Five Facts in Creation that Free Women (Genesis 1-2)
Updated: 5 days ago
For millennia, the church has taught that women and men were equal and worked together in intimacy and harmony before the Fall and that after the resurrection, or in the hereafter, women and men will return to God's perfect design of being truly equal in every way.
In my next post, I show that God did not intend women to be subordinated because of the Fall.
Today I show that God did not intend for women to be subordinated. God's perfect design was for women and men to have equal freedom, authority, and responsibility to work together in harmony and intimacy, for God shows no favouritism.
Complementarian Christians believe women should not have equal freedom and authority either now or in the hereafter. To back this idea they created a "theory of a 'Divine Order of Creation' that teaches the imbalance of power, favouring males over females, is an original and eternal fact of creation." - Woman, this is War! Jocelyn Andersen(1). An article by Tim Challies (2) says that women's submission is beautiful and good. "Even if sin had never entered the world, a wife would still be expected to submit to her husband" I have written several articles refuting his ideas:
women in submission vs. all Christians submitting to one another
head meaning male leadership vs. head meaning source, origin, strength, or unity.
Jesus as an eternally subordinate Son vs. Jesus as God Incarnate, of the same essence as the Father
Here are five facts in God's Creation that free women.
1. God Created Each Human in God's Image
God created humans, both women and men, in God's full image (Genesis 1:27). Literal translations of the Bible refer to 'the man' through Genesis 1-3, using the definite article 'the' in front of the word 'Adam' (the human). It is not until Genesis 4:25 (3) after Adam and Eve leave Eden that the Bible refers to 'Adam' as an individual.
The Hebrew Bible calls this first human 'Adam', not as a male name but as the Hebrew word for 'mankind', having a plural pronoun.
God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them." (Genesis 1:26-27 NIV).
"When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created." (Genesis 5:1-2 NIV)
Some English Bibles use the word 'man' to mean the Hebrew word 'mankind'. Since 'man' in the Hebrew Bible literally means 'mankind', complementarian Tim Challies takes this to mean that the human race is named after a male, Adam. However, since the Scripture literally uses 'mankind' to represent both male and female, I take this to mean men have usurped the Hebrew word 'mankind' to use for the male gender of the species.
Male, Female, and Everything In Between
In an online discussion about these passages, I suggested that the first human may not have been a male at all. Since the Bible refers to 'mankind' until Genesis 4, the first human may have been some sort of hermaphrodite with both male and female organs, which could reproduce asexually (similar to fish or lizards). Another commenter replied that this idea was also put forward by Katharine Bushnell, back in 1923 when she published God's Word to Women (4). Katharine Bushnell was a medical doctor, Bible scholar, translator, and social activist, and I will be sharing more insights from her writing. She puts forward the idea that the original human may have been androgynous (appearing partly male and partly female), a hermaphrodite (with both male/female reproduction parts), or had a bisexual nature which still persists today in some humans.
Katharine Bushnell wrote that Jews in the first century thought that the first human was a male-female in one person. She notes that Jesus refers to a human male-female with a plural pronoun.
"Have, ye not read, that He Who made [no "them" in the original] from the beginning made them male-female." (Matthew 19:4)
Katharine Bushnell quotes from Dr. Hershon who wrote in Talmudic Miscellany, "There is a notion among the rabbis that Adam was possessed originally of a bi-sexual organism, and this conclusion they draw from Genesis 1:27, where it is said, 'God created man in His own image; male-female created He them." - Lesson 3 God's Word to Women (5).
Women and men are each made in God's full image. It is not that women are part of God's image and men are another part. Each individual is fully in God's image. In his recent book Tell Her Story, Nijay Gupta writes that together in marriage we represent God's full image. I was surprised to read this since the author believes in the equality of men and women. I found that the idea that it takes a combination of women and men to be the full image of God is held by a variety of Christians. My position is expressed by Sarah J. O'Connor (6) that the image of God is about being human, not about being male or female. God pours God's own male and female characteristics and traits into each of us, making each individual wholly in God's image. The Bible tells both men and women believers to cultivate the same fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). I have written elsewhere about God being a spirit, neither male nor female. God gave all humans a creative, spiritual, and intellectual nature like God's (7), however having similar traits does not abolish our differences or make women the same. Equality is not about being the same, but about having the same freedoms.
Praise God for creating women and men in God's image.
2. God Created Woman and Man to have the Same Elements
Through the centuries, some have proposed that men are the perfect specimen, and women are derivative, sub-part, partial human, or deformed men. For example, the 4th-century philosopher Aristotle believed a man was the ultimate realization of humanity (8) and a woman was an incomplete or mutilated man. The Christian influencer, Augustine, borrowed from pagan philosophers the idea that women are subordinate and not rational. He believed women were created solely to help men reproduce (9), that celibacy was more holy (10, and that relations with women were impure except for the purpose of reproduction. Scripture refutes the idea that celibacy is more holy (1 Corinthians 7:7, 1 Timothy 2:15).
Some Christians point to women as a derivative of man by quoting that Eve was made second, out of Adam. This seems to rest on pagan philosophers like Aristotle. First, this first human, 'mankind', may have been split, creating the first male and a female at the same time. Secondly, in Genesis 2 the animals are made before the human. If creation order mattered, animals would have priority over humans. There is no special status based on the order of creation.
Other Christians point to women as a derivative of man by saying Eve was made of Adam's rib. They may even demean a woman by calling her, 'a rib'. However, this idea is built on sand, since 'rib' is not an accurate translation. The Hebrew word translated as 'rib' in Genesis 2:22 occurs many times in the Old Testament, and in no other instance is it translated as rib, but usually as 'side' or 'part' (Lesson 5 of God's Word to Women) (5). The Bible may be describing how God formed a cleft in the first male-female human at a part or side of the body and it became a furrow containing cells that divide and grow into two individuals, each having the same elements as the original human Indeed, God used the side which he had taken from the human and built it up/fashioned/formed it to make the woman. The human saw she was not merely a rib, but 'flesh of my flesh', my own flesh and blood. This may have been the form of reproduction prior to the Fall.
Science affirms what the Bible says about women and men being made of the same substance. Just four elements - carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen - make up 96% of the human body, whether male or female (11) Neither gender is a derivative or incomplete version of the other, and both have the same potential for intelligence and moral decision-making. Our physical flesh and bones do not designate differences in authority or leadership.
Praise God, women and men have the same elements.
3. God Created Women and Men as Equal Counterparts
The Bible says that God saw it was not good for the human to be alone (Genesis 2:18). Then God brought all the animals to the human, who named them and saw the male and female pairs, and saw no human counterpart (Genesis 2:19-20). The Hebrew text says God created an 'ezer' for the human. The Bible uses the word ezer in reference to a strong person helping one who is weak. The word ezer describes nations that made alliances to help Israel, and to describe God who helps, protects, saves, or rescues us. The Theology of Work says that ezer is never used to describe an inferior (12) or subordinate kind of helper.
Katharine Bushnell also noted that the word "help" does not imply an inferior, but a superior help. Throughout the Old Testament, ezer is used to refer to God as our helper (Psalm 121:2). She explains that when the King James Version says "I will make him a helper meet for him", it is using 'meet' as a preposition, describing the type of helper as suitable, equally corresponding to the man (Lesson 4 of God's Word to Women) (5). Tim Challies defends the use of the word ezer as a subordinate helper saying the person doing the helping necessarily places himself in a subordinate role (2) to the person needing help. However, usually, the person asking for help is in a weaker position. An ezer is a match corresponding to the man, the companion who comes alongside to support us when we are in trouble.
Praise God women and men are equal counterparts, able to share our responsibilities.
4. God Assigned Women and Men Equal Authority and Responsibility
When God grants authority and dominion over creation, God was speaking to both the man and the woman:
Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28).
The Lord God took the human and settled him in the garden of Eden to farm it and to take care of it (Genesis 2:15)
The human gave each living being its name" Genesis 2:19
Recall that the word 'adam' meaning 'mankind' does not refer to an individual named Adam until Genesis 4. Katharine Bushnell quotes a Hebrew scholar affirming that the Bible uses the plural form in addressing both the man and the woman in Genesis 1, authorizing them both to rule or have dominion, requiring them both to be responsible stewards. In addition, God authorizes the human to give each living being a name, before the creation of separate male and female genders.
The Complementarian view promoted by Tim Challies is that Adam gives the woman a name, and that signifies that he has authority over her.
"The human said, “This one finally is bone from my bones and flesh from my flesh. She will be called a woman because from a man she was taken.” (Genesis 2:23 CEB)
"The man named his wife Eve[d] because she is the mother of everyone who lives." (Genesis 3:20) In Hebrew, 'man' in this verse is 'adam/mankind' (13).
Writing for The Junia Project (14), Bob Edwards points out that naming the animals did not give Adam authority over the animals. God told Adam and Eve to both manage creation. Eve shared authority over the animals even though she did not name them. In fact, it is counter to the biblical text (15) to say that man alone had authority over the animals. Finally, the woman does not receive the name 'Eve' until after sin enters the world in Genesis 3.
John Wesley, theologian and leader of the Methodist movement, equated having dominion over the earth with the responsibility of being God's stewards.
To subdue or have dominion is about cultivating the earth, not exploiting it. God gives both genders authority over creation and gives both the responsibility to co-rule and manage the earth. Taking charge of the world is not an instruction only for a person named Adam or for the male part of humankind.
Praise God for assigning women and men equal authority and responsibilities.
5. God Blessed Women and Men
God blessed the woman and man and saw that the creation was very good.
God blessed them [the creatures] and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” (Genesis 1:22).
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it (Genesis 1:28).
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.(Genesis 1:31)
After God split the original human into male and female, God blessed them with the potential ability to conceive and be fruitful. Just as both the man and the woman are authorized and responsible for working together to manage God's creation, both the man and the woman must work together to conceive children. They are both blessed with the potential ability to unite as one flesh symbolically in marriage and physically in their offspring (Genesis 2:24). Again, the Bible uses the plural form in addressing both the man and the woman, telling them both to be fruitful, both to fill the earth and manage it.
"As the Word distinctly says that these blessings were pronounced upon male and female, we observe the perfect equality of the sexes by God's original creation." Lesson 3 of God's Word to Women (5)
There is never a command that women bear children, nor that women and men have children. The Bible clearly calls it a blessing, permission, and potential ability. God does not tell Eve or all females they must have children.
It is harmful to refer to this as a command or to teach that women must have children. God gifts some women physically and emotionally for tasks other than motherhood or after motherhood.
Protestant Reformer Martin Luther calls the woman good and criticizes others for saying a "woman is a necessary evil, and that no household can be without such an evil." However, he also infers that a woman's purpose is to have children. "We see how weak and sickly barren women are. Those who are fruitful, however, are healthier, cleanlier, and happier. And even if they bear themselves weary—or ultimately bear themselves out—that does not hurt. Let them bear themselves out. This is the purpose for which they exist" (16).
The highest calling for a woman is not motherhood, but fulfilling God's individual call, using her gifts to build up the body of Christ and to steward God's creation. Men who want women busy with children may quote "Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Psalms 127:4-5 NIV). However, when a woman calls out to bless a woman's breast and womb, Jesus replies “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it" (Luke 11:27-28). Paul also commends some women and men for remaining single or widowed (1 Corinthians 7:7). The New Covenant seems to relate to men and women being fruitful with spiritual children. Paul calls himself a mother in labour to birth spiritual children (1 Tim. 1:2, Gal. 4:19), and in nurturing them as a mother would (1 Thessalonians 2:7). Peter and John also discuss their spiritual children (1 Peter 5:13, 3 John 1:4) Likewise, the elect lady of 2 John 1:4 also has spiritual children. Let us stop saying that God commands women to have physical children.
Praise God for blessing men and women to be fruitful and to take charge of the earth.
The Bible confirms that when God had finished all His creation, including male and female man, God said it was "very good." Praise God for these Five Facts in Creation that Free Women—to serve God without restraint!
Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System by Jocelyn Andersen on Amazon
Robert Cargilll, University of Iowa https://bam.sites.uiowa.edu/hello/adam
God's Word to Women, by Katharine Bushnell, 2016 edition, is available on Amazon.
God's Word to Women: 100 Lessons https://godswordtowomen.wordpress.com/100-lessons/
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/augustine/
Christian History Institute https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/augustines-sex-life-from-profligate-to-celibate
Science Learning Hub https://www.sciencelearn.org.nz/resources/1728-the-essential-elements
Study Light, Interlinear Study Bible https://www.studylight.org/interlinear-study-bible/hebrew/genesis/3.html
Bob Edwards, The Junia Project https://juniaproject.com/5-myths-adam-authority-eden/
Bob Edwards, The Junia Project https://juniaproject.com/response-complementarian-view-of-women/
Elaine R Kelly Author is empowering women with Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church and Christian blogs about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Her books include:
The Sword A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role