CONCEPT TWO: EQUALITY, UNITY AND DIFFERENTIATION [Genesis 1:26-31; 2: 18-23]

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2015

We saw in the first concept that creation by God and in the image of God gives to men and women an identical and awesome value and dignity.

We will now look at three further aspects of the being and nature of the human.

A. THE EQUALITY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN

We can observe in our world today:

[1] In some cultures women are valued less than animals and/or treated as tradeable, disposable goods. Female children are valued less than male children; indeed, in some countries the abortion of female foetuses, or exposure of new-born baby girls, is commonly practised. In some cultures women are not considered as the same species as men, or are thought less human than men.

Plato suggested that the worst fate would be reincarnation as a woman.

Aristotle ‘regarded a female as “a kind of mutilated male”. He wrote: “Females are imperfect males, accidentally produced by the father’s inadequacy or by the malign influence of a moist south wind.”’ In Generation of Animals’ quoted by John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today p255.

William Barclay describes the view of women expressed by the Jewish Talmud: ‘In the Jewish form of morning prayer … a Jewish man every morning gave thanks that God had not made him “a Gentile, a slave or a woman” … In Jewish law a woman was not a person, but a thing. She had no legal rights whatsoever; she was absolutely in her husband’s possession to do with as he willed.’ Ephesians, Daily Study Bible, pp199ff, quoted by John Stott.

Ghandi:  ‘A Hindu husband regards himself as lord and master of his wife, who must ever dance attendance upon him.’ Ghandi: An Autobiography, quote by John Stott, p259.

When Genesis 2 was translated for the Folopa people of Papua New Guinea life changed dramatically for women. They were accorded more esteem and dignity, and the roles and conditions of their lives began to change as the men realized that the women were indeed human after all. [Chapter Five in ‘In Search of the Source’ by Neil Anderson with Hyatt Moore].

In Arnhem Land, Australia, in the 1990’s Christian Aboriginal women asked the writer if the Bible taught that they were as human as men.

[2] In some Christian circles women are subjected to a legalistic dominance and condescension by men, both in the church and in the home.

The first of these extremes is the logical expression of cultures without knowledge of the God who created both male and female in his own image. The second stems from a failure to apply the knowledge of creation and redemption to the question of the equality of men and women. [It could also have some connection to a generally observable and contemporary impoverished understanding of salvation, which could well render men [and women] insecure and fragile.]

A.1 Genesis 1:26,27 teaches that God created both male and female, and that he created both ‘in his image’
Here is an immediate equality:

Both are the result of God’s ‘let us make man … ’ and are therefore of equal value.
Both are made in the image of God, so that

Both were created to reflect God’s nature
Both were created spiritual beings
Both were created responsible to God
Both were created for communion with God
Both were created for a dependent relationship with God

This fundamental and irreducible equality outlaws attitudes of superiority in the male and inferiority in the female, domination in the male and subservience in the female. Such attitudes ignore the essential role and nature which God embedded in both male and female in his act of creation in his image, and are nothing less than sin and unbelief on the part of both the male and the female. This sinful, unbelieving rejection of the God-given equality of man and women expresses itself as:

Lack of respect for the woman
Abuse of the woman
Arrogance on the part of the man
Contempt of the man for the woman
Self-negation on the part of the woman
Servile or cringing attitude of the woman towards the man
Woman’s self-perception of being for the man’s use
Woman accepts abuse and disrespect as part of her lot

A.2 Genesis 1:28-31 affirms this equality of male and female
We will be looking further at these verses later. For the moment they affirm the equality of man and woman:

28a Man and woman were both blessed by God with an identical blessing.
28b Both man and woman were told to be fruitful and increase in number.
28c Both man and woman were commanded to fill the earth and subdue it.
28d Both man and woman were commanded to rule over other creatures.

This teaches a shared and equal blessedness, a shared and equal responsibility, and a shared and equal dominion over creation. Not the man more than the woman, nor the woman less than the man. They are equally blessed, equally commanded, equally responsible to rule over the creation.

Thus before God and before each other, and in the presence of the rest of creation, man and woman are equal.

An opposing view: Some Bible teachers deny the equality of women. E.J Young maintains ‘In the temptation and fall … she abandoned this subordinate role and sought to assume a position of leadership. Thus she raised herself above the man, emancipating herself from him, and in addition she led him into sin.’ [p126 Genesis 3.]

Young states further: ‘Emancipation of women is an illusion; … She is not the equal of the man; only before God is she equal.’ (p128).  

[But this interpretation of the events of Genesis 3, would be difficult to prove; God in fact, rebuked Adam for listening to his wife (Gen 3:17); he did not rebuke Eve for any supposed attempt to usurp Adam’s leadership role; the Scripture also holds Adam, not Eve, accountable for the Genesis 3 fall [Romans 5:12ff]. In addition, the Genesis 3 record focuses the debate between the serpent and Eve, not on Eve’s relationship with Adam, but with her relationship with God. Young quotes no Scriptures to prove his point, nor do Calvin and Keil-Delitzsch who also hold Young’s view.]


B. THE UNITY OF MAN AND WOMAN [Genesis 1:26-31]
This essential equality also assumes an essential unity. Genesis 1:26-31 helps us to understand that man and woman together represent ‘human beings’:

Together they are created as ‘man’ (= human beings).

[Some teachers state that man and woman together make up what is ‘human’. Consider this statement: ‘ “God created man male and female”. This implies that the idea of man is incomplete, if either the male or the female be considered by itself, in isolation from the other. The two together constitute the human species. A solitary male or female individual would not be the species man, nor include it, nor propagate it. … The angels being sexless are not a race or species of creatures. They were created one by one, as distinct and separate individuals.’ Shedd: Dogmatic Theology, Volume II p4. In line with this thinking, Adam and Eve, in the marriage union, are ‘one flesh’ – the one ‘blood’ of Acts 17:26 (KJV) from which all nations of the earth are made.]

Together they are blessed by God.
Together they are to multiply and fill the earth
Together they are to subdue the earth.
Together they are to rule over the creatures of the earth.

This unity is seen most clearly in the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ – it simply cannot be done alone, by one without the other. This leads us on to a further point: that equality and unity do not mean sameness.


C. THE DIFFERENTIATION OF THE SEXES [Genesis 1:27b; 2:18-23]

Equality does not mean sameness. Unity does not mean sameness. Thus Genesis also teaches us that there is differentiation: that God created human beings male and female [1:27b].

The unity shared by the men and women is not the unity of being identical and indistinguishable, but the unity in which one complements and completes the other, each enabling the other to live their God-ordained life, each enabling the other to enjoy the divine blessing, and each enabling the other to fulfil the divine command, in a way that one alone can never do. We ought not be surprised to discover that men and women think differently, perceive differently, feel differently, and act differently. Nor ought we to try to make men and women conform to each other, or try to make one the duplicate of the other. The existence of differences between men and women is not wrong, rather, it is an intrinsic part of our creation by God. Nor is the existence of differences an indication of inequality.

This concept of differentiation is brought out in the second account of creation.

C.1 ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’ [Genesis 2:18]
In this verse we learn that:

[1] In the original creation, uncorrupted by sin and degradation, God said that it was ‘not good’ for the man to be alone. Because he is a person, with the ability and responsibility for morality and communion/communication with another (that is, because he has the awesome ability to give himself in love to another), he cannot fulfil or achieve his human potential by himself. He cannot live a truly human life in isolation. We need to keep in mind that this ‘it is not good for the man to be alone’ is God’s word on the matter in the original, pre-sin world.

[2] The woman was made by God to be ‘a helper suitable for him’. God did not make another man to be the ‘helper suitable for’ the man. As a ‘helper suitable for him’ the woman corresponds to the man as his counterpart and complement. She stands opposite him (face to face with him), not as an identical duplicate, but as a person who complements his person, a person who interfaces with his person. Although this is true in a purely physical way in complementary physical differences, it is, more importantly, more significantly, true at the deeper levels of human life – those aspects of personhood which distinguish us from animals and identify us as created in the image of God. It is at these levels of morality, responsibility, communion, communication and love that the male/female differentiation in the human is far different from the male/female differentiation in animals.

C.2 ‘For Adam no suitable helper was found’ among the animals and birds [2:20]
It is possible to love animals, to enjoy animals, and to have a level of interaction and communion with animals. But the God-ordained relation of man to animals is that of ruling over them [Genesis 1:28]. This dominion over the animals is also expressed in Adam’s naming of the animals [2:19-20]. Adam found no equality or unity with them, and no counterpart among them. When God brought the woman to him, however, he immediately recognized her as corresponding to himself: ‘this is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.’ [2:23]. In the Hebrew the emphasis is on the ‘this’: this now – in contrast to all the creatures he has just named. Here was someone with whom he recognized an equality and a unity; here was someone who was a counterpart of himself, corresponding to him, communicating with him, with the same capacity for morality and love and communication as he himself possessed. Here was someone with whom he could relate in a personal and intelligent way in which he could never relate to the animals. For the man to despise the woman is for the man to despise himself, for according to this creation record, the woman was made from the man – she is the same stuff as him.

In this original, pre-sin world, this ‘help-meet’ role of the woman is described by the following concepts:

Complement (referring to completion not to ‘compliment’)
Co-worker
Corresponding (to the man)
His counterpart
Communication

It is note-worthy that at this point there is no hint of any kind of domination, only a joyful awareness of identification and equality.

C.3 Mutual inter-dependence [Genesis 2:18-23]
Within the equality and unity there is also a mutual dependence:

1] By God’s affirmation, the man needs the woman [Genesis 2:18]
2] By God’s mode of creation, the woman was created from part of the man and for the man [2:18,21].

In Genesis 1 and 2 neither of these facts was threatening. They are part of the original order of creation which God called ‘very good’. God’s purpose for the man and the woman together and individually was to be fulfilled in the context of this mutual inter-dependence, not in isolation and independence.
[See also 1 Corinthians 11:11,12.]

C.4 Differentiation without division [Genesis 2:25]
This verse encapsulates the perfect peace and unity of the original marriage: there was no shame. Nothing intruded into this relationship that created a self-focused awareness of any lack, any failure, any incongruity, any inferiority, any conflict, any criticism, any fear, any competitiveness, any perception or possibility of unworthiness. These two did not even know that there was such a thing as shame or guilt. Criticism (negative thoughts about themselves, each other, their roles and their relationship) simply did not exist.

C.5 Leadership in the context of equality
Our human minds find it difficult to hold the two concepts of leadership and equality together. We tend to perceive the leader as being greater and the led as being lesser.

C.5.1 A comment from Schaeffer
Schaeffer makes the following comment:

‘The Bible does not teach the inequality of men and women. Each person, man or woman, stands equally before God as a person created in his image, and at the same time as a sinner in need of salvation. And because of this, each person, whether male or female, has at the same time both an infinite equality of worth before God and one another, and a total equality of need for Christ as Saviour. But at the same time, this equality is not an equality of monolithic uniformity or “sameness” between men and women. It is an equality which preserves the fundamental differences between the sexes and which allows for the realization and fulfilment of these differences; but at the same time, it affirms everything that men and women have in common – as both being created in the image of God, and as complementary expressions of his image. Thus we must affirm two things simultaneously: because men and women are both created in the image of God there is a common equality which has enormous implications for all of life; and because men and women are both created with distinctions as complementary expressions of the image of God, this has enormous implications for all of life – in the family, in the church, and in the society as a whole. And in this wonderful complementarity there is an enormous range of diversity.  But at the same time, this is not freedom without form. The Bible gives enormous freedom to men and women, but it is freedom within the bounds of biblical truth and within the bounds of what it means to be complementary expressions of the image of God. ‘ [The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer Volume 4: A Christian View of the Church: The Great Evangelical Disaster’ p396.]

C.5.2 Leadership and responsibility in the original creation
Commenting on 1Timothy 2:13 (Adam’s prior creation), 1 Corinthians 11:8 (the mode of Eve’s creation) and 1Corinthians 11:9 (the purpose of Eve’s creation), John Stott, stating that ‘woman was made after man, out of man and for man’, refers to three points made by Dr James B. Hurley in Man and Woman in Biblical Perspective:

‘By right or primogeniture “the firstborn inherited command of resources and the responsibility of leadership”, [b] when Eve was taken out of Adam and brought to him, he named her “woman”, and “the power to assign … a name was connected with control”, and [c] she was made for him neither as an afterthought, nor as a plaything, but as his companion and fellow worker, to share with him “in the service of God and in the custodial ruling of the earth” ‘ . Quoted by John Stott in Issues Facing Christians Today, pp267f.

Adam’s responsibility of leadership is not mentioned in Genesis 1and 2. However it is clear from Romans 5:12-21 and 1Corinthians 15:21-22, and to a lesser extent, 1Corinthians 15:45-49, that, although it was Eve who ate the fruit first, it is Adam, not Eve, who is held responsible and accountable for sin and death entering the world. The man, not the woman, nor the two as a married unit, is the responsible head of the family unit, and the representative head of the human race.

The concept of male leadership also includes responsibility for wife and family: the following [post-fall] Scriptures present the man as the head of the family who is responsible and accountable to God for what happens in and to the family, including the wife:

Genesis 6:8,18: where because of Noah’s faith his whole family is saved.

Numbers 30:1-16: where the husband [or father] is seen as responsible for any vows made to God by the wife [or daughter], even to being able to annul the vow if he disagrees with it.

However, male leadership did not negate female equality and responsibility. These [post-fall] Scriptures show that the wives had the right of legal appeal [Deuteronomy 25:5-10]; were included in covenant agreements [Deuteronomy 29:9-15; Nehemiah 10:28ff]; were addressed by divine messengers [Judges 13:3ff]; and were included in the Lord’s message of assurance [2 Chronicles 20:13ff].