Life Notes—October 13, 2011
“This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken. Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24
There are two accounts for the creation of humans in Genesis. In the first chapter the creation goes like this: “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).” The second creation account begins like this: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner (Genesis 2:18).” It continues in verse 21: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs…and the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman…”
In his book, “How Good Do We Have to Be?” Rabbi Harold S. Kushner makes a number of interesting observations about these two creation stories. His observations center on the Hebrew word, tsela, which is translated as “rib” in the second creation account. The same word is translated as “side” in other parts of the Bible. So, the second creation story could read as follows: “…then he took one of his sides…and the side that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman…”
I am not a Biblical scholar or theologian, but this alternate wording is significant to me. I was taught that God first created a man, Adam. Noting it was not good for Adam to be alone God put Adam to sleep, removed one of his ribs and made a woman, Eve. In the alternate reading of the story, substituting “side” for “rib,” we can see the two creation stories as sequential events in one creation, rather than two accounts of one creation.
Rabbi Kushner suggests the initial creation of humankind produced a single being that was both male and female. Odd? Not necessarily. Throughout the Bible God’s character consistently transcends gender, although God is usually referred to in the masculine form. If God created humankind in God’s own image, it is not unreasonable to assume the first human contained both male and female aspects. The dilemma was that there was no other created being for equal companionship. So God put this human to sleep and separated the male and female aspects, resulting in two beings from the one: a man and a woman. The two equal sides, or aspects, of the original created being.
I realize this thought process may make some uncomfortable. But I ask you to bear with me for a few weeks as we explore the possible implications of this alternate reading. Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the Sanctuary. Contemporary worship at the west campus is at 9:00 and 11:00.
Come home to church this Sunday. Explore challenging issues with us!
Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator