Recently, a reader sent me an email reprimanding me for saying that both men and women are created in the image of God. Below is the email the reader sent me (all misspelled words are his, not mine):
I did read your article and sadly found it to be lacking in depth and accuracy. You did miss interpret [sic], only man is created in God’s image. (1 Corinthians 11:7) . Why did Paul not allow women to be over man? Or was Paul wrong? Your desire to bring human wisdom into the scripture is shameful. The simple truth is that man is designed to be the leader of the family. We do have authority over our wifes [sic]. it is our responsibility to provide, protect, and even discipline them. (I can provide references) but deep down you already know that I am correct. I am afraid that you appear to follow the words of Isiah [sic] referenced in Mathew [sic] 15:8-9. I guess the wolves have taken over the pulpit.”
Then, in response to an email I sent to this reader, he wrote,
“You are assuming that Gen 1:27 reads to include females. That is a liberal interpretation. More conservative readers do not agree with you. Your view should be supported or in harmony with other relevant versus [sic] in the Bible.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the issue raised by 1 Corinthians 11:7, it is important to compare this verse with Genesis 1:27:
Genesis 1:27: “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 NIV).
1 Corinthians 11:7: “A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man” (1 Corinthians 11:7 NIV).
In order to answer the question, “are women created in the image of God?”, it becomes necessary to study Genesis 1:26–27 in context.
Hebrew Words for “Man”
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26–27 NIV).
The first step in discovering whether the woman was also created in the image of God is to understand what is meant by the word “man” in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 1:27. There are three Hebrew words that are translated “man” in English.
The first word is the Hebrew word אנוש (’enôš). The word ’enôš is generally translated as “man” but this word for “man” refers to an individual in a generic sense, that is, a sense that includes all persons. For example, in Psalm 8:4 the psalmist asks this question, “what is man (’enôš) that you are mindful of him” (Psalm 8:4 NIV). The question is so broad that the word “man” must include all human beings, so the NRSV translates the question as follows, “what are human beings that you are mindful of them” (Psalm 8:4 NRSV). The generic meaning of ’enôš is followed by the NAB (“humans”), by the NET (“the human race”), by the NJB (“human beings”), by the NLT (“people”), and by the TNIV (“mere mortals”).
The second word is the Hebrew word אִיש (’îš). The word ’îš refers to man as an individual, thus the word is generally translated as “man” or “husband.” The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament says that the word ’îš “is used variously in the OT, most commonly it denotes any individual male. Less frequently it has the more specific connotation of ‘male,’ emphasizing the male sex, as distinct from the female sex.”
In Exodus 35:29, the word ’îš appears in its masculine form (“man,” ’îš) and in its feminine form (“woman,” ’îššāh): “So the people of Israel – every man (’îš) and woman (’îššāh) who was eager to help in the work the LORD had given them through Moses – brought their gifts and gave them freely to the LORD” (Exodus 35:29 NLT).
The third word is the Hebrew word אדם (’ādām). The word ’ādām is translated as “man” but the word has a collective meaning and includes both men and women. Thus, the word refers to humanity. In the book of Genesis, the word ’ādām is also used as the proper name of the first created man. Because of its collective meaning, The Theological Workbook of the Old Testament says that the word ’ādām should be distinguished from the word ’îsh, man as opposite of woman, and from the word ’nôš, a word used to designate a generic man.
The collective sense of the word ’ādām is seen throughout the Old Testament. For instance, when the Lord decided to send the flood upon the earth, he said, “I will destroy man (’ādām) whom I have created from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7 KJV). The NIV uses the collective meaning of the word ’ādām in its translation, “I will wipe mankind (’ādām), whom I have created, from the face of the earth” (Genesis 6:7 NIV).
This brings me now to Genesis 1:27. The NIV uses ’ādām in a collective sense in Genesis 6:7: “I will wipe mankind (’ādām), whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” However, the NIV does not use the collective meaning of ’ādām in Genesis 1:27: “So God created man (’ādām) in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NIV).
On the other hand, the NRSV uses the collective meaning in its translation: “So God created humankind (’ādām) in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NRSV). Several other translations use the collective meaning of ’ādām in Genesis 1:27. For instance, the New Living Translation uses the collective meaning of ’ādām, “So God created human beings (’ādām) in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NLT)
So, the meaning of ’ādām is “human beings.” And human beings consist of men and women.
Using the NLT, we have: “So God created human beings [’ādām] in his own image. In the image of God he created them [’ādām, since ’ādām includes both male and female]; male and female he created them [’ādām again]” (Genesis 1:27 NLT).
It is clear from Genesis 1:27 that God created man and woman in his image. The Bible is very clear: God created ’ādām in his own image. There is another text that clearly says that the woman was also created in the image of God.
Genesis 5:2 says that when God created human beings, “Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:2 KJV).
Genesis 5:2 says that the man is Adam and that the woman is Adam, “Male and female created he them; and [God] blessed them, and [God] called their name Adam.” Since God created ’ādām in his image and since God called the woman ’ādām, then the woman whose name is also ’ādām was created in the image of God.
There is no doubt; the book of Genesis clearly teaches that the woman was created in the image of God. Those who deny this truth are rejecting the plain teaching of Scripture.
How about 1 Corinthians 11:7? How can we understand the words of Paul? I will address 1 Corinthians 11:7 in my next post, “Are Women Created in the Image of God? Part 2.”
Claude F. Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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