In reading the creation account yet again I noticed something that I hadn’t in all my previous readings of Genesis 1. Something pivotal that caused me to get out other versions of the Bible to check what I noticed.
First a lesson in grammar
Semi-colons separate things; Colons join them. This is the most basic explanation.
Semi-colons point out that two clauses are independent from each other.
Colons point out that the clause that follows it is a definition, explanation or summary of the clause preceding it.
A semi-colon indicates a pause that is greater than a comma; it creates a break.
A colon introduces, summarizes; it creates a connection.
Okay, the grammar portion of today’s post is over; now we move on to the main point.
Male and Female: Man
Now, many right now may be saying we agree God made all people in His image. And yes, on the surface I know that we all say we agree but if we pay attention to how we think, listen to how we speak, and what we teach we just may notice that the semi-colon has had a greater influence on us than we realize.
When we speak or think about the creation of woman it is almost always as an afterthought of sorts. God created man. God presented all the animals to man to name. Then God realized man needed help with taking care of creation so he made woman to help man with his work. Please keep in mind this is not my belief but is instead almost verbatim to what has been spoken or taught to me over the years.
Woman was created to help man with his work. It is in this belief that we feel the break. We may not recognize it as such but it is there. Man was the intention; woman was the addition to something that wasn’t good.
But in some versions like the complete Jewish Bible which I happen to read there is a colon in place of a semi-colon or comma. This is important. Punctuation matters. We all pay attention to punctuation without even realizing it. How often in all your reading do you consciously stop and notice commas, periods, exclamation points, colons and semi-colons. Further still, how many of us consciously understand how to use these grammatical elements. Yet they impact our reading and understanding.
The colon is important. The colon joins things while the semi-colon separates. The colon points out that a statement has been made and what follows is a further explanation, summary or definition of the statement.
In the Genesis account there are two forms of this name Adam. One “Adam” stands for humankind and the other stands for a specific person; a point that many complementarians have vehemently argued with me in their ignorance of the Hebrew language. Whether this is willful ignorance or not I will not attempt to discern. That is for the Holy Spirit to deal with.
It is here that the Common Jewish Bible is brilliantly translated. The translators paid attention to the difference in the words and pointed it out. So here in Genesis 1:27 God makes humankind. Now many argue that since God made Adam the man first this shows that he was important and therefore given authority over all things. But logic will tell us that if woman was taken out of man she had to be a part of man to begin with. Within the first Adam was all the genetic material for all humankind; male and female. Now, I am in now wise attempting to convey the idea of some sort of androgynous creature; a hermaphrodite. No, but what I am pointing out is that in the creation of Adam there was also the creation of Eve; humankind. Notice in Genesis 2 that God made Adam from the dirt. He also made the animals and the birds from the dirt. But when it came time to make Eve he built her out of material that had already been created. Yes, I said built. Read it again, Genesis 2:7-22 and notice that Adam and the animals were “formed” yet Eve was “made”. The word “made” actually means “built.” Eve is not a new creation. She was made from the genetic material of humankind. Is it after the material was taken from Adam while he slept and Eve was made that we see the distinction between Adam the man, Eve the woman and humankind. We now in scripture have the two Adams; humankind and a man. Yet God in His word was clear to convey the message that he made humankind first: male and female. It is here we should see our desperate dependence upon each other rather than the distinctions. Dependence and unity are the key but instead we choose separation and independence from each other. Man can no more stand independence of woman that woman can of man. In this mutual dependence one is not more important or more vital than the other; both are vital and irreplaceable.
This point is driven home further when we read Genesis 5:2 when scripture tells us
He created them male and female; He blessed them and called them Adam (“humankind”) on the day they were created. God carefully points out in the genealogy of Adam that we should know and understand that Eve is included in humankind created in the image of God alongside Adam and in his genealogy. God points out that He made humankind and blessed them. God did not make Adam bless him and then create Eve as some have implied after He realized taking care of creation was just too much for Adam to do alone and he needed someone to serve him. Complementarians make this statement in order to explain that Adam was given dominion over creation and Eve was to help him by serving him. Yes, these very words have been spoken to me by complementarians.
But God tells us something different. God made both and blessed them with identity and purpose; in the image of God to subdue the earth and rule.
It may seem simple but this author finds the use of semi-colons and commas in place of the colon in Genesis 1 indicative of the nature of a majority in the Christian community who seek to divide rather than unify. They seek to make distinctions in the kingdom of God based upon physical nature rather than focusing on and celebrating identity? In fact, I would go so far as to say that identity has been replaced with distinction. Some are made more ion the image of God than others.
A distinction is a difference between two similar things and honor obtained because of excellence. What we have done is make a distinction between Adam and Eve; male and female. This has been done in the complementarian effort to “celebrate” the differences between male and female.
The evidence shows that what has been done is that we have pointed out that women are different than men in that men were given honor at creation because of excellence and woman was not. What we should celebrate is that all people are different. Scripture tells us that we are all uniquely and wonderfully made. Each and every one of us is different and unique not because we are male and female but because we are all made in the image of God and it takes all of us to teach all of us just how big and wonderful God is.
The semi-colon divides us. We are making biology more important than identity. In celebrating the difference we have made the difference the point. We have made the difference the distinction.
God desires unity. Man desires distinction and difference.
God desires unity. Man desires power and position.
Celebrate the difference not the distinction.
Celebrate unity. Celebrate the colon!