God Created MAN
Ever since the feminist influence of the 1970’s, the English language has been adjusted in an effort to make it more “inclusive” and supposedly less offensive to women.Â Many modern translations of the Bible (such as the TNIV) have followed the lead of culture in this matter. They obscure the gender imagery that’s present in the original Hebrew to make Scripture more palatable to modern sensibilities. But unfortunately, in doing so, they obscure deep and important theological truths.
Let me give you an example. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Inclusive translations of the Bible substitute “human beings” or “humankind” for the word “man” and “them” for the word “him.” In an inclusive translation, the verse reads something like this: “God created humans in his own image, in the image of God he created them…”
Accurate translations use the words “man” and “him.” And far from being discriminatory, these words contain deep and astonishing truths that speak of the glory of God’s redemptive plan, and that confirm the dignity, worth, and equal status of men and women as members of the human race.
To understand Genesis 1:27, you first need to know that in Hebrew, it’s written as a three lined poem:
- God created man in his own image
- In the image of God he created him
- male and female he created them
Poems are written in characteristic patterns. (The Japanese Haiku, for example, has three lines with five syllables in the first, seven in the second, and five in the final line.) Hebrew poetry is no different. In this particular type of poem, the first line states the idea, the second line repeats the idea with the order of the key words reversed (inverted repetition), and the third line expands on the idea.
Obviously, the main point is the Divine Image. The poem heralds the stunning truth that all humans bear this image-men and women bear it equally. Since this is the general idea, what’s wrong with changing the word “man” to “humankind” and the word “him” to “them”?
In our day and age, we seldom use the word “man” to refer to the human race. We’ve been taught that it’s a discriminatory word. Most people think that using inclusive language is much better. But God very specifically named male and female, “Man” -and he did it for a very specific reason.
Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.Â Genesis 5:2
We’ve been taught that using the word “man” to refer to the human race demeans women. But a closer examination reveals that the exact opposite is true. In choosing the word “Man” as the name for male and female, God indicated that they would share a common condition for which he would provide a common answer. It actually underlines the profound unity and equality that exists between the two.
Let me explain. The Hebrew word for “man” is â€˜adam. It’s closely related to the word for ground, adamah. The Hebrew word is singular in form and doesn’t refer to any particular person. It’s a collective noun that refers to all human beings. After the fall, “Adam” becomes the proper name of the first male. And much later, Jesus Christ comes as “The Last Adam” to redeem â€˜adam (mankind) and bring many sons and daughters of God to glory (See 1 Cor. 15:22, 45-49).
The idea can be illustrated like this:
adamah (ground) >‘adam (Man) >Adam (First Man/Man of Dust)> Last Adam (Second Man/Man of Heaven)
The Hebrew teaches that God created “man” (singular, collective) …in the image of God he created “him” (singular, collective)… and that the singular collective includes both male and female.Â In God’s eyes, the female is as much a part and expression of the collective â€˜adam as the male is. If you take a moment to think about it, the implications are staggering. It means that both can trace their beginnings to the dirt of the ground. It means that both bear God’s image fully and individually. It means that God values both equally. Because both are â€˜adam, both are equally represented by the first man, Adam. Both are fallen and in need of a Savior. The good news of the gospel is that both are also equally represented by the second man-the Last Adam-Jesus Christ. Both are the church he loves; the bride that he sacrificed his life to redeem.
The language is important. God chose the words for a specific reason. When God named male and female â€˜adam, he had the Last Adam in mind. The fact that she, too, is ‘adam identifies and links the female to Jesus Christ – the Last Adam. So when, in order to appease modern sensibilities, translations such as the TNIV change “man” to “human beings” and “him” to “them,” they diminish the theological meaning and actually decrease the inclusiveness. If woman is not specifically identified as “man” then how can she be represented by the first man, Adam? What’s more, how can she be represented by the Second Man, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ?
We get things so very wrong when we think we can improve on the Bible’s teaching on gender or the gender language it uses. The big picture informs us that from the very beginning, God’s plan for gender has very little to do with us and very much to do with him. And we need to trust that even if we don’t fully understand them, the words, images and means he has chosen to display his glory are not only right, they are also good. Very good!
I encourage you to buck the trend of culture and delight in the gender language of Scripture. Contrary to what we’ve been told, gender language isn’t exclusive of women. Rather, it demonstrates the inclusive beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the husband who gave his life to redeem his Bride – people of every tribe and nation, and every social status, and both genders.
Â© Mary A. Kassian
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