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|   Theological Comments   |
Trinity Art solicited theological commentary from various biblical scholars. Below are the three commentaries received.

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The biblical text (with a few exceptions) presumes a male/female binary, and the Genesis 1 account is about divisions (which presume binaries as well): Land and water, day and night, (non-human) animals and people, work week/Sabbath. One way for art to promote reflection and discussion is for the artists to push back on the binary.

More, artists should also offer alternative translations: why ‘mankind’ rather than ‘humanity’? Why retain the masculine pronoun for G-d, which is, while grammatically (and historically what the ancients thought) male is itself compromised by the female in the divine image as well (otherwise put, the verse deconstructs).

How do we talk, or image humanity in the divine image, and when we use words and images, what/whom gets left out? The same problem occurs with depictions of Jesus: do we make him look ‘like us’ (and so take away the scandal of his particularity)? Is the image of the divine always only partial.

Why ‘male and female’ rather than ‘man and woman’ - do the terms ‘male and female’ better connect us to non-human animals? Do they reinforce, or complicate, gender roles? What would it mean for the divine to be imaged with both male and female physical markers (e.g., does the divine have breasts that lactate)? Are the terms ‘male and female’ open to various definitions?

Does the verse suggest the beginnings of an inclusive reading, with the rest of the text playing out how that inclusivity is shown?

Once we start asking questions of the meaning, even the translation, of the verse, we begin to do theology.
Amy-Jill Levine
Rabbi Stanley M. Kessler Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies
Hartford International University for Religion and Peace
University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies Emerita
Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita
Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita
Vanderbilt University


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The NIV translation reads: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Behind this translation, we have a Hebrew text that uses a singular masculine noun for “mankind.”

If we carefully read this text, I am curious about the playfulness with pronouns. First, it states God created” the adam” (masculine singular noun), and then it says that God created” them” (masculine plural pronoun). The confusion of pronouns has always been suggestive to me that it undermines the heteronormativity usually “found” in this text.

The traditional way to read this text is to believe that God created one being male and one being female. However, one can read it as suggesting that both sexes are on each ”adam” God created.

The NIV hides the Hebrew and does not follow the pronouns in the Hebrew text. The Hebrew text says in the second half of the verse: in the image of God, he created him (not them, as in the NIV), male and female he created them. I wonder if this slippage in the text suggests that within a single being, God has created both gender identities, or that both identities are potentialities of the human being rather than a binary in which you are one or the other, but not a bit of both: an identity in the spectrum between both.

In other words, I would argue that according to my reading of this myth: God gave space for the plurality of identities which a later patriarchal structure reduced to a binary for other reasons. From the beginning the human being is mythically described as a queer being. (I use the word “queer” as a political statement to break up binary thinking and understand the fluidity of sexual orientation and gender identity, even in the ambiguity of Gen. 1:27. I use “queer” to refer to all non-heterosexual non-cisgender identities).
Julián Andrés González Holguín, Ph.D, HTIC Scholar
Associate Professor of Old Testament
Church Divinity School/ Pacific Lutheran Theological School
Parsons Hall 215
2450 Le Conte Ave., Berkeley, CA 94709
510.204.0730


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The scripture passage chosen for Trinity's art show is straight forward. God created mankind in his image, and he created them male and female. Saying anything beyond that would be putting a spin on the verse that simply isn't there.
Professor Bill Tackmier
Professor of Old Testament and homiletics
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
BA Northwestern College
MDiv Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary
PhD Biblical Studies, Concordia Seminary



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