Saturday, September 29, 2012

One Soul With Two Faces: the Traditional Understanding of Adam

In Genesis Rabbah the rabbis wonder whether a verse from Psalms offers insight into the first version of Creation, indicating that ‘adam was actually a hermaphrodite with two faces:
“’You have formed me before and behind’ (Psalms 139:5)… R. Jeremiah b. Leazar said: When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created it with both male and female sexual organs, as it is written, ‘Male and female He created them, and He called their name ‘adam,’ (Genesis 5:2). R. Samuel b. Nahmani said, “When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first ‘adam, He created him with two faces, then split him and made him two backs – a back for each side.” [Genesis Rabbah 8:1]
According to this discussion, the Priestly account in Genesis 1 actually tells us about the creation of a hermaphrodite with two faces. Then in Genesis 2 this primal androgyne (as the creature is commonly called in scholarly texts) is split in half and two separate beings are created – a man and a woman.

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