Philip Gosse (1810-88), a member of the Plymouth Brethren and a marine zoologist, famously argued, in his book Omphalos (1857), that though Adam did not need a navel - having been born of the earth rather than a woman - he nevertheless had one (Philip Gosse 2003). Adam gave every appearance of being a normal body, even though he had never been born, had never been a baby, nor grown and gone through puberty to become the father of the human race.1 In just the same way, the trees in the garden of Eden gave every appearance of having grown from seed, rather than having been recently planted, fully limbed and leafed; just as the earth's sedimented rocks, with their fossilized bones, give every appearance of vast millennial age, when in fact only a few thousand years old. In this way Gosse sought to reconcile the body of the biblical text with the dead bodies in the body of the earth. "This 'Omphalos' of his," as Gosse's son, Edmund, observed, "was to bring all the turmoil of scientific speculation to a close, fling geology into the arms of Scripture, and make the lion eat grass with the lamb. . . . But, alas! atheists and Christians alike looked at it, and laughed, and threw it away" (Edmund Gosse 1949: 77).
But if Gosse had been less of a zoologist and more of a theologian, he might have argued that Adam had a navel because, being made in the image (tselem) and likeness (demuth) of God, he was made in the image of the image of God - the deity embodied in Christ - who not only had a navel, being the son of his mother, but was also the Omphalos of the world.2 By this circularity - Christ made in the image of Adam (and Eve) made in the image of Christ - one can overcome the biblical conundrum of how bodies can image that which has no body. Adam and Eve are belated. Chronologically, they precede Christ, but ontologically, they come after him, as types of his prototype, repetitions of the one true "image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (1 Colossians 1.15), the embodied deity. But of course this would not have answered Gosse's real problem, which was the existence of relics seemingly older than the earth which contained them; a problem that he could only have answered by learning to read the Bible better than he did.
The Bible - in all traditions - begins with the making of bodies. Out of primal chaos God forms the bodies of the heavens and the earth and on the earth the bodies of plants and animals, and in the sea the "great sea monsters," and in the air the birds of "every kind" (Genesis 1.21-3). And then God makes humankind (adam) in God's own image, after God's own likeness: humankind in two kinds, "male and female he created them" (Genesis 1.26-7). God makes by speaking; God's words form matter, their meaning bodied forth. God makes like from like, humankind from the dust of the ground, adam from adamah (a masculine from a feminine noun), and then breathes life into the earthlings (Genesis 2.7).
The bodies of Adam and Eve are the most protean in the Bible, since they will become figures for all other bodies, the templates for all future generations, giving dignity and decrepitude to all following flesh. The only other biblical body that is more significant is Christ's, and, as we have already seen, his body will encompass theirs. The order of Adam and Eve will become the order of men to women, and all later orderings of the sexes will be judged by how far they adhere to or depart from that of the primal couple. Eve made from Adam's bone has suggested her secondariness - woman's dependency -down the ages, even to the day when "natural selection" replaced God as the maker of humankind.
The greater size, strength, courage, pugnacity, and energy of man, in comparison with woman, were acquired during primeval times, and have subsequently been augmented, chiefly through the contests of rival males for the possession of the females. The greater intellectual vigour and power of invention in man is probably due to natural selection, combined with the inherited effects of habit, for the most part able men will have succeeded best in defending and providing for themselves and for their wives and offspring. (Darwin 2004: 674)
Even when the Bible had been reduced to myth, its culture was being written onto the bodies of its now doubtful readers. Previously, people had thought the difference between the sexes to be one of degree rather than of kind, the woman being but a "cooler" version of the "hotter" man. This ancient, "one-sex" biology - in which male and female were but permutations of a single sex, polar moments of an altogether fungible flesh - lasted throughout the middles ages and into the early modern period (Laqueur 1990). Eve's flesh was not different in kind from Adam's, and their difference from one another was not onto-logical but spectral. A woman could become a man; and a man might fear to become a woman, to become effeminate, losing that balance of humors which women could only hope to enjoy through the guidance of their husbands (P. Brown 1988: 5-32).
But with the arrival of modernity and the emergence of new interests, pressing for the entry of women into male domains, a new biology was needed to establish and maintain the difference between the sexes, so that women could become something altogether different from men, from a newly discrete male body and its privileges. By the end of the nineteenth century, the eminent Scottish physician Patrick Geddes (1854-1932) found that male and female bodies were composed of fundamentally different cells, and for theologians the same became true for Adam and Eve, so that the removal of Adam's rib was understood to have constituted a new creation, a different species altogether (Balthasar 198898: II, 365-6; John Paul II 1981: 155-6).
Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden for eating forbidden fruit, and this story tells us more about the ordering of the sexes, since they were expelled with a differential curse which marks their "fall" as a fall into patriarchal order. The woman will bring forth children in pain, and yet still desire to have more of them with her husband, who will rule over her; while he will toil to wrest food from the earth, out of the dust from which he was made and to which he will return (Genesis 3.16-19). Modern readers have recognized that this subordination of the woman to the man is a disorder, consequent upon their learning the difference between good and evil (Genesis 3.22). But Augustine, who did not doubt that women were more bodily than men, and men more rational than women, did not find here a story about how women are properly or improperly subordinate to men, but about how learning good habits is painful and requires subordinating the flesh to reason, as if to its "husband" (Augustine 2002: 91). For Augustine, the "carnal" meaning of the story makes little sense - something about women turning to their husbands after giving birth, when everyone knows that husbands are rarely present at the "delivery" - and so it must be read "spiritually," allegorically, and the curses as commands rather than punishments.
When Genesis first narrates the making of humankind the text becomes uncertain as to whether this is the making of one thing - humankind - or two things - man and woman - and this equivocation extends to, or flows from, a similar trembling over the singularity of the divine, which is signified with a plural name, 'elohim (Genesis 1.26-30). This uncertainty will resonate in later hesitations over human identity, whether it is one or two, man or woman-and-man. For many men - for Tertullian (On the Apparel of Women, I.i-ii) and Palladius in the third century - it seemed that women must first become men if they were to be saved; that in being saved they will become the "self-same sex as men," for man alone was made in the image of God (Tertullian 1994: 14-15). In learning virtue (virtus), woman becomes man (vir); she becomes - as Palladius had it - a "female man of God" (Cloke 1995:
214; see also Miles 1992: 53-77). And if this language seems merely rhetorical - the use of strong metaphor for an androcentric ideal of virility - we have Augustine's testimony in the City of God (XXII.17) that many imagined a change of body, "because God made only man of earth, and the woman from the man." It is thus reassuring to learn that "the sex of a woman is not a vice, but nature," and that God, "who instituted two sexes will restore them both" in the resurrection. And this much is taught by Christ when he denied that there would be marrying or giving in marriage in the resurrected life, and so implied the presence of both men and women in heaven (Matthew 22.29; Augustine 1998: 1144-6).
Later commentators find in Genesis a story of bodily complementarity: Eve is the difference that complements Adam's singularity, his aloneness. But in fact, while Eve is numerically distinct, she is ontologically the same as Adam - "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2.23) - and so not his complement but his companion, the same-but-different who will breach his solitariness. But this companionability is almost immediately undone by the insinuation of the serpent that leads to the fall into hierarchy. Henceforth -from Aristotle to When Harry Met Sally (USA 1989) - friendship between men and women will seem impossible. The attempt to establish the equality necessary for true friendship will become a paradisal project: the attempt to live ahead of - in preparation for - the arrival of a promised restoration, the coming of a Messianic equilibrium.
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