Love between man and woman is a communion that reforges the partners into a new unity. Communion, like the proverbial coin, has two sides, which we can call, respectively, “identity” and “difference.” It goes without saying that identity and difference are at the center of every relationship with other people. The interplay of the two is essential to understanding the meaning of love in general. Nevertheless, this interplay attains a special degree of intensity in the love between man and woman, which lives in the interchange between the masculinity of the male body and the femininity of the female body. Let us consider each of the two dimensions of love in turn.
The book of Genesis, as we have seen, emphasizes God’s sole initiative in creating Eve. The creation account thereby underscores the equal dignity of the first couple: Eve comes no less directly from God than Adam does. As John Paul II notes, Genesis 2 throws the equality of man and woman into relief through the very language it uses to refer to them. Most of us probably interpret the account of Eve’s creation as the story of how a male human being named “Adam” got himself a wife. Th e picture changes somewhat when we learn that the name “Adam” is actually a play on the Hebrew word for earth: ha¯’ada¯ma¯h. For, as John Paul II points out, it’s only aft er the woman is created that the Bible first uses the Hebrew word for man in the sense of “male”: ‘isˇ. When Eve appears on the scene, a new vocabulary suddenly emerges along with her: The text shift s from ha¯’ada¯ma¯h, which emphasizes man’s connection with the earth which it then immediately pairs with the word for “woman”: ‘isˇsˇa¯h. Note the ingenious wordplay: The woman is called ‘isˇsˇa¯h because she has been taken from man. It’s as if Adam, hitherto a stand- in for “man” in the generic sense, had suddenly woken up to the fact that he is a male, whose existence makes sense only because he has a female counterpart (and we have to imagine Eve going through a similar experience in her turn). Far from degrading women to an inferior status, then, the story of Adam’s rib actually underscores that Adam and Eve, male and female, are identical in their dignity and their common humanity.
Excerpted from Called to Love by Carl Anderson and Jose Granados. Copyright © 2009 by Carl Anderson. Excerpted by permission of Image, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.