The Heart of It All: Humanity

July 24, 2012

by Peter Amsterdam

The Creation of Man as Male and Female

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(For an introduction and explanation regarding this series overall, please see The Heart of It All: Introduction.)

In the account of creation in Genesis chapter 1, human beings were the last things created. The universe and everything in it—the sun, moon, stars, planets, oceans, land, animals, fish, and birds—were all created before human beings. The Bible states that God created Adam, the first man, and afterwards created Eve, the first woman. (In this section of articles we are focusing on matters concerning human beings. The creation of all other things will be covered in a future section of the Heart of It All series.)

Historicity of Adam and Eve

When it comes to the origins of humankind, Christianity is committed to the biblical teaching that God historically created the first man and woman. Without getting into what time frame God may have used in creating the world and mankind, the story of Adam and Eve’s creation and existence isn’t seen as being mythological or as a literary device. Rather, standard Christian understanding sees them as actual people who lived within the history of the world.

The Old Testament provides continuity and connectivity between Adam and the other Old Testament historical figures. It shows the connection between the generations of the first man and those who followed within Old Testament history. (It is possible that these genealogies do not include all the generations, but only the main or most important ones, meaning there may have been much more time and many more generations than the generations listed.) Genesis 5 gives the genealogy from Adam to Noah and his sons.[1] Luke 3 gives the genealogy from Adam to Jesus.[2] In the New Testament it’s clearly indicated that Adam is a historical figure.

Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.[3]

For Adam was formed first, then Eve.[4]

The reason that I am addressing the historicity of Adam and Eve, and the reason for bringing up a number of the other concepts in this article, is that these matters connect with the entrance of sin into humanity. That then has an important connection to God’s plan of salvation through Jesus, which is covered more in depth in subsequent articles.

On the historicity of Adam and Eve, and that of the Genesis narrative, J. I. Packer offers the following:

Though telling the story in a somewhat figurative style, Genesis asks us to read it as history; in Genesis, Adam is linked to the patriarchs and with them to the rest of mankind by genealogy (chapters 5, 10, 11), which makes him as much a part of the space-time history as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. … Paul’s statement “In Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22) only makes explicit what Genesis already clearly implies.[5]

The following verses speak specifically about the creation of man and woman, with the first, from Genesis 1, giving an overview, and those from Genesis 2 and 5 giving more specifics.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” … So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.[6]

Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.[7]

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”[8]

When God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them and named them Man when they were created.[9]

Equality, Plurality, and Terminology

Man and woman, Adam and Eve, were created by God. They both were created in God’s image and likeness, and once God created them, He named them together as Man. In times past it was common to use man or mankind when referring to the human race, both male and female. Today it is used less, with words such as humankind and humanity more commonly used, so as to be gender neutral. Because of gender sensitivities, it’s generally considered more appropriate in most cases to use humanity and humankind when writing or speaking, which I have tried to do in this series, and with some exceptions will continue to do. However, in most translations of the Bible, the terms man and mankind are used, based on the fact that God originally named humankind, both male and female, “man.” Perhaps it was one way of God expressing equality of the sexes, even if they generally have different roles.

As quoted above, in Genesis 1:26–27 God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … male and female He created them. As explained in The Heart of It All: The Trinity, God exists as a plurality, the Trinity, three persons in one. When God created the first humans, male and female, He called them man. They were created with some degree of plurality. Similar to how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had loving interaction before the world was created,[10] God made Adam and Eve and their descendants able to love, communicate, and interact in marriage—where two persons, a man and a woman, become one flesh. He also made us able to have intricate personal relationships within families, as well as friendships and communities. These personal relationships show a similarity to the personal God having relationship within the Godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Theologian Wayne Grudem explains it this way:

Interpersonal unity can be especially deep in the human family and also in our spiritual family, the church. Between men and women, interpersonal unity comes to its fullest expression in this age in marriage, where husband and wife become, in a sense, two persons in one: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). This unity is not only a physical unity; it is also a spiritual and emotional unity of profound dimensions. A husband and a wife joined together in marriage are people that “God has joined together” (Matthew 19:6).

There is some similarity here: just as there was fellowship and communication and sharing of glory among the members of the Trinity before the world was made (see John 17:5, 24), so God made Adam and Eve in such a way that they would share love and communication and mutual giving of honor one to another in their interpersonal relationship. Of course, such reflection of the Trinity would come to expression in various ways within human society, but it would certainly exist from the beginning in the close interpersonal unity of marriage.[11]

This is an example of man having similarities to God and thus being made in the image and likeness of God. (The topic of man created in God’s image and likeness will be covered more in the next article; however, it’s important to mention it here in discussing the creation of man as male and female.)

God making male and female equally in His image expresses the equality of the two genders. They are both equally human. Similar to how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God in essence, male and female are equally human in essence. They are equal in personhood and equal in importance.

Wayne Grudem expresses it this way:

If we are equally in God’s image, then certainly men and women are equally important to God and equally valuable to Him. We have equal worth before Him for all eternity. The fact that both men and women are said by Scripture to be “in the image of God” should exclude all feelings of pride or inferiority and any idea that one sex is “better” or “worse” than the other. In particular, in contrast to many non-Christian cultures and religions, no one should feel proud or superior because he is a man, and no one should feel disappointed or inferior because she is a woman. If God thinks us to be equal in value, then that settles the question, for God’s evaluation is the true standard of personal value for all eternity.[12]

Women in the Bible

The New Testament, while written from within a very male-dominant society, teaches the equality of women in relation to God. A primary example is the infilling of the Holy Spirit falling equally to men and women.

In the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; even on My male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out My Spirit, and they shall prophesy.[13]

When speaking of the spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit, both Paul and Peter point out that these gifts are given to “each,” showing that both genders were able to receive them. Knowing and witnessing that the Spirit was poured out on all flesh, both male and female, makes it clear that “each” isn’t referring only to men. It’s evident that there were women with spiritual gifts in New Testament times.

All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.[14]

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.[15]

On the next day we departed and came to Caesarea, and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied.[16]

In His time on earth, Jesus made a point of breaking societal taboos that were unfavorable to women. He spoke with them in public;[17] He spoke to the Samaritan woman alone;[18] He approved of the woman who uncovered her hair and touched Him in the house of Simon the Pharisee; [19] He had women followers who traveled with Him and His disciples[20]—all of which were culturally unacceptable in Jewish society at the time.

Kenneth E. Bailey, author of Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, said the following about Jesus’ interaction with women.

The woman [at the well] approached. On seeing her, Jesus was expected to courteously withdraw to a distance of at least twenty feet, indicating that it was both safe and culturally appropriate for her to approach the well. Jesus did not move when she approached.… Jesus asks for a drink … He breaks the social taboo against talking to a woman, particularly in an uninhabited place with no witnesses … In village society, a strange man does not even make eye contact with a woman in a public place … Jesus not only talked to women, He invited women into His band of disciples, was financed by them, and some of them traveled with Him (Luke 8:13). The radical nature of the changes in the attitudes toward women that Jesus introduced are beyond description.[21]

Speaking of the woman who washed Jesus’ feet and dried them with her hair, Bailey wrote:

The woman uncovered her hair and “touched” Jesus! In traditional Middle Eastern society, from the days of the Jewish rabbis to the present, a woman was and is obliged to cover her hair in public. The Mishnah[22] lists the offenses that justify a man divorcing his wife without giving her a ketubah (a financial settlement). Among the items mentioned are “If she goes out with her hair unbound, or spins in the street, or speaks with any man.”… If going out “with her hair unbound” would trigger such a personal and financial disaster, then clearly such an act was considered an intolerable offense with dire consequences … He [Jesus] was expected to be embarrassed over the “touching” that He was receiving from the woman and shocked that she exposed her hair. Everyone in the room would assume that He would instinctively judge these acts as beyond the range of “acceptable behavior” and reject her … But to the amazement of the entire assembled crowd, Jesus allowed the scene to proceed and accepted her gestures.[23]

Paul makes the point about the equality of all people, including gender equality, within the church:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.[24]

Christian author Amy Orr-Ewing offers the following observation in regard to Jesus’ acceptance of women and the role of women in the early church:

In contrast to the cultural norms of the time, Jesus made a habit of revealing great theological truths to women. The first person who discovers Christ’s true identity in John’s Gospel is the Samaritan woman at the well. We must not underestimate how radical this is: Jesus was turning cultural taboos on their heads by teaching women and allowing women to be His disciples. In reality, it is clear that women played a full and vibrant role in the ministry of Jesus, both as examples within His teaching and as recipients of it. While this may seem absolutely right and proper in our 21st-century context, we must remember how radical this was in first-century Palestine. Jesus intentionally affirmed and included women. We see a continuation of this in the early church, from Lydia and Tabitha to Philip’s daughters, where women undertook various roles. While it is true to say that there are two particular passages in Paul’s writings which seem to go against all of this, by commanding some women to be silent and forbidding others from teaching, these must be read and interpreted in the context of the rest of the Bible. Paul himself gives guidelines for women when they publicly prophesy and mentions women who do teach like Priscilla [1 Corinthians 11:45; Acts 18:2426].[25]

James Leo Garrett expresses the worth and status of women in the Bible in this manner:

Although both Old and New Testaments are set in the context of patriarchal societies with strong emphasis on male dominance, the Bible affords no little evidence of the significance of women in salvation history. In the Old Testament, Miriam, Deborah, and Esther had leadership roles. Jesus’ attitude toward women may be seen in reference to the adulterous Samaritan woman, the woman with a hemorrhage, the Syro-Phoenician woman, Mary and Martha, and Mary Magdalene. The response of women to Jesus may be seen in Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna. Paul recognized such women as Phoebe and Priscilla as leaders.[26]

Different Roles

As explained in The Heart of It All: The Trinity Part 2, while the three Persons of the Trinity are all equally God, in essence they each have different roles and functions within the Godhead. The difference in roles doesn’t negate the equality, the divinity, or the personhood of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit.

Man and woman, though equally made in the image of God and equal in personhood and essence, also have different roles according to Scripture. In the verses about the creation of woman, the concept of different roles is expressed.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”[27]

Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.[28]

Though Eve was created later than Adam, God stated that man and woman were made in His image. When woman was created, God was making a helper that was fit for man. This is seen as the first indication that there are differences in the role of man and woman, with man being in the leadership role. This designation of woman being a helper to her husband and man having a leadership role was made prior to the fall, as opposed to something which happened after the fall. While there are some changes which came about in the application of these roles because of the fall, the difference in roles was stated before sin entered the picture.

Other indications of a difference in roles is that Adam was created first; Adam was given the responsibility to name the animals, and also was the one to call Eve “woman”; God spoke to Adam first after they both had sinned; Adam is seen as being the representative for humanity. These indicate that Adam is given a place of leadership, similar to how God the Father has leadership within the Trinity. This place of leadership doesn’t take away the equality insofar as the humanity, the value, the worth, or the goodness of each gender or individual; it rather expresses a difference in role. While one has a certain God-given authority within the relational role, they are equal in being and in essence, equally important and significant.

In the Epistles Paul states:

I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.[29]

Similar to how God the Father is the head of, or has authority over, the Son, so man is the head of his wife. There is a distinction in authority between husband and wife, with the husband being the head in the marriage and family. Along with this headship comes the husband’s responsibility for the care, nurture, provision and protection of his wife and family. While the Bible states the headship of man in a marriage, it doesn’t state that men are to have authority over women in all areas of interaction. Clearly there are examples in both the Old and New Testaments of women in leadership roles outside of their marriages, the inference being that there are times when women lead or have authority over men. However, in marriage the role of the man is as the head of the family.

While there was a difference in roles between Adam and Eve, harmony is inferred in the relationship, similar to how there is harmony and love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Authors Lewis and Demarest express it like this:

Prior to the Fall Adam and Eve enjoyed unbroken fellowship with their Creator and Sustainer. Apparently it was common for them to consciously encounter their Maker morning and evening (Genesis 3:8). The first pair enjoyed also faithful loving relationships with each other. No evidence of suspicion, envy, jealousy or hatred occurred before the Fall. Male and female were like God in having mutual relations of respect, love, and trust.[30]

When Adam and Eve sinned, the difference in roles didn’t change, but the harmonious interaction did, as God expressed it would when He said that woman’s desire would be “for your husband and he shall rule over you.” The expression “your desire shall be for your husband” has been widely accepted to mean the woman’s desire to conquer her husband or to rebel against his leadership within the marriage, or to take the leadership role from him, and in doing so bring disunity or conflict within the relationship. In stating that the husband “shall rule over you,” the understanding is that the husband would misuse his authority to rule dictatorially over the wife, bringing conflict into the relationship.

To the woman He said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”[31]

Wayne Grudem explains:

Concerning Adam, God told Eve, “He shall rule over you.” Here the word “rule” (Hebrew: mashal) is a strong term usually used of monarchial governments, not generally of authority within a family. The word does not imply any “participatory” government by those who are ruled, but rather has nuances of dictatorial or absolute, uncaring use of authority, rather than considerate, thoughtful rule. It suggests harshness rather than kindness. The sense here is that Adam will misuse his authority by ruling harshly over his wife, again introducing pain and conflict into a relationship that was previously harmonious. It’s not that Adam had no authority before the fall; it is simply that he will misuse it after the fall. So in both cases, the curse brought a distortion of Adam’s humble, considerate leadership and Eve’s intelligent, willing submission to that leadership which existed before the fall.[32]

The New Testament tells Christian men to not be harsh with their wives and tells wives to submit to their husbands.

Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.[33]

The inference is that though the consequences of sin brought conflict in the relationship between the first husband and wife, and subsequently to all married couples, Christians should act more like the pre-fall Adam and Eve within their marriage. When Scripture tells women to submit to their husbands and men not to be harsh with their wives, it is directing them away from the consequences of sin and toward love and harmony in the marriage. Salvation, being a new creature, regeneration, and growing in one’s faith should result in growth toward being more Christlike, reflecting more of the image of God.

Unity in Marriage

The union of a man and woman in marriage makes them a team, and in order for a team to succeed, they must work together in unity, with each person playing their role properly. Every team needs a head or captain. According to Scripture, the husband is the captain in a marriage. But the man being the captain doesn’t negate the necessity for the team to work together in unity. The captain of the team isn’t meant to be a dictator who never listens to or takes the advice of other members of the team. The team is meant to work together in unity, and so is the marriage.

If husbands are being harsh and dictatorial, or if wives are attempting to rule the marriage, they should recognize that these attitudes and behaviors are in alignment with fallen humanity. And as new creatures in Christ, we are meant to be transformed more into His image, and thus to reflect Him in our relationships.

We all … are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[34]

God made man and woman in His image and likeness. That image and likeness still exists, though marred by sin. In God’s eyes, men and women are equal. In marriage, men are given the role of headship; however, there is equality of the genders in value and personhood. As Christians, in marriage we should strive to be a union of two equal human beings fulfilling the roles He has given us to play in harmony, mutual understanding, and love one for another, as exemplified by the unity within the Trinity of God.

[1] Genesis 5:1–32.

[2] Luke 3:23–38.

[3] 1 Corinthians 15:45.

[4] 1 Timothy 2:13.

[5] J. I. Packer, Concise Theology (Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), p. 81.

[6] Genesis 1:26–27.

[7] Genesis 2:7.

[8] Genesis 2:21–23.

[9] Genesis 5:1–2.

[10] And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed (John 17:5).

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My glory that You have given Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world (John 17:24).

[11] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 454–455.

[12] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press 2000), p. 456.

[13] Acts 2:17–18.

[14] 1 Corinthians 12:11.

[15] 1 Peter 4:10.

[16] Acts 21:8–9.

[17] Matthew 9:21–22; Matthew 15:21–28; Luke 13:11–13.

[18] John 4:4–26.

[19] Luke 7:36–44.

[20] Luke 8:1–3.

[21] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), p. 202–203.

[22] The primary body of Jewish civil and religious law, forming the first part of the Talmud. These laws were handed down orally until written down around AD 200 (Courtesy of Microsoft Encarta dictionary).

[23] Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008), p. 248, 250.

[24] Galatians 3:27–28.

[26] James Leo Garrett, Jr., Systematic Theology, Biblical, Historical, and Evangelical, Vol. 1 (N. Richland Hills: BIBAL Press, 2000), p. 494.

[27] Genesis 2:18.

[28] Genesis 2:19–24.

[29] 1 Corinthians 11:3.

[30] Gordon R. Lewis and Bruce A. Demarest, Integrative Theology, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 206.

[31] Genesis 3:16.

[32] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: InterVarsity Press, 2000), p. 464.

[33] Colossians 3:18–19.

[34] 2 Corinthians 3:18.