new methodologies: R. Barthes and others, Exégèse et Herméneutique, ed. X. Leon-Dufour (Coll. Parole de Dieu; Paris: Seuil, 1971); O. C. Edwards, “Historical-critical Method’s Failure of Nerve and a Prescription for a Tonic: A review of some recent literature,” in Angl. Theol. Rev., 59 (1977), pp. 115-134; The whole issue of Una Sancta, 32 (1977), n. 1: “Neue Zugänge zur Bibel”, especially H. Harsch, “Psychologische Interpretation biblischer Texte”, pp. 39-45; K. Füssel, “Was heisst materialistische Lektüre der Bibel?”, pp. 46-54; T. Schramm, “Selbsterfahrung als Schlüssel zur Bibel,” pp. 55-62; O. Betz, “Biblische Texte als Schlüssel zur Wirklichkeit,” pp. 63-69.

19. This problem of the Bible and Woman is similar to that of the Bible and slavery, R. Ruether, “Sexism and Liberation: The Historical Experience,” in From Machismo to Mutuality. Essays in Sexism and Woman-Man Liberation, ed. E. C. Bianchi, R. R. Ruether (N.Y.: Paulist Press, 1976), pp. 7-22. “Not only was the status of women similar to slaves, but these two categories had been traditionally linked together in patriarchal law. That is why in the O.T. passages dealing with the duties of woman and those of slaves tend to appear together” (p. 10). “The example of slavery, like the ordination question, involved theological reflection, intertwined with social custom, and was based on certain scriptural texts, especially: 1 Cor 7: 20; Col 3: 22-23; 4: 1; Philemon. As late as 1866, the Holy Office wrote to a bishop in Africa stating that slavery itself, considered as such in its essential nature, is not at all contrary to the natural and divine law. In so approving slavery, the Holy Office relied on the authority of Scripture, the consensus of canonists and theologians, and episcopal approval especially from the United States. In its later condemnation of slavery (Vatican II “The Church today”), the Church realized that its prior approval was the result of cultural bondage and not an authentic statement of the Christian heritage” (J. R. Donahue, “Women, Priesthood and the Vatican,” in America, 136 [1977], April 2, p. 285).

20. P. Termes, “La formacion de Eva en los Padres Griegos hasta San Juan Crisostomo inclusive,” in Miscellanea Biblica B. Ubach(Montserrat, 1954), pp. 31-48; id., “La formacion de Eva en los Padres Latinos hasta San Agustin inclusive,” in Est. Ecclesiasticos, 34 (1960), pp. 421-459; T. Reik, La création de la femme. Essai sur le mythe d’Eve (Bruxelles: Ed. Complexe, f1975); the first part of his book gives a survey on these different approaches: “Le mythe et le mystere d’Eve”, pp. 12-79.

21. J. de Fraine, The Bible and the Origin of Man (N.Y.: Desclee, 1962), pp. 44-45.

22. A few examples may illustrate this: C. Hauret, Origines, Genèse I-III (Paris: Gabalda, 1953): “Par sa structure, la Femme est de même nature que 1’homme, dépend de lui, forme avec lui une seule personne morale” (p. 106). She has the same nature, but depends on man; H. Renckens, Israel’s Concept of the Beginning (N.Y.: Herder and Herder, 1964): “For if man and woman are indeed equal, this does not mean that they are identical... (in the original dutch edition his statement is more confusing: “Gelijkwaardigheid is echter geen gelijkheid” [Israel’s visie op het verleden (Tielt: Lannoo, 1956), p. 176]. And if the woman’s weakness indicates not her inferiority but rather her vocation to be a helpmeet, then the man’s strength is a sign not of his superiority but of his vocation as a leader and a protector” (pp. 226-227); E. Maly, Genesis, in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. R. E. Brown, J. A. Fitzmyer, E. Murphy (Englewoods Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1968), “Woman complements man [...] has a similar nature [...] But woman’s existence, psychologically and in the social order, is dependent on man” (p. 12); I. Raming, The Exclusion of Women from the Priesthood: Divine Law or Sex Discrimination? (Metuchen: The Scarecrow Press, 1976), Chap. 6. Exegetical excursus on the (patristic) scriptural proof for the subordination of Women, p. 98-116; A special issue on “Women in Jewish and Christian Tradition”, in Sidic, 9 (1976), n. 3; L. Y. Steinitz. “A Feminist Perspective on the Jewish Woman”, p. 4-7; S. H. Schneiders, “Christian Tradition on Women”, p. 8-13.

23. “In the United States, where we have learned to detect the dangerous flaws in the slogan “separate but equal”, that insight gives urgency to our concern for the right place and role of women...” (K. Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Woman. A Case Study in Hermeneutics [Facet Books, Biblical Series 15; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966], p. 5).

24. Cf. the discussion on this, C. J. Vos, Woman in Old Testament Worship (Delft: Judels and Brinkman, 1968), pp. 17 ff.

25. S. Terrien, “Toward a Biblical Theology of Womanhood,” in Male and Female. Christian Approaches to Sexuality, ed. R. T. Barnhouse, U. T. Holmes III (N.Y.: Seabury Press, 1976), p. 18.

26. H. Gunkel, Genesis (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 19646), p. 12, with references to mythology; P. Bird, “Images of Women in the Old Testament,” in Religion and Sexism. Images of Women in the Jewish and Christian Traditions, ed. R. R. Ruether, (N.Y.: Simon and Schuster, 1974), pp. 41-88. “Here God’s primary creation remains incomplete until, by a process of trial and error which populates the earth with creatures, that one is finally found...” (p. 73).

27. P. K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 125.

28. J. A. Bailey, “Initiation and the Primal Woman in Gilgamesh and Genesis 2-3,” in Journal of Biblical Literature, 89 (1970), pp. 137-150 (p. 143).

29. E. Jacob, Théologie de l’Ancien Testament (Neuchâtel: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1955), pp. 140-141; T. Maertens, The Advancing Dignity of Woman in the Bible (De Pere : St. Norbert Abbey Press, 1969), p. 4; Interesting in this respect is the Jewish Lilith Myth, telling about a first woman of Adam, who like him, was created from the earth and was therefore equal to him (cf. Is 34: 14), L. Y. Steinitz, “A Feminist Perspective on the Jewish Woman”, pp. 5-6; J. P. Goldenberg, “The Coming of Lilith,” in Religion and Sexism, pp. 341-343.

30. One’s explanation is very much dependent upon one’s perspective. T. Reik, La création de la femme, quotes some of the rabbinic views: “Pourquoi la femme se parfume-t-elle? L’homme fut cree de poussiere, laquelle ne se putrefie pas. La femme, créée à partir d’un os, perdrait sa saveur si elle ne se parfumait pas — de même que la viande se putréfie sans épices” (p. 35). But one can be more positive, like U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis I (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1961), p. 134: “He did not take the bone alone, as the exegetes usually understand the verse; the hard bone would not have been suitable material for the fashioning of the tender and delicate body of the woman. The meaning of the test is that the Creator took together with the bone also the flesh attached to it, and from the flesh He formed the woman’s flesh, and from the bone her bone. Proof of this we find in the words of the man (v. 23)”.

31. “She is not simply molded of clay, as man was, but she is architecturally ‘built’ (2: 22). The meaning of the Hebrew word is usually lost in the translation. The choice of the verb, however, suggests an aesthetic intent and connotes also the idea of reliability and permanence” (S. Terrien, “Towards a Biblical Theology...,” p. 18); G. H. Tavard, Woman in Christian Tradition (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973), p. 7.

32. C. Hauret, Origines, p. 113: “...la femme est, enfin, subordonnee a l’homme comme son aide, son auxiliaire...”.

33. It appears 19 times in the O.T.; only 3 times for man (Is 30: 5; Ez 12: 14; Dan 11: 34) but in each case ineffective. In all other cases it is God who brings help to the needy and the desperate (e.g. Ps 33: 20; 121: 1), C. J. Vos, Woman in Old Testament Worship, p. 16.

34. P. K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 124: “The word for ‘help’ in Gen 2: 18 is never used elsewhere to designate a subordinate”.

35. N. C. Habel, “Yahweh, Maker of Heaven and Earth. A Study in Tradition Criticism,” in Journal of Biblical Literature, 91 (1972), pp. 321-337. “She, moreover, is designated as a ‘help’ (‘êzèr) or source of blessing for her man (2: 18.20)” (p. 336).

36. A typical commentary: “Diabolum Hevam tentavit, non Adam quia, etsi uterque donum integritatis habebat ilia facilius caderet quam vir; cum, praeter abundantiorem gratiam Adae sine dubio datam, ilia esset facilior ad seducendum, debilior ad resistendum, et ut adhaerens viro esset aptior ad hunc seducendum...” (I. M. Dalman — I. F. Sagues, Sacrae Theologiae Summa, II [3. A. C.; Matriti: La Editorial Catolica, 1955], p. 928).

37. The manual issued by the Dominican inquisitors in 1486 the Witches’ Hammer (Malleus maleficarum) has the following concept on women: “Deceit is the very essence of woman’s nature; she deceives because she was formed from Adam’s rib, and that was crooked” (cf. P. K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 158).

38. G. Lambert, “Le drame du jardin d’Eden,” in Nouv. Revue Théol, 76 (1954), pp. 917-948; pp. 1044-1072; K. R. Joines, Serpent Symbolism in the Old Testament: A Linguistic Archaeological, and Literary Study, (Haddonfield, N.J.: Haddonfield House, 1974); id., “The Serpent in Gn 3,” in Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 87 (1975), pp. 1-11.

39. G. H. Tavard, Woman in Christian Tradition, p. 13: “The woman is tempted first not, as male prejudice suggests, because she is the weaker, but because she is the perfection”.

40. J. M. Higgins, “The Myth of Eve: The Temptress,” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 44 (1976), pp. 639-647 (note 58, on pp. 646-647); P.Trible, “Biblical Theology as Women’s Work,” in Religion in Life, 44 (1975), pp. 7-13 (p. 8).

41. “He follows his wife without questions or comment, thereby denying his own individuality. If the woman be intelligent, sensitive, and ingenious, the man is passive, brutish, and inept” (P.Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” in JAAR, 41 (1973), pp. 30-48 [citation p. 40]): “Woman is a sensitive artist, an intellectually alert individual, a spiritually eager being. She is a real person. Man is a brute” (S. Terrien, “Toward a Biblical Theology of Womanhood...”, p. 20).

42. This seems to be the reasoning of K. O. Gangel, “Toward a Biblical Theology of Marriage and Family. Part one: Pentateuch and Historical Books,” in Journal of Psychology and Theology, 5 (1977), pp. 55-69 (on p. 58).

43. J. M. Higgins, “The Myth of Eve: The Temptress,” p. 645.

44. Rosemary Ruether believes that it would be wrong to even try to prove that the text considers man and woman equal, Sexism and Liberation, p. 12, and so she says: “If women today are able to find any continuity with the biblical and Judaeo-Christian traditions at all [...] it cannot be by creating pseudo-apologia for these traditions. We must push the traditions beyond its own limits. Recognizing both men and women as autonomous equal persons “by nature”, we must recognize the stories of the creation and the fall as themselves a part of the fall, as themselves expressions of male ideology justifying false power” (p. 14). Some women have more positive views on the message of the Bible for them: E. Deen, The Bible’s Legacy for Womanhood, (Garden City: Doubleday, 1969); M. P. Schuermans, “Vocation de la fernme, dans la Bible,” in Vie Spirituelle, 120 (1969), n. 557, pp. 149-165; M. Sauve, “Le Féminisme et la Bible”, in La Vie des Communautés Religieuses, 31 (1973), pp. 242-253; M. de Mérode, ”La Bible et les femmes”, in La Foi et le Temps, 5 (1975), pp. 117-133. We can also refer to the observations of A. Maillot, “Misogynie et Ancien Testament,” in Foi et Vie, 75 (1976), pp. 36-47.

45. M. J. Williams, “The Man/Woman Relationship in the New Testament,” in Churchman, 91 (1977), p. 34.

46. S. T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” in Westm. Theol. J., 37 (1974/75), pp. 376-383. Foh shows how that desire was usually understood as the sexual desire or as the psychological desire to depend on a man. She tries to prove that it is the desire for power, for leadership. But it is surprising to read in her article: “The rule of the husband, per se, is not a result of or punishment for sin. The headship of the husband over his wife is a part of the creation order” (p. 378).

47. G. H. Tavard, Woman in Christian Tradition, p. 18: “The beginning presented an ideal, and therefore a future. The values whose order had been upset were not forgotten.”

48. This text has often been repeated, cf. peter lombard, Sentent., 1. II, Dist. XVIII; cf. P. K. jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 120. But note that the text still makes use of such words as “equal” and “protected”.

49. A few authors have attempted to make use of new methodologies: T. Reik, La création de la femme, Essai sur le mythe d’Eve (Bruxelles: Ed. Complexe, 1975), (cf. the subtitle in the English edition: “A Psycho-analytic inquiry into the Myth of Eve” 1960), he sees in the story the initiation — circumcision of Adam. Though his study is certainly very unusual, and G. H. Tavard even comments: “For a totally absurd interpretation of Genesis,” in Woman in Christian Tradition, p. 231 note 1, we should still be open to new methodologies. E. R. leach, “La Genèse comme mythe,” in Langages, 6 (1971), n. 22, pp. 13-23; J. Guichard, “Approche ‘matérialiste’ du récit de la chute,” in Lumière et Vie, 26 (1977), n. 131, pp. 57-90.

50. For some recent and easier introductions to this method in biblical studies: J. Calloud, Structural Analysis of Narrative (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976); D. Patte, What is Structural Exegesis? (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976); “Une initiation à 1’analyse structurale”, Cahiers Evangile, n. 16 (1976).

51. For a rapid schematic view of these differences: G. I. Carlson, “The Two Creation Accounts in Schematic Contrast”, in The Bible Today, n. 66 (1973), pp. 1192-1194.

52. E.g., A. Weiser, Introduction to the Old Testament, (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961), p. 73.

53. E.g., T. Maertens, The Advancing Dignity of Woman in the Bible (De Pere: St. Norbert Abbey Press, 1969), pp. 53-54.

54. We note a certain tendency by some writers to show more the harmony after a period in exegesis when the oppositions were underlined; P. E. S. Thompson, “The Yahwist Creation Story,” in Vetus Testamentum, 21 (1971), pp. 197-208; B. T. Dahlberg, “On Recognizing the Unity of Genesis,” in Theology Digest, 24 (1976), pp. 360-367.

55. On the meaning of this term: F. Maass, ’âdhâm, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, I (Grand Rapids: W. B. Eerdmans, 1974), pp. 75-87. “Predominantly, this word occurs as a collective singular designating a class (as “man” in English) (wie im Deutschen “der Mensch”), and therefore can be translated by “mankind” (“Menscheit”) or as a plural “men”. At the same time, it is often used of individuals, and functions adjectivally (“human”, “menschlich”) or indefinitely (“someone”, “Jemand”), but never appears in the plural or in the construct” (p. 75 [in Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Alten Testament, I, col. 821); C. Westermann, Genesis (B. K. I, 1, Neukirchen: Neukirchener Verlag, 1974), p. 274.

56. M. J. Williams, “The Man/Woman Relationship in the N.T.,” in Churchman, 91 (1977), p. 34.

57. W. Brueggemann (“From Dust to Kingship,” in ZAW, 84 [1972], pp. 1-18), in his understanding of this text, goes considerably further than most exegetes. He considers it an enthronement formula, the Mensch becomes king. In the same line W. wifall, “The Breath of his Nostrils, Gen 2: 7b”, in Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 36 (1974), pp. 237-240, interprets v. 7b in royal terminology.

58. In Gen 2-3 ’dm normally appears with the article, and therefore means the Mensch, while in Gen 4: 25; 5: 1-5 without the article, it becomes the proper name: Adam. There are some exceptions. It is used without the article in 2: 5 which is normal, since it is indefinite and means “nobody”; also in 2: 20b; 3: 17.21, which cases are emended by most exegetes, F. Maass, ’âdhâm, p. 79; E. Lussier, “Adam in Genesis 1: 1-4, 24”, in CBQ, 18 (1956), pp. 137-139. In 2: 20b it would also be possible to keep the word without the article, cf. J. A. Soggin, “Osservazioni filologico-linguistiche al secondo capitolo della Genesi,” in Biblica, 44 (1963), pp. 521-530, for the discussion on v. 20b, pp. 528-530, he suggests; “L’uomo diede nome a tutto il bestiame [...] ma per un essere umano non trovò aiuto convenevole.”

59. Literally, a helper as one right over/against him, as a counterpart in other words, a pendant or match (cp. “better half”); thus not so much someone who is like him (Vulgate), as someone who is suitable for him, is proportionate to him, and who can be his partner” (H. Renckens, Israel’s Concept of the Beginning, p. 219).

60. H. W. Wolff, “Der Mensch und seine Hilfe. Eine Trauansprache über Genesis 2, 15.18-23 für ein Biologen-Ehepaar”, in Menschliches (München: C. Kaiser, 1971), pp. 46-54 (especially pp. 47-48).

61. O. Schilling, Das Mysterium Lunae und die Erschaffung der Frau (nach Gen 2, 21f.) (Paderborn: F. Schöningh, 1963). The crescent moon reminds us of the shape of the rib, and the cycles of the moon have something to do with the cycles of the woman.

62. Compare the french “côte” and “côté” (C. Hauret, Origines, p. 101).

63. In some of the popular interpretations often as a negative image for the woman, cf. T. Reik, La création de la femme, p. 41, and for instance the poem by Thomas Moore, quoted p. 49: “The Old Adam was fashioned, the first of his kind, with a tail like a monkey... And then nature cut off his appendage behind. Why, the woman was made of the tail of the man... The ninny who weds is a pitiful elf, for he takes to his tail, like an idiot again... knowing his wife is no more than his tail. Why, he leaves her behind him as much as he can.”

64. “Dans l’écriture sumérienne le même signe graphique TI à le double sens de “côte” et de “vie”. Ce fait paraît indiquer qu’entre les idées de “côte” et de “vie” il y avait une connexion permettant de prendre la côte comme symbole de force vitale” (C. Hauret, Origines, p. 101).

65. F. Lenormant, Les Origines de I’histoire d’après la Bible et les traditions des peuples orientaux, tome I (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1880). In Chap. 1. La creéation de 1’homme, pp. 37-57, he discusses this theory in the extra-biblical texts, like the Banquet of Plato, its application in the Bible, and its acceptance by part of the Jewish tradition and by some Christian writers. For an evaluation of this volume: S. Reinach, “La naissance d’Eve”, in Revue de l’Histoire des Religions, 78 (1918), pp. 185-206; T. Reik, La création de la femme, “Le premier être humain: un homme-femme?” pp. 19-26: C. Halkes, “Feministische theologie van de bevrijding,” in Tijdschrift voor Theologie, 15 (1975), pp. 354-377, has several observations on this theory, p. 365.

66. “Woman in this concept, is only another aspect of the species man” (B. Jacob, The first book of the Bible, Genesis. His commentary abridged, edited and translated by E. I. Jacob and W. Jacob [N.Y.: Ktav Pub. House, 1974], p. 21).

67. On the meaning of these two terms: N. P, Bratsiotis, ’îsh and ’ishshâh, in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, I, 1974, pp. 222-235, with the meaning of man, husband / woman, wife.

68. Compare with the discovery of a child who realizes that he is a boy, or she is a girl, only when confronted with a child of the other sex.

69. “...as far as mankind as a whole is concerned, there is only one creation, that of Adam. The next step does not come as a second process of creation, but as a step within the total process or as a further development of what began with the fashioning of Adam. We should therefore understand woman not as an addition to the mankind that already was in the person of Adam; rather Adam himself (in that part of him which was his rib) is built up into woman” (G. H. Tavard, Woman in Christian Tradition, p. 7).

70. W. Reiser, “Die Verwandtschaftsformel in Gen 2, 23”, in Theologische Zeitschrift, 16 (1960), pp. 1-4; W. Brueggemann, “Of the Same Flesh and Bone (Gen 2: 23a), in CBQ, 32 (1970), pp. 532-542, who sees in this formula a kind of covenant commitment: ”Here the text says: ‘in every circumstance from the extreme of frailty (= flesh) to the extreme of power (= bone)’. A relation is affirmed which is affected by changing circumstances. It is a formula of constancy, of abiding loyalty which in the first place has nothing to do with biological derivation, as it is often interpreted” (p. 535). Man and woman are thus covenant-partners.

71. “Beachten wir: hier gibt nicht der Mann seiner Frau den Namen, wie er es bei den Tieren getan hat. Wieder kommt ein antipatriarchalischer Zug in der Erzahlung zum Vorschein. Hier ist nichts von Abhängigkeit Beherr-schung oder gar Unterdrückung zu spüren. Eitel Freude an der Zusammen-gehörigkeit spricht sich aus” (H. W. Wolff, “Der Mensch und seine Hilfe,” p. 52); cf. also the observations of P. Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” in JAAR, 41 (1973), pp. 38-39.

72. “It is only man and woman together who make up a whole and useful person” (H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974], p. 95, p. 171); “After all, it has been said that the woman who is totally woman would be an insufferable ninny, and the man who is completely a man would be an intolerable bore” (J. J. greehy, “ ‘Male and Female He Created Them’ The Old Testament Idea of Marriage,” in The Furrow, 28 [1977], pp. 86-90 [citation p. 88]).

73. “Die auffallende, der sonstigen meist patriarchalischen Ordnung des Lebens so offensichtlich zuwiderlaufende Formulierung, dass der Mann und nicht die Frau ihre Sippe verlässt, soll die Urgewalt der Liebe unverkennbar besonders stark unterstreichen” (W. Zimmerli, Die Weltlichkeit des Alten Testaments [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1971], p. 38). There are some interesting observations in L. Legrand, The Biblical Doctrine of Virginity (London: G. Chapman, 1963), p. 57.

74. “All the hard work at home certainly fell to her: she looked after the flocks, worked in the fields, cooked the food, did the spinning, and so on” (R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel. Its Life and Institutions [London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1961], p. 39).

75. E. D. Stockton, “The Woman: A Biblical Theme,” in Austr. Journal of Bibl. Arch., 2 (1973), pp. 106-112, “Mother in Struggle”, pp. 106-110. 76 S.T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” in Westm. Theol. 3., 37 (1974/75), pp. 376-383.

77. “We remember, however, that it is a fallen name given by a disobedient husband to a disobedient wife and that their shared sin has resulted in mutual disaster. In asserting his rule over the women, the man is corrupting a relationship of equality” (P.Trible, “Biblical Theology as Women’s Work,” in Religion in Life, 44 (1975), pp. 7-13 [citation p. 8]).

78. The conclusions of our interpretation are similar in many ways to P. Trible, “Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation,” in JARR, 41 (1973), pp. 30-48. “Exegesis : Genesis 2-3”, pp. 35-42. (And I would suppose also to another article from the same writer to which I did not have access, “Eve and Adam: Genesis 2-3 Reread”, in Andover Newton Quart., 13 (1973), pp. 251-258.)

79. Cf. the scheme by D. Patte, What is Structural Exegesis?, p. 51.

80. H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), p. 93: “The Yahwist’s interest is completely directed towards those relationships in which man is compelled to recognize his humanity from the very beginning”, and he develops man’s relationship to God, to animals, to woman and to the earth. For a more “structural” study on unity and duality in this text, cf. E. R. Leach, “La Genèse comme mythe,” in Langages, 6 (1971), n· 22, pp. 13-23.

81. J. De Fraine, “Jeux de mots dans le récit de la chute,” in Mélanges Bibliques A. Robert (Paris: Bloud and Gay, 1957), pp. 47-59.

82. “By an interesting coincidence, Engl. “woman” (derived from “wife of man”) would offer a better linguistic foil than the Heb. noun” (E. A. Speiser, Genesis [The Anchor Bible, 1; Garden City: Doubleday, 1964], p. 18).

83. After this study was completed, an article was published on the same biblical text, insisting more upon the history of its interpretation: Marie de Mérode, “Une aide qui lui correspond. L’exégèse de Gen 2, 18-24 dans les écrits de 1’Ancien Testament, du judaïsme et du Nouveau Testament,” in Revue Théologique de Louvain, 8 (1977), pp. 329-352.


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The Institute is known for issuing academic reports and statements on relevant issues in the Church. These have included scholars' declarations on the need of collegiality in the exercise of church authority, on the ethics of using contraceptives in marriage and the urgency of re-instating the sacramental diaconate of women.

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