The Theology of Gender – 1. The Story of Creation

The Theology of Gender – 1. The Story of Creation


Sofia Matzarioti-Kostara


The story of creation presents the basic principles of human life and behavior. It is the main reference for the Christian understanding of humankind’s existential questions. In the book of Genesis, the unique relationship between humans and their Creator unfolds. Inside it, the mystery of the purpose of this world is hidden, as is the destiny of our existence.

According to Genesis, God created everything in this world to be in the service of His beloved creature, the human person. Humans are the purpose of the whole of creation. God created the perfect environment for His most precious creature and wanted to share with it His Divine life. Creation of humanity is a special creative act of God that was made in steps in contrast to the creation of all other things, which was performed immediately, with just one word. The importance of man’s creation is indicated by the fact that this act is preceded by a divine thought according to which man is created after God’s image. Nothing else in the story of creation is comparable with the special care that the Creator took for His beloved creature.

The account of Genesis, which is the primitive history of human destiny in all ages, has been interpreted in so many different ways, with strengths and weaknesses in each point of view. Despite the method of examining the text – linguistic, historic, theological, sociological etc. – and trying to be fair to the text, when the author refers to the principles of human life or human characteristics in general, he uses the word ἂνθρωπος (human) without gender distinction. Thus, we learn that humanity (ἂνθρωπος) was created in the image and likeness of God, and was created with gender bipolarity. He was made out of dust, and received God’s breath into his nostrils. God put His creature into Paradise and asked that he protect and cultivate it. God then commanded Adam that they not eat from the tree of “knowing good and evil” because doing so will cause death.

In a second account of creation, a detailed description of the creation of woman from the side of Adam is provided. The creation of woman was also preceded by a divine thought: Adam should not be alone; God will give him a helper. This helper, according to some interpreters, reflects God’s will to assist His creature and must be seen as divine providence and care for His creation. Nevertheless, for others, the word “helper”, together with the expression “according to him” (κατ᾿ αὐτόν), is interpreted as a means of supporting the opinion that woman was created to meet man’s needs. This suggestion is not faithful to the text because in the Scripture the word “helper” can be used to refer to someone superior (God, angels), inferior (animals), or equal (another human being) to the human person in need of help. Accordingly, now woman must be seen as a helper to man of the same rank and both share the responsibility to work together. This view is supported by the text itself, since Adam was looking for a helper who would be the “same” as him (ὃμοιοs) among the living creatures that God brought before him. The same interpretation is given by St. John Chrysostom who wrote extensive commentaries on Genesis as well as on marriage.

(to be continued)





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Pemptousia Partnership

Pemptousia and OCN have entered a strategic partnership to bring Orthodoxy Worldwide. Greek philosophers from Ionia considered held that there were four elements or essences (ousies) in nature: earth, water, fire and air. Aristotle added ether to this foursome, which would make it the fifth (pempto) essence, pemptousia, or quintessence. The incarnation of God the Word found fertile ground in man’s proclivity to beauty, to goodness, to truth and to the eternal. Orthodoxy has not functioned as some religion or sect. It was not the movement of the human spirit towards God but the revelation of the true God, Jesus Christ, to man. A basic precept of Orthodoxy is that of the person ­– the personhood of God and of man. Orthodoxy is not a religious philosophy or way of thinking but revelation and life standing on the foundations of divine experience; it is the transcendence of the created and the intimacy of the Uncreated. Orthodox theology is drawn to genuine beauty; it is the theology of the One “fairer than the sons of men”. So in "Pemptousia", we just want to declare this "fifth essence", the divine beaut in our life. Please note, not all Pemptousia articles have bylines. If the author is known, he or she is listed in the article above.