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Woman in Creation: Genesis 2 compared to Hesiod's Theogony

Posted by Gary Labels: , , , ,

Dehumanizing the Vulnerable ends with a section pleading for the use of more humanizing terminology, terms of endearment to replace objectifying language. What's most effective, though, is language that ties an oppressed group (be it women, blacks, or whatever) to the image of God. God-language works better than mere terms of endearment.

"You are women. In Creation, noble; in redemption, gracious; in use, most blessed." ~Esther Sowerman, 1617.

I intend to expand on that particular quote.

Hesiod's Theogony
In the Greek creation myth, Prometheus stole Zeus' sacred fire and gave it to mortal men (males) on the earth. Zeus punished Prometheus, then turned to devise a scheme to punish men. He consulted his daughter Athena and together they crafted the perfect plague to send among mankind. Something that men could never get rid of; a source of constant misery. You guessed it. Women are a plague, in classic Greek thought. "No helpmeets in wretched poverty, but only in wealth."

Women are very ironically compared to bee drones (the males!) which do no work and are only useful for reproductive purposes, whereas the workers (females!) are the men that women leech from. And even if you find a "good" wife, you never know what kind of children she will bear you. If you get mischievous children, then you have to deal with that for life. But if you don't marry, you won't get children to care for you in your old age. This myth has examples of both the disease epithet as well as parasite. The moral of the story: can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

The Bible
In Genesis 2, woman is given a few unique characteristics that tell a very different story.

She is the only being crafted from flesh. She does not have the connection to the earth that man and the other creatures have. Does this make women impractical as a general rule? No. That's not something the Bible proscribes about women. What this does mean is that women are unique and set apart by God from the rest of creation. (As a bonus, she is softer and more graceful than any other creature!)

One cannot, from Genesis 2, classify creation as males of all species vs. females of all species. Genesis makes it clear that the categories are man (male humans), woman (female humans), and animals (of both sexes). What holds true for the males and females of other species does not apply to humanity. Therefore, the pattern for human interaction cannot be drawn from the way other creatures such as lion, wasps, ants, bees, praying mantises, and spiders tend to act. We are different.

However, positive comparisons to animals are allowable, such as Mary Jane calling Spiderman "Tiger," That appeals to strength, grace, and/or passion. Song of Solomon 4:1 is excellent, also: "your hair is like a flock of goats descending from Mount Gilead." To put that in straightforward English: "I love the way your hair flows off the curves of your breasts." Again, some comparisons are positive.

She brings man joy, and is made for that purpose. Adam's response to seeing her in the flesh should set a pattern for man's general attitude toward women. Admittedly, if I had never heard of woman before and then God made a woman and I saw her naked right away, I'd be pretty thrilled, too. The first thing the man does is very much what I would do: make a pun. "I will call her isshah (woman), for she was taken out of ish (man)."

She is truly a playmate, not a plaything. Playboy magazine calls women playmates, but treats them as playthings. This is not the way it should be. A mate is a friend and companion to enjoy, not an object to exploit. What we find in Genesis 2 is innocent, harmonic paradise and not some coercive, threatening show of dominance. A wise woman wrote this today: "Really loving someone is doing what is best for them, no matter the cost to you. That's a very conscious decision, and it shows that you truly love that person."

She produces good fruit. Genesis shows man having two intimate feminine relationships: one with the earth, and the other with woman. Through his relationship with the earth, he and she (Mother Earth) produce a tomato. This is analogous to men working outside the home as provider. Now, the other relationship: he and she (woman) produce something far more valuable than a tomato. Without woman this would be impossible, and it is inextricably tied to her identity as woman. This is analogous to men working inside the home as father and husband.

I will point out that nowhere is woman given any particular duty or task to perform. She is not explicitly told to help work the ground the way man does, but she is a helper who is like him. Determining the meaning of "helper" in this context is tricky; I might give it a separate post sometime later. What I get from the text is that it makes no evaluative statement about women working outside the home, but does speak highly of woman as a homemaker. (For women working "outside the home," see Proverbs 31.)

Her reproductive abilities play a vital role in not just creation, but redemption. Here I have to go outside Genesis 2. In Genesis 3:15, woman's reproductive abilities will produce the means for destroying the snake. The Christian interpretation of this passage as referring to the birth of Jesus actually goes back very far. The Greek translation of the Old Testament says without any doubt that *he* will crush the snake's head. So, this is a passage about redemption, and woman plays a role in it. This was fulfilled in Luke 1-2.