What If Genesis Were Feminist?


(system) #1

(Translated by Carlos Enrique Espinosa)

The question may seem preposterous, perhaps it is…however, let me continue.

Pandora and Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman, created by order of Zeus as part of a punishment to Prometheus for having revealed the secret of fire to humans. Zeus was enraged and ordered the creation of a woman, whom the gods filled with virtues. Hephaestus shaped the clay and gave her away; Athena gave her a robe and dressed her; the Graces and Persuasion gave her necklaces; the Hours put a crown of flowers on her head; and Hermes filled her with lies, as well as seductive words and a voluble character.

Zeus also gave Prometheus an amphora that contained countless treasures. Prometheus did not trust Zeus, gave the amphora to his brother, Epimetheus, and ordered him not to open it. In addition, Prometheus warned his brother not to accept any gift from the gods. However, Epimetheus ignored the advice of Prometheus, fell in love with Pandora, and took her as a wife.

Pandora was curious. While Epimetheus slept, she opened the amphora, which released all the ills that we face today: sickness, fatigue, aging, folly, vice, passion, plague, sadness, poverty, crime, and so forth. When Pandora realized what she had done, she closed the amphora slightly before Hope came out. She then ran to tell men that all was not lost—there still was hope. For this reason, it is said that hope is the last thing one loses.

Eve and the Story of Genesis

Earliest cultures blamed women for all human ills. The Greeks saw Pandora opening the amphora, whereas Christians have faulted Eve for extending her hand to take the apple. Christians read the story of Genesis in much the same way that Greeks read the myth of Pandora.

Greek myths have influenced every aspect of the Judeo-Christian tradition, so much so that they have distorted readings of the biblical text.

Chapter 2 of Genesis narrates the second story of creation, explaining the initial actions of man on earth. Adam seems to be satisfied with his home, Eden, and he has an extraordinary occupation: he names all cattle, birds, and animals (Gen. 2: 20). For a Semite, this action was loaded with meaning. To name was to know and love, and, ultimately, to enjoy life in its fullness. However, despite Adam’s enjoyment, the Eternal thought “it [was] not good that man should be alone” (Gen. 2: 18).

The woman does not appear on the second story of the Creation because of man’s desire or request, but because God considers her presence essential for him. Women's presence is a divine initiative that comes about only because of God’s eternal design. God knows the extent of Adam’s loneliness since the Garden of Eden contains other animals capable of feeling and interacting. But nobody can share Adam’s life as his equal. God knows that, in the long run, this situation will lead to frustration and disappointment for Adam. The divine plan of creation could not reach its fullness; it was not yet complete.

God sees Adam facing a vacuum. Eve will essentially rescue Adam from his predicament. Thus, she provides “appropriate assistance.” She is called to help Adam, who cannot by himself complete the plan of creation.

The Genesis story goes on: “Therefore shall a man leaves his father and mother, and will join his wife and they shall be one flesh” (Gen. 2: 24). What a strange statement for a text written by a Semite! Rebecca must leave Haran to marry Isaac. When Lea and Rachel get married, they become members of the clan of Jacob and no longer belong to that of Laban, his father. In the world of the ancient Near East, it was always the woman who left “her father and mother” to get married.

Genesis 1 suggests that the creation of humans represents the end of the Creation story. In Genesis 2, the creation of Eve closes out the Creation story. If the end represents the culmination, then the creation of Eve represents the climax of God’s creating actions.

The creation of woman using a part of man’s body highlights the intimate union of the two. The joy of man having an equal is reflected in Genesis 2:23: “This…is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” (The Hebrew language plays with the words 'îš [man; male], and 'iššâ [woman; she-male]).

Adam falls into a deep sleep; he is not allowed to see the woman’s creation, but he knows that she comes out of him—she is his equal. Adam is “modeled” (yäcar) by God; he is the product of a craftsman, as a pitcher is created by a potter. In contrast, Eve is “built” (Bänâ), also by God, as the execution of an architect who builds a temple.

That was the order that God established in Eden, but sin’s appearance subverted it. Afterward, the one who represented Creation’s culmination was subjugated. Adam’s equal was placed in an inferior position, which disrupted the plan of Creation.

In the Garden, Satan launched his attack on the “appropriate assistance,” the one who should have been Adam’s strength.

Conclusion

Because of the Fall, women have unfortunately been placed in an inferior position. This corresponds with the myth of Pandora. So much has the plan of Creation become corrupted that even those who want to serve God prevent women, many of whom are gifted, from serving the church of Christ.

Why aren’t women equal to men in our Church? Wasn’t Paul correct when he wrote, “There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no slave nor free, no man or woman”? The text quoted, Galatians 3:18, has a parallel in Romans, which says: “there is no difference between Jews and Greek” (10:12). Here, the emphatic “there is no” refers to differences in treatment among humans, for “the same Lord is Lord of all,…and anyone who invokes the name of the Lord shall be saved” (10:12–13). Another parallel text can be found in Colossians, which represents the most radical statement of equality: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian nor stranger, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (3:11).

If God wants salvation for all humans, women should be included in the quest. How dare anybody block from the ministry women to whom the Holy Spirit has granted rich talents! No one should dare stand in the way of those whom God “has made clean,” lest they run the risk of hindering God, as Peter learned in the vision of the sheets (Acts 11:5-17).

“For the hardness of your hearts, Moses allowed you to repudiate your wives, but at first it did not happen so” (Matt. 19:8), said Jesus. Those who live in hope of a new world—a new Eden—need to start living that faith now. From now on, it should not be possible to “repudiate” women to whom the Holy Spirit has granted the gift of leadership. By doing so, we disavow the gifts that the Son of God has granted to his wife, the church, gifts given to build the body of Christ.

References

M. Fernández. Sexuality: A Christian Perspective. Barcelona: Aula7activa (forthcoming). J. M. Tellería. "The Emergence of Women." Aula7 (Dec. 1991), 7–12. G. von Rad, Theology of the Old Testament. 8th ed. Salamanca: Ed. Sígueme, 2000.

Ramon-Carles Gelabert is a physician and founding member of the Adventist Association of University Students of Spain (AEGUAE), whose publishing arm Aula7activa runs Café Hispano in partnership with Adventist Forum/ Spectrum. He currently lives in Barcelona, Spain, where he writes on theology, health, science, and religion.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/931