A Rereading of Woman in the Garden: With Fretheim

I’ve been reading a collection of Terence Fretheim’s essays over the last month that have been fantastic in offering his many insights into theology and Scripture. Fretheim is one of those OT scholars who can write in a way that is both accessible and constructively provocative. One of the essays, “Creator, Creature, and Co-Creation in Genesis 1-2” offers the following four points regarding a reading of Genesis 1-2 and certain “androcentric” (man centered) readings:

  1. For the woman to be created from the rib of the ‘adam entails no subordination, any more that the ‘adam‘s being created from the ground implies his subordination.

  2. For the woman to be called helper (‘ezer) carries no implications regarding the status of the one who helps; indeed, God is more often called the helper of human beings (Psalm 121). The suggestion that Eve’s helping in this text as to do with motherhood is insufficient. Helping for Eve cannot be collapsed into procreation, not least because the immediate outcome specified in vv. 24-25 does not focus on this concern.

  3. For the woman to be named by the ‘adam does not entail the authority of man over woman, any more than Hagar’s naming of God entails such authority in [Genesis] 16:13. Naming has to do with an act of discernment regarding the nature of relationships, as in the naming of the animals by ‘adam. Moreover, if the ‘adam is already ruler over the woman in chapter 2, then the sentence of 3:16 represents no judgment.

  4. Finally, contrary to some recent opinion, one ought not consider ‘adam as an “earth creature” without sexual identity before the creation of woman, so that the creation of man and woman is simultaneous. Without an explicit linguistic marker that the meaning of the word ‘adam changes from “earth creature” to “the man,” it will be read the same throughout this section…. In any case, being created first or last has nothing to do with priority or subordination. (Chan, Michael J. and Brent A. Strawn, eds., What Kind of God?: Collected Essays of Terence E. Fretheim [Siphrut 14; Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2015], p.202)

Here Freitheim reminds readers that male centered readings of the creation account/s in Genesis 1-2 do not in fact support the subordination of women as part of the “creational order,” but that any subordinating which occurs is the result of fallen-ness.

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