Does Genesis 1:27 tell us that “God created both man and woman equally in his image” as we are so often told by Christian Feminists, Egalitarians and even many conservative Bible teachers? Does this passage or the surrounding passages show that God split his attributes between man and woman – so that only together do they form the true image of God?
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
Every Word of the Bible is important, that is one of the tenants of our faith. I don’t want to lose you with technicalities, so we will look at the two most important words in this key passage of Scripture which will help to set the tone for this discussion. The words are “man” and “him”.
A quick Bible history lesson
The Old Testament was originally written in the Hebrew language. One of the words translated as “man” comes from the Hebrew word “adam”. “adam” is both the name of the first man, as well as a word used to reference all of mankind (all humanity, men and women). In Genesis 1:27, the Hebrew word here is “adam”.
Is the “adam” of Genesis 1:27 referring to “mankind” (all human beings) or is it referring particularly to Adam, and the male gender of humanity?
The exact Hebrew phrase here is eth haa-‘adam. “eth” literally means “this same”, and “haa” is similar to our English word “the”. Literally this phrase could be “this same man” or “the same man”. In any case, it refers very particularly to Adam, not mankind in general. This is why it is correct that that translators accurately add the phrase “created he him”. The “him” here, refers to a particular person – to Adam.
But what about “male and female created he them”?
The phrase “male and female created he them”, refers to the fact that God created both man and woman. It does not mean that he created them at the same time or that he created them both in his image. We can clearly see that this is not the case from Genesis chapter 2 when Eve was created from Adam’s rib.
So after a closer examination of the original language of Genesis 1:27 as well as the account of Eve’s creation in Genesis chapter 2, we can see that man and woman were NOT created equally in God’s image. Man was created in God’s image, and woman was created in man’s image.
Even if woman is not created in God’s image, but in man’s image, then is she not created in God’s image as well?
Ok so this would be the next logical question. Let me answer that question by first directing you to Genesis chapter 5:
“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth:”
So the Bible says that Seth had a son “in his own likeness, after his image”, this language is practically identical to the language used in Genesis 1:26 & 27. So that leads us to the answer to this question. Seth was made in his father Adam’s image, but that does not mean they were identical. Seth looked different, talked different and I am sure had different strengths and weaknesses from his father Adam.
What image means is, similar nature. In the way that Adam was human and a male, so too his son Seth was human and male.
But just as Seth was not identical to his father, so too when God made woman from man he did not make her the same as man. The image that woman retains, is that of man’s humanity, not his maleness.
In Genesis chapter 2 we read:
“20 And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help [EZER] meet [k’enegdo] for him… And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;”
Notice I have added two words in blocks – the phrase ezer kenegdo is what is literally translated as a “help meet” for Adam. I would refer to you to a larger discussion I had about this phrase in my post “What did God mean when he called woman a help meet for man?”. But the simple answer is this – woman was literally created as a human helper for Adam that would have a counter or opposite nature from him.
This is why woman in her humanity, does represent some of the image of God, but her femininity is not an accurate representation of God’s nature.
Further proof that God’s image is more closely resembled in masculine humanity, not a combination of masculine and feminine humanity
The apostle Paul confirms, and builds upon the Biblical concept that God’s image is reflected more in human masculinity and not in human femininity:
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
I Corinthians 11:7(KJV)
I Corinthians chapter 11, confirms that our understanding of the Genesis account is indeed correct. Man is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.
Beyond the Genesis 1 and I Corinthians 11 accounts, we can also see that no angel of heaven is ever represented in female form, Angels are always male. While some have tried to argue that Holy Spirit of God is sometimes referred to using feminine wording, the vast majority of references to the Holy Spirit are in the masculine sense. We cannot use these few exceptions to try and say that the Holy Spirit has a nature closer to that of a woman than of a man.
Why does this matter?
Some will continue to reject what I have shown here from the Word of God, even though it is plainly in front of them. They will reject 99 percent of references to God in the masculine sense, and cling to those 1% of references to God that seem to be indicating a feminine sense.
But others who may accept this on face value, still might ask – “why does it matter if God’s image is more accurately represented in “masculine humanity” than in “feminine humanity”?
We don’t teach this belief to belittle women, or to say that men have more value to God than women. If any person is reading that into my words here, I have said no such thing. Every human being, whether they are male or female, have equal value to God. In fact in I Peter 3:7, men are commanded to honor their wives as “the weaker vessel” and we are told in Ephesians 6:2 to honor our mothers.
But understanding that God’s image is best reflected in that of masculine humanity, and not as well in feminine humanity is very important.
Today masculinity has come under massive attack because of modern feminism and egalitarianism, men are constantly called to be more like women. But would any Christian leaders today have the courage to say women ought to try and emulate men more?
How should women try to emulate the image of God in men more?
By “emulate men more”, I don’t mean women need to start dressing or acting exactly like men – we already have way too much that today! What I mean is that women ought to try and emulate the sense of duty that many men have, rather than living their lives completely by their feelings.
- Do your duty toward God, even when you don’t feel like it, or don’t feel his presence.
- Do your duty toward your husband, even when you don’t feel like it, or perhaps don’t feel an emotional connection with him.
- Do your duties as mother toward your children, even when you do not feel like doing them, and even when you don’t feel appreciated by your children.
- Do your duties toward your home, and keep up your home even when you don’t feel like it.
God’s love is more often seen as a love founded in a commitment of the will, a duty
When the Bible famously says in I John 4:8, that “God is love” it is literally saying God is “Agape”.
Agape love is a love of the will, of duty and commitment, and this is the way that God’s love is most often described, it is not a love based in emotion. It is the strongest kind of love, and an unconditional kind of love. The emotional type of love, Philia love, is used far less to describe the kind of love God has towards us, or that we are to have toward God.
This is another way in which women should try to emulate men more. Women most often love based on feelings, or how others make them feel. Men more often love from a sense of will, duty and commitment, this is the driving force of how God loves us. A woman should try to emulate this Agape love that men usually possess more naturally than women often do.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying women need to become exactly like men, God created women with the natures they have for a reason. God purposefully made woman both emotionally weaker and physically weaker (“the weaker vessel”) so that he could demonstrate his strength in woman’s weakness.
“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I Corinthians 12:9(KJV)
Just as God made all of humanity(both men and women), weaker than him, so that he could demonstrate his strength and glory in us, so too woman was made weaker than man, so that man could exercise the image of God within him, by being a strength for her.
I hope as both men and women, we will all seek to emulate God more each day in our lives. The battle with our sin and pride will never end until God takes us out of these sin cursed bodies. As Christians, we ought to honor true and Biblical masculine qualities, and not belittle them or engage in the misandry(hatred of all things male) that we too often see today in our TV shows, books and schools. But in our honoring of true Biblical masculinity, we ought never to dishonor women, but continue to honor them as the “weaker vessel” as the Apostle Peter commanded us to do.