Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Adam named Eve because . . .

Adam named Eve because . . . by Andrew PerrimanI follow P.OST the blog of scholar and theologian Andrew Perriman who has recently written a couple of articles about Greg Gilbert’s new book Who is Jesus? (published by Crossway for 9Marks.)  

In his post with the comprehensive title, When Adam names the woman, he does not exert authority over her, Perriman critiques Gilbert’s presumptions surrounding Adam naming Eve.  I have reposted the second half of Perriman’s post with his permission.  (The indented quotes are taken from Greg Gilbert’s book.)                                           Photo: Andrew Perriman


God realized that it was not good for the man to be alone, so he created the animals and had Adam name them. Why? To teach him two things: first, that the animals would not be good companions for him; secondly, that his job was to rule over things.

To name something is a way to exert authority, much as a mother and father have the privilege of naming their child. So in giving names to animals, Adam was actually exerting authority over them. He was carrying out his job as the vice-regent of God’s creation, under God himself.

You can see where this is leading. Because the man names the “woman” and then calls her name “Eve” (Gen. 2:23; 3:20), he likewise has authority over her. So what is God’s scheme?

He’s instituting a whole system of authority in which Adam is given authority over Eve, and the two of them together as husband and wife are given authority over creation, and all of it is meant to reflect the reality that God sits enthroned above it all.

But where does this idea come from—that by naming a person you exert a continuing authority over her? Gilbert doesn’t say. He merely asserts it as a self-evident fact. But neither the story in Genesis 2 nor other naming texts in the Old Testament lends support his argument.

First, the Genesis 2 story is not about sovereignty or rule or authority. In Genesis 1 man and woman together in the image and likeness of God are given a God-like dominion over all living creatures. But there is no basis whatsoever for carrying this argument over into the narrative of Genesis 2 in order to construct a hierarchy in which God gives authority to the man to exercise dominion over the woman.

Something quite different is going on in Genesis 2. The naming of the animals is not an expression of the man’s authority over them, as though it corresponds to God’s giving of dominion to the man and woman in Genesis 1:26, 28. It is a way of identifying what the animals are in relation to the man. It forms part of the search for a suitable helper. God resolves to make a “helper fit for him”. He creates the beasts from the ground and brings them to Adam to “see what he would call them”. Adam gives them their names but he fails to identify, in the process, a suitable co-worker or companion. So God creates the woman not from the ground but from Adam’s side, which means that Adam can identify her as ʾisha because she was taken from ʾish (Gen. 2:23).

Secondly, naming in scripture is a way of determining the essential character or identity or purpose of something or someone. This is why we have the frequent formula in the Old Testament: a person or thing is called or named something because…. Here are some examples from Genesis.

  • Adam called his wife’s name Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).
  • The city that the descendants of Noah built in the land of Shinar “was called Babel (bavel), because there the LORD confused (bll) the language of all the earth” (Gen 11:9).
  • God tells Hagar to call her son “Ishmael” (“God hears”) because “the Lord has listened to your affliction” (Gen. 16:11).
  • Remarkably, Hagar then ‘called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). Does this mean that Hagar has authority over God? Of course not. It means that she has identified him, she has discerned for herself his essential character.
  • Abraham calls the son born to Sarah Isaac (“he laughs”) because Abraham laughed when God told him that she would give birth (Gen. 17:17, 19).
  • When Jacob wakes from his ladder dream, he exclaims, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God….” So he ‘called the name of that place Bethel (“house of God”)’ (Gen. 28:17, 19). He does not have to have authority over the place in order to do this. He has to understand the significance of the place.

One person names another not because he or she has authority over the named person but because he or she is the right person to identify or determine the essential significance of the named person. This is where the “privilege” comes into it. Adam names the woman because he is in the best position to understand the significance of the fact that she was created not from the earth as a different species but from his own bone and flesh. Andrarchy—the rule of the man over the woman—only enters the picture as a consequence of disobedience: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).

Read Andrew Perriman’s full post here.


Related Articles

A Suitable Helper
Kenegdo: Is the woman subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay God’s command to Eve?
More article about gender in Genesis 1-3 here.

Posted February 12th, 2015 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Gender in Genesis 1-3, ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

20 comments on “Adam named Eve because . . .

  1. Gail says:

    Wow – this is fantastic! Love the way he uses examples from the OT to show the true purpose of “naming”.

  2. TL says:

    Very interesting. However, I think he needs to clarify his final sentence. I know men who will thus claim that he is saying that Andrarchy is therefore acceptable and promoted by God.

    • Marg says:

      I know men and women who make that claim too. They think God is prescribing, rather than describing a consequence of the Fall. I know that Andrew does not support Andrachy.

      • TL says:

        I rather guessed that he didn’t. Sometimes in writing it is difficult to cover all the possible misreads.

      • Scott Elliott says:

        I like that distinction, “describing, not prescribing.”

        That gives room for andrarchy to be not in accordance with the will of God, for not every consequence of every disaster is in accord with divine purpose.

        In any event, just in case andrarchy does have a place, it is after the universe is radically damaged, not before: it is not woven into the fabric of the universe itself.

        One cannot argue against every incorrect notion at the same time.

        • TL says:

          Scott,
          There are several reasons why God’s words to the man and woman were not prescriptive. There was no “because you have done this you are cursed” as there was to the serpent.

          To the man God says something to the effect of – because you heard or listened to your wife talking . Some have thought that meant ‘obeyed’ because shaman means both hear and obey. But because qowl/voice was also added, it is more likely IMO that God may have been pointing out that the man just sat there listening. So, the man listened, offered no help to the conversation, and decided to follow along. Because the man did this when he likely had more information to offer, God cursed the ground. This made more difficulty for the serpent crawling on it. It also made it difficult for humans to work the soil.

          When God spoke to the woman, “I will increase your toil in birthing, likely this meant that He would increase the number of children she could have. Some think this is a help offered to the woman since from her offspring will come the help for not only women but all humans. As well, knowing that the man’s response to the woman’s future clinging would be to dominate her, the children would be a help for her alone feeling.

          In my laboring in interpretation here, I am not finding anything that would suggest that God is telling the man to dominate the woman, nor is He telling the woman to become a servant to the man. Thus, there really isn’t any room for andrarchy being something to look forward to or to accept.

        • Marg says:

          Thanks Scott.

          I’ve sometimes wondered if andrarchy or patriarchy was needed or beneficial for certain desperate situations or during certain periods of history (such as when people have lived with the threat or experience of wars or famines.)

          But I’ve come to the conclusion that if women could have participated in leadership in those societies that were undergoing highly stressful and dangerous situations they may have fared better. I see no advantage in andrarchy. I really don’t.

          I’m grateful for the women who are leading in desperate and tricky situations in some societies today, and the perspective and leadership skills they bring.

  3. […] Moreover, in the Bible, the act of naming does not necessarily imply authority.  For instance, Hagar (the Egyptian slave of Abraham and Sarah) gave God a name; a significant name that has been recorded in Scripture.  Yet no one can rightly suggest that Hagar had authority over God just because she named him (Gen 16:13-14).  [More on why Adam named Eve here.] […]

  4. Andrew says:

    A very interesting article, I would like to say, the translations I have read say “God made Adam a helpmate”. This is a very important verse as it places women on the same step / path as the man. An interesting interpretation of ‘man’-mine- man is not a ‘sex’, the term is a creature, male and female He made them / us. Therefore, God had intended a male to marry a female, separate some distance between parents and the new couple, make a life together for each other. The amount of ‘pulling the scriptures to bits’ to garner more ‘knowledge’ is quite futile. One only needs to read what is written and do it, not translate the word into something that pleases reader to then use as a means of dominating another person. We are told to work together for the betterment of each other and those who need encouragement. We are, after all, His children, and He desires the best for us, God bless you.

  5. Adrienne Watt says:

    I noticed with each of your examples about naming it was about identity not authority.
    Who is this
    What is this
    Why is this.

    Hey what about this idea of men being the chaser?

    I hear persuer but all I hear in my head is chaser like a hunt…

    What does God say about this innate persueing?
    What is it to him?

    • Marg says:

      Hi CT,

      Yes, naming is about identity and function, and not necessarily about authority.

      As for the other subject you bring up: I don’t think the Bible says anything about men having an innate desire to chase. For example, Esau was a hunter, but Jacob wasn’t. This information about the brothers is given without value judgements in the Bible.

      Are you talking about men pursuing women?

      Many marriages were arranged by parents without an opportunity for a man to pursue a bride.

      When Abraham thought it was time for Isaac to get married, he sent a servant to get a wife for his son (Gen. 24:4).

      When Samson saw a woman he liked, he told his parents to organise a marriage for him (Judg. 14:1-3).

      Naomi told her daughter-in-law how to get Boaz’s “attention” (Ruth 3:1ff).

      Also, most marriages around the time of the Genesis narratives were with close relatives, like half-sisters/brothers. So there wasn’t much scope for pursuit.

      Most later marriages were alliances between families and there was no concept of courtship. But that doesn’t mean that marriages were without affection. The bride and groom in Song of Solomon being the prime example of that.

      The writers of the New Testament say nothing about men pursuing women either, except that Paul says pragmatically, “It’s better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).

  6. Adrienne Watt says:

    I feel like the idea of men trying to nab the woman they want has been misconstrued.
    It’s probably a beautiful thing… but I feel it’s being misconstrued.

  7. ADRIENNE WATT says:

    huh… what I have been heard is men are pursuers innatly. Not from a biblical stand point but it is talked about as if it were fact. And from that i thought that this was a way God created them…but it is taken in such a nab a wife kinda way…
    ex .) men feel it’s wrong when a woman persues them, men like the chase.

  8. ADRIENNE WATT says:

    Almost like it’s wrong against nature for a woman to be more forward.

    • Marg says:

      I don’t think it’s against nature for a naturally forward woman to be forward. 😉

      I was thinking more about this last night and I remembered Jacob. He “pursued” Rachel by working for Laban for 14 years. This arrangement was pretty much a business deal (Gen. 29:15-30).

      Men have had more freedoms in the past to pursue all kinds of things, but I know many adventurous women.

      I think it’s unhelpful and misleading to make blanket statements that men are pursuers and women are not.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2009–2016   Margaret Mowczko | Powered by WordPress

More in Equality and Gender Issues, Gender in Genesis 1-3
1 Corinthians 11:9, in a Nutshell

How are we to interpret “man was not created for woman, but woman for man”? Does 1 Corinthians 11:9 indicate that service or...

Close