- There is a lot more to being a good biblical scholar than knowing a few (or even all) biblical languages. No one knew Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Bible better than the Pharisees and yet Jesus roundly condemned them for not being able to understand the Bible. I would therefore say that one’s paradigm for understanding the Bible is more important than one’s knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, Latin, etc.
It seems that this is a common opinion and one that certain authors hold to. This is why we are having some trouble with Gen. 5:2. For example, since Adam can be translated as either “Adam”, or “human”, or “humankind” etc. or “a man” one must have some reason to choose one over the other. Most scholars would say that they would use the context found within the text. However, others suggest that a certain interpretive paradigm controls this decision.
For example, in this address, Grudem explicitly says that God did not name the human race after the Hebrew word for “human” but God named the human race after “man”. Grudem says,
- God names them Man – the Hebrew word there is Adam. God did not name the human race the Hebrew equivalent of “person” or “humankind” – God bestowed on the human race the name “Man”.
Now, as far as I know adam is the Hebrew word for “the human race”. Correct me if I am wrong. The only other word I can think of, enosh, could be translated by θανατος in Greek, or “mortal’ in English. It is also a name for the human race, but it is not the one that we normally translate as “human” – I suppose one could. But adam means human.
Second, in Gen.5:2 adam was often transliterated and stayed Adam, but in several versions it was translated as “human”. These are the Berkeley Version, 1945, the Good News Bible, 1966, and Moffat’s Bible, 1926. The discussion of Gen. 5:2 should be corrected in Grudem’s book where he says that it is translated as “Man” in every Bible known to him. In all fairness, I do think that the least Dr. Grudem could do is make a short list of those Bible versions which are known to him. That would save me a lot of time.
The question is really, why have these errors been made. I suggest it is because a paradigm is brought to the Bible, rather than a paradigm being taken from the Bible. The tail is wagging the dog.
The following are 7 reasons Grudem believes male leadership is found in the creation order. There were three more, which I don’t mention but they come from the NT and I don’t want to use NT material to influence a translation paradigm for the Hebrew scriptures. (my comments added)
1. Adam is created first, so he is our leader. (He is?)
2. “In Adam we all die” means that Adam is our leader. (It does?)
3. Adam names woman and naming always expresses authority. (And Hagar names God.)
4. God names the human race “Man”. (Or God calls Adam the “human”. Either way.)
5. Adam has primary accountability for the sin. (And Saphira is accountable for her own sin.)
6. Woman is helper. She has a “helping role”. (God also has a “helping role”.)
7. The curse is a distortion of roles which are already established and known to be good and proper. The curse on the woman is that she has a “hostile desire to resist the fair and right leadership role of her husband.”
(As far as I know, the curse introduced an altogether new dynamic. Eve labours to bear children and Adam labours the grow food. No children and no farming in the garden)
In every case above, the idea of male leadership is read back into the narrative. I have not yet understood how Adam has authority over the human race, or why the human race is called “Man”, rather than the first man being called the “Human”. And how does helping someone make them the leader? More likely if you help, you would say, “Here let me show you, now it’s your turn, and I’ll help.” You lead and then you graciously stand back.
Leadership is a blessing but believing that you have authority over someone else because of your biology is not too brilliant, no matter how you cut it. Dr. Grudem even goes so far as to say that there should be “faint echoes” of this male/female difference with respect to leadership in all our male/female relations. That is, male leadership should enter into all male/female encounters.
It appears that the paradigm of male leadership is established outside the creation narrative and then the translator has brought the paradigm to the Hebrew and declared that adam means “Man” in Gen. 5:2. But a translator benefits greatly from learning the language first. A translator also benefits greatly from knowing how previous translators have translated a verse, apparently not done, in this case.
With reference to the male leadership paradigm, David writes,
- The only connection between naming and “dominion” in Genesis 2 is that Adam’s naming of the creatures is one of a number of ways that God grooms Adam for a position of authority and responsibility over creation. If complementarians and egalitarians are to debate the significance of this connection for questions of gender, they must focus on whether it is significant that Adam is given the opportunity to name the creatures before Eve is created. Does this fact imply that God has passed authority over creation to Adam as male or to Adam as human (and therefore also to Eve)? If Adam is given such authority before Eve is “taken out of” him, does that mean that she is excluded from that authority or that she participates in it?
I don’t agree with David’s suggestion that women might be excluded from stewardship over creation, if that is what he is suggesting. However, I am very glad that we can share a common Bible translation.
To my understanding, male leadership is the paradigm which certain people use to interpret the creation narrative, thus obscuring the fact that Adam named the creatures to establish that they were not “of his flesh’, and he ruled over them; but when he met Eve he recognized her as “of his flesh” and she was an ally or companion.
However, in our fallen humanity women want to control men, and men are harsh to women. We all know this, it is sorrow configured in so many different ways that every narrative in the Bible has a different plot, it is not one simple story, there is no one way that this is acted out. It is also brother against brother, and son against father, and the female parallels to these stories. Fortunately there are gentler stories too that recount heroism and fidelity. In God’s great goodness, we do experience hesed from others in our life. Those who experience hesed in marriage are doubly blessed.
Let us reject the paradigms and listen to the narratives of the Bible, and let them bless us wherever we are in our journey. Thank you, David, for ending your post with this,
- Whatever our answers to those questions, we need to understand that all such questions are peripheral to the main points of the creation narrative, which are that God is the author of creation, that humanity has been called to reflect God’s image by reigning over and caring for creation, and that we can only accomplish that creation mandate as male and female. The genius of the naming episode in Genesis 2 is that it serves to establish and reinforce all three of those points.
Unbuild the paradigm of biological authority and immerse yourself in the Biblical languages. It is an unmixed pleasure.
I do want to say that I feel honoured to participate in a blog where we do not all hold identical positions. It is stimulating and challenging. I have learned a lot about the creation narrative and yet I know it is only a little piece of what there is.