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

Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2

This article is also available in Spanish here.

Human (Ha'adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2

“The Creation of Eve”: A marble relief on the left pier of the façade of the cathedral in Orvieto, Italy. © Georges Jansoone 2008 (Wikimedia Commons). This image illustrates a traditional interpretation of Genesis 2:21-22.

Was the first human being male?

In Genesis 2 we have the creation account of the very first human being. In many English translations of Genesis 2, the first human is simply called “man”. This “man” is understood by most people as referring to a male human rather than to a generic human. However, in the Hebrew text, the first “man” is not specifically referred to as a male human (ish) until after the “operation” mentioned in Genesis 2:21-22 when a part, or side, is taken out of him.

After the “operation”, the now undoubtedly male human sees the female human and says, “This one is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh! She will be called ‘woman’ (ishshah) because she was taken out of ‘man’ (ish)” (Gen. 2:23). The first woman (ishshah) and the first man (ish) may have both been a part of, or one side of, the first human being (ha’adam).[1]

Adam can mean “human” and “humanity”

The Hebrew word adam can mean “human being”, and not necessarily a male human being. For instance, in the Hebrew of Genesis 5:2, humankind—both men and women—are referred to as “ha’adam” by God. In Genesis 1:27 it says that “God created humankind (ha’adam) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” In Genesis 2, the first human is fairly consistently referred to as ha’adam (הָאָדָם), especially before the “operation”.

In the screenshots below, I have highlighted every incidence of ha’adam (the human being) in yellow. (N.BIn verse 5 there is no article but the context indicates that adam is not a proper noun.)[2] I have also highlighted every incidence of ish (man) with blue, and ishshah (woman) with pink. By looking at the screenshots below it is evident that it is not until the part that becomes the woman is taken out of the first human that we clearly see an ish, a male person, and not before.

Have a look.  Is it clear?

Genesis 2.4

Genesis 2.15

Genesis 2.22_25

Genesis 2.22

The Hebrew and English texts in the screen shots are used with permission, and taken from mechon-mamre.org  I have added the coloured highlights and I have omitted verses 9-14.


I believe that the Genesis 2 creation account was designed to show the equality, compatibility and unity of the first man and woman. It might be we are even meant to understand that they both had the same source, ha’adam, and shared the same flesh, made from the same ground, that had been personally enlivened by God’s own breath (Gen. 2:7). Genesis 2 thus gives further detail regarding the equality of men and women already stated in Genesis 1:26-28.

Genesis 1 tells us that both men and women were given the same authority at creation, and had the same status. No man or woman was given authority over another person. There is also no hint of any gender hierarchy, or a difference in status, among humankind before sin entered the world.

Evidence of a so-called “creation order” in the creation accounts, often used to support the notion of male-only authority, is not clear cut in Genesis 2. Even though we can say that Adam was created first, he was a considerably different person after the “operation” than before. A chunk of him was now missing. It had been taken out by God, and had become an integral part of the first woman. Since a significant part of the first woman was a part, or a side, of the first human, the concept of “the created order” is not clear cut or decisive.


[1] An integral part of the first woman was literally taken out of the first human. The Hebrew word traditionally translated as “rib” typically means “side”. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), the Greek word pleura means “side”, particularly the side of the body. The translation from the Septuagint is that God “took one of his sides . . . and he built the side into a woman” (Gen. 2:21-22).

[2] In the early chapters of Genesis, adam is often used with the definite article, ha’adam, meaning “the human being”. Occasionally, however, adam serves as the proper name “Adam”, usually written without the article. The first unambiguous instance in the Hebrew text of the first human being called “Adam” is not until Genesis 3:17.
In Genesis 2:20 the article may be hidden by the inseparable preposition bet. I suspect the English translation of “Adam” in verse 20 to be incorrect and based on the Masoretic pointing that was not part of the “inspired” biblical text. I am happy to be corrected on this. Many English translations use the proper name “Adam” in Genesis 2:20. Here are a few translations that don’t.
Unfortunately, the Septuagint transliterates (rather than translates) the Hebrew adam into the proper noun “Adam” in every, or most, instances in Genesis 2 (depending on the edition), whether there is an article or not.

Related Articles

Gender in Genesis 1
The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”
A Suitable Helper
A Suitable Helper in the Septuagint
Kenegdo: Is the woman in Genesis 2 subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?
Do women have a special obligation to be helpers?

Posted December 5th, 2013 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Gender in Genesis 1-3, , , ,

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

67 comments on “Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2

  1. Anne Vyn says:

    Marg, this is such a great piece!!

    I’ve just finished a seminary course where we got into this very discussion a few weeks ago. We were talking about how the church has traditionally limited leadership to males because Jesus taught us to call God “Father”, Jesus himself was male, and he chose 12 male disciples.

    One of the students suddenly asked, “Why do we need Jesus to be FULLY male? In order to fulfill his mission on earth, wasn’t it enough that he was FULLY HUMAN and not some other species like a dog or a bird?”

    This question spurred on a whole new discussion and I made a similar comment to what you say in this post: that before Eve was taken out of Adam, he was both male and female. Since Jesus is our 2nd Adam, doesn’t it make sense that he needed to be like the 1st Adam in every way? As the great HighPriest for BOTH genders, Jesus needs to be able to identify with EVERY temptation that BOTH men and women are exposed to.

    Yes, he came in a male body with the advantage that much of his mission involved doing what only men were privileged to do but I think it’s important that we do not import our “male gender definitions” onto him.

    The virgin birth reminds us that Jesus did NOT have the genetic DNA pool of an earthly male father (neither did the 1st Adam) and therefore we need to give greater mystery to exactly what kind of human being Jesus really was.

  2. Marg says:

    Thanks Anne.

    I believe that Jesus was/is fully male [as well as being fully God], even though he got his earthly DNA from a woman. And yet Jesus is rarely called a “man” in the New Testament using the Greek word anēr (adult male person). He is by far most commonly referred to as an anthrōpos (a human being).

    As you say, it is because Jesus became human that he could save humanity.

    I like what my friend Eric has said about this:

    “I think a reason Christ came as a male was so God’s salvation would be seen as involving and including both males and females. Had Christ, born of Mary, been a female, then salvation could be seen as being from and for and involving only females and the female nature. But the male Christ was born of a woman. And as the first Eve was brought forth from the first Adam, so the second or last Adam was brought forth from the second Eve (as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches regard Mary). (Cf 1 Corinthians 11:12.)”

    More on this here:

  3. Don Johnson says:

    Another aspect is that the Hebrew word “bara” is in the text, making it a Creation/Origins text like Gen 1 (this should be an underwhelming insight), but per John Walton on Gen 1, the WAY God creates in Gen 1 is to take an undifferentiated “thing” and divide it into 2 parts, so that each part can function as intended; and this same idea seems to be what is going on in Gen 2.

    Gen 2 has 2 phases, the first is where there is no water for irrigation, so God forms a human to make sure the garden is watered, but then the human by itself is not fully functional, so God “splits the adam” forming male and female.

  4. Marg says:

    Wow. That’s very interesting, Don. I’ll need to look into that more. Have you got a link?

    I was going to use the phrase “splitting the adam” in the article, but for many Christians this concept is new, and I didn’t want to seem trite.

  5. Anne Vyn says:

    Here is a link to a discussion where John Walton responds to my comment and adds a link to his position on “Genesis and Gender” (it’s close to the top of the comment feed).

    In view of Don’s comment about “splitting the Adam”, I think it’s helpful to look for the bigger redemptive picture in the creation narrative:

    The body of the first Adam (who is a “pattern” of the 2nd Adam in Romans 5) is “broken” (1 Cor. 11) so that Eve (representing the Church as the Bride of Christ) can be birthed. The distinction of male and female that occurs after Adam’s “surgery” is a picture of how both men and women together become “the Body of Christ” or “The body of the 2nd Adam, here on the earth.

    Wow, we’re going deep here early in the morning 🙂

  6. Anne Vyn says:

    oops, just realized I had to email John for the link.
    It’s far too lengthy to copy and paste here so you will have to contact him directly with the email he provided.
    His new book on the subject will be out early 2014.

  7. Don Johnson says:

    Just to clarify, I see no requirement to see “ha adam” as bisexual, rather as undifferentiated and therefore ungendered before the split. Some Jews in the Talmud have noticed this aspect also, IIRC.

    On the names used for the man and woman, I like to use them as given in Scripture, simply because there is so much that is not actually taught in Scripture that is taught as if it is, partly because these are taught as “children’s stories” after suitable editing. For example, Gen 5:2 points out that the names for both of them was Adam, the name Chavvah/Eve is only given after the Fall, which I do not see as authorized.

  8. Anne Vyn says:

    Don, I think that is an important distinction.
    One thing we need to consider is that Jesus came to the earth for a Bride that was both male and female. This fact alone should remind us that his “sexual orientation” (if he even had one) was different than any other man on the planet. To assume that Jesus was wired sexually, like all other men, is a harmful assumption to make, especially in light of his redemptive purposes. Again, we need to be careful here but I believe there needs to remain a huge element of mystery and openness around this topic.

    What we must not lose sight of is this: Jesus was fully God AND fully human.

  9. Don Johnson says:

    I see God marrying united Israel (but divorcing Ephraim yet staying with Judah) and Jesus marrying the ekklesia all as metaphors in a patriarchal culture and the question with any metaphor is how far to take it. I see God as spirit and therefore not gendered, as gender is a part of Creation. Jesus was of course male and circumcised as a Jew. For him not to marry would have been seen as scandalous, see Instone-Brewer on “The Jesus Scandals”.

  10. Laura M. says:

    Marg, this is fascinating! I’ve read so much on the issue of women in the Bible that it seems there could be nothing new for me to consider. Yet, it seems the Scriptures are exhaustive and your observations in this post are not something I’d read before. This does shed tremendous light on the whole “creation order” and hierarchy perspective. Thanks for your work. As I’ve said before, you should write a book!

  11. Marg says:

    Anne and Don: What an interesting conversation!
    Don, thanks for stating this so well: “I see no requirement to see “ha adam” as bisexual, rather as undifferentiated and therefore ungendered before the split.”
    Anne, I got your personal message. Looking forward to learning more. I’m reposting this link in case someone misses it in your comment: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/09/03/a-game-changer-in-the-genesis-1-2-debates/

    Laura, I think it’s fascinating too. I think there are many Bible stories where the dots have been joined incorrectly by scholars who have interpreted the scriptures through their own cultural bias. I think that I may write a book one day. But that day is still a long way off. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  12. Wonderful work, Margaret. Does this ‘Adam’ of Gen.5:2 then apply to Rom.5 and the ‘Adam’ there who has been labeled the ‘federal head’ of the human race and takes the entire race into sin?

  13. Marg says:

    Phil Payne has written a good article about “federal headship” here. (There’s also a comment from me on that page.)

    Romans is not a book I have studied in depth, but I don’t think the one man (i.e. person-anthrōpos) in Rom 5:12 is referring to the “Adam” of Gen. 5:2. (N.B. “Adam” is only mentioned in verse 14 of Romans 5.)

  14. […] In Genesis 2 we have the creation account of the first human being. Most English translations use the word "man" for the first human, and most people assume this first human was male. However, in…  […]

  15. Karin says:

    It’s interesting (or sad) that English Bible translators have such a problem with this.
    German has different words for human being (Mensch), man (Mann) and woman (Frau; Weib in old German). Even Luther in his translation of 1545 correctly renders the terms. He even coins “Männin” (grammatically female form of “Mann” ) to show the similarity of ish and isha.

  16. Marg says:

    Hi Karen, I read about Luther’s translation in Leonard Swidler’s “Biblical Affirmations” but having no knowledge or experience of German I wasn’t sure how significant it was.

    Because English hides the human and male-human distinction we need gender accurate translations. But even the NIV and the NRSV translate ha’adam as “man” expecting us to know it is a generic human being.

    I had a look at Luther’s translation. It is much clearer than the English in how it refers to the people in Genesis 2. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%202&version=LUTH1545;NRSV

  17. Karin says:

    Hi Marg.
    About the significance: I think it means that older translations tried to be faithful to the Hebrew provided that their own language allowed them to render the distinction human/man/woman easily. I had a look at some French translations (in French, the common word for human being is also the word for man, “homme”). All the older translations had “homme” (man/human being); only some of the newer translations used “être humain” (human being) for “adam”.

    I think each language has its own troubles when it comes to Bible translations. German has only a few nouns that are gender-inclusive without being cumbersome (Mensch=human being, Geschwister=brothers and sisters, Gläubige=believers, plurals of participles), for everything else you have to explicitly say men and women. But if you use a formulation such as “male and female X” it draws attention to the fact that women were included, which is not what the original text stressed. Thus when I read a gender inclusive version such as the GNB (Gute Nachricht Bibel) and come upon a formulation such as “the disciples, the men and women” I have to go to a more literal translation to see whether the inclusion of woman was an emphasis of the original text or just the gender-inclusive translation.
    Plurals are also difficult in German. Grammatically male plurals are generally understood to include females unless stated otherwise, but it is seen as rude (at least in formal written German, which a Bible translation is) to not mention the females of the group.

  18. Marg says:

    Thanks Karin. That’s helpful.

    It can sound awkward to say “human” or “person” so I understand why English and French translations opt for “man” and “homme”, but these translations disguise the nuances and meaning of the original Hebrew text. It’s the same for New Testament passages where English translations do not discriminate between anthrōpos (person) and anēr (adult male person).

  19. Karin says:

    Just one more comment about language.
    1. Tim. 3,1 is also gender neutral, but it is hard to render this (in a way that sounds natural) in languages where a personal pronoun has to be he or she. Cf.
    NIV: “…Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.”
    ESV: “… If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”
    (German is also difficult in this regard. The only totally gender neutral translation I found was from “Bibel in gerechter Sprache” (Bible in just language), which is generally seen as very liberal. There it is “If somebody desires the bishopship, it is a desire for a good work.”)
    I also looked up 1. Tim. 3,1 in two different versions of the Persian Bible (Persian is a language without grammatical gender and just one pronoun to denote a person of either sex).
    1. Tim. 3,1 is rendered gender neutral, basically “if someone (person of either sex) desires leadership in the church, desires a good work.”
    Then the TPV (Today’s Persian Version) continues in 1 Tim. 3,2: “A leader (m/f) has to be a man(!) who .”
    The NME (New Milennium Version) is more literal: “A leader (m/f) has to be .

    Unfortunately, translations close to the grammar or expressions of the original text only carry us so far before we are left with the question if brothers include sisters or if one-woman-man applies only to husbands or also to faithful wives (and chaste singles).

  20. Don Johnson says:

    Hi Marg,

    It is a little more complex, forms of anthropos can refer to just a human male or males, while forms of aner can refer to a person or persons. The basic rule is that immediate context determines which way to lean. These words are like 1950’s English when one just supposedly KNEW when men referred to just males or to everyone.

  21. Marg says:

    Karin, I’ve written about 1 Tim 3:1ff here. It’s amazing that no biblical author actually ever states that women cannot be elders or overseers, or in any form of church leadership. And yet countless Christians infer it from a couple of verses that are genuinely difficult to interpret. 1 Tim 3:1ff is not difficult to interpret, and it is gender neutral.

    Don I don’t know of any of the common forms of anthropos that cannot be used for either a male or female human being, or humanity in general. As you say, the context is the key in determining the gender(s) of the actual person. However, I feel that at least in some instances it is important that anthropos is translated as “person” or “human” rather than man, even when referring to a male (e.g. Jesus who is rarely referred to as an aner in the NT.) Aner may include women in a few specific usages (usually rhetorical), but these are few and far between. The Greek NT uses the words correctly, but the English translations do not translate consistently. I read Greek most days and your comment does not line up with my observations.

  22. Don Johnson says:

    As general statements, yes, anthopos usually refers to a human or humans. But not always. This surprised me also, hence my mention of it.

    1Co 7:1 Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.”

    The word translated “man” in the above verse is anthropos, but I do not think human is what was intended.

  23. Marg says:

    In 1 Cor. 7:1, and in many other instances, including the verses about Jesus, the context shows that the context is a man, just as the context of 1 Peter 3:4 shows us that the context of anthrōpos is women. However the meaning of “human” is still the primary sense being conveyed; this is obscured to English readers.

    Generally speaking there are reasons why the original biblical writers chose to use the word adam vs ish in the Hebrew and anthrōpos vs anēr in the Greek. Sometimes these reasons are subtle and negligible, at other times they are vital to understanding the author’s intention.

    For example: If we are to truly understand the author’s intention, 1 Timothy 2:5 should be translated as “there is one mediator between God and humankind, the human being Christ Jesus”. (The use of anthrōpos here in no way suggests that Jesus was not a male human being.)

    The use of adam vs ish is vital to understanding the intended meaning in Genesis 2. As someone has said, “There was no ish until there was an ishshah.

  24. Serge says:

    Dear Marg:

    I stumbled upon this site after someone made reference to it, regarding this very topic of Genesis 2:21-22 as you explain here. I command you for noticing the difference in the two words used and translated commonly “man” in our English translation.

    I have read the link you provided as well as your own reasoning. But I find it hard to counteract the points both Alan and Kenton made. If I may, I would like to bring two observations and one illustration to your attention. Indeed, this subject cannot be ignored. However, I have a question reading your assertion that before Genesis 2:21-22, “man” was only a “generic human.

    Let’s look at the very context of those two verses. Just 3 verses “Before” this passage, God makes this very clear statement in Genesis 2:18 – And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” –

    My questions are:
    1. If the first man was genderless until the operation of Genesis 2:21-22, why was there a need for a help?
    2. If the first man was genderless until the operation of Genesis 2:21-22, why was there a need for that help to be a “woman”?
    3. How is a woman “comparable” to a generic human who essentially is already part man and part woman?
    4. Isn’t this statement clearly showing that the first man was really a “man”?
    5. How does a “woman” complete a generic human (who really has both man and woman nature)? Doesn’t this statement from God clearly indicate that the first human was indeed a man?

    A simple illustration: My wife and I have a Nissan parked in the garage. She asked me: “Honey, take the car out of the garage”. I understand this request very clearly, because there is only one car in the garage. But if we buy a second car, say, a Toyota, and my wife says “Honey, take the car out of the garage”, this request is not longer clear. My wife would have to be more specific: “Honey, please take the Toyota out of the garage”. Did the nature of the original car changed? Of course not. It’s still is the Nissan, but now just saying car is not sufficient because there is another car.

    Between Genesis 2:18, and the illustration above, I just do not see how the “generic human” hypothesis holds. And we do not need to go deep to analyze such thing. God had to use a different term for man, because now there was another “man”. Adam is a man, and so is Eve, but the gender of the first is male and the gender of the second is female, just like Nissan is a car and Toyota is a car, but they are different models.

    I am very curious about your response on this. God bless!


  25. Marg says:

    Hi Serge,

    My time is limited so I’ll just have a go at answering question 1 (which may go towards answering the other questions.)

    The following is with apologies to John Walton.

    In Genesis 1:2 we read that the earth was useless and empty. God’s creative processes were aimed at making the earth useful and full. God created by separating, dividing and differentiating in order to make things more functional.

    On day one, God separated and differentiated the darkness from the light in the cosmos, and light was created. On day two he separated and differentiated the water so that there was water in the atmosphere as well as on earth, and sky was created. On day three he separated the waters on earth so that seas and dry land were created. On the following three days he filled the cosmos, the sky, the seas and the dry land. God’s creation was good because it was functional and full.

    On the sixth day God also created the first human, who became more functional when he was divided and differentiated during surgery in Gen 2.21.

    I can only guess why it was not good for the first human to be alone. I can only guess why he needed a helper. All we know is that the animals were not satisfactory companions (Gen. 2:18-20).

    Also, the Bible doesn’t tell us precisely what sort of help God had in mind when he formed the first woman. All we know, judging from the use of the word ezer elsewhere in the OT, is that it was a vital, strong, rescuing help.

    The woman is comparable to the undifferentiated human, because she was part of, or one side of, that human (ha’adam). But the woman was not built to be comparable to an undifferentiated human; rather, the first woman (ishshah) was built to be comparable to the now male human (ish). And, conversely, the male human is comparable to the female human.

    The narrative of Genesis 2 makes it sound as though the woman was an afterthought, but we know that this is not true; the narrative merely uses suspense to tell the story. The human is alone – that is a problem – the animals do not solve the problem – but God comes up with a masterstroke: he divides and differentiates the human into man and woman.

    Humanity, like almost all of the animals, comes in two sexes – male and female. Humans differentiated as male and female is God’s design, and it was his intention from the beginning (Gen 1:27f).

    I believe the point of the Genesis 2 narrative, unlike creation narratives of other cultures, is to show that man and woman have the same origin, that they are fully compatible and equal, and that they are capable of a profound unity.

    The analogy of the two cars kind of works if we understand that parts were taken out of the Toyota and that the Nissan was built from these parts.
    The Toyota is no longer the same as before because bits are missing. And can we really call the second car a Nissan if it’s primary components came out of a Toyota? The good thing, however, is that we now have two cars. Two cars are more useful than just one car.

    I hope this helps to explain my thinking on this topic.

    P.S. I am aware of the conversation with Alan and Keaton you refer to, but I have not been following it.

  26. Serge says:

    Hi Marg:

    Thank you for your reply. I truly appreciate it. Notwithstanding the other 3 questions I have raised but you did not get the time to answer, and without going into the huge topic of creation, I will simply bring out what I believe is a flaw in this hypothesis of separation generating proper functionality.

    But first, let me assert that I believe than Man and Woman were indeed perfectly equal at the beginning…the scriptures makes it more than clear by describing Eve as “comparable” to the man. So there is no issue, and her being made from his side does not make any less than man. I just have a problem with this “generic human”.

    But here is my issue: The earth was useless and empty…therefore it could not function. As you rightfully said: God’s creative processes were aimed at making the earth useful and full. So God starts to separate and therefore all the elements can start functioning (the waters, light and darkness, etc.). Yet, if your theory is true, then Genesis 2:19,20 is a huge problem, because it is when man is still “unseparated” that He is able to tackle the monumental task assigned by God of naming every living creature!

    This shows to me that generic man was absolutely functional, except that he could not fill the earth because he needs a partner for that. Furthermore, nothing of the sort you mentionned is being said about the animals (the other living creatures). They are created in Genesis 1:20-21, and then right in Genesis 1:22, they are instructed to multiply. Are you suggesting that the same process of separation had to take place between males and females and between their creation (Genesis 1:21) and their instructions (Genesis 1:22)? Yet this was not recorded? I will find it hard to believe. And if therefore they were already created male and female, then God we see perfectly that it was God’s plan from the start to have man and female, and indeed woman was not an afterthought. But does not make the first man generic.

    If the car illustration is not satisfactory, consider the following: In Genesis 2:7, God formed man out of the dust of the ground. Will you suggest that before that process the ground was generic and thereafter changed nature after dust was taken from it? I may missing something, but in my opinion, the scriptures simply do not support this theory. And this theory is not necessary either to demonstrate that woman and man were perfectly equal…God already making it perfectly clear in Genesis 1:22.

    I understand that we may not agree at the end, but this hypothesis leaves too many questions that “cannot” be answered (such as whether the first animals were also generic to begin with, or how much functionality was possible in a generic state, which itself goes against the notion that order had to be place first before functionality could be evidenced).

  27. Don Johnson says:

    http://goddidntsaythat.com/?s=anthropos has Joel Hoffman weighing in on the complexity of translating anthropos.

    On Gen 2, the human is partly functional (the human was formed to make sure the garden is irrigated and charged with keeping it and guarding it), just not fully functional and hence it is “not good” as in not fully functional as God will intend, as there are not 2 genders. Gen 2 describes a 2 step process. So God builds a woman from a side of the human and what is left is patched up to form a man.

  28. Serge says:

    If you were to please answer my questions first, then perhaps there could be ground for more discussion, unless you are not interested in actually finding the truth. The scriptures speak of itself. You guys are simply not looking at the context.

    Here is just one more question, although you may not answer it either: Have you checked what happened right after the woman was created? Adam speaks and says Genesis 1:23 –

    This is now bone of “my” bones
    And flesh of “my” flesh;
    She shall be called Woman,
    Because she was taken out of Man.

    1. I thought the task of naming every living creature was given to the generic man? Who gave Adam the right to carry on that task?
    2. Whose bones? Adam’s
    3. Whose flesh? Adam’s
    4. Who called Eve “Woman”? Adam, just like he called everything before. The man is fulfilling the task of naming every creature to the “T”.

    How in the world can you still maintain that this first man was not Adam itself? I do not think you are here to find the truth, and that is unfortunate…picking and choosing verses here and here to fit an agenda is very dangerous business. Please remember that.

  29. Don Johnson says:


    The human was not given a charge of naming the woman (not Woman, since it is not a name, rather it is recognition of belonging to the group of female humans [No one thinks when a baby is delivered that the doctor is naming the baby when they say “It’s a girl.]). The Hebrew naming formula was not used, where the word “shem” name is used.

    The bones are from the human/adam. The flesh is from the human/adam.

    It is critical to see that the human was not given authority to name the woman, so when he does it after the Fall (and the word shem/name IS used), it is yet another sin by the man, a usurpation of authority by him.

  30. That is an interesting perspective, although I’m agree with Adam being both male and female until god created Eve. I believe Adam was indeed a man, then god created the woman Eve by removing his ribs. I do recall In Genesis, that god created mankind making both male and female in his own image. I saw this that he created both genders in his own image by first creating Adam out his own image, then Eve out of Adam’s image. Others have reasoned that god is not fully male but is both male and female and therefore created Eve, the female side of god out his image.

  31. Anne Vyn says:

    Serge, let me first say that your questions have come on the weekend, a time when many of us do not have adequate time, or interest, to sit at our computers so that someone we do not even know can have the answers he wanted yesterday.

    With all due respect, please extend grace to bloggers who would rather say nothing than respond in haste to these very complex theological matters.

    Secondly, it is apparent (from your questions) that you have not understood the Temple context that scholars like John Walton (and GK Beale) have brought to the Genesis narrative. Genesis 1-3 is now being seen by most scholars as a unique literary genre (a form of poetry) and so the interpretive approach is not as black and white as you seem to think. Walton does an excellent job explaining some of these challenges and it would be a waste of our time to write out everything that is already written and accessible to those with genuine interest. I would encourage you to take the necessary time to research their materials and discover the amazing richness of God’s word as you begin to see the BIG picture, extending from Genesis all the way to Revelation. I am sure many of your questions will be answered in the process.

    On a side note, some of us are very aware that there are many believers who no longer look to what the original text has to say. Instead, they have put their confidence in leaders like John Piper and Wayne Grudem (authors of “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood”). Thos who follow these teachings appear to reject everything that doesn’t fit into the Piper/Grudem hermeneutic and, for many of them, it is no longer “Scripture alone” but “Piper alone”.

    In closing, I do believe these are valuable discussions for believers to have with one another but we must remain teachable, respectful, and loving to each other. May we have open hearts and open minds to hear what the Spirit wants to say to his Bride today.

  32. Serge says:


    Thank you for your response and sorry if I sounded disrespectful. My arguments are in response to the very post on this article “Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2”. And since the entire article is on evidence from scriptures alone, I am also using scriptures alone…meaning the other verses in the same context you used.

    So as it stands, the arguments set forth in this article can be discussed without having to go elsewhere but to the same context you used. And there unfortunately lies my problem. We have to look at the context of this passage and we should be able to answer these very problematic questions that your hypothesis, in my view, generate.

    In your article, you brought none of those external resources (e.g. John Walton) to make your case. You decided to look at scripture alone. And what I am saying is that when I look at the larger context of the same passage you discuss, I simply do not see how you can reach such conclusion.

    Please rest assured dear Anne of my deepest respect to all my brothers and sisters in Christ. May God bless you.

    At Don:

    I may have missed something about your response, but it seems to me that Adam classified “Woman” just like he classified all the animals of the field before. Perhaps me using the word “call” threw you off. Adam took on the responsibility of defining her “Woman” just as he did with all the other animals in Genesis 2:19,20. And my question is: How can we conclude that the one who undertook this naming assignment are actually 2 different persons. I just do not see it. As these questions eventually gets answered, I will be in better position to judge your position.

  33. Anne Vyn says:

    Thanks, Serge.

    Just to clarify, I did not write this post. Marg did.
    But in my comments to her post, I did reference John Walton and the benefits his material brings to this whole discussion. I believe the context of Genesis 1-3 IS a Temple context and therefore the creation of humanity/male/female needs to be understood within this broader Temple theme (which can actually be traced throughout the entire Bible).

    To understand the bigger picture of “Temple Context” and the 1st Adam, think of how Jesus’ body was broken, and from his wounded side the Church (men/women) was formed. Jesus left the earth but equipped His Body, Bride, Church (men and women) to be his hands and feet on this earth. He breathes the “Helper/Holy Spirit” into his Bride. The 2nd Adam ascends to heaven and suddenly there are multiple little “adams”, image bearers, men and women, who represent him on this earth.
    Our bodies are now the Temple where his presence abides.

    Perhaps that helps show a bit of the redemptive imagery going on in the creation narrative. Perhaps not….
    Anyway, blessings to you, Serge.

  34. Marg says:

    Hi Serge, I have been busy. And I am very interested in learning more. In fact I have learned a lot from some of the discussion here, and elsewhere on the internet, regarding this post.

    Nowhere do I state (or maintain) that the first man was not Adam. However he was not called by that name, clearly anyway, in the Hebrew of Genesis 2 which is my focus here. (N.B. Both men and women are called adam in Genesis 5:2.) My main point is that the man after the operation is different in some way to the man (or human) before the operation.

    I’m not exactly sure what your disagreement is. Perhaps we actually agree but are highlighting different aspects of the Genesis 2 account. I believe my initial response to your first comment answered most of your questions either directly or indirectly.

    Also, I take the Genesis 2 account to be a separate account, and not a follow on, from Genesis 1. Judging by how God is consistently referred to in Genesis 1:1-2:3 as Elohim, and in Genesis 2:4ff as YHWH Elohim, I believe the two accounts were written by two different authors. We run into difficulties if we conflate the two accounts.

  35. Marg says:

    Hi Curious Thinker, Thanks for your comment. I do not think that God the Father or God the Holy Spirit are either male or female, or both. God is spirit and above, or beyond, sex and gender. Jesus Christ, however, became a male human being while retaining his divinity.

    I have written about this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/is-god-male-or-masculine/

  36. Anne Vyn says:

    Serge, one final thought:

    As there is much value in allowing scripture to interpret scripture, I believe 1 Cor. 11: 23-24 also speaks (with elements of mystery) to what is happening in Genesis 2:
    vs.23: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

    The one flesh/one spirit experience we have with our 2nd Adam is brought into view every time we partake of the Lord’s Supper. There is something very significant in the fact that our Lord commanded us to “eat his flesh and drink his blood” until he comes again. Every time we do so, we are reminded of the intimate “union” we have with our Bridegroom.

    The language of 1 Corinthians 11 is almost identical to what the 1st Adam says of his new Bride: that she is “flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone” (keeping in mind that blood is made in our bones).

    There is still much mystery and complexity in exactly how we are to make application yet the language and imagery that both passages include (in regards to the 2 Adams) is far too similar to be merely “coincidental”.

  37. Serge says:

    Hi Marg:

    I promise I will not longer be this long:)

    Thank you for your response by which I am much comforted. I am pleased that you clarified that the first man was indeed Adam, and having made that clarification, I too should too be able to clarify where I have a point of disagreement.

    I do not believe that because God took something out of Adam to make the woman, Adam became different in some way after the operation. And even if he became different in some way (as someone who just donated one of his or her kidney), there is nothing that proves the change was of the magnitude you imply in your article, meaning…that he went from being “genderless” to being “male gender”, unless we are going to say that he really had both sexes. Which would have to include “all” the other organs of the female, and that all God had to do was to remove those female parts and make the woman outside of him.

    Yet this hypothesis too is highly unlikely, because whether we speak of a “rib (one of them at that)” or the “side”, none of this translations suggest that the kind of body-wide operation what I just described above would necessitate.

    When God describes the woman as an help comparable to man, or as the septuagint puts it…”like to himself”, logic demands that when the woman was finally made, she was like the “original” person. Yet, if we maintain that Adam (the original person) became different in some way, as in significantly different because of gender, then what God planned did not happen. She is not comparable to the new Adam, but to the old, genderless one.

    What is unfortunate is that society has demonized the role of woman, something I deplore everyday. What is true according to scripture is that the woman was be the “equal” partner of man. There was not to be difference between them.

    But what is also true is that the woman did have to pay a hefty price for succumbing to the devil. The 3-fold price she paid is recorded in Genesis 2:16, and one consequence is “…and thy submission shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” Of course, Adam had to pay a hefty price too, matter of fact an even more consequential one, as recorded in Genesis 2:17-19.

    Clearly, it was not meant to be this way. Man was not supposed to “rule over her”. She was his equal. This is a punishment, that Christ, with His accomplishment, banished! And that is why today, there are no more male, or female, jews or gentile, but only children of God, because we have been “freed” from sin through Jesus-Christ. Our responsibility, as Christians, is to live-up to that position Christ has given us. This is not about rebellion, say in relationships. This is about living free for Christ, truly demonstrating that love and respect for our neighbor, regardless of whether they are male or female.

    Sorry for being this long. But I perceive a longing to know the truth, and I can only be sensitive to the injustice that still prevails in our society toward woman, even among Christians themselves. Please be assured of my deepest concern for my sisters in Christ.

  38. Serge says:

    Dear Anne:

    There is indeed a lot similarities and imagery connecting the old testament (starting with the account in Genesis) to Christ, His commandments to us and His return for the bride. The whole account is sometimes too beautiful to grasp completely. It is not coincidental, which is yet one more proof that the Word of God is truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and is not the will of man.

    The similarities between the Old and New Testament are everywhere, and it is our privilege to uncover them and share them so that collective knowledge is increased. I actually have learned from some of your writing since we have been discussing this article, and I thank you for that.
    It is what I believe to be extrapolations that I have a problem with. My “very” simple rule is that the Word of God cannot contradict itself, and any interpretation as to fit with the very verse addressed, with the context in which that verse is used, and the larger context which is the whole Word of God.

  39. Anne Vyn says:

    Serge, you are a dear brother and I have so appreciated our conversation.

    It is indeed a privilege to dialogue through the internet and to be mutually encouraged in our desire to understand God’s Word better. Yet our knowledge will always be “in part” until we see Him face to face, in all of his glory.

    Have a blessed Christmas!

  40. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  41. Anke says:

    Hi, I just read through some of your comments.
    If Adam would be male and female, I thought, beginning from Genesis 1, 28 adam has to be adressed in a singular form. In my german bible everything stands in plural. I dont know, how it is in hebrew?
    Why the need of splitting a male and female adam? I remenber a teaching from my Pastor about the trinity of God. Why is HE mit only one? Because HE is a God of relationship.
    Hope You understand my englisch.

  42. Anke says:

    If adam would be male and female, should not be, beginning from Genesis 1, 28 every pronoun in singular. In my German bible is it in plural, how is it in hebrew?
    Why should a perfect adam be splitted into two parts? I just remembered a teaching of my pastor about the trinity. Why is God three, why couldnt He be one, because HE is a God of relationship.

  43. Marg says:

    Hi Anke,

    In Genesis 1 adam, or mankind, is made up of many people, both male and female, so plural pronouns are the correct way to convey this.

    Genesis 2 is a different account which zooms in on the creation of the first man and woman. God said that it was not good for the first human to be alone – the human may have been perfect but the situation was not perfect. So God builds a woman from a part, or side, of the first human – a part that already belonged to the first human.

    I think the analogy of the Trinity shows that one “person” can be made up of three “persons”: 1+1+1=1. Similarly the first human can be thought of as having a male side and a female side that were surgically separated by God and then joined again in “marriage”: 1+1=1.

    I don’t think the analogy of the Trinity can be pushed too far though. The Bible nowhere states that the Trinity is an illustration of marriage. More on this here.

    [Let me know if you’d like me to delete one of your comments, or edit one of them.]

  44. Anke says:

    You can delete or edit one, would be better.
    When I thought about the Trinity it was not about submission in the Trinity or different rolls, it was only about the aspect, that God Himself loves to be surrended from other beings. He is perfect, He could have stayed alone and felt perfect. Adam was created in the image of God, so for me it is no surprise, that he wanted to have a partner.

  45. […] Jesus’ saying, “The first will be last, and the last will be first”, which he repeated on several occasions, should put an end to the specious doctrine of “the created order”.  […]

  46. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish), and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  47. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish), and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  48. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  49. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  50. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  51. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  52. […] In chapter 3 this person is undeniably a man (male); however this person may have been sexually undifferentiated before the part of the woman was taken out of his side during the “operation” recorded in Genesis 2.21-22. [More on this here.] The first man and woman were very much a part of each other. […]

  53. […] Human (Ha’adam) Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  54. […] I then read this post: Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2, and learned that God created a human being (ha’adam) and from that first human being (which was both or neither male nor female), God took a part or side (probably not just a rib) and fashioned woman (ishshah). In the original language, the words for man (ish) and woman (ishshah) do not show up until God performs the “surgery” on the first human being (ha’adam).

    Of course I was slightly resistant to this idea – for maybe twenty seconds… then I turned to my mother to ask whether it could be possible that the first human being was not male, but some combination of male and female. She just said “Of course,” like this was common knowledge… so that’s that. It certainly makes more sense than God making a female out of a male. They would have to share DNA etc… […]

  55. adrienne says:

    I have seen it too that ha Adam is mentioned in the first parts, so what was Paul quoting when he said man was created first? Even if he was correcting gnostic beliefs why would he twist scripture if he knew ha Adam was first and not man. I don’t think he would twist scripture since scripture is God breathed. Do you know if Rabbi’s would give different meaning to scriptures so they can deal with certain issues?

    • Marg says:

      Paul was correcting the Gnostic idea that Eve preceded Adam. Paul did not twist scripture but gave a simple and very brief summary of Genesis 2 and 3. Adam (ha-adam) was formed before Eve.

      In the Rabbinic literature we see that rabbis frequently give different meanings, or highlight certain meanings, in response to certain issues.

  56. adrienne says:

    Also I have heard that ezer kenegdo isn’t a role assigned before the fall to women. But instead it means in context that the woman is human also. She is a help corresponding she is a being like Adam in that she is human. Is this at all a right interpretation of the Hebrew?
    I see how women can be a role of a protector since from what I have seen all women used by God are used in Times where men need protection.
    Huldah warned
    Deborah warned and gave advice
    Zipporah protected moses
    Priscilla protected Apollos from bad theology
    Even being a prophetess is to protect people from evil men and women, so warn and strengthen.
    Esther protected and saved Israel.
    Through Mary’s womb a savior came
    Sarah gave her opinion on a matter
    Abigail protected David.

    So I see God using women in a way that goes with the interpretation that women are to protect men. So what is with this translation of ezer kenegdo meaning only that Eve is a human that aids Adam since she can reproduce?

    • Marg says:

      We all should protect one another, regardless of gender.

      The first woman was created to help ha’adam, but it is wrong to think that, once she was around, he did not help her.

  57. adrienne says:

    Pricsilla protected Apollos from his bad theology. Also how can women do their role if it has been given away? We are told men are protectors. There is even a Jewish tradition where a woman circles her husband 7 times and this symbolizes her checking her husband for any problems. It symbolizes her checking him to see if he is right, and to protect him.

  58. Thangaveloo Varathan says:

    In the first creation story, God created male and female in His own image. Therefore, God is neither male nor female, or both. (Genesis 1:26-28)
    In the second creation story, God created man, and then made his female helpmate. I think that it is absurd to think that God created man as masculine, then look for a helpmate from among the beasts. (Genesis 2:7, 18-23)
    To my mind, the creation account is an allegorical story describing the archetypal man and origin of sin and suffering.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Thangaveloo, God also created the animals male and female. Sexual differentiation is how animals and humans reproduce, but since God doesn’t reproduce I’m not sure that our sexuality is a part of the “image of God”. I think it is our regency or dominion of his creation which reflects the “image of God”.

      But I do agree with you that it is absurd that God created the first human male or masculine. What’s the point of being male without a female to reproduce with?

      And I do believe we are meant to look at the message of the story, rather than take the events as historic or scientific. After all, truth can be told with metaphor as well as with facts. Jesus used metaphors and parables all the time to teach the truth about his kingdom.

      • Thangaveloo Varathan says:

        Thank you Marg for your kind and thoughtful response. I do agree with you but I was thinking not biologically, instead figuratively when I ascribed maleness and femaleness to God. I think of God as “father” and “mother”, though I believe his personhood transcends both. I was just trying to connect with gender equality and that image of God is reflected in all gender variations. Perhaps, I inferred wrongly. Regarding the image of God in the sense of “regency or dominion over creation”, I am more comfortable with the term “stewardship” (Genesis 2:15 and Genesis 9:1-7). I see that God created man in his own likeness before he conferred the mandate (Genesis 1:26-28). I consider the mandate of dominion presupposes responsibility (Luke 16:1-12; Psalms 24:1). I am inclined to think that “image of God” refers to our spiritual identity.

  59. Ashley says:

    Hi I just wanted to say thank you for writing all these articles. They’ve helped me understand what God’s real plan is men and women, husbands and wives. Also, it really encourages me to know that I’m not the only Christian who believes in real gender equality. Sometimes I get discouraged since I’m surrounded by people who believe in traditional gender roles.

  60. […] Human (Ha’adam), Man (Ish) and Woman (Ishshah) in Genesis 2 […]

  61. Mats says:

    God named everything except Eve; Adam named Eve. There’s the hierarchy right there.

    • Marg says:

      Umm . . . God named all humans “adam“. This includes both men and women; this includes Eve. (“Adam” is a Hebrew word that means “human” or “humanity”.)

      “He created them male and female and blessed them and named them “adam” in the day he created them” (Gen. 5:2).

      “Then God said, Let us make adam in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth’” (Gen. 1:26).

      “So God created adam in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

      According to Genesis 1:26-28 men and women have the exact same status, authority, and function.

      There is nothing in the text of Genesis that implies that Adam naming Eve was an act of superiority or hierarchy. A few chapters later, Hagar named God with a name that is recorded in scripture (Gen. 16:3). But here there is a clear hierarchy: God, the name-ee is superior to Hagar the name-er.

      Sorry Mats . . . naming does not necessarily denote a hierarchy with the name-er in top position.

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