Men and women: the state of our disunion (IV)

Men and women: the state of our disunion (IV)

(NOTE: This is part of a series titled, “The state of our disunion.”)

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Whether a man is male or female, sex is the foundation of every man’s personhood.

Does this sentence seem nonsensical?

If so, the confusion is caused by the word “man” being used to refer to both sexes. To modern man, this usage has become unintelligible. How can a “man” be female? Any readers who do understand this usage think it’s fussy and musty, and the man or woman speaking this way is clueless.

But maybe thinking and writing this way isn’t clueless?

Maybe the men and women who still speak this way do so because they are very aware of the way language confesses our faith? They may, in fact, understand words better than we do. Shouldn’t the people of the Word use words to confess our faith?

God is our Creator. It is His prerogative to name us. He did so, giving us the name “Adam.” This English word “adam” is simply a transliteration of the Hebrew word “אָדָם” used over 500 times across the Old Testament. This name for our race is first spoken by God in the first chapter of Genesis:

Then God said, “Let Us make man (Hebrew “אָדָם” or “adam”) in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (Genesis 1:26)

Here we read our name given and used by God before He had even made us. “Let us make adam in Our image…and let them rule” over creation. The race God names “adam” is dignified by God by His creating us in His Own image and likeness. Therefore it is adam God calls to rule His creation.

Adam is superior to the rest of creation and here is the first act of adam’s authority over creation:

The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field… (Genesis 2:20)

Having been delegated authority over the animals, adam named them.

But it doesn’t say “adam gave names” to the animals. It’s says “man gave names.” Hadn’t God named His image-bearers “adam?” Why is the name “man” used, instead?

Actually, in the original Hebrew, the word is “adam.” But historically, Bible translators have thought it would be confusing to readers to leave the Hebrew word for the race intact, so they changed it. In English translations of Scripture, generally the Hebrew “adam” is only used as the proper name for the first man, and never for the race. Yet the proper name of the first man is identical to the proper name of the race descended from him. God named both “adam.”

Translators thought that was a hill too high for readers, so they changed it. After all, if each time the Hebrew word “adam” is written in Scripture, translators left it there, how would readers know whether it was the first man, or the race descended from him, being referred to?

Nevertheless, the words of Scripture inspired by the Spirit of God use the same word for both the first man and the race descended from him. “Adam” is not just the first man, but the first man and woman, together:

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5:1-2)

Note the word “adam” capitalized above. This same Hebrew word is used three times in these two verses. The first time the translators left it “adam,” but the second and third time they changed it to “man.” Bible translators think this is helpful, removing the ambiguity of the inspired text. So throughout the Old Testament, five-hundred times, they decide where the Hebrew “adam” was being used as the proper name of the first man and where it was being used as the proper name of the race descended from that first man.

How do they know where this same Hebrew word is referring to the first man and where it is referring to the race?

Actually, it’s a difficult decision. How would the reader decide which it referred to in the verse above if translators hadn’t made the decision already? So, a little experiment: here are these two verses once more, this time giving the reader the Hebrew just as it was written:

This is the book of the generations of adam. In the day when God created adam, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them adam in the day when they were created. (Genesis 5:1-2)

Actually, it’s not ambiguous, but makes perfect sense. God did not just name the first man “adam,” but this is the name He gave our entire race. Once we give the reader the original Hebrew, things fall together.

When we read the Old Testament and find the word “man,” we may substitute the original “adam” in order to see and understand what God Himself named our race. Across the Old Testament, this name God gave our race is used well over five-hundred times. The King James Version renders it “man” 408 times and “men” 121 times. Only 13 times is the Hebrew “Adam” left in the text.

Let’s look at a few places the word is changed to “man”:

Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made man

Now then, as it is in the original:

Whoever sheds adam’s blood,
By adam his blood shall be shed,
For in the image of God
He made adam. (Genesis 9:6)

Another:

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me? 

And again:

In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can adam do to me? (Psalm 56:211)

Another:

The heavens are the heavens of the LORD,
But the earth He has given to the sons of men

And again:

The heavens are the heavens of the LORD,
But the earth He has given to the sons of adam. (Psalm 115:16)

Another:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. 

And again:

The plans of the heart belong to adam,
But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. (Proverbs 16:1)

Another:

In that day man will have regard for his Maker
And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. 

And again:

In that day adam will have regard for his Maker
And his eyes will look to the Holy One of Israel. (Isaiah 17:7)

Another:

All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them. 

And again:

All adam is stupid, devoid of knowledge;
Every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols,
For his molten images are deceitful,
And there is no breath in them. (Jeremiah 51:17)

Translators of older Bibles are to be commended for retaining the male meaning component of God’s name for the race. The Bible translations of the past thirty or so years refuse even to allow this male meaning component, instead neutering God’s name for our race.

But this word “man” (employed by Bible translators across previous centuries) used inclusively of men and women together does have the merit of working to keep intact God’s decree that Adam is the leader or federal head of the race of adam, made and descended from him. Together we are named by the name of the first male of our species. And writing “together,” it includes the female of our species. Adam is “adam.” Eve is “adam.” Adam and Eve together are “adam.”

This is not our male-centric name for our race, but God the Father’s male-centric name for us.

When I was younger and foolish, I spoke of “men and women,” “he and she,” “they,” “brothers and sisters,” “people,” “humans,” and “humankind.” I wanted so badly to fit in “the conversation,” to tip my hat to the new constitution.

Ah, but I was so much older then;
I’m younger than that now.

After decades living in university cities, attending a number of institutions of higher education, purchasing their degrees, attending family reunions with men who run one of our main Bible publishers, and speaking and preaching to politically correct faculty at Columbia International University, BIOLA, Taylor University, Indiana University, Westminster Seminary, etc., I have finally discovered my freedom in Christ—freedom to speak as Scripture speaks using the words Scripture uses.

Before I was sanctified into this freedom, I was in the same bondage with my language and word choices that Millennials and Boomers are today. But what joy there is in Christ’s freedom!

May I call you to live there with me and all the faithful? Confess your faith by using God’s Own name for our race. Speak of men and women together as “adam” or “man.” Stop resisting God’s name for us. Stop parading your ingratiating nature. It’s not dignified to fear and seek to please adam rather than adam’s Creator.

Throw out those bland and cowardly replacements, “humanity,” “humans,” “he and she,” and “brother and sister.”

No, there’s nothing wrong with using them occasionally, but make your main usage Biblical. Confess your Christian faith.

Or at least stop accusing people who do so of being clueless or old. Biblical words have finally become a matter of principle with us. It took a long while to happen, but sanctification is a long-term work of grace and often needs pain and suffering to produce the changes needed.

Now then, turning back from the male inclusive which God Himself ordained, let’s again direct our attention to the foundation of our personhood which is male or female.

* * *

Now the faith is old and the Devil bold
Exceedingly bold indeed.

And the masses of doubt that are floating about
Would smother a mortal creed.

But we that sit in a sturdy youth
And still can drink strong ale
Let us put it away to infallible truth
That always shall prevail.

And thank the Lord
For the temporal sword
And howling heretics too.

And all good things
Our Christendom brings
But especially barley brew!
With my row-ti-tow
Ti-oodly-ow
Especially barley brew!

-Hilaire Belloc, The Pelagian Drinking Song


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About The Author

7

Pastor of Trinity Reformed Church since 1996, Tim and Mary Lee have five children and lots of grandchildren. Tim's books include "Daddy Tried," The Grace of Shame," "Church Reformed," "Elders Reformed," and soon a book on marriage. Tim spent ten years in the PC(USA) and twenty in the PCA. He's now a member of Evangel Presbytery.

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