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Maybe original sin is not all woman's fault
A closer look at Genesis and the roles of man and woman
Most people know some version of the story of the first man and woman created by God—even those who claim no faith tradition. But how well do they really know it?
As a former liberal feminist activist, the story of the first man and woman made always made me bristle. In my mind, it seemed as if the Christian world blamed the woman for the presence of original sin in the world. She is the reason that humans were expelled from the Garden of Eden and that is why the patriarchy keeps her down. This is the whole foundation for “women submit to your husbands” and I wasn’t having any of that!
I’m not a liberal feminist anymore. I am a Christian. I love Jesus with all my heart. In all the twists and turns of life since then, I have struggled with some things in the Bible. I have read the Bible several times, yet each time, I see or learn something new. While it might be easier to listen to the things said by preachers, teachers, and influencers—those who purport to be Christian—there is much that taints those messages and I don’t want to take their word for it. Adding human interpretation to God’s Word has the chance to distort it. Not only that, but there are many who seek to twist scripture to their own ends.
When in doubt, go to the source.
I started Genesis again the other day and this time through, I am comparing five different translations: English Standard Version (ESV), New International Version (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and the Message (MSG). This time I understand more about how the Bible translations come to be, including what the process of textual criticism is, what the difference is between a word-for-word translation and a thought-for-thought translation. All of this makes a big difference in Bible reading. But that’s a post for another day.
The point is, I started Genesis again with more foundational apologetics knowledge than ever and I want to share what I am learning about men and women.
When God created, he did so through words. He spoke everything into existence. Not only that, but he created in pairs that create balance—Heaven/Earth, Day/Night, Land/Sea, Vegetation/Seeds, Sun/Moon, Creatures of Earth/Creatures ofAir. He made the earth as a gift to his final creation: Man/Woman.
Genesis 2 details the creation of the man and the woman. He created the man first. From dust. God took dust, breathed into it and voila! Man. But the man was the only creation that did not have a balancing pair.
The purpose of creating woman was to balance the man, just as the rest of creation has balance. The various translations use different words to describe the woman’s role: suitable (NIV), just right (NLT), fit for him (ESV), comparable (NKJV), companion (MSG). NONE of these words put the woman in a position of subjugation, submission, or oppression.
This does not sound like foundational evidence for women to be classified as inferior to man. When I read this, I read that women are the balance. Humans twisted that meaning to serve their own purposes. God’s purpose was balance.
Notice that in Genesis 2:24, only together are the man and woman complete as one flesh. Thus, they balance each other and they complete each other.
When God made the woman, he did something he did not do before. Keep in mind that all other creation was formed from dust. The woman was not. She was formed from a piece of the man.
Woman is the only creature NOT created from dust.
Let this sink in.
Feminists rant with slogans about how they will not be a man’s rib or something. Like that is a reason women should be denigrated. Oh no! The way God made woman is special, unique, and truly remarkable.
She is the ONLY creature NOT of dust.
Woman was created to balance the man. She was a special gift from a loving father. When a special gift is given, that gift is to be cherished and protected above all other gifts. Whatever the man does to the woman, he essentially does to the extension of himself.
At this point in Genesis, the man and the woman have no names. Some translations note that in the Hebrew, the man was called “the Adam,” but in the translations I read, they remained nameless.
Also at this point in Genesis there is no death. There is no evil. There is no sin. There is no shame, guilt, embarrassment. There are no power struggles because everything is in balance and God walked with the man and woman in the garden.
Enter the serpent.
In Genesis 3, the serpent is described with different words in each translation: crafty (NIV, ESV), shrewd (NLT), cunning (NKJV), and clever (MSG). These words reveal a master manipulator. A master manipulator is one who introduces something that creates turmoil —perhaps that something is nothing anyone had thought of before. Before I went to college, I didn’t know that I was inferior as a woman. Women’s studies courses taught me that.
The serpent targets the woman. Why? Why didn’t the serpent target the man? It seems that he was with her. The woman had no problem with her role or position in the garden or in relation to man. But the serpent introduces something that creates turmoil for her. It didn’t come right out and say it. All the serpent asks is what God really meant when he said they would die if they eat from the tree. The serpent insinuates that God is lying about death, because all it means is that she will be “like God” in knowledge.
What would God mean by death? Throughout the Bible, death is used to describe not only physical death, or the ceasing to be alive, but separation from God. At this point in Genesis, there is no evidence of physical death, so God likely meant death as separation from himself. If the man and woman have the knowledge of good and evil, they will think they do not need God anymore.
Isn’t that the way of the world now? The quest for special knowledge. With that special knowledge, humans do not need their Creator, they can be their own Creator. The attainment of special knowledge supposedly puts humans on par with God. Special knowlege means humans are the sole arbiters of their lives, circumstances, and environment. No need for a Sovereign God for protection, strength, or comfort.
Before this, the woman never thought about what special knowledge could mean. The serpent manipulated her into thinking that she should not be satisfied with her position as balance to the man or child of God. Perhaps because the man was satisfied with his relationship with God and his own position, there was no chink in his armor to poke at.
But the woman could be made to believe she had a chink. The serpent presents the idea that she could be like God. She could be above the man. If she was like God, she would not need the man or God. For some reason, she did not consider the consequences of her choice. When presented with the serpent’s manipulation, her impulse was to satisfy herself—to elevate herself.
My question is why she believed the serpent? This creature comes out of nowhere and she gives him ultimate credibility. Why didn’t she say, “How do you know? Who are you and why are you qualified to make that statement?”
Before we put all the blame on the woman, remember, the man was with her. He witnessed the exchange. He said nothing. There were no words from him saying, “God said no. We must obey God.” God put man in a position of authority over everything in the earth. This meant he had authority over the serpent. Yet he stood by and let the serpent deceive his woman. In that moment, he failed to protect his cherished gift, failed to remind her of God’s instructions, failed to exert his authority over the serpent. He stood by passively. He watched.
The woman made the first move and then he copied her. No resistance.
The acceptance of the serpent’s lies and thus the introduction of sin into the world was a joint effort and a preview of things to come.
When God came looking for them after that, God first spoke to the man. God considered the man the “leader” and thus the man was accountable. Instead of taking responsibility for his mistake, the man blamed the woman. The woman blamed the serpent. The blame game begins.
Another interesting point is that the man failed to listen to God’s voice above all. Remember, God used words and his voice to create everything. The man had a direct line to God’s voice, to his Creator’s voice. Yet in the encounter with the serpent, the man put the woman’s voice above God’s and obeyed her when she handed him the fruit. What would have happened if the man did not take the fruit?
The man was complicit.
The fall was a joint effort.
When God banished the man and the woman from the garden, he did so because he no longer trusted his creation to obey his voice, his word. The second tree in the garden they were forbidden to eat from was the tree of eternal life. If they could not listen about the tree of knowledge of good and evil, how could God expect them to listen about the tree of eternal life.
The consequences of this disobedience was a change in roles and purpose. The NLT thought-for-thought translation says, “…you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you” (Gen 3:16), while the Message’s paraphrased translation says “You’ll want to please your husband, but he’ll lord it over you” (Gen 3:16).
Let that sink in.
Now think about the evolution of the roles of men and women throughout history. Comparing the different translations of these passages, much is revealed about the motivations of those who seek to distort God’s Word for their own purposes.
For centuries, only the educated or the rich, mostly men, could actually read the Bible. If the Bible warns that women will desire to control men, what would the men do? Make sure women were never in a position to do that. Meanwhile, women would continue to pursue special knowledge, power, and authority. The cycle continues with men putting them down to prevent their own loss of power, authority, and special knowledge. The serpent’s original temptation continued to morph and transform throughout history until we get radical feminism and the demasculization of men.
A complete wreckage of God’s original intent for the balance of man and woman.
People did that. Not God.
I also find it fascinating that it is not until after this incident that the woman is named. In Genesis 3:20, the “man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living” (ESV).
This, I find interesting too.
This reading reframed this well-known story for me.
Woman is the ONLY creation NOT made from dust.
The woman’s purpose was to balance the man.
The man was present during the serpent incident.
The serpent specifically targeted the woman for manipulation.
The serpent introduces the temptation of special knowledge.
The man watched the woman disobey God.
The man remained silent and joined the woman in disobedience.
God sought the man to account for this disobedience.
The same struggle for power, authority, and special knowledge continues to this day. Generations upon generations of human being have used this story to their own ends, mostly to secure for themselves power, authority, or special knowledge. Women seek to rise over men. Women seek to destroy their purpose as a balance to the man and the other half of one flesh. Men give up their authority to women. Men over-exert power over women in a reassertion of authority. Men deny their reliance on God. Men reject the need for God. Everyone seeks a shortcut, an easy way to acquire special knowledge to be like God. However, it is much easier to be in relationship with him by obeying his Word.
You may think you know the story of creation, the first man and woman, and introduction of sin into the world. I realize that much of what I knew about that story was shaped by quickly skimming over the text or by other humans. However, returning to the source, to the Bible which is God’s Word, prompted a new understanding.
I am not a theologian or a Bible scholar, just a Jesus-loving Christian seeking and knocking. My goal in all this is to get to God as well as I can. As a human prone to error, I encourage you to read Genesis 1-3 and share your experiences with it in the comments below.
I pray God’s Word will be a light in the darkness for you.
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