Plural Problems (4)

Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man.”  Genesis 2:23  ESV

Woman/ man – Irregular plurals.  That’s the description for the fact that neither ʾiššâ nor ʾiš have plural forms.  The plurals are rather nashim and anashim.  I suspect that this is not an etymological issue but rather an ontological one.  No plural is available because ʾiššâ and ʾiš are essentially singular.  These words do not make sense in plural forms.  This has some rather important further implications.  What it implies is that sexuality is also essentially singular.  You and I are essentially either man or woman.  There is no other possibility.  We are constituted as particular and unique sexual genders in this world.  And because we are uniquely sexually singular, our patterns of sexual behavior also have an ordered existence.  Of course, like everything else in the divinely created order, we are quite capable of attempting to rewrite the design.  We can force, or attempt to force, the world to fit our essentially unordered desires for sexuality where biology conforms to ideology, but the created order resists such manipulation.  Zornberg makes an important point:

“If sexuality is a kind of language, then the sound that arises from the world is a babble, submitting to no rules of grammar or syntax, signifying nothing.”[1]

But the sound that arises from the world is not the sound of the voice of God in Genesis.  Ordered creation speaks.  It does not babble.  It says that ʾiššâ and ʾiš are not only ontological categories of being, they are also psychological categories of self-awareness.  We do not arrive in the world as masses of protoplasm ready to be shaped into whatever the world desires.  We arrive sexually defined.  That sexual definition does not occur by choice.  It is a product of the divine order.  It can be denied but it can’t be erased.  And because it can’t be erased, it informs our existence from the day of conception until the day of departure.  Furthermore, because it cannot be erased, it establishes our orientation toward the world and toward others.  We can make efforts to change this, but it takes effort because we are trying to overcome the built-in dictates of sexuality.  In the end, of course, these efforts are self-defeating, not because the attempts can’t be marginally successful but because such efforts literally defeat the self.  We are not our own gods, although many seem to believe that to be the case.  Our attempts to play God only destroy the divine intention built into sexual ontology.

When Adam identifies the essential sexuality of the unique ʾiššâ and ʾiš, he speaks into existence a relationship upon which all human interaction depends.  He makes himself known as dependent on his mirror image other, the woman.  Without her, he is not a he.  And he knows this.  It comes as no surprise to me that transgender is essentially humanly confusing.  I wonder if it is not also essentially idolatrous.

Topical Index:  ʾiššâ, ʾiš, man, women, transgender, sexuality, Genesis 2:23

[1] Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, The Murmuring Deep: Reflections on the Biblical Unconscious, p. 48.

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Richard Bridgan

“Ordered creation speaks.” Indeed it does! And so does the One through Whom this creation came to be.

“Truly, truly I say to you that the one who hears my word and who believes the one who sent me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Truly, truly I say to you, that an hour is coming—and now is here—when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and the ones who hear will live…” (John 5:24-25)
“The one who does not love me does not keep my words, and the word that you hear is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24)