Freed or Confined in Genesis: Two Fictional Tales
Updated: 5 days ago
As we have seen, God brings freedom in the perfect design of creation in Genesis 1-2 and gender freedom in the Fall in Genesis 3. Today I'm presenting two fictional tales to demonstrate how underlying ideas that either free or confine women can be incorporated into the Genesis account to slant the portrayal of God, women, and men.
Biblical Truth in Literalism and Allegory
Literalism relies on the historical person of Adam and Eve. Some interpreters believe that the story of Adam and Eve must be taken literally (1) or there is no fall of humanity, no original sin, and no need for the solution of salvation in Jesus to make sense. They may use Paul's letters to prove Adam and Eve were real people (2). Biblical literalism was developed relatively recently, reacting to perceived threats of new scientific knowledge in the late 1800s. Literalism seems to indicate that the Fall in the Garden led to human depravity, the destruction of God's perfect plan, and the need for Plan B with Jesus as our Redeemer.
For millennia before that, the church taught that Genesis reveals truth through historical allegory (3). Adam and Eve may represent humanity and our nature to follow our own rule instead of God's. Father Michael Guinan, professor of Old Testament (4) stated, “the Catholic Church has accepted the use of historical-critical tools to understand the Scriptures, which are, among other things, historical documents... Catholic scholars, along with mainstream Protestant scholars, see in the primal stories of Genesis not literal history but symbolic, metaphoric stories which express basic truths about the human condition and humans. In the 1980s, theologian and pastor Urban Holmes went so far as to state that “literalism is a modern heresy (5). The allegory seems to indicate that the Fall in the Garden demonstrates God's perfect design was the creation of imperfect people with the freedom to follow the flesh or the spirit. God created us knowing we would want to be like God, knowing good and evil, knowing the continuing human tendency to disobey God and make selfish choices. It demonstrates the reason for God sending Jesus as our Redeemer, showing us how to love and work together as equal partners in bearing spiritual fruit and managing the earth.
The ancient Jewish understanding of the Creation story was that Satan is subordinate to God, serves God, and acts under God's direction in the Garden of Eden. Since God is all-powerful and the creator of all things. God tasks Satan (6) with tempting humans, testing human loyalty and improving us. Satan serves as the prosecutor or accuser in God's court. This was the view of Genesis for centuries and during the time of Christ and it affirms that God is in control, knows humans make disobedient choices, and restores us to God's family.
Regardless of whether you believe the creation story literally or figuratively, the account in Genesis influences the views of individuals and of society.
Two Tales of Genesis
The following two tales dramatize how the text can be understood in two ways. You may find your understanding of Genesis 1-3 in either story or somewhere in between. As you read the stories, reflect on how each impacts your views on God’s character, sin, salvation, and gender roles.
Women Are Daughters of Eve is a story about how God made women subordinate and created them to be secondary. Like Eve, women tempt men and if a man listens to a woman she will lead him to disobey God. Women are easily deceived, morally inferior, and unsuited to lead.
In my biblical fiction, Mara was dealing with trauma from being called the derogatory name of 'daughter of Eve'.
"Mara tapped her brooch as Jesus shone the light on her hidden fears: people who had cheated, criticized, or shamed her. She didn’t have much education, but it sounded like Jesus was saying it was a man’s fault for dreaming of being with a woman. Her teacher said she was a daughter of Eve, and it was her fault if her appearance or clothing tempted him and made him become unclean." Mara, Chapter 11, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold.
Women Are Daughters of Sarah is a story about how God gave women equal freedom, authority, and responsibility. There is no subordination based on gender and no gender-based authority. Leadership is based on spiritual gifts, not physical traits. Satan, the father of lies, ambushed and deceived Eve. She confessed the truth to God and God punished the Serpent and blessed Eve. Adam was not deceived but intentionally disobeyed and blamed the woman and God. Women and men are children of Abraham and Sarah, the result of God's promise, co-heirs with Jesus.
In my biblical fiction, Joanna is shocked to hear Jesus call a woman a daughter of Abraham:
“You hypocrites!” Jesus told them. “Any one of you would untie your ox or your donkey and take it out to give it water on the Sabbath. Yet an evil spirit has tied this dear woman in bondage for eighteen years! She is a daughter of Abraham and Sarah! Isn’t it right that she be untied and freed, even on the Sabbath?” Joanna was shocked. None of her tutors had called a woman a daughter of Abraham. They called women daughters of Eve, leading men astray. Did God bless women? “Does this mean Jesus values both woman and men as the result of God’s promise?” she asked. “Yes, he not only values women as much as an ox or donkey, but as the result of the promise to Abraham and Sarah, the free woman,” said Marie of Magdala, Chapter 25, Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold.
Women are Daughters of Eve
Women are Daughters of Sarah
God said, Let Me make man in My own Image. God is male and man reflects all of God’s attributes. God saw it was not good for man to be alone, so for man’s benefit God made a subservient helper to serve and support man. The woman is an incomplete variation of the man, a deformed man, a partial expression of the image of God. God commanded the man to rule and dominate the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and subdue and conquer all the earth. God placed man in a beautiful garden where every desirable food grew, as well as the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
God said, Let Us make human beings in Our image. God is a Spirit with both male and female attributes. Each human carries all the male and female traits of the Triune God. The human named every creature and saw there was no human counterpart. God said it was not good for the human to be alone. God divided the human into two, creating male and female comparable partners as suitable companions. God blessed both human beings together to take charge of the fish and animals, and responsibly manage the earth. God placed them in a beautiful garden where every desirable food grew, as well as the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge.
As the woman serves the man, the man is the authority who directs and orders her path. God calls and equips men for tasks and designates women as subordinate helpers to help men achieve their goals. A woman is incapable of having her own calling or goals. She is fulfilled by assisting men to achieve their goals. Her submissiveness brings harmony to the home. God gifts and authorizes a man to be in charge at home, church, and society. The highest calling for a man is to glorify God and preach the gospel. The highest calling for a woman is to marry and have children. Both callings have equal value.
As they serve one another, they serve God together and God is the authority who directs and orders their path. God calls and equips all human beings for specific tasks, and they will feel fulfilled as they help each other achieve the goals God gives them. Their unity will bring harmony to the home. God gifts and authorizes each human being to use their talents as God calls them at home, church, and society. The highest calling for any human being is to glorify God and preach the gospel.
God’s first commandment is that the woman must be fruitful and give birth to children. God designed the woman for the unique role of childbearing. God mandates that human beings have sex with their partner for the purpose of procreation. God made two biological sexes so that the human species might procreate. Only two gender identities are valid.
God blesses some human beings with the ability to have children. Other men and women may not have the physical ability, emotional temperament, or spiritual calling to have children. God created humans with the ability to have sex for the purpose of enjoyment. The union of male and female is required to to procreate. God encourages people of all gender identities to cooperate with one another.
A husband and wife have a duty to fulfil the sexual needs of their partner. They relinquish power over their own body to their partner, who can use it for selfish pleasure. They should not ever deprive their partner.
A husband and wife have a duty to love and affirm their partner as a whole person. They are stewards tasked with taking care of their spouse’s body. They should not take a vow of celibacy or withhold sex except by mutual consent.
Man and woman lived in harmony in the Garden of Eden, fulfilling complementary roles where he was master and she his supporter. His role is to provide food and shelter while her role is to serve her husband and raise her children. Humans flourish when they follow gender-ordered roles. A woman will glorify God in bearing sons and a man may discard a woman if she does not provide sons.
Man and woman lived in mutual harmony in the Garden of Eden with God as their Master. It is the role and responsibility of both parents to provide food and shelter and raise their children with love. Humans flourish in doing tasks God gifts them to do. Men and women will glorify God if they remain faithful to love and cherish their partner. The highest calling for all of us is to love one another.
But the woman heard and obeyed Satan instead of God. Eve was easily deceived and then tempted her husband down an evil path. She seduced him with her words and is responsible for the man’s disobedience. She caused the fall of humankind when sin entered the world and cannot be trusted. She is morally inferior and less capable of understanding right from wrong.
But Satan deceived the woman when it told the woman and man they would not die from touching the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. She took some fruit and ate it; her husband was with her and he also took the fruit and ate it. The man made his own choice to disobey the instructions God had given directly to him. He lied in blaming the woman and in blaming God. We know right from wrong by obeying God.
After eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, their eyes were opened. They could recognize good and evil, and they realized they were evil in comparison to God. Evil had come into the world. The man was correct in holding the woman accountable and God for giving the woman to him. He would not have sinned except for her temptation. She was ashamed of showing her body or seeing the man’s body, so she sewed them both aprons from leaves and they hid from God in shame.
After eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, their eyes were opened. They could recognize good and evil, and they realized they were evil in comparison to God. Evil had come into their consciousness. They felt unclean for their disobedience, so they worked together to sew aprons from leaves, and they hid from God in shame.
God questioned Adam first because Adam was the head of the family and in charge of protecting his wife from sinning. God gave the command directly to Adam; Eve was a subordinate, who heard God’s word through Adam. Adam was held responsible for his subordinate's disobedience.
God called to them each in turn. Adam replied first, explaining he hid because he was naked, and he untruthfully blamed Eve and God for giving him the sinful woman. Eve truthfully explained the serpent deceived her. God held each human accountable for their own behaviour.
God cursed the serpent for deceiving the woman, cursed the woman to have hostility with the serpent. Women will strike the serpent’s head and the serpent will strike at the woman’s heels.
God cursed the serpent for deceiving the woman and declared the woman would be a warrior to the serpent (Satan), fighting on God's side. God blessed the woman saying that while Satan may bruise her offspring, her offspring (Jesus) would crush Satan.
God cursed the woman with sorrowful toil and pain in monthly flows, pregnancy, and childbirth. She is commanded to have children and obligated to have sex when her master wishes. Alleviating pain in female organs, cycle, or childbirth goes against God’s curse. Adding to a woman’s pain aligns with God’s will. Death in childbirth is the fulfillment of the purpose for which women exist. This was God’s just punishment and sentence on women.
God told the woman that the Serpent had ambushed her and multiplied her sighing. God explained there would be multiplied sorrowful toil for both women and men on the infertile ground; God comforted her that he would multiply her fertility and conception. God explained that her mortal body meant that it would take a great effort and trouble for her to bear children. God did not curse or punish her.
God saw the woman’s heart held a lustful desire to control man, comparable to the desire of sin for Cain, it "desires to have you" (Genesis 4:7). God cursed her relationship with men, commanding men to rule over her and regulate her behaviour. She was deceived by the serpent because she acted independently of her husband's counsel. Evil came into the world because a man listened to a woman. Her wishes are contrary to the man, so she must be subject to his instruction. God ordered that he will be her master and dominate her.
God saw the woman’s heart held affectionate desire towards her husband comparable to desire of Solomon's "his desire is toward me" (Solomon 7:10 KJV). She longed for the intimate partnership that had been broken when Adam blamed her for their disobedience. God warned the woman that the man’s heart held a desire to place himself as ruler.
The man explained it was the woman’s fault for leading him astray and it was God’s fault for giving him Eve to tempt him to do wrong. Adam did not admit fault.
God cursed the ground with infertility because of the man’s disobedience, multiplying the sorrowful toil in fieldwork for men and women and animals. This was God’s just punishment to discipline or train men to be obedient.
The man explained it was the woman’s fault and it was God’s fault for giving him Eve to tempt him to doing wrong. God knew that the man had disobeyed God’s words; he had listened to the woman and the snake instead of God. But instead of punishing the man, God re-directed the curse to the ground. God cursed the soil with infertility because of the man’s disobedience, multiplying the sorrowful toil in fieldwork for men and women and animals. This was not a punishment but an act of mercy not to curse the man.
God is vengeful and cursed the man and woman both with mortal bodies so that they would face death and return to dust.
The man began his rule by naming the woman as he had named the animals. He called her Eve, which means life giver, because he would use her to bear his children.
God explained the consequences of the knowledge of good and evil included infertile ground, extra work to eat, and mortal bodies that would die and return to dust. The man followed his selfish desire to rule and named the woman as he had named the animals. He called her Eve, which means life giver because God had comforted them that they would procreate.
Since man had eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, he had become like a god. Man knew good from evil and was able to have power and authority over himself, women, animals, and all the earth. Since Adam and Eve had become idolaters, thinking of themselves like gods, God cursed them and sent them away from the Garden of Eden.
Since they had both eaten from the Tree of Knowledge, they both became like gods. Eve had aligned with God against Satan and received eternal life. Adam wanted to rule himself and others instead of letting God rule. Since Adam would be forever tormented by mistakes and guilt if he ate from the Tree of Life, God sent him out of the Garden. God warned Eve if she turned toward Adam, away from God, Adam would rule her. But Eve went with Adam to be his 'ezer', ally, support and strength. Adam and Eve reunited and with the help of the Lord, Eve gave birth to Cain.
Questions for Reflection:
In each story, who is made in God's image_____________________________________
In each story, who is blessed to be fruitful ______________________________________
In each story, who does God authorize to rule over the earth _____________________
In each, what does God command to the man? _________________________________
In each, what does God command to the women? ______________________________
In each, who was present to hear the serpent's temptation? ______________________
Are they hiding from God because of their evil nature or their knowledge of it? ___________________________________________________________________________
List who/what God curses: ___________________________________________________
Who is to blame for the Fall? __________________________________________________
After the Fall, does God curse or bless Eve? ____________________________________
Why is the ground cursed? ___________________________________________________
What are the characteristics of God shown in each story__________________________
Which aspects of each story reveals underlying gender beliefs____________________
Do you think God wants to bring freedom or confinement?________________________
We hope that you will be encouraged to go boldly into the world, being the person that God calls you to be.
The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim good news are a great army (Psalm 68:11)
Sources accessed in composing my two fictional tales:
https://tru316.com/the-eden-podcast by Bruce C. E. Fleming
Elaine Ricker Kelly uses her experiences as a woman in business to inspire and empower women at home, church and society. She was an investment and insurance advisor for thirty years, has three grown daughters, and is passionate about empowering women with writing Christian fiction about women in the Bible and early church, Christian blogs and articles about women in leadership, church history and doctrine. Elaine R. Kelly lives near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, with her husband and lap dog. She and her husband have hiked the 900 km Bruce Trail and enjoy hiking, nature, tennis, music, history and culture.
Books by Elaine Ricker Kelly:
Forgotten Followers from Broken to Bold - biblical fiction offering hope and healing to anyone who feels forgotten, belittled, or out of place.
The Sword: A Fun Way to Engage in Healthy Debate on What the Bible Says About a Woman's Role - provides 104 flashcards with an objective, memorable look at the rationale for diverse views on gender roles, and 180 End Notes for readers to continue their journey.