Was the first man needed to give woman her self-understanding? According to Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, the answer is yes.
Ortlund has written chapter three of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood CBMW’s book. In this chapter, Ortlund says:
In designating her “Woman” the man interprets her identity in relation to himself. Out of his own intuitive comprehension of who she is, he interprets her as feminine, unlike himself, and yet as his counterpart and equal. Indeed, he sees in her his very own flesh. And he interprets the woman not only for his own understanding of her, but also for her self-understanding. God did not explain to the woman who she was in relation to the man, although He could have done so. He allowed Adam to define the woman, in keeping with Adam’s headship. (emphasis mine)
Let me ask a couple of questions. Who explained to the man who he himself was for his own self-understanding? Apparently either God explained that to Adam or Adam didn’t need anyone to explain himself to himself. He just knew who he was just as he knew how to talk and knew how to eat without having a tutor to look after him. Is it not a wee bit biased to read into the text that Eve was in need of Adam to explain herself to herself? After all she started her existence awake while he slept. When he awoke, there was no sign of a confused woman who didn’t know who she was being dragged towards a man whom she also didn’t know who he was. It seems highly unlikely and without biblical support that she needed the man to tell her about her own existence so that she could understand herself.
I also ask, how does Mr. Ortlund know that God did not speak to Eve at all before he brought her to Adam? How does Mr. Ortlund know that God allowed Adam to define her for her own self- understanding? Who explained to Adam that a piece of his own body would be used to make his mate? Does the fact that the bible is silent on the answers to these questions with no words quoted from God to Adam directly, prove that God did not speak to Adam personally about these issues? Is it not reasonable to understand that not everything that God spoke to Adam and Eve is quoted in the scripture? We do not need to know everything that Godspoke except what God inspired for our edification and for our understanding. We are not free to “fill in the blanks” with ideas that are foreign to the text.
When Adam welcomed his wife by exclaiming that at last he found his mate, Adam’s identifying her as his own flesh and blood was not an act of taking his “royal prerogative” over her as Ortlund says. There is nothing in the text that has Adam’s clear acceptance of his wife as the mate coming from his own flesh to be interpreted as a sign of a “royal prerogative” dominion or rule. After all, who gave Adam this rule over the woman? Did God tell Adam that he was giving him someone to rule? Did Adam state that she would be called woman for she would be ruled over by man? If we have nothing in the text that gave Adam rule over Eve, why do some so eagerly add a foreign meaning to the text?
Ortlund goes on to the one thing that he says was made clear to Eve:
Adam’s sovereign act not only arose out of his own sense of headship, it also made his headship clear to Eve. She found her own identity in relation to the man as his equal and helper by the man’s definition. (emphasis is mine)
So the woman’s being and identify came not by God’s creative act and his divine plan, but by man’s definition? If this is true, then woman is truly the inferior of man. She then becomes subject to whatever he wants her to be and it is no longer God who defines the woman, but man. Ortlund’s error here seems to come from his misunderstanding what it means for Eve to be “made for him”. His misunderstanding appears to be two-fold. First he sees “made for him” to be a position of her need. She then needs him to define her. She needs him to make decisions for her and tell her what to do. There is also an apparent misunderstanding that “made for him” means that he alone gets ultimate rule and that rule includes the “royal prerogative” to have charge over the woman just as he had charge of the animals.
But when we let the bible speak for itself, we can allow God to define his own terms. The woman is indeed made for man, but she is made for man because God declared that man alone is “not good”.
Genesis 2:18 Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.”
Since Adam alone was “not good” and the woman was made “for the man’s sake” (1 Cor. 11:9) then Eve was made to provide what Adam was lacking. Adam was not lacking having things to rule over. Adam was lacking someone to complete him. He needed her. The woman was made for the man. She brought strength not weakness.
The last thing that we can talk about regarding the woman being made for the man, is how she was made. This issue is not one that Ortlund addresses, but many people have varying ideas of the woman’s creation so it is good to discuss. Some say that God originally made Adam as male and female and when God made the woman he separated her from the man to make woman independent of man as a separate person. Is this really what happened? I see nothing in the text that suggests there were male and female together in one body or that God took out the female part of Adam and from the female part of him, created a female person.
Let’s reason this one through. Genesis 2:22 says:
Gen 2:22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
The word “rib” literally means side, rib, beam. So God took what belonged to the man and from that building material he “fashioned” it into a woman. We can note that it doesn’t say that God took the woman out of Adam and fashioned her into a separate person. It also doesn’t say that God split Adam by dividing his “male” parts and his “female” parts. It only says that he took an inner piece of Adam that was likened to a plank and he caused that “bone of Adam’s bone” and “flesh of Adam’s flesh” to be built up into a DNA directly related woman.
If I am wrong about this, as some think Adam was both male and female in one person in the beginning, then scripture must be appealed to that says this. Those who want to prove me wrong will also need to answer some questions. If Adam was both male and female in the beginning, did he talk to his female part as a companion? Was he “not good” because he was an unnatural male with female parts?
I believe that we need to keep away from fables and romantic myths and just stick to scripture. If scripture says it, I believe it. If it must be shoe horned into the text, let’s just let it go. If we don’t want complementarians to add to the text, then we shouldn’t either.
Thoughts? Please let me know what you see in the scriptures. Did God create Eve to be a living appendage to Adam – to be subject to his wims (like an attached arm) and to have no will of her own to have the ability to make her own choices, or did God create Eve to be one who has free will like Adam and who also has the gifts and abilities to give Adam what he was lacking so that what was “not good” is now “good”?