From:  Clines, David J. A.  "What Does Eve Do to Help?"  Chapter One in What Does Eve Do to Help? And Other Readerly Questions to the Old Testament.  Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.

Please note that the italicized words below are English transliterations of the Hebrew words; the bold hot-link numbers in parenthesis are links to endnotes (click on the number to jump to the endnote page); green numbers in parentheses refer to the page number in the reference work cited; and the numbers in red brackets refer to the upcoming page number of the article.  The latter will help for citation purposes. 



The first version of this paper was read as a paper to the Rhetorical Criticism Section of the Society of Biblical Literature at its Annual Meeting in Boston, December 6, 1987.  The them of that section was "Women and Men and the Hebrew Bible."


[25]    Before feminism, everyone in the garden of Eden knew their place.  At the tope of the pyrmaid, even though the garden was not in Egypt, was God.  Under him was his under-gardener Adam, created to carry on the maintenance of the garden that the master-gardener had planted.  On the next rung down, the pyramid having mutated to a ladder, came Eve, who had not originally been thought of but had been created out of Adam as a 'helper' once all the animals had been paraded before Adam without a single helper being found among them.  Beneath Eve were the animals, obviously unsatisfactory as helpers, but not in every respect inferior to her; for the cleverest of them has theological insight that Eve lacks.
        This neat hierarchical system was not much disturbed by the first feminist visitors to the Garden of Eden, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her fellow contributors to The Woman's Bible of 1895 (1).  The narrative of Eve's creation, observed Stanton, 'makes her a mere afterthought [in creation].  The word in good running order without her.  The only reason for her advent being the solitude of man.'  Genesis 2 is nothing but an account of a 'petty surgical operation, to find material for [26]the mother of the race' (2). Things were quite different, indeed, for Stanton, in the creation narrative of ch. 1, where man and woman are created together: there woman is `dignifie[d] as an important factor in the creation, equal in power and glory with man'. There, woman's creation is spoken of in the context of a sublime `bringing order out of chaos; light out of darkness; giving each planet its place in the solar system; oceans and lands their limits' (3). Now the contrast between the estimation of woman in the two creation narratives can only be explained as a deliberate subversion of the first by the second. `It is evident', she comments, `that some wily writer, seeing the perfect equality of man and woman in the first chapter, felt it important for the dignity and dominion of man to effect woman's subordination in some way' (4).
        The second wave of feminist criticism of the Hebrew Bible took a quite different direction. Since Phyllis Trible's epoch-making paper in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion for 1973, 'Depatriarchalizing in Biblical Interpretation' (5) rank order in Eden has changed. Eve now stands on an equal footing with Adam, most feminist writers having accepted that Genesis 2-3, no less than Genesis 1, promotes the equality of the sexes (6). `Biblical religion is patriarchal', Trible averred, no question about it, and `Hebrew literature', Genesis not excluded, `comes from a male dominated society'. But `the intentionality of biblical faith ... is neither to create nor to perpetuate patriarchy but rather to function as salvation for [27] both women and men', and `the hermeneutical challenge' for the contemporary critic is not to identify the sexism that is in the Bible - presumably because that is too easy - far less to reject the Bible because of its sexism, but `to translate biblical faith without sexism' (7).
        Trible proceeded in her paper to bring to the surface a number of places in Genesis 2-3 where, despite its overall patriarchal or sexist orientation, sexism is, to use her term, `disavowed'. She points, for example, to the Hebrew word 'adam , usually translated `man' or, as a personal name, `Adam', and observes that it does not refer to the male, but is `a generic term for humankind' (8). From this it follows that in the command to 'adam in 2.16-17 not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, woman is as much addressed as man, even though she has not at this point been created. Secondly, she argues that the placement of the narrative of the woman's creation at the end of the story does not signify that woman is an afterthought; rather, since the last is so often in Biblical literature first, the story means that the woman is the culmination of creation (9). Thirdly, she claims that the portrayals of the two characters Adam and Eve attribute, if anything, a greater intelligence and sensitivity to the woman (10). Fourthly, she maintains that the description of male supremacy after Eden is represented by the narrative as `perversions of creation', the woman having lost the freedom and initiative with which she was created (11). On such readings, the Eden story crumbles as a prop for male chauvinism, and becomes transformed into a text of liberating power.
1. Eve as `Helper'
        There remains a stumbling block in the text for the view that Genesis 2-3 presents a picture of sexual equality. It is that the woman's role is by design one of `helper'. Even Phyllis Trible [28] allows that 'the English word helper suggests an assistant, a subordinate, indeed, an inferior'. If the text is to be 'redeemed' from the androcentricity that makes the woman essentially a helper - and thus a subordinate - to the man, it must be that the text does not have the connotation we at first think it does.
        The move to redeem the text proceeds by means of two arguments. The first is that 'ezer, 'helper', does not imply inferior rank, and the second is that kenegdo 'corresponding to him', does in fact imply equal rank.
        The first argument takes one of two forms. Either, it is claimed, as by Trible in her 1973 article, that since in some passages the term 'ezer is used of God as the helper of Israel, who creates and saves, the term cannot connote inferiority. She writes: Alternatively, it may be argued, as by Trible in her 1978 book, God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality (13),' that the frequent use of 'helper' for God has the result that in the Hebrew Bible the word 'helper' actually carries the connotation of 'superior'. Here she writes: These two forms of the argument are not compatible, for either the term carries with it a connotation of rank or it does not. Either way, however, according to this argument, a [29] `helper' is not an inferior.
        The second argument is, as Trible puts it, that the word neged, 'corresponding to', which is used alongside 'ezer, 'helper', connotes equality. Thus the two terms together mean that our text is speaking of 'a helper who is a counterpart', or, more precisely: That being so, the woman is         I must admit that when I first read Phyllis Trible's account of 'helper' I immediately believed it, and went on doing so for more than a decade. I must further admit, in hindsight, that the reason why I believed it was because I wanted it to be true. I did not care to have a Bible that made women out to be inferior to men, and I was glad to find that a text which had so often been thought to mean that, even by feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, did not have to be taken that way at all. I did not stop to ponder too long over the question how impressive feminist points like this could have become incorporated in a text that was by common consent patriarchal in its general intent. Perhaps I supposed that not even a patriarchal or sexist mindset can completely overwrite the commonsensical truth - as it seemed to me - that men and women are actually equal. But I should have realized that the contrast between the undenied 'patriarchy' of the Biblical literature and the claimed 'disavowal' of patriarchy in the same literature was actually something of an argument against Trible's interpretation.
        A third-generation feminist - since feminists these days run though generations as fast as computers do - will no doubt be warmly appreciative of Phyllis Trible's success in putting such questions firmly on the hermeneutical agenda but at the same time eager to dissociate herself or himself [30] from any arguments that will not stand the cold light of day.
        For myself, I must now question whether it is true that `helper' does not imply inferiority. I cannot help (if the word will be allowed) feeling a certain sense of inferiority to everyone I help, and a sense of superiority to everyone who helps me. No doubt some professional `helpers' have got into the unfortunate habit of regarding their clients, patients, and counsellees as in some way or other `inferior' to them. But when I am myself the client or the patient, and visit my doctor, my psychiatrist or my social worker, I would like to believe that the best they can do is to assist me to be healthier or saner or more socially acceptable. Whether I am or not is not really in their gift, since for all their pills or nostrums what I am is `down to me' - when it is not, as it used to be, `up to me'. And when I help my student with an essay or my fellow motorist to change a wheel on the motorway, it is after all her essay or his tyre which she is writing or he is changing, and I am just, well, helping. Even if she could not get started without my help or he could not jack his car up without my jack, if I am 'helping' I am saying, This is not my task or my problem, but yours; neither is it our task or our problem on which we are co-operating together, it is yours. I am playing an 'inferior' role, even if in status I am superior. He has the right to decide to abandon the confounded car altogether and start hitching a lift; it is his car, and all I can do is help or not help. She has it within her power to decide to abandon the essay altogether and leave the university forthwith because essays are oppressive; I can only help or refuse to help with the essay. Women who have husbands who `help' with the washing up know that `helping' means: not taking responsibility but making it clear that washing up is women's work to which a man may descend out of chivalry or kindheartedness; helpers with washing up never do it right because they are just, well, helping.
        The real question, however, I admit, is not what 'help' means in English, but what the verb 'azar, which we conventionally translate `help', means in Hebrew, and what may be the meaning of nouns derived from it, like 'ozer `helper' or 'ezer 'help', which is the word we have here in Genesis. What I conclude, from reviewing all the occurrences in the Hebrew Bible, is that though superiors may help inferiors, strong may [31] help weak, gods may help humans, in the act of helping they are being `inferior'. That is to say, they are subjecting themselves to a secondary, subordinate position. Their help may be necessary or crucial, but they are assisting some task that is already someone else's responsibility. They are not actually doing the task themselves, or even in cooperation, for there is different language for that.

        Here are some examples.

        What has this to tell us about Eve? It persuades us, I should hope, that being a helper is not a Hebrew way of being an equal. Helping is the same the world over. Phyllis Trible was right when she affirmed that it is a `relational' term that carried no implications about the respective statuses of the helper and the helpee. She was wrong, I think, when she argued that, because God is often said to be a `helper', the term itself has acquired connotations of superiority. Whether the helper is a superior or not will depend entirely on other factors, extrinsic to the relationship constituted by the act of helping.

        This general study of the term `help' is, admittedly, perhaps not entirely adequate to establish the meaning of the word in the present context. How it functions here will no doubt only become truly transparent when we ask the question, So what does Eve do to help? She is created to be a helper, so where in the narrative do we see her actually helping? Is there anything that she does that will enable us to give content to the concept of `helping'?
        Now if we have only some vague notion of what she is expected to do to help, we shall not be surprised if nothing explicit is said in the narrative about her help. Suppose we agree with [33] S.R. Driver, Derek Kidner, or Phyllis Trible; then what `helper' means will be:

or
or
Such helping could be happening all the time but we would never hear of it in this narrative; it is too simple a text for subtleties like these to register. This sort of helping is surely not what this text has in mind.
        What we are looking for is some task that Adam actually has to do which Eve helps him with. That is how helpers earn their keep. No one gets thanked for helping when all they have done is stand around being intellectually equal or alleviating people's isolation through identity - not when there is work to be done.
        In the narrative, Adam has two tasks. The first is to till the garden and keep it (2.15). We never actually see Adam tilling the ground, so we cannot tell for sure whether Eve has been lending him a hand. But since nothing in the narrative says it, we doubt it; and we are confirmed in our doubt by the divine sentences against the two of them in 3.16-19. For there, while Adam is sentenced for his guilt to sweat over his work on the land and to struggle with thorns and thistles, Eve is not. That is not her sphere. She is inside having children while Adam is out there sweating and struggling with the soil. She has been no help on that front, we conclude.
[34]     Adam's second task is to name the animals. This requires imagination, even if you already speak Hebrew. We might have thought that this was where Eve could be expected to lend a hand. Not physically demanding work, but being intellectually equal and capable of interchanging thought with Adam would seem to be a recommendation for the job. Unfortunately, Adam has completely finished this task, and given names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the air and to every beast of the field, before Eve ever appears on the scene (2.20). Eve is no help here either (20).
        Let us approach the question by asking, Well, what does Eve actually do, and is that a help? That way we very quickly find that there is nothing that Eve actually does inside the garden except have the conversation with the snake and eat the forbidden fruit. It does not take a great deal of acumen to recognize that having theological conversations with snakes it not a great help, not if you have any ambition to stay in the garden and keep it under control for the owner to take evening walks in without seeing the work pile up. Not many people, incidentally, have given much thought to what happens to God's evenings in the garden after he has had to sack the gardener.
        We conclude that either Eve is no help at all, or else we have been looking in the wrong direction. What is it that Adam needs Eve's help for? Only to fulfil a divine command that we have been forgetting about! In 1.28 God has said, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth' (21). This is something Adam finds [35] he is unable to manage by himself. Only with an Eve can Adam multiply. This reading explains the narrative more convincingly than any other understanding of 'helper'. From this viewpoint, the Lord says that 'it is not good that the man should be alone' not because Adam is lonely or has no lively intellectual conversation when he comes in from the garden at nights but because he will have no chance at all of filling the earth so long as there is only one of him. The Lord brings the animals to Adam 'to see what he would call them' not because the Lord has run out of ideas for names, but in the hope that Adam will recognize a mate. Adam doesn't, of course, and makes it very plain when he calls a camel a camel that he doesn't regard it as a she-Adam. Camels are all very well, and they can be a great help. But when it comes to the purpose God has in mind, camels are no help at all. As the narrative says, 'But for the man there was not found a helper fit for him' (2.20). When he does see Eve, he recognizes her as a mate, and says, with unmistakable relief, 'This at last is bone of my bone', which is to say, the same sort of creature as myself, and he promptly names her 'isha, a female 'ish - which is to say, a woman, a female man. He can begin to see his way clear to filling the earth with progeny.
        This view of Eve's helpfulness also explains the narrative's emphasis on nakedness, on the man cleaving to the woman, and on their being one flesh (2.23-25). It is also clear that God regards Eve as primarily a child-bearing creature: he has not said that it is not good for Adam that he should be alone, but that it is not good at all; he is not thinking so much of Adam as of himself and of his designs for the human race. And after the sin of the couple he does not punish the woman by threatening her with demotion to intellectual inferiority or by rendering her incapable of keeping up interesting conversation with her partner, but he most severely punishes her by promising to make the one thing she has been created to do difficult for her: 'I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children' (3.16). Just as Adam will find his work as farmer painful, so she will find hers as mother. Nor will either of them have much choice about opting out of their [36] role. He will have to sweat because they both must eat; she will have to suffer the pain of childbirth over and over again because, as 3.16b puts it, she will keep on wanting her husband to make love to her and he will insist on doing so anyway; despite the pregnancies that will inevitably result and the pain of childbirth that will surely follow, her desire will be for her husband, and he will keep on being dominating. Both of them will be locked into inescapable cycles of pain, but together they will nevertheless be fulfilling the divine programme. Adam sees the point very exactly when immediately after the divine sentences on the two of them he calls her name Eve, `life', `because she was the mother of all living' (3.20). She has not yet had a child, and is not yet the mother of anyone; but her function is as plain as her two names: Ishshah-Eve, or, as we would say, Woman-Life, exists for the procreation of children. That is what Eve does to help.
        So the Fathers were right after all. Not the rabbis who argued that the reason why it was not good for the man to be alone was in case people should say that Adam was as important as God, both of them being one and all alone (so e.g. Rashi on 2.18) (22). Augustine spoke for the fathers of the Christian church when he candidly remarked that a male companion would have been better for society and enjoyment. He could not And he put our point exactly: Aquinas likewise believed that         The outcome is that the text persists in its its androcentric orientation, from which it  cannot be redeemed, despite the constructive programme of second-generation feminists among Biblical scholars. We readers for our part cannot accept that procreation is the sole or even the primary purpose of women, and if that is what the text says we cannot accept the text. That is to say, a feminist critique raises, as it does so often, the question of Biblical authority.
2. The Naming of Eve
        Once we have recognized that on this crucial matter the Genesis narrative is thoroughly androcentric - which is no more than we should have suspected anyway - the way is [38] clear for identifying other points in the narrative that manifest the same orientation.
        An obvious case is the naming of Eve (2.25; 3.20). It has been customary to observe, as G. von Rad does, for example, that `name-giving in the ancient Orient was primarily an exercise of sovereignty, of command' (26). Feminist interpreters also allow that such is indeed the significance of the naming of the animals (27), but have sometimes argued that the so-called naming of Eve in 2.25 is no such thing. Thus Trible suggests that since neither the verb nor the noun 'name' is in the text, but only the verb `call', there is no naming here and so no authority of the man over the woman (28). Now it is no doubt true that in other places in Genesis 2-11 the naming formula is 'X called his name Y' (4.25, 26; cf. 4.17), but what is also true - and what Trible does not point out - is that in Genesis 1 all the naming has gone on exclusively by means of the verb 'call', without the word 'name' ever being used (29). So it cannot be denied that 'calling' is a perfectly acceptable Hebrew way of describing naming; and it is hard to see why the writer of Genesis 2, even if a different person from the author of Genesis 1, should have thought otherwise (30). Moreover, it would be necessary to explain what 'calling' someone `woman' could mean if it does not mean calling her by that name. Trible argues that 'Adham recognizes sexuality by the words 'ishshah and 'ish' (31). But that could only be true if an adjective, not a noun, were [39] used; if he called her `female' because she was taken out of `male', there might well be no naming. Calling someone `great' or `cowardly' would not be naming; but calling them 'king' or 'mother' authorizes the use of that term as a name. `Woman' here can only be a name, and it makes no odds that `woman' is a common noun, not a proper name, as Trible objects.
        Things are no different when Adam `call[s] his wife's name Eve' in 3.20. There is no hint in the text that `the naming itself faults the man for corrupting a relationship of mutuality and equality', as Trible claims (32). One may agree rather with von Rad that         The naming of the woman by the man, on both occasions, I conclude, signifies his authority over her (34). She does not name him, she does not designate his function. The man's point of view is the same as God's, which is the same as the narrator's: [40] in 2.25 woman is formed of Adam's substance and is consequently like him, as the animals are not; her name Woman signals the similarity between them. In 3.20 Woman's function as childbearer is denoted by her name Life, Eve. In both cases the man understands her identity and her function, and has the authority to pronounce upon them. The orientation is unambiguously androcentric.
3. The Term 'adam
        A further sign of the male-centredness of Genesis 2-3 is the usage of the terms for `man' and `humankind'. It is a male that is created first, and he is called 'adam, `human'. This is not because until the creation of woman the `earth-creature' is sexually undifferentiated (35), but because the male is most naturally thought of, in the horizon of this text, as the obvious representative of humanity (36). Hebrew is no different from what English has been on this score until quite recently: the ordinary word for `human' (man) has been a word for `male' but not for `female' even though females are human.
        It is true that once the woman has been created the more explicitly sexually differentiated language is used: he is 'is in counterpoint to her being 'isha: the 'ish leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his 'isha (2.24), the 'isha gives some of the fruit to her 'ish (3.6). But this is not a differentiation that persists: in 3.9 Yahweh God is calling to the 'adam, in 3.12 the 'adam is speaking, in 3.20 the 'adam is naming his 'isha. In the [41] perspective of the text, it is the male that is naturally and properly 'adam, human; the female is never called 'adam, nor is 'adam even used as a collective noun to include both the man and the woman. This is no more than we would expect from any narrative in the Hebrew Bible, simple and mindless androcentricity.
4. Male and Female in Genesis 1
        Can this androcentricity also be identified in Genesis 1? Feminist critics since the days of Elizabeth Cady Stanton have been unanimous that it cannot. Stanton herself found that in Genesis 1 woman is `dignifie[d] as an important factor in the creation, equal in power and glory with man'. Her creation is spoken of in the context of a sublime `bringing order out of chaos; light out of darkness; giving each planet its place in the solar system; oceans and lands their limits' (37).
        It is rare to find a feminist writer expressing any doubt over the equality of the sexes in Genesis 1. Phyllis Bird, however, I observed, wrote an interesting footnote:         This, it must be said, is a self-deconstructing footnote. For if the unmistakable tendency of the author is androcentric, and if in our text he says nothing explicit about the equality of the sexes, but can only be claimed to `imply' things which he himself `only partially perceive[s]', what grounds can there be for supposing that these things are in fact even `implied'? In a later, [42] and more thoroughly exegetical, article Phyllis Bird in fact drew back from the affirmation of the equality of the sexes for the author of Genesis 1 and spoke of removing `the incongruous portrait of P as an equal-rights theologian' and reading Genesis 1 in harmony with the androcentric outlook of the P writing as a whole (39). Hers, however, has been something of a lone voice among feministically inclined interpreters of Genesis in recent decades.
        Such preliminary considerations will in any case not preclude an examination of the text itself. It begins: Why is yirdu plural? Not because 'adam is to be made as male and female, for that has not yet been said, but because 'adam is a collective noun, referring to the human race as a whole, just as the collectives dag and op refer to birds and fish in general in the same verse. It is humanity at large that is here envisaged as about to be created, just as it is the great sea monsters (tanninim gedolim) that are envisaged in 1.21. Let us be clear: females are not excluded from the content of 'adam here, because - and only because - so far as we know, Hebrew speakers never thought women were not human. But neither are they specifically in view. The text does not mean to say that women, every bit as much as men, are to have dominion over the animals - not so much because women are not equal with men, though we know in advance that from the text's perspective they most probably are not - but because it is undifferentiated humanity that is being spoken of (41). It is not that the [43] text denies the authority of women over the animal creation; it is simply that it ignores women as women, just as it ignores men as men-however much it implicitly adopts a male perspective.
        The same is surely the case when the creation of humanity as the image of God is being spoken of. The text is quite explicit: The singular 'oto shows that 'adam is being used as a collective. Whether what is true of undifferentiated humanity is true of all individual humans is a question that has to be solved on its own merits, and the answer cannot be automatically assumed. It might be that it is humanity as a species that is the image of God, or it might be that every individual human being is personally the image of God. Nothing in the wording makes this clear.
        When we turn to the third clause of 1.27, there is nothing in the present text that has anticipated this element. There has been no suggestion, for example, that it is in the existence of male and female that the image of God will consist (42), for the conceptualization male-female has not been present when the idea of the image of God has been introduced in v. 26. And in any case it seems evident that being in the image of God is to be related, if anything, to humankind's having rule over the animals.
        Where does the specification male-female arise from, then? It can only be by correspondence with the report of the creation of other living creatures that they are created `according to their kind' (1.21 [bis], 24 [bis], 25 [ter]). The `kinds' according to which humanity is created are: male and female. That is the most obvious and pervasive line of discrimination among [44] members of the human race: male and female are the `kinds' of humans there are.
        What does not follow from this is that in the view of Genesis 1 men and women are equal. Not at least in general. They are equal in some respects; for example, they are equally created by God. So too are great sea monsters (1.21). They are equally human, both male and female being included in the term 'adam. But that does not mean that as humans they are equal. They are equal in being blessed by God, though that does not necessarily mean that they are blessed to the same extent or in the same way; the living creatures of the sea and the birds are also `blessed' by God (1.22), as is also the sabbath day (2.3). But none of this amounts to a doctrine or theory of an equality of the sexes. Most of the time the distinction between the sexes is not in view; it is humanity at large that is created, created in the image of God, blessed, told to be fruitful, to fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the animals. To say, for example, that women as well as men are created as the image of God is to move beyond the horizon of the text.
        The most that we could say is that Genesis 1 itself does not exclude the idea of the equality of the sexes. The question then arises, however, whether or for how long we may consider Genesis 1 'in itself'. For Genesis 1 lies very definitely in a context constituted by what immediately follows, a narrative that tells a similar tale, of the creation of humans. And that context of Genesis 1 excludes the idea of the equality of the sexes, quite categorically. For the context shows that while the woman is fully human, she is definitely subordinate to the man (43). And if, on the other hand, it is insisted that the context of Genesis 1 [45] must be taken to be, not the text that is contiguous with it in the present form of the book, but the text which which it apparently once cohered, the supposed `priestly writing', the answer is no different. For the absence of any repetition of the idea of the equality of the sexes from the rest of the priestly work effectively eliminates it from consideration here. For the priestly writing is well known as estimating men and women differently, and as having moreover the figures to prove it: for example, as a dedicatee to religious service an adult male is worth 50 silver shekels, a female 30; a male minor is worth 20 shekels, a female 10; a male child is worth 5 shekels, a female 3; an elderly male is worth 15, a female 10 (Lev. 27.2-8). Females are thus worth between 50% and 66% what males are worth. Women, in other words, are not worthless or negligible, but they are not equal to men. If the priestly writing rather than Genesis 2-3 is to be taken as the context of Genesis 1, the androcentricity of Leviticus must, even if there were no other explicit statement (44), be our yardstick for interpreting Genesis 1.
        The outcome is that Genesis 1 also is indefeasibly androcentric. No more than Genesis 2-3 can it be 'redeemed' from its patriarchal or sexist stance (45).
5. Eve and the 'Authority' of the Bible
        A feminist critique, as we have seen, directly raises the question of Biblical authority. If I am right in my understanding of the text, the text is in conflict with a principle that is not a passing fashion of the modern world, but has become a fundamental way of looking at the world. It is not only people who [46] would call themselves feminists who want to insist that women are fully human, in every sense that men are, that the issue of the equality of the sexes is not a joke but something we really have to get right if we want to be serious people. What is more, feminist principles are, for many of us, not some godless philosophy wished upon us by the spirit of the age, but an application of the Christian gospel. The equality of the sexes is a cause explicitly promoted by the Christian teaching that 'in Christ ... there is neither male nor female' (Gal. 3.28) It is not a principle that I for my part can give up, not even for the Bible's sake, if that is what it is, without a loss of personal integrity (46).
        What shall I do with Genesis, then? One of my options is to ascribe the sexism of the text to the primitive world of the Old Testament, and sigh my relief that in New Testament Christianity we do these things much better. I then deal with the problem of the authority of the Old Testament by denying that it has any. The difficulty remains that the world of the New Testament is not so different, not if a letter ascribed to Paul can insist that in church a woman should 'learn in silence with all submissiveness'; she is not to 'teach or have authority over men' because 'Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor'. Our New Testament author has read his Genesis well when he goes on to allow, `Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty' (1 Tim. 2.11-15). Child-bearing is her proper function, and let her not get involved in seminars with snakes.
        A second option is to accept the authority of the Bible in matters to which the heart and mind can gladly give consent, [47] and to reject it when it conflicts, not with our prejudices but, with our deeply held convictions. This may be scandalous to purists, who cannot imagine the authority of the Bible being anything other than total, and equal in every part; but it sounds like a reasonable compromise of the kind that actual living tends to be made up from. Here is Letty Russell's statement of this option in her essay in the volume she edited under the title Feminist Interpretation of the Bible:         In spite of what is, to my taste, a certain sentimentality in the language, I like that statement well enough. There is just one thing I would query, and it is at this point that I think my view could be taken as a third option for the issue of the authority of the Bible. My question is, Why then go on talking about the authority of the Bible?
        Does not the very concept of 'authority' come from a world we have (thankfully) left behind? To imagine that the Bible could be 'authoritative' sounds as if we still are wanting to plunder it for prooftexts for theological warfare. As if one sentence from the immense unsystematic collection of literature that is the Bible could prove anything. As if truth in matters of [48] religion could be arrived at by a process like that of the mediaeval academic disputation. As if texts mattered more than people.
        Letty Russell herself has great difficulty with the concept of `authority', though she herself does not know it or does not acknowledge it. What she wants to say about the Bible is that it is the basis of her theology, that it has one `liberating' tradition in it (presumably among other non-liberating traditions) that she welcomes, and that it makes sense of her experience and `speaks to [her] about the meaning of [her] humanity', that it leads her to a vision that impels her life, and functions as prompting for life. None of this sounds to me in the least like authority. Here there is not a lot of No Parking, Write on one side of the paper only, Queue here, Do not collect 200.
        So why not say, Authority is not the point. The authority of a text has to do with its nature; we want to be saying things about the Bible that have to do with its function. We want to be saying, not so much that the Bible is right, not even that the Bible is wrong, but that it impacts for good upon people. Despite everything, we might want to add, despite its handicaps, despite the fact that it has misled people and promoted patriarchy, it has an unquenchable capacity - when taken in conjunction with a commitment to personal integrity - to inspire people, bring out the best in them and suggest a vision they could never have dreamed of for themselves. Think of it as dogma and you will at times, as over the matter of men and women, either be wrong or get it wrong. Think of it rather as a resource for living which has no authority but which nevertheless manages to impose itself powerfully upon people. Strange in a way that feminists have not yet seen that `authority' is a concept from the male world of powerrelations, and that a more inclusive human language of influence, encouragement and inspiration would be more acceptable to everyone and more likely to win the assent of minds as well as hearts.