Love's Fractions

Biblical inconsistencies find an irrational resolution

By Zinovy Zinik

 

The male and female aspects of man are clearly stated: "... in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." Artenol photo illustrationWhen, many years ago, I received my first invitation to teach a creative writing course across the Atlantic, I had, in advance of my arrival, also received an alarming warning related to the danger of being amorously affected in a politically incorrect way.

“Universities around the USA, as you probably know, are hypersensitive about sexual harassment,” wrote my putative host, the professor who had invited me to the States. “So be careful to avoid physical contact with students of any of six genders.”

The number “six” hypnotized me at the time, and I spent quite a few sleepless nights trying to crack what this figure stood for. Eventually, with a little help from my friends, I came up with a tentative list of five categories: homosexuals, bisexuals, transsexuals, transvestites and hermaphrodites. Nowadays, one can come up with even more gender varieties. But for me, 20 years ago, the sixth category was the hardest to remember because hardly anybody was talking about it. It was simply the least fashionable of all in our time of multiple identities. I mean heterosexuals.

We are told that in earlier epochs, like in the Cambridge of the 1930s, you could compensate for the aforementioned straightness by being Jewish or Communist. The American students in my classes were of different ethnic origins, religious or ideological persuasions, but were uniform in their outward behavior, which made the task of judging their sexual orientation – just by their appearance – impossible. Much more revealing were their academic papers.

A student of mine became confused by the Bible’s creative writing technique (the Bible was on my reading list). For example, in the Book of Genesis, man is created twice, by different devices. In the first version, “God created man in his own image.” In Chapter Two, “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” The description puzzled us considerably and made us ask whether God’s own image is made of dust of the ground? God then proceeds to create woman out of Adam’s rib. There is no mention of any woman in the first version of Creation, though. And yet, the male and female aspects of man are clearly stated: “... in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

It was the great specialist in Bible studies, the late Professor Nehama Leibovitch (I met her when I was teaching Russian theatre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1975), who had drawn my attention to this ostensible contradiction between the two versions of creation in the Bible and who hinted to me that the first chapter of Genesis contains the story of the creation of Universal Man, Ur-Man, Adam Kadmon of the Kabbala. This man had both male and female aspects. This view is confirmed by the book I’m always consulting on such matters – the “Dictionary of Doctrinal and Historical Theology” (Rivingstons, 1870 edition). Its article on Kabbala states that in the passage, “... in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them,”the word “them” should be understood as targeting the breed of men whom God created as male and female simultaneously: male and female he created him, in the image of God. As my theological dictionary indicates, even the Talmud (usually an argumentative contester of Kabbala’s doctrines) shares this image of Adam Kadmon of the Kabbala: “... when the Almighty created the first Adam, he made him androgynous.”

Read the rest of this story in the Winter 2015 issue of Artenol. Order yours today

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