Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 1:27

Genesis 1:27
God created humankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them,
male and female he created them.
(NET Bible)

Don’t Underestimate Gender Differences!

The aging professor of marriage and family life paused as he looked out at the rows of fresh, young faces. It was the first day of his college class, and he knew they would be trying to figure out what would be on the first quiz. His face took on a wry smile when he said, “I’m going to tell you the secret of this whole course. Are you ready?” A hundred ballpoint pens poised over paper and waited for his next words. [Once upon a time we had no laptops!]

He spoke with measured slowness, savoring every word: “Boys . . .  and . . . girls . . . are different.”

When the chorus of groans subsided, the old professor said, “I’m not kidding. You don’t believe me now, but you will.” When all was said and done, the old man was right. We had been clueless. Thank God for the difference! Where did this difference between men and women begin? What are the spiritual implications of the difference? What does God say about the difference?

The first poetic language in the Bible is about God creating humankind in his image. In time we will look more carefully into the physical details of how man was created (Genesis 2). In this verse, however, the stress continues to fall on God’s image permeating all of humanity, both male and female. Consider the following Word Study.

Word Study: “humankind” or “man”

The Hebrew noun ’adam, translated “humankind” by NET in Gen. 1:27, means: 1) “collectively mankind, people,” and 2) “individual man.”[1] In a limited number of cases, the Hebrew word has been rendered as the name of the first man, Adam; this suggests that Adam has a certain priority in setting the pattern of human experience (see Romans 5).

Clearly, the NET Bible views  Gen. 1:27 as an instance of the collective usage. Another clear example of the collective usage occurs in Genesis 5:2. The term “humankind” means “human beings collectively,”[2] and it arose in the seventeenth century as a synonym for “mankind.” The translators of the NET Bible have said, “In all cases the goal for the NET Bible was to be as accurate as possible with regard to gender-related language, faithfully reproducing the original text in clear contemporary English.”[3]

Back to Genesis 1:27

The complete message of our verse has not always been popular in the church. When pagan philosophy, specifically a form of dualism, invaded the church in its earliest centuries, many things were placed in categories according to their perceived value. For example, this erroneous view taught that the spirit was good, but the body was bad; it taught that thought was good, but emotions were bad; and it taught that male was good, but female was bad. Obviously, that last idea runs squarely against the revelation that God created male and female in his own image. To illustrate one value of this concept, Eve did not fall into sin (Genesis 3) because she was inherently evil but because she was deceived and made a choice contrary to what God had said.

Hamilton explains the significance of “male and female” by saying: “Sexuality is not an accident of nature, nor is it simply a biological phenomenon. Instead it is a gift of God. While sexual identity and sexual function are foreign to God’s person, they are nevertheless a part of his will for his image bearers.”[4]

God went to considerable lengths to maintain gender clarity as part of the created order. As part of the theme of deterioration due to sin, discussed in the Introduction to this study, sexual confusion gradually emerges in the account of Genesis. In Genesis 6 we find unsanctioned sexual activity as part of the wickedness running wild in the pre-flood world. After the flood, the evil of sexual perversion again manifests itself in the aggressive homosexuality and fornication in ancient Sodom on the eve of its destruction (Genesis 19).

In the next post on Genesis, we will encounter the sanction of sexual activity between male and female as part of the design God gave to his creation. Meanwhile, the reader may reflect on whether our contemporary society lies closer to the sexual purity of God’s created order or the perversion of it in ancient Sodom.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] L. Koehler, W. Baumgartner and J. J. Stamm, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, translated and edited under the supervision of M. E. J. Richardson. 5 vols. (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1994-2000) ’adam, mankind, man, q.v.

[2] “humankind.” Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 27 Aug. 2008. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/humankind>.

[3] “Introduction to the First Edition,” NET Bible (Plano: Biblical Studies Press, 2005) 18.

[4] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 138–139.


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