Much of the material in this article has been excerpted from SEXISM IS A SIN: The Biblical Basis of Female Equality. Viatoris Publications, Sarasota, Fl, 1995, and is used by permission.
For countless centuries, human beings have claimed a very exalted place for themselves in the scheme of things. They have insisted that they were given dominion over the earth, and that all the rest of creation was set in place for them to use--or abuse--as they chose. Asserting that they are created "in the image of God," men have desecrated the earth with their greed, their lust, and their violence.
But the Bible does not uphold man's claim of dominion. It is not the race of Homo sapiens, descended from Adam and Eve, that was entrusted with stewardship of the earth. That responsibility, and that privilege, was given to the beings described in the first chapter of Genesis: the race of Homo perfectus.
The first and second chapters of Genesis have always presented a problem for biblical scholars because they seem to be giving an account of two, separate, creations. And because most Christians read the creation narratives with a preconceived idea of what the scripture is saying, they are not bothered by the obvious discrepancies. But when these accounts are read without reference to any of the current "explanations," it becomes clear that the Bible is telling two, very different, stories.
The order of creation in the first chapter of Genesis shows animals being created before humans. It also tells us that the man and woman were created at the same time: "male and female created he them and called their name Adam." But in the second account it is Adam who appears first, then the animals, and then Eve.
Why does the exact order of creation even matter? And why do scholars continue to spend so much time and energy trying to prove that, although they contradict each other, the first two chapters of Genesis are reporting the same event? This determination becomes even more questionable when you are aware that theologians agree that whether there was one creation, or two, it does not affect our understanding of God. Neither does it affect the Lord's redemptive plan for all creation, or for the salvation of human beings.
But although our understanding of God is not affected by the number of creation accounts given in Genesis, it certainly has an affect on our understanding of man's place in the world. If the Bible is reporting two events that took place "with a considerable interval of time between them" (E.K.V Pierce), then human beings will have to take a much lower place in the world than they are accustomed to claiming.
The man, Adam, who is described in the second chapter of Genesis, was never given dominion over the earth and all its creatures. He was only given a job as caretaker of a garden that had already been established: "And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man" (Genesis 2:8)
Adam and Eve, the progenitors of Homo sapiens, were not given dominion over anything. Nor does the Bible claim that either of them truly imaged God. Neither does it say that God blessed the couple and told them to be "fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." That responsibility, and that privilege, belonged to the beings whose story is told in the first chapter of Genesis--the race of Homo perfectus. It was they who were created "in the image of God."
The first chapter of Genesis gives an account of their creation--and of their perfection. "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply...and have dominion" (Gen.1: 26, 27)
Yet in spite of their goodness, and in spite of the fact that these first beings imaged God, the misuse of their free will caused them to fall from their high estate. No details of that original fall are given. It happened so far back in time, and was such a high order of existence, that the ancient Hebrew chroniclers were incapable of describing the kind of world inhabited by these distant forebears. The Bible simply reports the fact of their existence and then goes on to give the second creation account-the story of Adam and Eve.
Adam and Eve represent the advent of Homo sapiens and their appearance marks a degeneration of human beings that has already taken place. The time that elapsed between Homo perfectus and Homo sapiens was eonic, and the differences between them are profound.
The Bible describes the differences between the two human species. Homo perfectus was created in God's image, but "the Lord God formed Adam from the dust of the ground." (Gen.2:7) The numerous translations of this verse of scripture are careful to avoid using the word "dirt" when referring to Adam's origins, although this would be just as accurate a translation.(Elsewhere in the scriptures, the same word is translated as "rubbish.")
In reporting that Adam was made from the dust/dirt of the earth, the Bible is making its point in the strongest possible terms. Homo sapiens is of a much lower order than Homo perfectus who is described as being "created" in the image of God. This is an exalted term: to create is to "make a thing that has not been made before."
But that is not the term used to describe the birth of Homo sapiens. Adam is not created, he is "formed." This is a utilitarian, rather than an exalted, undertaking. The ancient Hebrew uses the same word when referring to pottery-to the making of pots, dishes, and vases. These are not original creations. They are formed from existing materials which are mingled and molded in a new way. Adam was not an original creation: he represents a human race that was remodeled--remade--after the original creation had fallen from its high estate.
And because he was a flawed being, Adam was not given the far-reaching powers that the Bible tells us were given to Homo perfectus. Those beings, described in the first chapter of Genesis, are the ones who were given sovereignty over the earth and all other creatures. "Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air...over all the earth. (Gen 1:26) They could be trusted with such tremendous power and responsibility because they imaged God.
The Bible makes no such claim for Homo sapiens. It clearly describes the much- humbler circumstances and responsibilities that were given to Adam. He was to work as a caretaker, and even in that capacity he was not given unlimited domain. He was restricted to a clearly circumscribed part of Eden. "The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed...and the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it." (Gen 2:8,15)
The Bible goes on to report that eventually the man realized he was lonely. Seeing this, God declared: "it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a help meet for him." (Gen 2:18) Most people are familiar with this verse of scripture, but somehow they overlook the very next sentence: "And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam" (Gen. 2:19)
These verses of scripture could not be more precise in explaining why the animals were formed. They were made to be Adam's companions. They were not made for him to rule over; they were not made for his "use." And they certainly were not made for him to torment, kill, or consume.
Although Adam and Eve represent a human race that no longer manifested the perfection of their Creator, God's love and grace continued to bless them. The couple were given beautiful surroundings in which to live. Little effort was required of them. There was a river that flowed from Eden, watering the land, and in this lush setting everything grew easily. And like their predecessors, Homo perfectus, Adam and Eve were given the fruit of the earth for their food. (Gen 1:29; 2:16)
The Garden of Eden provided optimum conditions under which Homo sapiens could evolve and someday regain the wholeness--the holiness--that had been lost by the fall of Homo perfectus.
But the evolutionary process is slow and Adam and Eve decided they had found a better way to regain the power and the perfection of their predecessors. The serpent said if they ate the fruit of a certain tree they would quickly develop godlike powers. They would not have to exercise the patience or the effort that characterizes the growth process. They could have it all--immediately.
He said the fruit of one tree had been forbidden by God in order to limit their human potential "And the serpent said...God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened,and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." (Gen 3:5)
In this verse of scripture, as elsewhere in the Bible, the form of the word "knowing" is used to indicate experiential knowledge. The invitation of the serpent was to know good and evil. Adam and Eve already knew the good: the Bible reports that God--ultimate goodness--walked with them in Eden. When they ate the forbidden fruit they introduced the knowledge--the experience--of evil into their lives.
The couple hid themselves from the God whose goodness was now a reproach to them. And when they finally came out of hiding, neither accepted responsibility for the evil they had allowed into their lives. The woman blamed the serpent and the man blamed the woman. This refusal to accept responsibility for what they had done placed the couple in the position of continuing on the destructive path they had chosen.
In their destructive and unrepentant state, their presence was a threat to the beauty and goodness of life in Eden. Because of this, they would have to live outside the limits of the Garden. They would live in an environment that reflected the harmful choices they had made.
The loving God of all creation did not give dominion to Adam and Eve and their descendants. And although the people of our own age like to claim a direct line of descent from Homo perfectus, who was created in the image of God, the men of an earlier time knew this was not so. The fifth chapter of Genesis continues the story of human development and clearly reports that Adam's son reflected his earthly father rather than his heavenly Father. "And Adam begat a son in his own likeness,after his image; and called his name Seth." (Gen 5:3. Emphasis added)
Mankind's claim of dominion over the earth, as a God-given right, is not supported by the Bible. The declaration that all creation reflected the goodness of its Creator (Gen. 1:31)--that it was in accord with God's perfect will--was never made in regard to Adam and Eve. Neither was this benediction extended to their descendants who have ravaged the earth and its creatures "with such ruthless cruelty, that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to [God] in song, has been a groan of travail. (St. Basil, A.D. 375-Archbishop of Caesarea)
This article was reprinted from the Sept/Oct 1998 issue of Humane Religion. Copyright 1998 by Viatoris Ministries.