All are created equal
The New Apostolic Church recognises the equality of the sexes. An essay in the new issue of community summarises findings by the District Apostle Meeting from the biblical account of creation. Here is the summary of a summary.
The subject of man and woman in the image of God is only broadly outlined in the Catechism. That is why the District Apostles have tried to answer the question about the equality of man and woman with the Bible. The two accounts of the creation (Genesis 1: 1–2: 3 and Genesis 2: 4; 3) constitute the most important theological foundations for any discussion of man as part of the creation.
The first account of creation
The first account of creation focuses on the world as a whole and divides its development into six distinct stages. What does this account mean for human beings and for the equality of man and woman?
- Man is the image of God: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image” (1 Genesis 1: 26). God addresses Himself in His Trinitarian nature and relates Himself directly to man, after all, man is to be created “in Our image”. God thereby places Himself into an enduring relationship with man. By the same token, man is thereby incorporated into just as enduring a relationship with God.
- Manrepresents God: “Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1: 26). Man represents God in His creation and allows His nature to be revealed in the world and to all created things.
- Man and woman are equal: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1: 27). At first, the word manis used as a generic term, and is only given a concrete meaning later on. Man and woman are both equally created in the image of God, both stand in an identical relationship of dependency to God.
- Man and woman have been assigned the same mandate: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Genesis 1: 28). Both are blessed by God, addressed by Him, and assigned the same mandate.
According to Genesis 1, any subordination of the woman to the man must be described as contrary to the will of God.
The second account of creation
The second account of creation takes the form of a story with characters who act and react to one another. Relevant for the question of equal in the image of God is the following:
- Man receives the breath of God: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being” (Genesis 2: 7). Man, who does not yet have gender connotation, is created from the dust of the earth. In the second account of creation, the breath of God, the breath of life, takes the place of the idea of being created in the image of God in the first account. God turns to man in a binding—indeed intimate—manner, an action He does not take with any other creature. The breath of life is, at the same time, the breath of God, and thus the reason for the uniqueness of man within the creation.
- Man is given a divine mandate: “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2: 15). Man becomes someone who can and should shape his environment. Tending and keeping are both constructive actions which are assigned to man. Here we find a clear parallel to the “dominion” assigned to man in Genesis 1: 26 et seq.
- Man receives a counterpart: “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (1 Genesis 2: 18). In literal translation, the second part of verse 18 speaks of “a helper as a counterpart to him”. This counterpart is not only with him and near him, but also meets him at eye-level.
- Man and woman are made of the same material: “Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2: 22–23). This counterpart is not created from the dust of the earth, but rather from the flesh of the man. The rib from which the woman is created symbolises that the body of the man and that of his counterpart are of the same kind and of the same substance. There is a physical unity between the two.
The second account of creation does not imply any sort of subordination of the woman to the man either. The man initially exists alone and has not yet been sexually differentiated. He is lacking a counterpart similar to himself. For this reason, God creates a counterpart of equal rights and dignity in order to overcome human loneliness. Man and woman are created for one another in order to help one another, and to act in such a way that the other can lead a good and divinely pleasing life.
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