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In a comment regarding the post which preceded this one, Byker Bob made a statement that really caught my attention. He wrote: "I beli...

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!

The story of Adam and Eve has been used by conservative Christians to invalidate homosexual relationships and defend the traditional definition of marriage for many years now. "God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" they proclaim with a self-assured grin (as if this simple statement has settled the matter beyond all doubt). In the real world, however, things are rarely as simple and clear as they first appear; and it's usually a good idea to dig a little deeper if we are truly interested in understanding some phenomenon.

First of all, even if we confine ourselves to the subject of human sexuality, any serious student of the Judeo-Christian Bible would have to acknowledge that there is a lot going on in the first couple of chapters of Genesis. And one of the first things we notice is that there are two very distinctive stories about the beginnings of humankind.

In the first chapter of Genesis, we are told that God created all plant and animal life to reproduce after its "kind." Next, we read: "And God said, Let us make man (Hebrew Adam) in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man (Hebrew Adam) in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26-28, KJV)

Hence, in this initial story of the beginnings of humankind, Adam (man) is both male and female. We are also told that this Adam (male and female) is designed to reflect God's persona. As a consequence, we ask: Doesn't this suggest/imply that both genders derive their traits/characteristics from God? Is this story about a literal person or persons? OR Is this story meant to be representative of the origins of humankind in general?

God goes on to tell Adam (male and female) to "Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth..." To me, this instruction makes clear that this story was written to describe the origins of humankind. Adam is clearly told to reproduce and fill up the planet with his/their offspring.

Is this instruction general or specific in its application? Does God expect Adam to "replenish the earth" on his/their own? In other words, is it reasonable to conclude that God expected the first man and woman to populate the earth by themselves? Is that what happened? OR Did the population expand gradually over many generations of humankind? Isn't it clearly understood that this scripture refers to the origins of the entire human race and was intended to apply to Adam (humankind) in general? And, if it did only apply to one man and one woman, we must admit that they failed miserably in fulfilling this instruction!

In the second chapter of Genesis, we are given an entirely different account of the origins of humankind. Instead of the man and woman being created simultaneously on the sixth day, we are told that Adam was initially created as one male. We read: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Genesis 2:7)

Next, we are told that God "planted a garden eastward in Eden" and placed the man in the midst of it (verse 8). Later, we are informed that God observed that "it is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (verse 18) The Hebrew indicates that God felt that Adam needed an aid or a helper. Toward that end, God brought representatives of all of the different species of animal life to the man and allowed him to name them (verse 19). Then we read: "And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him." (verse 20) In other words, none of the animals proved to be a suitable companion/aid/helper for Adam.

As a consequence, we are told that God decided to create a female human. We read: "And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man." (verses 21-22) This apparently solved the problem of providing Adam with a suitable companion/aid/helper as we are told: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." (verses 23-24)

In this connection, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word translated here into English as flesh is indicative of the body. In other words, this woman's bones were derived from his bones, and her body was made from his body. Thus, in later generations, an Adam would leave his parents household and cleave to this companion/helper/aid and become one body again.

Now, once again, we ask: Is this about one man and one women or humankind in general? Do these scriptures apply to the first man and woman? OR Do they apply to all subsequent generations? Doesn't the language about leaving his parents household make plain that the broader application is more appropriate? And, is this story about the inadequacy of animal companionship in fulfilling human needs? OR Does this story suggest that only female companionship is appropriate for males? And, although it's not explicitly stated, does this story suggest that sexual intercourse between one man and one woman is the only kind of human intimacy that can make one body?

Aren't we all Adam? Don't you and I possess the bones of his/their bones and the body of his/their body? And, if we do, doesn't that imply/suggest that the sexual union of any two people could make one flesh/body?

Finally, do ANY of the verses which make up this second creation story in the second chapter of Genesis say ANYTHING about procreation? In other words, isn't the entire focus of the second story based on suitable human companionship?

The chapter concludes with the statement: " And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." (verse 25) Now this verse is also very interesting when we consider the puritanical attitudes of many Christians with regard to nudity and human sexuality. This scripture seems to indicate that the natural state of humankind is to not feel shame/embarrassment about their bodies and how they function!

Hence, it is not unreasonable to conclude that God created Adam, Eve and Steve. While a narrow reading of these scriptures is certainly possible, I think we have demonstrated that a more general interpretation is not only possible but is also more consistent with the context than the narrow one. 

9 comments:

  1. “Hence, in this initial story of the beginnings of humankind, Adam (man) is both male and female. We are also told that this Adam (male and female) is designed to reflect God's persona. As a consequence, we ask: Doesn't this suggest/imply that both genders derive their traits/characteristics from God? Is this story about a literal person or persons? OR Is this story meant to be representative of the origins of humankind in general?”

    Are you saying that Genesis says that the first human being was both male and female? Because that is not a plausible reading of Genesis. If you’re saying that it teaches that mankind is male and female, that there are men and women, you’re correct.

    Men and women are made in the image of God, and so possess a semblance of the divine nature. Moreover, it can be describing literal people – Adam and Eve – and the origins of the human race.

    Is this instruction general or specific in its application? Does God expect Adam to "replenish the earth" on his/their own? In other words, is it reasonable to conclude that God expected the first man and woman to populate the earth by themselves?

    The blessing is not just limited to mankind that existed at the time (just the two of them), but is for mankind generally as well; no one has ever suggested that it only was meant for them.

    In other words, none of the animals proved to be a suitable companion/aid/helper for Adam.

    Agreed; the first male found no companionship in these.

    As a consequence, we are told that God decided to create a female human. . . . Thus, in later generations, an Adam would leave his parents household and cleave to this companion/helper/aid and become one body again.

    A man would leave his father and mother and stick to his wife.

    Now, once again, we ask: Is this about one man and one women or humankind in general?

    It applies to mankind in general, as every commentator ever has said. (I think that you think the only way this can support an anti-homosexual practice interpretation is if it applies only to these two particular persons. But that isn’t true.)

    Aren't we all Adam? Don't you and I possess the bones of his/their bones and the body of his/their body? We are all human beings, but from that it doesn’t follow that the sexual union of any two persons (or why not three or ten?) could make us ‘one flesh’.


    We all possess the same nature: humanity (which Aristotle famously described as rational animality). But humanity is bifurcated between male and female. Therefore, your inference that any sexual union of two people can make the two one flesh fails. (Also, why stop at two? Why can’t a threesome become one flesh? Why can’t a man and a cat?)

    Finally, do ANY of the verses which make up this second creation story in the second chapter of Genesis say ANYTHING about procreation?

    Yes, but implicitly. And it is a mistake to think that we should consider this special account apart from the first or from Scripture generally, whereupon we find clearly that the one flesh union is necessarily formed only in procreative open sex (that is, sexual acts that are open toward the procreative end of the sexual faculty they employ).

    Between the two accounts, it is not hard to see the connection between ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and ‘and so a man will leave his father and mother and stick to his wife and the two will become one flesh’. The two statements refer to the same thing.

    Moreover, that sexual acts that are open to reproduction are meant here can be gleaned by philosophic analysis of ‘one flesh’ as well as the martial norms here expressed or implicit herein: being a two person union, being a permanent union, etc. As I’ve shown before on your blog or my own. (But you’ve yet to provide an account as to how marital norms are grounded.)

    “In other words, isn't the entire focus of the second story based on suitable human companionship?”

    Sure, but it also defines what that looks like: one man and one woman in marriage.

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  2. You point out that Adam didn’t find companionship in animals, and that is true. However, he didn’t find companionship in other men. God could have easily created a man for him but did not. Just as Adam passed over all the animals, God passed over all the potential male humans he could have created and chose to create a female. If Adam’s passing over the animals indicated that these were not suitable companions, God’s passing over potentially creating a male likewise indicates that these male humans are not a suitable companion for Adam.

    You might agree, saying, ‘From that particular man, Adam, yes. But that was because God created him straight, not gay.’ Fine, but then I will reason likewise concerning the animals. Those were not sutiable companions for him specifically, but for those who are sexually attracted to animals they are. But surely I have erred here, since the whole point of that passage is to indicate that they are in principle unsuitable companions for any human being, not just particular ones. But then, that same logic applies: for any man another man is an unsuitable companion, or to generalize it, for any person another person of the same sex is an unsuitable companion for marriage.

    Or we can reason likewise for number of companions. Why is it that only two can become one flesh? Maybe because they were monoamorous, but if Adam was polyamourous, God would have created, say two women, or maybe a man and a woman and the three would have become one flesh. But I think this is an unreasonable interpretation. The point of this account is to explain the origin of the martial norms. Norms, interestingly enough, that we at odds with what stiff-necked Israel were required to adhere by. But if you’re still confused as to whether stones are gods or should be worshipped, I guess we can cut them some slack.

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  3. Jensen,
    The first chapter of Genesis states that humankind (Adam) was created in God's image. As a consequence, it follows that the traits which which God and WE assign to each gender have their source in one persona (God). In these verses, ADAM (remember the Hebrew word can mean a man, the first man or mankind in general) is regarded as male and female.

    If you're trying to harmonize this story with what is recorded in the second chapter, then it appears that YOU are saying the first man was male and female (remember, in the second story, Adam is created first and the woman is created sometime later). Are you suggesting that God removed the female part of Adam to make his wife, and that this is the reason that only one man and one woman can make one whole flesh/body/person?

    You dodged my question. Aren't we all ADAM (look at the Hebrew word)? In this connection, notice these verses which employ the same Hebrew words for bones and flesh used in the same fashion in which they are employed in this story: Genesis 29:14 and II Samuel 19:13.

    Moreover, the second creation story also makes Adam the primordial parent of Eve. In a sense, every other human who has ever lived is derived from his bones and his flesh. In other words, you and I are the bone of his bones and the flesh of his flesh.

    And, in this second story, a single companion/aid/helper is sought for the man - first among the animals, and then with the creation and presentation of the woman. And, as only ONE companion/aid/helper was sought for Adam, I fail to see how two, three or five could be considered suitable/appropriate. And, as you say, the story itself rules out animals as suitable or appropriate partners.

    You say that procreation is implied in the second story. You say that this is indicated by the statement about the two becoming one flesh, but I think that this requires a great deal of imagination. The context makes it plain that this statement is made in consequence of the story just told about finding a suitable companion for Adam. Thus, for me, it is clear that this act (becoming one flesh) is seen as an expression of the consummation of this relationship. I think this is further reinforced by the fact that we are informed that the couple begins procreating in chapter four of Genesis (after their expulsion from the garden).

    From your response, it is clear to me that we continue to view this subject in radically different ways. I hope that this conversation has at least permitted you to see that the other side of this argument is sincere and does have a rationale for their views. I think that we have both presented our respective views here and on your blog, and I am comfortable in leaving it to the judgment of others as to who has prevailed in making the best case for his views (I suspect that those who agree with you will decide in your favor, and that those who agree with me will give me the nod). The real test, of course, would be for someone who is truly undecided about this issue. At any rate, I am declaring our conversation on this subject complete - I will continue to welcome comments from anyone else who has followed this conversation (whatever your view).

    Thanks again for the civility which you have exhibited in our conversation, and I sincerely hope to see you in God's Kingdom some day!

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    1. Saying, presumptuously and self-righteously,"I got the last word, you're wrong so be quiet, I won't listen to anything else you have to say, and I sincerely hope to see you in Gods Kingdom some day!..when you will see I am right." is transparent to all.

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    2. I do believe that Jensen is wrong on this issue, and this is my blog. However, I continue to be interested in what he has to say (I check out his blogs on a regular basis). On this issue, I felt that we had both made our respective cases, and that we had arrived at that point in our conversation where we were talking past each other (reiterating points which had already been made).

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  4. I believe that you really have to look at the way in which people see themselves in terms of their relationship with God. That is what is important. David was a man after God's own heart because no matter how he failed and sinned, he didn't turn his back on God. He steadfastly kept praising Him, and he kept on praying to Him. He knew that like all of us, he was born to sin, but refused to allow that to separate him from God.

    Today, I spent some time at one of my favorite customer locations. The business owners are a Christian lesbian couple. It is always a moving experience to visit with them. People in the ACOGs, and evangelicals could not understand. These friends of mine totally see themselves as being anchored in Jesus Christ, and, believe me, they would put a number of straight Christians to shame.

    People judge, even though the Bible cautions us against that. I believe that any of us who make it into the Kingdom are going to get an awfully lot of surprises. I believe that many of the people whom others tend to exclude will be above those who criticize them.

    BB

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    1. BB,
      Thank you for commenting. If I'm understanding the nature of your comments, then I think that we are probably in complete agreement about the very personal nature of salvation and its relationship to individual conscience. I also agree with you about the surprises (that's one of the reasons I'm not quite as dogmatic as I used to be).

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    2. Wow. You are lucky... "It is always a moving experience to visit with them" and "believe me, they would put a number of straight Christians to shame". I almost feel deficient that my Christian struggles in life have been so insignificant by comparison."People judge, even though the Bible cautions us against that". I do not even know where to start with this if you consider the Word of God the word of God. " I believe that many of the people whom others tend to exclude will be above those who criticize them". That will be true, but by a different set of parameters than what you propose here. I doubt that in the resurrection God will shame us with lesbians and homosexuals. Unless, if He chooses to shame us then at all, they were the most Godly persons ever who struggled with personal sin problems. I suppose that is possible, but not likely.

      .

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  5. Oh, is this article is a subtle introduction into the arguments around the alternatives to male/female human sexuality? I was trying to figure out what it was about.
    Simply, we are seeing an increase in non male/female sexual expression. I do not know all the factors involved in persons developing and expressing this. Socialization, hormones in food,plastics,pollutants,etc. Socialization and the development of the human sexual love-map is of profound influence. And the politicization of human sexuality. Of course, who is to say homosexual promiscuity is any more sinful than heterosexual promiscuity? Well, then, how about homosexual monogamy vs. heterosexual monogamy? I cannot answer for social mores. I can only answer for myself and recognize Gods' work in developing me in this messed-up world. I do recognize that Gods' plan in all of its' types are expressed within the created relationships of man/woman, husband/wife, parent/child, teacher/student, friend/friend, etc.

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