The Creation of Man and Woman; Interpretations of the Biblical Narratives in Jewish and Christian Traditions

By I, Mayer | Shofar, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
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The Creation of Man and Woman; Interpretations of the Biblical Narratives in Jewish and Christian Traditions


I, Mayer, Shofar


edited by Gerard P. Luttikhuizen. Leiden: Brill, 2000. 214 pp. $76.00.

This book is a collection of twelve fascinating articles related to the biblical accounts of the creation of humankind in Gen. 1-3, all expanded from papers originally presented at the June 1999 conference of the "Jewish and Christian Traditions" research group of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. The first chapter, "The Creation of Man and Woman in Biblical and Ancient Near Eastern Traditions," by Ed Noort, attempts to determine the original and abiding messages of Gen. 1:27 and Gen. 2:7, 18-24 concerning the relative place of the two human sexes in the divine economy. Noort's exegesis rests upon two of the pillars of the modern academic study of Hebrew Scripture. These are 1) the documentary hypothesis, which treats Gen. 1:1-2:4a and Gen. 2:4b-3:24, respectively, as two separate narratives produced by distinct authors at different times; and 2) the utilization of ancient Near Eastern texts to shed light upon the Bible. Noort shows that the documentary hypothesis provides cogent answers to many of the exegetical questions raised by Philo Judaeus in first-century C.E. Alexandria and by the Talmudic sages of the early centuries C.E. Taking for granted that the Priestly narrative contained in Gen. 1:1-2:4a was composed in an Achaemenid period urban society, Noort argues that Gen. 1:27 teaches that "the separation [of humankind] in male and female belongs to creation from the beginning. There is no priority. Neither male nor female have a dominant position." Noort accepts the dominant view in contemporary biblical research that the second biblical creation story contained in Gen. 2:4b-3:24 originates in the agricultural society of Ancient Israel [i.e., Iron Age II; 9th to 6th centuries B.C.E.] (cf. p. 11). This "Yahwist Account" teaches that "Woman belongs to the same `material' as man does; from their very origins they are an unseparable union" (p. 12). Moreover, Gen. 2:18 teaches that man is "the perfect counterpart to" man "and vice versa" (p. 13).

Like Noort's article, the second chapter, "Pandora or the Creation of a Greek Eve," written by Jay N. Bremmer, proves indispensable for reading the subsequent articles. Bremmer introduces the reader to the legacy of Hellenic speculation, which, alongside of Hebrew Scripture, formed the common cultural legacy of ancient Christians, Jews, and Gnostics, whose exegeses of Gen. 1:27 and Gen. 2:7, 18-24 are the agenda of Chapters Three through Nine. The third article, "The Creation of Man and Woman in Early Jewish Literature," by J. T. A. G. M. van Rutten, discusses the exegeses of Gen. 1-3 reflected in several corpora of Second Temple period Jewish sacred literature. Van Rutten employs tables to clarify comparisons and contrasts between various Second Temple writings and Hebrew Scripture. The fourth chapter, "Endowed with Reason or Glued to the Senses: Philo's Thoughts on Adam and Eve," by Annewies van den Hoek, analyzes both the sources of Philo's theories and the influences of Philo upon Patristic thought. Because Philo's corpus is not canonical for either Judaism or Christianity as is Gen. 1-3 for both Judaism and Christianity and as are 1 Cor. 11:2-16 and 1 Tim. 2:8-15 for Christianity, van den Hoek can be completely objective in delineating both egalitarian and misogynist tendencies within the Philonic corpus. L. J. Lietaert Peerbolte, on the other hand, in "Man, Woman and the Angels in 1 Cor. 11:2-16," the fifth chapter of the volume, seeks to reconcile the latter texts' apparent justification of the subordination of women to men with Gal. 3:28 in which Paul asserts, "There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female in Christ Jesus." Peerbolte explains, therefore, that the real reason why women must cover their heads in church is to prevent angels from lusting after them. After all, it was the lusting of the angels after mortal women, described in Gen.

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