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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 glise et Thologie, 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
biblcal 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 understandng 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 t 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
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 referrng to a text of the New Testament,
which in turn refers to the Old Testament. We are thus faced with the complcated
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 mans 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
affrms its discovery and method by use of Scripture. In the mid 1800s, 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 todays 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 todays 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 writers 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
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 Adams 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 Adams 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 Fraines commentary is most generous in its
description of womans 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 Womans 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 Gods 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, mans
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 hadm 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 hadmh 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 womans 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 zr 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 mans helper, it places her in a
relationship to man similar to that of God when it speaks of him as mans 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 sins 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 husbands 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
5. The Woman is supposed to listen to the voice of the Man
A very strange argument arises from Yahwehs 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 Adams own defense (3: 12).
Gods 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 Gods original plan, it is rooted in sin, it is evil.(45) If
one accepts the interpretation that the womans 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
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.
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: hdm, , h. 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 (hadmh). Consequently, the
first thing God does is: Yahweh God fashioned hdm of dust from the ground min
hadmh (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 dm (Gen 1: 26), God created hdm 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
hadmh 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 mans 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 h for this one was taken from man (v. 23).
There now appears for the first time in the story woman h and man .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.
dTherefore a man leaves, his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife beto
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
dthe detail that it is the man who leaves his father and mother to join himself to his wife.
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
haissah saw the tree [...] she ate, and she also gave some to her husband leisah, 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 haadam 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
, he speaks very clearly here about deformed man-woman relationship.
dThat the Mensch called his wifes 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 haadam 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
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
_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 - 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.
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
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, Lactualisation a lintrieur de la Bible, in Revue Biblique, 83 (1976), pp.
161-202, especially Le fondement de lactualisation a lintrieur de la Bible; lunit
diachronique et synchronique du peuple de Dieu, p. 165 ff.; actualisation et fidlit 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,
Israels Concept of the Beginning (N.Y.: Herder and Herder, 1964), pp. 234-243; H.
Cazelles, Introduction la Bible, tome II: Introduction critique lAncien Testament
(Paris: Descle et Cie, 1973), on Interventions du Magistre Ecclsiastique, pp. 134-
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 sad, 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 Adams 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 Womens 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, Exgse
et Hermneutique, ed. X. Leon-Dufour (Coll. Parole de Dieu; Paris: Seuil, 1971); O. C.
Edwards, Historical-critical Methods 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 Zugnge zur Bibel, especially H.
Harsch, Psychologische Interpretation biblischer Texte, pp. 39-45; K. Fssel, Was
heisst materialistische Lektre der Bibel?, pp. 46-54; T. Schramm, Selbsterfahrung als
Schlssel zur Bibel, pp. 55-62; O. Betz, Biblische Texte als Schlssel 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 cration de la femme. Essai sur le
mythe dEve (Bruxelles: Ed. Complexe, f1975); the first part of his book gives a survey
on these different approaches: Le mythe et le mystere dEve, 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, Gense I-III (Paris: Gabalda,
1953): Par sa structure, la Femme est de mme nature que 1homme, dpend de lui,
forme avec lui une seule personne morale (p. 106). She has the same nature, but depends
on man; H. Renckens, Israels 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 [Israels visie op het verleden (Tielt:
Lannoo, 1956), p. 176]. And if the womans weakness indicates not her inferiority but
rather her vocation to be a helpmeet, then the mans 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 womans 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 (Gttingen: 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 Gods 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, Thologie de lAncien Testament (Neuchtel: Delachaux et Niestl, 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. Ones explanation is very much dependent upon ones perspective. T. Reik, La
cration de la femme, quotes some of the rabbinic views: Pourquoi la femme se
parfume-t-elle? Lhomme fut cree de poussiere, laquelle ne se putrefie pas. La femme,
cre partir dun os, perdrait sa saveur si elle ne se parfumait pas de mme que la
viande se putrfie sans pices (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 womans 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: femme est, enfin, subordonnee a lhomme 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 (zr) 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 womans nature; she deceives because she was formed from Adams rib, and that was
crooked (cf. P. K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female, p. 158).
38. G. Lambert, Le drame du jardin dEden, in Nouv. Revue Thol, 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 fr alttestamentliche Wissenschaft, 87 (1975), pp. 1-
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 Womens 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 Bibles 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 Fminisme et la Bible, in La
Vie des Communauts Religieuses, 31 (1973), pp. 242-253; M. de Mrode, 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 Womans 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
cration de la femme, Essai sur le mythe dEve (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 Gense comme mythe, in Langages, 6 (1971), n. 22, pp.
13-23; J. Guichard, Approche matrialiste du rcit de la chute, in Lumire 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 1analyse
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, dhm, 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 Wrterbuch 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, dhm, 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; Luomo diede nome a tutto il bestiame [...] ma per un essere
umano non trov 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, Israels Concept of the Beginning, p. 219).
60. H. W. Wolff, Der Mensch und seine Hilfe. Eine Trauansprache ber Genesis 2,
15.18-23 fr ein Biologen-Ehepaar, in Menschliches (Mnchen: 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. Schningh, 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 cte and ct (C. Hauret, Origines, p. 101).
63. In some of the popular interpretations often as a negative image for the woman, cf. T.
Reik, La cration 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 lcriture sumrienne le mme signe graphique TI le double sens de cte et
de vie. Ce fait parat indiquer quentre les ides de cte et de vie il y avait une
connexion permettant de prendre la cte comme symbole de force vitale (C. Hauret,
Origines, p. 101).
65. F. Lenormant, Les Origines de Ihistoire daprs la Bible et les traditions des peuples
orientaux, tome I (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1880). In Chap. 1. La creation de 1homme, 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 dEve, in
Revue de lHistoire des Religions, 78 (1918), pp. 185-206; T. Reik, La cration de la
femme, Le premier tre 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, sh and ishshh, 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. 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
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 Abhngigkeit Beherr-schung oder gar Unterdrckung zu
spren. Eitel Freude an der Zusammen-gehrigkeit 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 verlsst, soll die Urgewalt der Liebe unverkennbar besonders stark unterstreichen
(W. Zimmerli, Die Weltlichkeit des Alten Testaments [Gttingen: 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
Womans 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 Womens 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 Yahwists interest is completely directed towards those relationships in which
man is compelled to recognize his humanity from the very beginning, and he develops
mans 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 Gense comme mythe, in
Langages, 6 (1971), n 22, pp. 13-23.
81. J. De Fraine, Jeux de mots dans le rcit de la chute, in Mlanges 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 Mrode, Une aide qui lui
correspond. Lexgse de Gen 2, 18-24 dans les crits de 1Ancien Testament, du
judasme et du Nouveau Testament, in Revue Thologique de Louvain, 8 (1977), pp.