Genesis, Androgyny, and Relationships

This post looks at a line from Genesis "male and female He created them" and suggests what it might have to do with relationships.

We've been looking in recent weeks at different quotes from Genesis, and what they may have to teach us about relationships. In today's posting, I want to look at the quote from Genesis 1:27, which reads: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female he created them.”

First we have a repetition: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him.” And then we switch pronouns to “male and female he created them.” What do we make of this switch? Certainly one way to read this is that man -- what in English is rendered as "Adam" (the noun "adam" in Hebrew is not a specific name, like "Ken" or "Bill" but describes a primordial being, and would be better rendered as "earthling") is androgynous: “male and female he created them.”

I think there’s further support for this view if we read of how Eve is created from Adam’s tsele. This word is usually translated as “rib” and we have this somewhat demeaning notion that primordial woman was created from primordial man by putting Adam to sleep and removing one of his ribs. It doesn’t really make any sense.

It makes a lot more sense if we use a different translation for “tsela,” because it also means “side.” So if we think of Eve as being created from a “side” of Adam, which is perfectly consistent with the Hebrew, we get a description where the primordial being is originally created both male and female, but is split into two genders and two people with the creation of Eve. 

Let’s return back to our relationships and think about what this might be telling us. We have all heard the statements about “my better half,” “I feel whole with him,” “I’m only half a man without her.” These things are usually said early on in the relationship, before the power struggle blocks out some of the essential truth this choice of language betrays.

Like Adam, we are created in a state of primordial unity. Through the deep experiences of our early life, of gender identification and socialization, we are split just like Adam and Eve. We express a part of ourselves outwardly, and we leave a whole bunch dormant and unexpressed inwardly, much of it outside our conscious awareness.  When we partner with another we are seeking to regain that sense of wholeness we lost when part of ourselves went underground.  Our life’s partner is that person we choose, with incredible pin-point accuracy, to help us on this journey. 

The goal of relationships, I believe, is not happiness, but wholeness. If our primary goal is happiness, then the kind of compromise and sacrifice required by committed relationship is always going to disappoint us. If we look instead to the ways in which our partners help us toward wholeness, and we partner together in that endeavor, then we’ll be happy. But happiness has to be the by product, not the primary goal.

Next week we'll conclude our tour of Genesis and relationships by looking at the quote from Genesis 2:24, which says: “thus shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife, and they shall be as one flesh.”

Do you have a question about your marriage or relationship? Ask Josh in the comments below or email him at josh@joshgressel.com.

Josh Gressel, Ph.D., is a couples therapist based in Pleasant Hill, CA. Visit his website at joshgressel.com.

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