In Genesis it is said that God created a woman from the rib of Adam: And the Lord God caused a strong sleep on a man; and, when he fell asleep, took one of his ribs, and closed that place with flesh. And God created the Lord from the rib taken from the man, the wife, and brought her to the man (Gen. 2: 21-22). Usually, this passage causes a lot of questions. For example, how to perceive an "edge": literally or allegorically? And if allegorically, what is behind this image? Can this story be interpreted as a biblical justification for the "second-rate" of the female sex? With these questions, "Thomas" turned to the senior teacher of the Department of Biblical Studies of the MDA, Protopriest Andrei Rakhnovsky.
First of all, it must be said that the "rib" from which the woman was created should be perceived as a complex image, which requires different approaches for its explanation. It can be assumed that in the primordial man, both male and female were equally present. St. Innocent of Kherson, for example, writes about this: "The rib or bone here is not something simple. It must mean the whole half of the being that separated from Adam during sleep. As it happened, Moses does not speak and this is a mystery. It is clear only that before it was necessary to form a common organism, which then was divided into two types: husband and wife. "
It is this co-equality, consubstantial nature of women and men that the Bible tries to convey to us, using the image of the rib. But why was this image used? And how to understand, do we correctly interpret this mysterious plot? To answer these questions, it is necessary to make a brief excursion into the specific nature of the biblical text and try to penetrate the thinking of people of distant antiquity, reconstruct the cultural context within which they lived.
The fact is that the difficulty in reading the Holy Scriptures is largely due to the fact that today we are at the mercy of stereotypes formed by reading fiction. And this - we will notice, beautiful - the sphere accustoms us to the fact that all images, characters, events the author tries to reveal before us as widely and fully as possible. And if the design of the work implies that we need to perceive something allegorically or to guess, we are already prepared for this either by the author's words or by the genre of the work itself, that is, we are ready in advance for a certain approach to the perception of the text. No one will interpret literally the text of the fable.
With the Bible, everything is not so clear. Here there are historical narratives that imply literal understanding, the books of Proverbs or Ecclesiastes written in an instructive genre, and prophetic books in which the historical exposition is intertwined with mystical fragments, interpreted only allegorically.
The book of Genesis in the part of the narrative of the creation of the world in this sense beats all records on the complexity of drawing a boundary between the historical and figurative layers of the text. Creation of the world and man is, undoubtedly, a historical event, and here we are dealing with a reality accessible to perception. But here there is an element of a mysterious, intelligible reality.
First, this event is not only historical, but also mystical: God creates the world and man with a certain higher goal that does not fit into the framework of exclusively material existence. Secondly, "mystery" is associated with the very interpretation of the images. It is due to the fact that the prophet Moses, who is the author of the book of Genesis, was forced both to physical reality and its mystical, invisible side to convey to its audience the language most understandable for its time. So, for example, later the holy fathers came forward, expounding for the pagan audience the truths of the Christian faith in the categories of the Greek philosophy familiar to her.
Very indicative in this sense is the plot of the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam. Faced with it, we can reasonably wonder whether, in the cultural context in which the elected Israeli people existed, symbols and images that could serve as the key to decipher this story were possible.
Studies and hypotheses of scientists (for example, the assyologist Jean-Vincent Scheil and the Sumerologist Samuel Noah Cramer) make it possible to trace such an influence.
In the Sumerian poem about Dilmun (and the Sumerian civilization had a powerful impact on the culture of the peoples of the Middle East region), there is a story about how the goddess Ninhursag heals the dying Enki god. During the healing of Ninhursag for each of the eight sick organs, Enki creates a special goddess, thanks to which Enki is gradually healed. When Enki asks the goddess, "What's hurting you?" She answers: "My rib," she says: "For you I gave birth to the goddess Ninti," which translates as "mistress of the rib" or "lady giving life", so as the Sumerian word "Ti" has both of these meanings. Note that Eve, created from the rib of Adam, is also translated from the Hebrew as "giving life" or, as the Bible says, "the mother of all living."
And although in Hebrew the "rib" and "giver of life" sound differently, scientists suggest that the story of Moses contains an echo of the ancient myth of Enki and Ninhursag. This does not mean that Moses borrowed Sumerian mythology or was its adherent - if only because Sumerian civilization is separated from the time of Genesis creation for about two thousand years, and the very story of Moses is filled with ideas completely contrary to the religious world view of ancient Sumerians. But the very nature of this kind of "borrowing" suggests that Moses uses the pagan mythological terminology familiar to his contemporaries to express the revealed truths of monotheism. And let us not be surprised that a certain mythological image through the centuries has reached the time of Moses, because we meet a whole complex of similar motives - to take at least the historical memory of the Flood, present in both Sumerian mythology and the Old Testament.
Reaching the image of the rib, Moses tries to convey to the Israeli people a very important idea: a woman comes from the essence of a man and by nature is one with him.
St. John Chrysostom in Conversations on the Book of Genesis makes it clear that the story of the creation of the rib appears because of human weakness and inability to penetrate the subtle truths of Revelation ("Moses uses rude words adapted for our infirmity"). And the attention here deserves just the accent not on the edge, but on the biological and spiritual unity of Adam and Eve. Do not give the story of the edge of excess meaning and see in it any other meaning beyond indicating this unity. Otherwise, any textbook of anatomy can be used as a proof of the inconsistency of the biblical narrative, whereas it is not a question of errors in the sacred text, but of a person's inclination to his primitive understanding.
If we use the patristic principle of interpretation, namely: the explanation of Scripture through Scripture itself, we can say that the interpretation of the image of the rib is the words of Adam that the wife is "flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones," that is, "close, dear." In those days it sounded not trivial, since many mythological systems of antiquity thought of a woman as something given by gods to a person from outside, which in a number of cases allowed her to be treated as a subhuman, as a very useful and beautiful domestic animal.
The biblical story puts the relationship of husband and wife to a completely different level. Here the woman is an assistant equal to her husband. As the apostle Paul later says: Neither a man without a wife, nor a wife without a husband (1 Cor 11: 11). Of course, the Christian evangelism raised these relations to a completely different height, but in the Old Testament, unlike the mythological systems of the Ancient East, we see images of women - not goddesses but earthly historical characters - that show equal courage, courage and virtue with men (Judith, Esther, Ruth, Jael) and whose role, contrary to the gender-cultural stereotypes of the Ancient World, finds its recognition in the Holy Scripture.
This story inspired holy fathers to profound theological reflections that did not fit into the framework of a flat rational approach. Prelate John Chrysostom, for example, draws attention to the fact that after the creation of the woman Adam has a special spiritual state, and the dream in which he was at the time of "taking the rib" is not a dream in the literal sense of the word (like the rib does not mean a specific organ). After all, his words that Eva bone of his bones testify to some kind of knowledge that he could not have received if he had really been asleep. Moreover, after this event Adam embraces the prophetic spirit. So, he says: A man leaves his father and mother, cleaves to his wife and there will be two one flesh (Gen. 2: 24). And this speaks of subsequent conjugal unions, although the categories of fatherhood and motherhood are not yet known to Adam.
In the palette of patristic interpretations, a special place is taken by the testimony of the blessed Augustine, who in the story of the creation of Eve from the rib of Adam sees a prophecy about the future unity of Christ and His Church - that is, God and people. In this interpretation, there is nothing surprising, because in the Holy Scriptures as prophecies can act not only words, but also events.
For us, the Christians of the twenty-first century, this story can undoubtedly become not only an intellectual riddle, but also a source of a renewed experience of one's own family life. Here, too, is our positive response to feminism, which does not negate the value of women in society, and relies on discussions with those religious trends that, in perceiving the role of women, have moved far away from the pagan mythological systems of antiquity.