Defend the claim that the God of Genesis was not misogynistic

(Albert Leo) #1

[quote=“Christy, post:20, topic:5757”]
The question you need to ask is not usually “Is this verse fact or fiction?” or “Is this verse true or false?” “Or is this verse correct or an error?” “Or is this verse literal or figurative”. The question you need to ask is “What clues does this verse give us as to the overall communicative intent of the author?” No verses get chucked in the “irrelevant” basket. .
[/quote]George initially chose Gen.2:22 as a prime candidate for the “erroneous basket”. Personally, I am not disturbed by this passage, as I am willing to accept that this was a figurative method the author used to communicate the idea that God intended Adam & Eve to “be of one flesh”.However, I am surprised that none of the responders seem as upset as I am with some of the verses that precede this: namely, 18, 19, & 20. I see no “spin” that can be given these verses except that the human female was an afterthought in God’s plan. After creating Adam, he created all the animals, trotted them in front of Adam to name them and to pick out a help mate from amongst them! What, in God’s name, was the author trying to communicate? The message communicated to me was: God is a misogynist of the first rank (even surpassing Donald T.) First of all, it insults God, and it certainly insults women.
Can anyone give these verses an acceptable spin?
Al Leo

BioLogos and Inerrancy?
(Christy Hemphill) #2

Oh yes, we can give those verses an acceptable spin. But you’ll have to wait until I’m done with my work for my two cents.

(Christy Hemphill) #3

First the text:

[quote]Genesis 2:18-22 (NLT)

18 Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” 19 So the Lord God formed from the ground all the wild animals and all the birds of the sky. He brought them to the man[a] to see what he would call them, and the man chose a name for each one. 20 He gave names to all the livestock, all the birds of the sky, and all the wild animals. But still there was no helper just right for him.

21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the Lord God took out one of the man’s ribs[b] and closed up the opening. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.[/quote]

  1. We have to keep in mind that there are two human creation accounts, one in Genesis 1 and one on Genesis 2. They need to be taken together. In Genesis 1 we have corporate humanity created equally in God’s image, both male and female. Humanity, both male and female, is given the responsibility of ruling/stewarding creation on God’s behalf and enjoying the blessings of God’s provision.

  2. The second narrative employs imagery common in creation myths of the time. The Babylonians and Egyptians also pictured the first people as being created out of clay and infused with something from the gods (blood, tears, breath). In Genesis, it is God’s breath that imparts life.

  3. Some scholars think because the word for ‘rib’ in Sumerian is the same word as the word for ‘life’ (Life is the meaning of Eve’s name), that this may have been some kind of artistic play on words. (Sumerian being one of the languages in which the original tradition was probably communicated. The patriarchs did not speak Hebrew.)

  4. Some scholars point out that the need for an equal counterpart for archetypal man is present in other ANE literature. (i.e. Gilgamesh) It was considered the god’s job to establish this relationship. Adam realizes he needs a counterpart and God provides one. The point of parading the animals in front of Adam was for him to recognize his need for an equal counterpart.

  5. The Hebrew word for 'helper" is used throughout the Old Testament to describe God himself and ally kings who lend their strength in time of war. It does not imply subservience or inferiority.

I think the communicative intent of the passage was to establish that men and women are created to work in partnership, interdependence, and unity to fulfill the tasks God gave them of ruling the earth. God desired relationship with humans, but he also ordained human relationships based on mutuality as necessary for human flourishing.

(Jon) #4

I find that totally incomprehensible.

(Albert Leo) #5

What is incomprehensible, Jonathan?? That God would make the human male first, and then after creating all the other animal species and having Adam name them, He gets around to creating a female counterpart for Adam so they can procreate?? That is what an intelligent reader (who not an ancient language expert) would conclude from the modern English version of Gen. 2. And yes, that IS incomprehensible, and totally at odds with Gen. 1 where male and female were created concurrently. So I would rather conclude that parts of Gen. 2 are NOT divinely inspired as was Gen.1. @Christy offers an “orthodox” exegesis of Gen.2, which, while plausible, would never have been ‘constructed’ except for the fact that any direct reading of English text today IS totally incomprehensible in describing a God worthy of worship.

So, we are NOT gaining a truer comprehension from Gen.2 of the God who Created us. Its the reverse. We are forced to explain the obvious anomalies in Gen.2, because we already have, from other sources, a better idea of the loving, wise God worthy of our worship.
Al Leo

(Jon) #6

No that’s not the incomprehensible part. It’s abundantly clear from the text, even in English, that Adam was created first and then deliberately made to feel inadequate, alone, and incomplete, specifically so he could understand that he was not the lord of creation and to make him appreciate and value greatly the counterpart who was created to complete him. And that indeed is how many early Jewish and Christian writers understood the passage.


Genesis 1-3 and male leadership, priority or “headship” is hotly debated between egalitarian and complementarian Christians. We even have our own competing web-sites. Christians for Biblical Equality have many articles covering the topic of gender equality. Here is one:

Christians for Biblical Men and Women presents the complementarian side. The debate follows well worn patterns.

More years ago then I would want to admit, I heard Dr. Waltke state in a lecture that in the Genesis narrative “God blesses patriarchy.” (I have no idea of Dr. Waltke’s current views regarding hierarchal nature of the biblical texts.) And for the record, in my experience as one of his students, Dr. Waltke was anything but a misogynist. Back in the day, Dr. Waltke was a primary influence in my engagement of biblical theology rather than systematics.

The label misognist doesn’t apply to every complementarian.

Larry Schmidt

(Albert Leo) #8

Christy, as I knew you would, you have presented a scholarly defense of the misogynistic portions of Gen.2. And I can accept that Genesis was written at a time (during and after the Babylonian captivity) when a counter-point was needed to keep the Jews ‘unsullied’ by the creation myths of that era. But we need to be concerned in how Scripture ’speaks to us today’. I fear that, without the scholarship you present in your post, sections of Gen. 2 & 3 (and a good deal of the O.T.) can actually be harmful. I am just reading Mike McHargue’s “Finding God in the Waves” and that certainly was true in his case when he started reading the likes of Dawkins and Harris.
I hope and pray that you and the other home school Moms can provide a strong enough foundation in your kids that don’t fall prey to the ‘evangelical atheists’ who have gained so much notoriety.
Al Leo

(Christy Hemphill) #9

It’s actually the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

(Christy Hemphill) #10

Definitely. I could direct you to the websites of many groups who have what I consider very harmful “biblical” beliefs. I just reject the idea that the proper response to that reality is to back away from the idea that the Bible is authoritative in what it intends to teach.

(Albert Leo) #11

And thus according to your reasoning, one must accept that either Gen.2 is TRUE or else evolution is true. Both cannot be, at least as most commonly understood. In contrast, I believe they can be made compatible: Darwinian evolution needs a little expansion to accommodate the appearance of Mind from Brain in humankind, while Gen. 2 needs an exegesis (see previous @Christy posts) which takes into consideration ancient creation myths and language differences.

If only the Truths in Scripture were abundantly clear!!!
Al Leo

(Jon) #12

No I don;t believe that.

(Albert Leo) #13

@Jonathan_Burke You must be pulling my leg. Your interpretation of Gen 2 obviously flies in the face of any form of evolutionary thought.
Al Leo

(Jon) #14

I don’t see how.

(Albert Leo) #15

C’mon Jonathan! You aren’t being serious. Adam first and then Eve later? That supported misogyny for centuries, but only Donald Trump subscribes to it these days.
Al Leo

(Jon) #16

Yeah sorry, that sounds pretty weird to me. I really don’t see that at all.

(Christy Hemphill) #17

It seems like you are saying that the interpretations offered by Bible scholars are attempts to make a text that meant something different once upon a time, mean something palatable now. And that the goal of doing so is to somehow redeem what was originally an unpleasant story, so we don’t have to abandon it as hopelessly archaic and outdated.

But I would argue that is neither what Bible scholars do, nor their goal, at least if we are talking about the Evangelical ones whose ideas I referred to above. The job of Bible scholars is to help us recreate the context and assumptions and background knowledge and expectations of the original author and audience as best we can, and the goal is to uncover as best we can what the original message communicated in that context was. They aren’t re-framing the story so that it means something different now than what it was intended to mean. They are trying to mitigate the cultural baggage we bring to the text and help us avoid inevitable interpretive mistakes that we are bound to make in our ignorance of the original context.

It is an unfair and unrealistic expectation of the biblical text to insist that it should make sense to us with no knowledge of the cognitive environment in which it was originally produced. Obviously, we have to do our homework to get close to the intended meaning.

BioLogos Advisory Council member John Walton has a whole enlightening book,The Lost World of Adam and Eve on understanding the account of Adam and Eve in its ANE cultural context. I dug up some points from Proposition 8 “Forming from the Dust and Building from the Rib” for you, since it was relevant to your assumptions about Eve being somehow created lesser than Adam according to the text.

Earlier in the book, Walton establishes reasons for seeing Genesis 2 as a “sequel” to the corporate creation of humanity in God’s image in Genesis 1 instead of seeing it as a retelling or more detailed account of the sixth day of creation described in Genesis 1.

Was Eve built from Adam’s rib? Walton says, no, because of Adam’s claim that she is “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” The Hebrew word translated ‘rib’ is used forty some times in the OT and in no other place is it an anatomical term. It usually refers to one side or the other. In Akkadian, a cognate is used to refer to an entire side or entire rib cage, like the English “a side of beef.” The word chosen in early Aramaic and Greek and Latin translations can mean side or rib. In English the word “rib” was selected over “side” with the earliest English translations and the resulting interpretation became entrenched in our translations.

Walton claims the ancient context would have understood God as cutting Adam in half to make Eve. He argues (using ANE lit and lexical studies) that the "deep sleep’ Adam experienced would not have been imagined by the ancients as some sort of anesthesia for divine surgery, but rather, preparation for a divine vision. The point of the vision was to help Adam understand an important reality, the reality of woman’s identity. (As Walton does much of the time, he argues the creation narrative was not to explain “where woman came from,” material origins, but what woman’s function was.) Since Adam and Eve are human archetypes, what is true about Eve would be understood to be true of all women. The narrative sets up the rationale for why an individual would establish a bonded, binding relationship with a biological outsider. Marriage is pictured as recovering an original state of wholeness. So women are not to be seen as mating partners, but as essential allies, as “the other half.” (End summary of Walton’s discussion)

When we understand more about the cognitive environment of the original audience, what we find is a text that elevates the identity of women and the significance of marriage much higher than probably would have been typical in its historical context. It’s not mysogynistic at all. The fact that over the centuries people have read their own sexism and bias into the text is not God’s fault.

BioLogos Irony (YEC/OEC)
(Albert Leo) #18

You have convinced me that I should read John Walton’s book, because that might change my attitude toward Gen. 2&3. But honestly Christy, where did the “people’s own sexism and bias” come from? Are we not born that way? In the animal world, evolution seems to have promoted sexism and bias in the harems of elks and elephant seals. Are humans so different? After giving us the 'Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, doesn’t God expect humans to overcome this evolution-based impulse–to live in the Noosphere rather than exclusively in the Biosphere? Why does an inspired Gen. 2&3 (with “Eve as an afterthought”) seem to support sexism and bias? Why do we need the benefit of scholars like Walton to set us straight? If God does have knowledge of the future, it seems to me that he would have inspired the ancient authors to use language that would have a clearer meaning to readers centuries later. Perhaps it is good for us to have this struggle to find the Truth.
Al Leo

(Christy Hemphill) #19

I don’t think children are born sexist or racist. They are socialized into it. There are cultures in the world that are fairly egalitarian. Ironically, when Mary Stewert VanLeeuwen did an investigation into gender constructs across cultures, she found that “primitive” hunter-gatherer societies are often far more egalitarian than “more advanced” societies, so I don’t think you can really substantiate the claim that sexism is innate.

Unfortunately, you are describing the “Ken Ham” approach to hermeneutics. The “plain meaning” to us is often not the right meaning. Like you said, maybe it’s good we have to work a bit. It should keep us humble at least.

(Albert Leo) #20

Thanks, Christy, you provide further support for my contention that there would be less misogyny in the Christian/Muslim world if Gen. 2, 3, & 4 were omitted (or at least greatly de-emphasized). Gen. 1 has God preparing a world suitable for our first parents, who were created concurrently and of equal nature. Food, in the form of animals, vegetables and fruit, were already created for their sustenance. They were blessed and told to procreate. This is in basic accord with how modern evolutionary science sees it. Gen. 5 takes up the story from there. This leads directly to the “primitive” hunter-gatherer societies we’ve seen in Kalahari and in Australia which are egalitarian.

So how did the misogyny so prevalent in mideast Islam and here in the U.S.(in a different form e.g. Hefner & Trump) arise? I am not claiming that Gen. 2,3,&4 are entirely to blame, but are you confident they played NO role?

One can make a good argument that sexism (Eve as afterthought) and racism (curse of Ham) are part of the "socialization" process encouraged by the O. T.

I would be happy to have any of my progeny attend a Bible Study class given by you, Christy. But how many well intentioned folks do not appreciate the subtle pitfalls inherent in the O. T. and teach it as it appears in modern English versions?
Al Leo