The Priestly and Yahwist creation stories in Genesis 1-2 contain numerous elements borrowed from Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian & Sumerian creation myths, but they also possess unique elements that shed light on ancient understandings of human nature. Dr. Phyllis Trible argues that the Priestly account in Genesis 1, with its creation of men and women on the sixth day of creation, advances a vision of the equality of all persons—despite sexual differentiation—since all humankind is created in God’s image and likeness. Throughout the centuries, the Yahwist account in Genesis 2 has been used as a prooftext to reinforce male supremacy, gynophobia, misogyny and sexism. Dr. Pamela Milne notes that “patriarchal interpreters claim that woman is inferior because she is created last (Gen. 2:22). But these same interpreters never argue that humans are inferior to animals because they were created later (Gen. 1:27).” Judith Antonelli goes further, speaking of the gynandromorph/androgynos (ha Adama) in Genesis 2—mistranslated “man” in the Greek Septuagint of the 3rd century B.C.—suggesting that, while the Genesis story is a divine mandate for sexual equality, it could also be interpreted as a story asserting…female superiority! Father Jayme concludes that, whereas various churches continue to use the Genesis creation accounts to justify their gravely sinful sexism, extraordinary Catholics are called to see the goodness of all persons despite their sexual differences!
Have you seen the latest issue of Extraordinary Catholics magazine?
Check out Episode 87 of the Sonic Boomers podcast!
Learn more about the Independent Sacramental Movement (ISM), of which Inclusive Catholicism is part, through Sacramental Whine podcast, and check out Sacramental Whine: Chronicling the Independent Sacramental Movement, Volume 1 & Volume 2!
[Becky & Terry Ann 0:03]
Welcome to “Extraordinary Catholics,” a podcast for—you guessed it—extraordinary Catholics! In a world with over a billion ordinary Catholics, the Good Samaritans of Vatican-free Catholicism are truly extraordinary, seeking to model Jesus’ inclusive spirit and his discipleship of equals. Like Roman Catholicism, Inclusive Catholicism possesses valid lines of apostolic succession and shares valid sacraments. One in every ten adult Americans self-identifies as a former Roman Catholic. If we were to band together, we would form the second-largest religion in America. In Mexico, over 1,000 Roman Catholics leave the church every single day. To learn more about Inclusive Catholicism, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith, and join our Extraordinary Catholics Facebook group. And now, meet the host of Extraordinary Catholics, the pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, the only inclusive Catholic community in Austin, Texas: Father Jayme Mathias!
[Father Jayme Mathias 1:19]
Welcome, extraordinary Catholics! I am Father Jayme Mathias, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas.
We thank the special saints who helped make this episode possible:
* Bishop Jerry Brohl of the Independent Roman Catholic Church in Wyandotte, Michigan;
* Bishop Kenny Von Folmar of Solomon’s Porch in Phoenix, Arizona, part of the Convergent Christian Communion;
* Bishop Theodore Feldman of the Sanctuary of Divine Providence in Birmingham, Alabama;
* Corey Hurt Montiel of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
* Very Reverend Ben Jansen of the Congregation of the Servants Minor in San Diego, California, part of the Progressive Catholic Church International;
* Archbishop Richard Roy of the National Catholic Church of American in Albany, New York;
* Pete & Maureen Tauriello of St. Francis of Assisi American National Catholic Church in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, the hosts of The Sonic Boomers podcast;
* Marguerite & Paul Foster, Rudy & Gloria Nieto, and Mary Alice Jaimez of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
* Bishop Michael Leavitt of the Apostolic Marian Independent Catholic Church in New Ipswich, New Hampshire;
* Archbishop Alan Kemp of the Ascension Alliance in Gig Harbor, Washington;
* Bishop Ken Corbin of St. Francis Community of Faith for All People in Plainville, New York, part of the Catholic Diocese of One Spirit;
* Bishop Michael Scalzi of TOCCUSA, the Old Catholic Church Province of the United States in Palmyra, Pennsylvania;
* Father Scott Carter of the Pilgrim Chapel of Contemplative Conscience in Ashland, Oregon, part of the Catholic Apostolic Church of Antioch;
* Michael Stroder of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
* Dr. Lawrence Lewis of the Order of St. George Grand Priory of the Americas in New Orleans, Louisiana;
* Bishop William Cavins of Abiding Presence Ministries in Winter Park, Florida, part of the Reformed Catholic Church;
* Bishop Tony Green of St. John of God Parish in Schenectady, New York, part of CACINA, the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America;
* Father Frank Bellino of St. Michael’s Catholic Parish in San Antonio, Texas, part of the Unified Old Catholic Church;
* Father Chad Shaw of the Hermitage of the Holy Cross & St. Benedict Anglo-Catholic Chapel in Marshall, Texas; and
* Reverend Beau Minson of Divine Mercy Ministries in Richmond, Missouri.
Looking to earn your wings? Visit dwy.io/podcast to join the list of saints who are stepping up to sponsor future episodes. Again, that’s dwy.io/podcast.
Can I ask you a favor? Will you prayerfully consider sharing a quick rating and or review of this podcast? You are a saint!
A Shout-out for Olivia
I also want to share a special shout-out for Olivia, a student of philosophy and religion at The University of Texas at Austin. After our weekly Bible study at Holy Family one night in November, it was Olivia who said, “Father, you need to have a podcast!” It is because of Olivia that we have Extraordinary Catholics podcast today.
A Shout-out for "The Sonic Boomers" Podcast
I also want to give a shout-out to Pete and Maureen Tauriello, two extraordinary Catholics who gave a shout-out to Extraordinary Catholics podcast in Episode 87 of their podcast, The Sonic Boomers. In Episode 87, “Finding the Exit Ramp,” Pete and Maureen so eloquently speak of the “exit ramp” that they found from the Roman Catholic Church. And, with the hearts of servants, they stand ready to assist others who are looking for an “exit ramp” as well.
I love their story of finding Independent Catholicism through a friend’s warning. I share a similar story here in Austin: When I left the Roman Catholic Church ten years ago, the bishop, in his wisdom, demanded that a letter be read during all weekend masses in the diocese regarding my departure from the church. I couldn’t have paid for better advertising! In fact, some tremendous members of our parish family, like Shirley Bruch and Margaret Bruch, came to learn about Inclusive Catholicism through that pulpit announcement.
Did Certain Roman Catholic Priests Sleep through Seminary, or Are They Lying?
I appreciate the feedback to Episode 2. In response to my comment about Roman Catholic priests sleeping through seminary studies, a Roman Catholic priest friend of mine messaged me: “Hey, I was awake during Dan Grigassy’s class! Go easy on us. ;)” (Father Daniel Grigassy was the Franciscan priest who taught us liturgy at the Washington Theological Union in Washington D.C.) I replied: “You and I both know that anyone with even a semester of seminary studies in liturgy or in sacramental theology knows that it is false to claim that my sacraments are not valid. I’m giving our brothers the benefit of the doubt: If indeed they were awake, then they are shamelessly lying to the people of God.” My Roman Catholic priest friend’s response was a single word: “Word.”
Responses to Episode 2
I also want to thank those who responded with comments on Episode 2. Brother Peter Veitch of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion wrote of the creation stories in the last episode: that “they’re as true as any other creation myth in any spiritual tradition on earth.” Rev. Dr. Trish Sullivan Vanni of Charis Ecumenical Catholic Community in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, part of the Ecumenical Catholic Community, wrote, “Here’s my motto: All stories are true, and some of them really happened.” Finally, Father Timothy Warren of the Connexion of St. Augustine of Canterbury in Hesperia, California, wrote, “Creation stories are sacred myth. Some may be inspired by observing the natural world, but most are not. They are an attempt to explain the origins of the particular group, to whom the story belongs, with the understanding [that] other groups have their own sacred myths. They each contain spiritual truths, but were never intended to be taken literally.” Y’all are tremendous. Let’s keep the conversation going.
And now let’s continue our exploration of the theological foundations of Inclusive Catholicism!
The Book of Genesis is Important for Inclusive Catholics
In our last two episodes, we explored the topic of hermeneutics—how we interpret the scriptures, the Word of the Lord—warning that we need to be careful not to interpret the scriptures too literally. Even though the scriptures contain various elements from history, the Bible is far from a book of history.
Now that we’ve set that foundation, let’s jump into the Hebrew scriptures, and let’s start “in the beginning,” with the book of Genesis.
We Stole Our Creation Stories!
The Book of Genesis is an important work for Inclusive Catholics. Now, in the 21st century, we know that our creation accounts were largely based on—or, if you prefer, stolen from—other ancient stories from the cultures with which we came into contact before and during the exile. The Enūma Eliš is an 18th-century B.C. Babylonian and Assyrian creation myth, recorded on some 20,000 fragments of clay tablets discovered during 19th-century archeological digs. It is the primary source for Mesopotamian cosmology. The Enūma Eliš begins, “When the heavens above did not yet exist, nor the earth below, before the Anunnaki (the gods), there was nothing, nothing but Old Father Apsu, the subterranean ocean, and Mummu-Tiamat, the overground sea & Mother of All Living. Their two bodies of water became one.” Like the Genesis creation stories we know, the Babylonians told the story of primordial chaos. Apsu and Tiamat were gods of the deep: Apsu, the god of fresh waters beneath the earth, and Tiamat, the personification of saltwater. The all-knowing father and the mother of all living mingled their waters, and creation resulted! Here our stories diverge. For the Babylonians, Apsu and Tiamat first created other gods: first Lahmu and Lahamu, then Anshar & Kishar the parents of Anu, who made Ea in his image. Ea killed Apsu, then Ea and his wife, Damkina, gave birth to Marduk—a god you may have heard of—who possessed a double share of divinity and was exalted above his ancestors.
Our stories converge when Marduk kills Tiamat, the grandmother of his father’s creator. Marduk split Tiamat’s body in two, to form the sky above and the earth below. Genesis 1:6-7 speaks of this separation of the waters above the sky, from the waters below. Genesis 1:9-10 speaks of the separation of water from dry land. We find similar elements that we likely “borrowed” from the Babylonians during our exile in Babylon: Before the heavens & earth existed, there was only chaos. From the darkness came light. The different “waters” were separated. The body of one god was split, to form the sky above and the earth below. Humans were created from god-infused dust. Then the creating gods rested, an etiological explanation for their sabattu, their sabbath, a monthly day of rest on the full moon. The westward spread of this creation myth influenced the Hebrews, who were also likely influenced during the time of their Babylonian captivity. An additional hypothesis posits the existence of a common ancestor of both religious systems.
And lest you should think that Adam and Eve and Noah and Naamah were original elements of our Hebrew faith, the Enūma Eliš shared the story of the fall of humankind, as well as of a universal flood.
The Egyptians had a creation myth, too: the story of Ra and the serpent, which also stated that the universe was created out of chaos. Sans scriptural references, “Ra the Sun, the Almighty God, appeared and said, ‘I am who am! I am the lifegiver! When I appeared, life appeared. Every living creature appeared after I appeared. There was no heaven and no earth [think Gen. 1:2]. There was no dry land and no reptiles in Egypt. Then I spoke, and living creatures appeared [think Gen. 1:20-21]. I decided let there be a multitude of living creatures [think Gen. 1:22 & Gen. 1:24-25].’” Thus, we find similar elements that we likely borrowed from the Egyptians as well: Ra existed before the heavens and the earth were created, and Ra created all living creatures. The Memphis version of this myth shares that Ptah, the patron god of craftspeople, envision the finished product: Before it was a physical creation, it was an intellectual creation by the gods’ Word and by the gods’ Mind.
The Sumerians had a creation myth, too: the Atra-Hasis. Only the gods populated the world when Ea-Enki negotiated a settlement with the divine assembly, to create human beings to care for the world. The task was assigned to Nintu-Mami, the mother of the living, who formed the first humans from clay and commanded them to have life. This took place at Edin (think Eden), a Sumerian word meaning “plain” and signifying the plain where the gods lived at the intersection of heaven and earth. Again, we find similar elements that we likely borrowed from the Sumerians: Our God created us from the earth (Gen. 2:7), we have our own “mother of the living,” Eve (Gen. 3:20), and the first humans inhabited a place called Edin (or Eden) alongside the divine (Gen. 2:8 & Gen. 2:15). And the Sumerian sheep-and-grain myth, their story of the sheep goddess and the grain goddess who fed and clothed the gods, no doubt influenced our story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4.
Creation Stories as Etiological Explanations
As inclusive Catholics, we need not think that our account of creation is unique, nor should we feel any need to take it literally, as if God created the entire universe in six days (or 144 hours), that the Garden of Eden was a historical place, that the entire human race descends from a single couple, or that there existed a serpent who possessed vocal cords and who spoke a human language. Instead, we understand the creation myth as an etiological explanation by our ancient ancestors, a story that answers many questions, like:
* Where did the earth come from (Gen. 1:1-10)?
* Where did we come from, and how were we created (Gen. 1:26-27)?
* The next two chapters of Genesis (Gen. 2-3) will answer several more questions:
* How do we explain the difference between men and women (Gen. 2:21-23)?
* What is the origin of sin and evil in our world (Gen. 3)?
* Why do some bad things seem so good (Gen. 3:6)?
* Why do snakes crawl on the ground and bite people (Gen. 3:14-15)?
* Why do women endure labor pains (Gen. 3:16)?
* Why did men rule over women in patriarchal societies (Gen. 3:16)? Let’s come back to that.
* Why must we labor and toil, and why does the earth yield weeds, thistles and thorns (Gen. 3:17-18)?
* Why must we die (Gen. 3:19)?
These creation accounts answer a lot of questions.
Before you take Genesis literally, though, thinking that all humankind can be traced back to a single set of humans some 5,765 years ago, remember to use the historical-critical method—and remember to consider the deeper meaning that the ancient authors of these texts were trying to communicate. As we had said in the last episode, there’s no reason why these ancient stories contained in the Word of the Lord can’t be reconciled with contemporary beliefs in a world that has continued to evolve over the last 15 plus or minus five billion years, since the creation of the universe we inhabit.
Male & Female in God's Image
As Inclusive Catholics, we need to address some deeper problems in the Genesis creation account, namely, the mistaken notions that some have gleaned from these ancient sources concerning the human person. Let’s begin by stepping back in time and imagining what the world was like before we started overcoming the gender binary. Let’s go back to the Bible’s etiological explanation for human beings created as male and female.
In the Priestly account of Genesis 1, we find one story of our origins: that we were created as part of God’s six-day act of creation. As part of that story, God said on the sixth day, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:26-27). According to the story, God created humankind in God’s own image. In the image of God, God created us. Male and female, God created us.
Dr. Phyllis Trible of Union Theological Seminary in New York notes the original harmony of male and female—of all creation, regardless of gender. In her work, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, she begins by highlighting the harmony and symmetry of this creation account. Think about this: There are six days of actual creation before the seventh day, a day of rest rooted in the Akkadian culture and its superstition regarding the unlucky number 7. During the first three days of creation, God formed the skeleton of the universe—not out of nothing, not ex nihilo, by the way—and on the last three days, God filled out what God had previously created.
On the first day, God separated light from darkness, and, on the fourth day, God created the sun, the shemesh in Hebrew (named for the Akkadian sun god, Shamash), which governs the day, and the moon and the stars to govern the night. Interestingly, the center candle of the Jewish menorah, the highest candle, which is used to light the other eight candles, is also known as the Shamash.
On the second day, God created the waters of the great seas, the mayim in Hebrew, from the shamayim in Hebrew, the waters above, which is the sky, and, on the fifth day, God created all the birds and the fish.
On the third day, God created the earth and its vegetation, and, on the sixth day, God created the animals—including the human animals—that roam the earth.
With that symmetrical structure in mind, for the first three days of creation with the second three days of creation, you can likely repeat back to me now what God created on each of the six days of creation!
How intriguing that Dr. Trible begins her work of feminist theology by noting the harmony and the variety of the entire cosmos. She notes that, “separation, differentiation and responsibility characterize all levels of creation.”
We’ve not yet arrived at the etiological explanation for why human beings eat meat, and Dr. Trible notes how, in an age before meat eaters, humans and all other land animals lived in harmony. She writes, “Animals partake of time and table. Both humans and other animals were created on the same day, both eat the same food [namely, the vegetation of the earth].”
God blessed all of creation, calling it "good" seven times. Recall that the root of the English word “bless”—benedico/benedicere in Latin—literally means “to speak well of something,” to call it good! When we bless people or things, we are literally calling them good!
Male & Female in God's Image
Among these blessed beings, there is something that distinguishes humans from other animals. The Priestly account says nothing of the sexes of animals: They are not sexually designated as male or female. Like human beings, they procreate (Gen. 1:22 & 1:28), but only human beings, in this Priestly account, possess sexuality.
The famous phrase of Genesis 1:27, translated in so many different ways, creates phrases from only seven Hebrew words. Dr Trible goes back to the Hebrew, and I share here her own seemingly-exclusive language with respect to God.
The first line of Hebrew text for Genesis 1:27 contains only four words in Hebrew: “And-created God, humankind in-God’s-image.” Those seven words in English are translated from only four words in the original Hebrew text. “And-created God, humankind in-God’s-image.”
The second line of Hebrew text for Genesis 1:27 contains four Hebrew words as well: “In-the-image-of God created-he him.” Those were four words in the original Hebrew text: “In-the-image-of God created-he him.”
And the third line of Hebrew text for Genesis 1:27 contains only four words as well: “Male and-female created-he them.” Again, those last four words are: “Male and-female created-he them.”
Dr. Trible points out that what is fascinating about this Hebrew text is that, after two parallel lines, the text shifts from the singular pronoun “him,” to the plural pronoun “them.”
The first two lines are parallel. Listen for the ABC-CBA structure: “And-created God, humankind in-God’s-image. In-the-image-of God created-he him.” The wording sounds odd, I know, but that’s how the literal translation of these ancient languages sound. Once more, that ABC-CBA structure: “And-created God, humankind in-God’s-image. In-the-image-of God created-he him.”
Then, after that parallel with the singular “him,” we hear: “Male and-female created-he them.” Singular and plural: Humanity is one, but with differences.
"In God's Image" as Figurative Language
When we use figurative language, when we talk about things like God, we use something known—the vehicle—to help people to understand another thing that is less known—the tenor. Here, I’ll use the example of Dr. Ray Malewitz of Oregon State University, who speaks of Britney Spears’ song, “Baby One More Time.” When Britney sings, “My loneliness is killing me,” that is figurative language, with a vehicle that points us to a tenor, to something that we can’t entirely understand: the profundity of her sadness. And so, when Britney sings, “My loneliness is killing me,” we understand what she is saying. We understand her sadness, and we don’t take her words literally. When Britney sings, “Hit me, Baby, one more time,” again, that’s figurative language. She is neither talking to an infant, nor is she asking that that infant assault her. In the expression “Hit me, Baby, one more time,” “Baby” is the vehicle that points us to the tenor, her ex-boyfriend, and “hit me” is a vehicle that points us to the tenor of a simple expression: “call me.” The song could just as easily have been titled, “Call me, ex-boyfriend, one more time,” but Britney chooses certain words as vehicles, to express meaning to a generation after my own.
The scriptures, too, use figurative language to talk about such things as God, and, as is the case with every instance of figurative language, we have to think through the vehicle (the actual words used) and the tenor (what is trying to be conveyed or communicated). In this instance, Dr Trible argues that the words “male and female” are the vehicle—we understand those words—which point us to the tenor, the thing that is less known: “in the image of God.” Both male and female are in the image of God! The image of God is both male and female! And though they were part of one humankind, they were plural. We hear this again in Genesis 1:26, where God says, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our own likeness, and let them have dominion.”
Men & Women: Created Together on the Sixth Day
Note that this is a very different story from the Yahwist account of creation in Genesis 2, where the Yahwist author suggests that God created a single, androgynous being, ha adam, that was both male and female, before it was split by sexual division. In this Priestly account in Genesis 1, Dr. Trible notes, “From the beginning, humankind existed as two creatures, not as one creature with double sex.” Hence my intentional choice of the phrase, “woman/women” in the title of this episode. We’re used to thinking about one woman, Eve, but Dr. Trible points in the direction of God creating “them”—men and women—on the sixth day of creation, according to the Priestly account.
Dr Trible notes a second point: The singular Hebrew word ha adam stressed the unity of all humanity, regardless of sex or sexuality. She writes, “Unity embraces sexual differentiation. It does not impose sexual identicalness.”
Thirdly, Dr. Trible notes that the parallelism between ha adam and “male and female” highlights equality despite sexual differentiation. Both sexes were created simultaneously, male and female, in the Priestly account, and neither is superior or subordinate to the other. God gives both equal power. God says, “Let them have dominion” (Gen. 1:26). And so, as we see, the Priestly account treats male and female as equals, both with equal power over the earth, and neither is given dominion over the other.
I share an extended quote from Dr. Trible who writes: “A definite link does exist between the phrase ‘male and female’ and the responsibility to have dominion over the earth. The link adds another dimension to the freedom that is allowed within the text for interpreting ‘male and female.’ This freedom comes in two ways: by what the text does say about human dominion over all the earth, and by what it does not say about sexual stereotypes. Although an argument from silence is never conclusive and often dangerous, this particular one may caution against assigning masculine and feminine attributes to the words ‘male and female.’ In this poem, opened to various meanings, these words eschew sexual cliches.”
Notice how God remains transcendent, beyond our comprehension. In the same way that “male and female” is a vehicle pointing us to “the image of God,” “the image of God” is a vehicle pointing us to the tenor of the transcendent mystery of God! Just when we might be tempted to think that God is plural, having created humankind “in our image,” we find that, after the creation of humankind, the Priestly writer turns from plural pronouns for God: “Let us create humankind in our image,” to the singular pronouns: “Behold, I give you every seed-bearing plant (Gen. 1:29). The sexual differentiation of humankind is not a description of God. And we see unity and plurality—E pluribus unum, we say as a nation—in both the human and divine realms. This “unity in diversity” is later echoed in Genesis 5:1-2: “When God created humankind, God made us in the likeness of God. God created us male and female and blessed us, and God named us humankind when we were created.” Dr. Trible concludes, “to describe male and female, then, is to perceive the image of God; to perceive the image of God is to glimpse the transcendence of God.”
The Yahwist Gynandromorph or Androgynos
Now, are you ready for the contrasting view of the Yahwist author in Genesis 2 to 3? The Yahwist creation account in Genesis 2 to 3 is important because it has been misinterpreted to reinforce ideas of men ruling over women. Adam was created first, and Eve was created from Adam, so men are superior to women, right? Dr. Pamela Milne, a professor of Hebrew Bible at the University of Windsor, Ontario, writes, “Patriarchal interpreters claim that woman is inferior because she is created last (Gen. 2:22), but these same interpreters never argue that humans are inferior to animals because [humans] were created later (Gen. 1:27).”
Then we discover that what we learned as children—and what we continue to see mistranslated in the Bible and misrepresented in other media—is an error. God did not create Adam, a man, from whom God created Eve, a woman—but, of course, that’s a simpler story, an easier story for us to communicate to our children in a world that prefers the KISS method (Keep It Simple, Sister) and still seeks to enforce the gender binary.
I recommend the book, In the Image of God: A Feminist Commentary on the Torah, by Judith Antonelli, an associate editor of the Jewish Advocate. Antonelli argues that the Genesis story is a divine mandate for sexual equality, a far cry from the misogynistic, Christian interpretations that have blamed women for sin and evil in our world! Antonelli’s thought shapes much of the reflection to follow.
In the second Genesis creation story, in Genesis 2, the first human creature was a hermaphrodite, a term that comes to us from the child of Hermes and Aphrodite: a child who defied the gender binary and possessed both male and female characteristics. There was no sexual distinction before the division of this first creature. Let that sink in: There was no male Adam, from which a female Eve was created! If you prefer, the first human creature, ha adam, was gynandromorph or androgynos, a beautiful blend of female and male created from the earth, ha adama.
Personally, I’m fond of the midrash, the interpretation of scripture, by Rabbi Nachmanides. Rabbi Nachmanides notes that the gynandromorph, the androgynos named all animals, giving them the male and female identities they possess: bulls and heifers, stallions and mares, jacks and jennies, roosters and hens, drakes and hens, ganders and geese, peacocks and peahens, rams and ewes, billies and nannies, hogs and sows, bucks and does, wolverines and angelines, lions and lionesses, tigers and tigresses…. We could go on. The gynandromorph, the androgynos gave identities to all these animals and still could not find a suitable partner among them (Gen. 2:20).
Sexist Interpretations: Woman Created from Man?
Before we come to the split of the gynandromorph, the androgynos, we need to acknowledge what happened when the Hebrew scriptures were translated to Greek. The story is told that 70 Jewish elders were commissioned to translate the Torah from Hebrew into Greek for King Ptolemy of Egypt in the third century B.C. According to the story, all 70 elders worked individually, and all 70 produced, seemingly miraculously, the same exact translation, word for word for word of the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch (the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). All five books, translated by 70 people individually, and resulting in the same exact translation, word for word for word! Our ancient ancestors in the faith called this translation the Septuagint. We now know that it contained mistranslations.
In the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., Jewish rabbis pointed out at least 15 grave mistranslations in the Septuagint. Among them, it mistranslated ha adam, the gynandromorph, the androgynos, as “man,” so that no person could mistakenly believe that two gods created men and women in their image (Gen. 1:26). So, by the third century B.C., with the Greek Septuagint, we began to believe something new, something novel: that there was one God, and that this God created one being: man. Traduttore, traditore. “The translator is a traitor,” the Italians say.
Personally, I like the translation of this Yahwist account by Priests For Equality. Full disclosure: I worked for Priests For Equality back in 1998, and helped them to fundraise for their inclusive translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Note in the following story, that there is not the creation of a woman from man, and that there is no differentiation of sexes until the split of the gynandromorph or the androgynos. We begin with Genesis 2:4-7: “At the time when our God made the heavens and the earth, there was still no wild bush on the earth, nor had any wild plant sprung up, for our God had not yet sent rain on the earth, and there was no human being to till the soil. So our God fashioned an earth creature out of the clay of the earth, and blew into its nostrils the breath of life, and the earth creature became a living being.” Let’s skip ahead to Genesis 2:18-20, which inspired Rabbi Nachmanides’ midrash: “Then our God said, ‘It is not good for the earth creature to be alone. I will make a fitting companion for it.’ So our God formed all the various wild beasts and all the birds of the air and brought them to the earth creature to be named. Whatever the earth creature called each one, that became its name. The earth creature gave names to all the cattle, all the birds of the air, and all the wild animals, but none of them proved to be a fitting companion.”
Did you notice how that story is different from the Priestly creation story in Genesis 1? The Priestly account said that the birds were created on day five, then humans and all other animals on day six. Here we hear that the earth creature was created first, and then the birds of the air, the cattle and the wild animals.
But notice another thing: Not only do we have the common misperception of Eve being created from Adam’s rib, we also have Genesis 2:18, which translated here was, “I will make a fitting companion.” In other translations, the Hebrew word ezer is translated “helper,” as if the woman were created to be man’s “helper,” and thus is subordinate to him. Antonelli notes that the same Hebrew word, ezer, is used of God as well (Ex. 18:4, Dt. 33:7, Ps. 33:20). God is Israel’s ezer, Israel’s companion and help, but surely God is not subordinate to the Jewish people! The relationship is beneficial and doesn’t connote inferiority.
And now we come to the split of the earth creature in Genesis 2:21-23: “So our God made the earth creature fall into a deep sleep, and, while it slept, God divided the earth creature into two, then closed up the flesh from its sides. Our God then fashioned the two halves into male and female, and presented them to one another. When the male realized what had happened, he explained, ‘This time this is the one! Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh. Now, she will be ‘woman,’ and I will be ‘man,’ because we are of one flesh.” A footnote in the Priests For Equality translation explains, “The literal translation is ‘and while the earth creature, the adam, slept, God took one of its sides (or possibly ribs) and closed up the flesh in its place. Then our God made the part that was taken from the adam into a woman and brought her to the adam.’ But if the earth creature is without gender before woman is created, then surely it becomes gendered when the split takes place.” Another footnote says, “Literally, she will be called 'woman' (isha), because she was taken from 'man' (ish).”
Antonelli notes that the use of the word “rib” is likely a mistranslation. She notes that Exodus 26:20 uses the same Hebrew word to refer to the sides of the tabernacle, which were to measure 10 forearms by 1.5 forearms. In this context, the Hebrew word obviously means “side,” so Antonelli and others are quite comfortable ditching the imagery of God taking a “rib,” and instead saying that Ḥavvā (Eve) was created from the side of the gynandromorph or of the androgynos. Before that split, there was no man. After Ḥavvā (Eve) was created from the side of adam, the earth creature, the two halves of the gynandromorph or of the androgynos now recognized themselves as sexually distinct.
In his midrash, Rabbi Rashi suggested that it was necessary for the gynandromorph, the androgynos, to be split, so that resulting humanity wouldn’t think that we are divine due to our similarity to the one God.
The problem results from the notion that woman was created from man. Taken to its extreme, we see the sexism expressed by the pseudonymous author of the First Letter to Timothy, who, writing in Paul’s name, said, “Women should learn quietly and with complete submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man. She must be quiet, for Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1Tim. 2:12-13). Yikes. To be clear, the argument here is: Adam was formed first, then Eve, so women should be subordinate to men?
The Superiority of Women?
Based on the first creation story in Genesis 1, Dr. Trible suggests the equality of men and women. The title of this episode, however, is a question: “Equal or Superior? Woman/Women in Genesis 1 & 2.” What in Genesis 1 or 2, pray tell, would lead a person to believe that women are superior to men? Guys, are you sitting down?
Antonelli says: Notice the pattern of evolution in the Priestly creation story of Genesis 1, from lower forms of life, to higher forms of life. God created the elements and mineral life, then God created plant life, then God created fish and fowl, amphibians and reptiles and mammals, and then God created human beings. If you follow the traditional maltranslation of the Septuagint, the crown of creation is—you guessed it—woman! If you subscribe to that maltranslation, man (ha adam) originates from the mud of the earth, while woman (Ḥavvā, Eve) comes from a higher source than mud: She comes from the body of adam. As the crown of creation, created not from mud, like man, women enjoy a higher spiritual nature than men! (I know: All the women who are listening are thinking, “Of course we do!”) The maltranslation of women being created from men confirms this superiority. But it gets better.
Think about the way that we use language. In Hebrew, ish (man) is an incomplete form of isha (woman). In English, “man” is an incomplete form of “woman,” “male” is an incomplete form of “female.” Antonelli says “man” is “woman with no ‘wo’”—with no womb. Hence, psychoanalyst Karen Horney’s theory of the male psychology of womb envy.
The rabbis who brought together their wisdom in the Genesis Rabbah in the fourth and fifth centuries seemed to concur. They wrote, “Whatever is created after its companion has power over it” (Genesis Rabbah, 19:4).
Judith Antonelli advances a theory of true female superiority based on human biology. She asks: Isn’t it true that female sexuality is more evolved than male sexuality? Men are like so many other male animals: focused on getting off. We recognize that we’re stereotyping here, but many men have no problem with a string of sexual encounters with no commitment. They enjoy the hunt, the chase, the conquest, then they move on. Many women, on the other hand, want sex in the context of love and committed relationship. Through women, the Hebrew scriptures lift male sexuality to a higher expression. Antonelli continues. Think about this: The woman has three structures for the three functions of urination (the urethra), sexual pleasure (the clitoris), and reproduction (the vagina). The male has a single structure (the penis) for all three. Sex Ed 101 confirms the complete impossibility of male superiority!
Returning to Dr. Milne, she notes the scholarship of David Jobling of St. Andrew’s College in Saskatchewan, who encourages us not to see the Bible as patriarchal, but as a work that tries to make sense of the patriarchal assumptions of the ancient world in which it was written.
Original Complementarity & Equality
The goal, of course, is not female supremacy, or male supremacy, for that matter. The goal, it seems, should be to return to the original complementarity and equality of all: male, female, bigender, two spirit, androgyne, intersex, polygender, pangender, omnigender, transgender, agender, gender fluid, genderqueer, gender outlaw…. Aren’t you glad that our world is journeying toward one day overcoming the gender binary and recognizing the great beauty and diversity of all God’s creation?
The Exclusion of Women by Churches is a Grave Sin
I conclude. Sexism is real and expresses itself in mistranslations and maltranslations of scripture and in our use of scriptural texts to keep people down, simply on the basis of something beyond their choosing: their sex. Don’t get me wrong: I loved the ten years that I served as a priest in the Roman Church, and I will forever be indebted for the years of seminary studies that they poured into me, but it was a bad marriage for a person like myself, who so fundamentally believes in the equality of all people, regardless of their sex.
Women were involved in the ordained ministries of the early Church until they were definitively excluded by the Boys Club at the Second Council of Orange in 529 A.D.
It is a sin. Let me say that again: It is a sin that women have been excluded from the ordained ministries of the Church during the past three quarters of the history of the Western Church.
It is a sin that churches continue to exclude our mothers and sisters and daughters and granddaughters from their rightful service and ministry.
And it is a grave sin that those who know better continue to lead others to believe that the Hebrew scriptures, like Genesis 1 and 2, justify their own gynophobia, misogyny and sexism through their words and actions.
Ordinary Catholics perpetuate gynophobia, misogyny and sexism. Let’s not be ordinary Catholics. Let’s be…extraordinary Catholics!
Extraordinary Catholics Magazine
Before we go, check out and share the January/February issue of Extraordinary Catholics magazine, available at www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith/magazine. This issue contains extraordinary articles by:
* Father Brett Banks of the Independent Catholic Ordinariate & the Advocates of St. Sebastian in Dallas, Texas;
* Father Marek Bożek of St. Stanislaus Polish Catholic Church in St. Louis, Missouri;
* Father Kevin Daugherty of Solomon’s Porch in Phoenix, Arizona, part of the Convergent Catholic Communion;
* Father Mike Ellis of Incarnation Catholic Community in South Burlington, Vermont, part of CACINA, the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America;
* Bishop Tony Green of St. John of God Parish in Schenectady, New York, part of CACINA, the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America;
* Very Reverend Ben Jansen of the Congregation of the Servants Minor in San Diego, California, part of the Progressive Catholic Church International;
* Mother Kathleen Jess of Divine Savior Community in Kingman, Arizona, part of the National Catholic Church of North America;
* Bishop David Kalke of the Ecumenical Catholic Church in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico;
* Father Jayme Mathias of Holy Family Catholic Church in Austin, Texas;
* Father Jerry Maynard of the People’s Priest Ministry in Houston, Texas;
* Father John Robison of TOCCUSA, the Old Catholic Church Province of the United States in Laurel, Maryland;
* Rev. Dr. Trish Sullivan Vanni of Charis Ecumenical Catholic Community in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, part of the Ecumenical Catholic Communion; and
* Father Kerry Walters of Holy Spirit American National Catholic Church in Montandon, Pennsylvania, part of the American National Catholic Church.
"The Sonic Boomers" Podcast
Finally, I’d like to give you all a bit of homework.
First, check out The Sonic Boomers podcast by Pete and Maureen Tauriello, who we mentioned earlier in this episode. In Episode 87 of The Sonic Boomers, they speak of their own “exit ramp” from the Roman Catholic Church, and their willingness to assist others who are looking for good, valid, Catholic options to the Roman Church. They spoke of this in Episode 8, “Why We Left the Roman Catholic Church,” and Episode 9 of The Sonic Boomers, “A New & Better Way of Catholicism.”
"Sacramental Whine" Podcast
Second, while I have you, check out Sacramental Whine, a podcast by our friend, Bishop David Oliver Kling. Over the past three years, Bishop Kling has shared over 100 episodes of Sacramental Whine, a podcast that features a number of voices from the larger ISM or Independent Sacramental Movement, of which Inclusive Catholicism is part. He often asks clergy about their “elevator speech,” their perspective on what he prefers to call the United Sacramental Movement, their ministries to the People of God, and their greatest joys and challenges in ministry. Bishop Kling comes from a traditionalist Catholic background, now self-identifies as part of the more esoteric Liberal Catholic Church tradition, is a Freemason, a hospice chaplain, a military chaplain, and he’s currently working to complete his D.Min. (his Doctor of Ministry) from Methodist Theological School in Ohio. So, his education and experiences greatly enrich our perspective on the Independent Sacramental Movement of which we’re part. It’s because of Bishop Kling, for instance, that I’ve come to view the many and varied ISM jurisdictions as “micro-denominations,” a term that refers not only to their size, but also to their leadership models and the difficulty they have of merging with similar groups. Check out Sacramental Whine podcast, available wherever you get your podcasts and at www.SacramentalWhine.libsyn.com. You can also find Bishop Kling’s books on Amazon: Check out Sacramental Whine: Chronicling the Independent Sacramental Movement, Volumes 1 and Volume 2 today.
Pocasts by & for Inclusive Catholics
For a full list of podcasts by and for Inclusive Catholics, please visit www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith/podcasts.
[Terry Ann & Becky]
Thank you for joining us for Extraordinary Catholics podcast with Father Jayme Mathias! Check out our directory of over 2,000 Inclusive Catholic clergy at www.ExtraordinaryCatholics.faith. Have an extraordinary day!