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Book: Finding Myth and History in the Bible

Chapter: Dividing the image of God: the creation of man and woman in Genesis

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.23753


The book of Genesis narrates the creation of man and woman in two stories that modern criticism ascribes to different authors and periods. The centre of the first story (P) is creation of humanity as an image and a representative of God on earth, like the king in Near Eastern and Egyptian culture. The example of Egypt shows that this pattern, though rarely, could be applied also to women. The very syntactical structure of Gen 1:27 emphasizes human sexual differentiation in contrast with a God seen as male for historical reasons - he had probably a goddess wife in pre-exilic times - and symbolic ones - he is the ‘bridegroom’ of Israel. In the second narrative (J) God creates first a male individual and then animals and a woman as his helpers. In the combination of the two narratives made by ancient Jewish interpreters, God created the male only as ‘His image’. According to Bereshit Rabba, God created first an androgyne and divided him afterward in a male and a female part, as in Plato’s Symposion. Another tradition recorded by the same midrash explains Gen 1:26f. not as an alternative narrative of man’s creation but as the generation of every man as an action shared by God and human parents: a part of this argument, perhaps with a different meaning, appears also in 1 Cor 11:11-12.

Chapter Contributors

  • Caterina Moro ( - cmoro) 'Independent Scholar'