The Afterthought

This week I finished Genesis 2 on my venture to tweet the Bible, and even before reaching the famous snake scene in Genesis 3, I blushed. Not in a good way. Reading each word of the text in King James English (ironically, technically Elizabethan English), it becomes clear just how androcentric the text is. As a reader with sensitivity to historical eras, it is important not to judge the past by present standards. Nevertheless, it is difficult not to be offended at the assumed male primacy that had begun to be dismantled, only to be propped up again by sacred writ. As soon as people began to realize that sexual dimorphism did not equate to sexual dominance, the Bible came into the hands of the laity and there, beginning in Genesis 2, became the prooftext that women were made for men. Note: “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”

One of these things is not like the others...

This passage is, of course, very familiar. Too familiar. Accompanying the ready availability of the Bible was the concept of divine writing. To a society of chamber pots and horse manure in the streets, the idea that God could write a book was sensible enough. The problem is, as our sophistication grew, our biblical sense couldn’t keep pace. Centuries later with probes soaring beyond our solar system, rovers on the moon, and space stations circling the planet, we still believe God wrote a book. And since God is male, the man’s point of view is normative. Of course, no one knows the reason for the story of Adam’s rib, but there is no doubt that ancient society, at least in this instance, was hopelessly patriarchal. It is society that determined which words would be considered sacred. The tale they chose matched their worldview.

The problem is that worldview gave an excuse to a patriarchal tour de force that has lasted for dozens of generations leaving women in their biblically predetermined place. There may be no sin as insidious as literalism. Those who cling to the King James do so only with special pleading, for anyone who has studied Hebrew (or any foreign language) knows that translation is an inexact science. Even Genesis 1 with man and woman created the same day, both in the image of God, still lists man first. Ironically the literalists miss the humor of a God who thinks man will be satisfied with the animals. Presumably all the animals were guys at this point, although the Bible literally doesn’t say. No religion that claims victims has the right to declare itself universally true.

5 thoughts on “The Afterthought

  1. John G.

    Steve, I always appreciate your insight into how the global/religious glass ceiling came about, and how we can work to truly shatter it. Keep posts like this coming!


  2. The story reminds me that literalism is a mistake.

    “On that day you shall die.” The first thing God says to humans, and it turns out not to be literally true. It’s true in other ways. Deeper ways.


  3. I thought you might go down the road that the text was in strong defiance of the matriarchal dominance in societies around the Jews. I’d be interested on your take on that subject.


    • Steve Wiggins

      Thanks, Jane. I’ll try to wrap my head around that one and write up some thoughts for you. Maybe say a little more so I know in a little more detail what you’re asking. Thanks for the comment!


  4. Like you, I read a little bit of everything and somewhere along the way I read a book about the world once being dominated by goddess-focused religions. Then along came Job, Mechelsidek and Abraham with their male God. Abraham wandered through the Fertile Crescent with this patriarchal model and a real clash of the literary titans came about. The earth’s male population got totally behind male dominance and the author opined that what we know about classical religions is just what was left after the male spin doctors got through with them. I’d like to help you with the title of the book, but I must have borrowed it from the library,because it’s not on my shelves. I’m not promoting the idea, nor even suggesting that it was historically plausible, I just thought it was an interesting take on history.


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