The first creation account makes the theological statement that the human species is composed of male and female; that it is a unity in nature and diversity in sex; and that as an entity it was formed in the image and likeness of God. The term adam in this narrative is obviously a generic term for humanity described as male and female. Conjointly formed in the image and likeness of God and conjointly given dominion over the rest of creation, both the male and the female stand equal in honour and dignity.
It is as well conjointly as male and female that both can perform the divine injunction to be productive, multiply, and fill the earth, contrary to some rabbis who held that this command applied merely to the male. However while the first creation account describes the human species as composed of male and female who stand equal in dignity and honour before God and are given co-mastery over creation, the second creation account give emphasis to the identity in nature of male and female as a species distinct from the rest of the animal species.
Second, it highlights that this male and female were destined by God to belong to each other as husband and wife. As the main point of this second account is to be found in verses 23-24. In other words, the first unit in human society is that of husband and wife, and it is from this unit that the family, inclusive of children, develops. The visual imagery of the creation of the woman from the man’s rib clearly exemplifies both their identity in nature and their intended union as husband and wife in “one flesh” (vs. 24).
It can even be said to represent their equality, since, according to Augustine, they were therefore intended to “walk side by side” and “together look where it is they walk. ” Recognition of the woman’s role in God’s scheme of creation and salvation does not, though, entail a denial of the woman’s share in the sinfulness of the world. What is contested here is the traditional belief that all the sufferings of humanity are to be accredited to the woman as the only cause. As Adam sinned against God, so did Eve. However unlike Adam she was humble enough to confess that she had been deceived.
Therefore women in the Bible demonstrate the two faces of Eve: on the one hand, Eve, the instrument of life, represented in such women as Judith and Esther, God’s instruments of salvation for the nation; and on the other, Eve, an agent of sin and death, exemplified by such women as Jezebel and Athaliah. The former compare with male figures like Joseph and Moses, the latter with Herod. Consequently, whether as instruments of life or of death, both the man and the woman stand united in their common fate and destiny.
(Conrad Hyers, 1984). It has been noted that both the male and the female were formed in the image and likeness of God. So far over the centuries, the male image of God has been well recognized, developed, and projected into the human psyche; not so the female image. The treatment of woman as an inferior being goes hand in hand with the playing down or even conscious denial of the feminine attributes of God. In a male-oriented society, God is Father, not Mother, King of kings, not Queen of queens.
And while God is willingly feared as powerful, almighty, and possessing all authority, qualities generally associated with the father, God is not readily loved as humble, unselfish, tender, and compassionate, virtues usually associated with the mother. God’s fate therefore proves to be very intimately bound up with that of the woman insofar as a denial of the woman’s capability to image God means a denial of God’s own feminine attributes, for this reason a distortion of the divine image itself.
Merely when the woman is granted her full honour and dignity in society will God as well come fully into his/her own. Then humanity will no longer be ashamed to recognize and celebrate the womanliness of God. Accordingly will our knowledge of God as well be enriched, and we shall come to relate to her/him more as the giver and fosterer of life than as law and order or a power and authority to be feared.