Genesis 1:27 reads:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

The Hebrew word for "man" here is אָדָם (adam). This seems to imply that Adam was created with both genders. Some Jewish traditions propose this interpretation. Are there any Christian traditions that hold the belief that Adam was created with both genders?

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    I have edited the question in an attempt to make it within scope for this site, and not asking for general opinions. I hope you don't mind. – Flimzy Jun 26 '13 at 23:56
  • Is there a reason that you went for denomination and not biblical basis? – James Shewey Sep 15 '15 at 17:05
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    @JamesShewey apparently we're not allowed to post "biblical" answers, has to be "biblical according to X denomination." I'm wrestling with this myself. – user20766 Sep 25 '15 at 17:30

You are correct - the Hebrew word for Adam is as androgenous as a word can be in a language which has no gender neutral pronouns. There are many, though obviously not all in Christian community who believe that humankind was fist created androgynous.

The Junia Project's article "Quick Start Guide to Equality in Genesis" says the following:

The Hebrew word used for mankind in verse 27 is “‘adam” which refers to humanity as a whole [1]. We don’t see the proper noun, Adam, used until Genesis 4:25, so this common noun refers to the whole human race. One thing that is important to note is that the Hebrew language does not contain a gender neutral pronoun, therefore the word mankind was used.


Genesis 2:22 states that God, “fashioned into a woman the rib which he had taken from man”. This formation of woman was the culmination of all creation. Yet again we find that the English word “rib” used here doesn’t adequately depict what was taken from man. The Hebrew word used is “zela” which often means “a component, or more often, a side-wall” (alternatively, a chamber), indicating that more than simply a rib was taken [2]. Many scholars believe that the entire female essence was removed from man and fashioned into a woman. This would mean that the “mankind” in chapter 1 could have been an undifferentiated or androgynous person, with the blessing of male and female being a declaration in anticipation of the separation of the sexes in Genesis 2. The woman was then brought to the man who said, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man”. The Hebrew words used for woman and man here are “ishshah” and “ish”, respectively [3]. This is the first time that a specifically male reference is made, and it happens at the time of the creation or extraction of woman. (Up to this point, the more generic “adam” was used.) Instead of pointing out differences, I think the man was actually pointing out similarities. They were both two of the same kind, and suitable for each other. Man was identifying woman as “of himself”.


  1. Fee, Gordon D., Pierce, Ronald W., Groothuis, Rebecca Merrill, eds. Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press 2005.]

  2. Reisenberger, Azila Talit. “The Creation of Adam as Hermaphrodite–And Its Implications for Feminist Theology.” Judaism 42.4 (1993): 447-452. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 15 July 2015.

The Junia project describes itself as "an online community of women and men advocating for the inclusion of women at all levels of leadership in the Christian church and for mutuality in marriage."

Therefore, we can imply that those denominations believe this are those that support women in ministry, though that conclusion is a bit tenuous as I doubt that this interpretation is not discussed in the capacity of any formal doctrine by these denominations. This would include:

  • The Emergent tradition
  • Lutheran
  • PCUSA (Presbyterian)
  • Episcopalian
  • Vinyard Movement
  • Alliance of Baptists
  • ABC USA (Baptist)
  • Non-denominational
  • Mennonite
  • Methodist
  • Evangelical Catholic Church
  • 7th Day Adventist
  • Foursquare
  • Quaker
  • Probably others
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    I'd say it's very tenuous that a denomination's support for women in the ministry implies a belief that Adam was androgynous. Can you point to statements from any of these denominations to that effect? Without statements on this specific issue, this list of denominations looks like pure speculation. – Lee Woofenden Sep 16 '15 at 6:26
  • No, but I also can't point to any statements to the converse. Some of these denominations do however indisputably power the Junia project. And some have no formal, central or agreed upon doctrine (eg, Emergent) – James Shewey Sep 16 '15 at 15:16

The Swedenborgian or "New Church" tradition, which draws on the Christian theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), views Adam (or "the human") in the early chapters of Genesis as encompassing both sexes.

However, this tradition rejects the idea that Adam was an individual human being. It holds instead that Adam was a figure representative of the earliest genuinely human culture on earth. So most Swedenborgians do not picture Adam as a physically androgynous figure having the organs and other characteristics of both sexes, but rather as a symbolic figure that encompasses both the men and the women of the earliest human spiritual culture.

Swedenborg commonly uses the word "church" to mean, not a particular church institution, but an entire human culture as characterized by its commonly held spiritual perspective and beliefs. About the "church" represented by Adam, he writes:

The human being here [in Genesis 3:17-19], though, means not an individual but the earliest church. (Secrets of Heaven #277)

Commenting on this more fully a little later in the same work, he writes:

The reason the term adam is used is that the Hebrew word means a human. The person is never called by the proper name Adam but is called the human. Clear evidence for this is the fact that here [in Genesis 5:2] and earlier the human is spoken of not in the singular but in the plural. What is more, the term refers to both the man and the woman; both together are called the human. Anyone can see that this is so from the words themselves, which are, "He called their name Human Being on the day on which they were created" [Genesis 5:2]. Likewise in chapter 1 it says, "Let us make a human in our image, and these will rule over the fish of the sea" (Genesis 1:26, 27, 28). The same words also show that the subject is not some first-created individual of the race but the whole of the earliest church. (Secrets of Heaven #478)

This is Swedenborg's own presentation of the belief that "Adam," or "the human," does not mean an individual man named "Adam," but rather the earliest human culture on earth, which included both men and women.

This is the common Swedenborgian belief about Adam. In the Swedenborgian tradition, Adam is viewed as a figure that symbolizes and includes all of the earliest humans on earth, both men and women.

Here are two statements of this principle in classic Swedenborgian literature dating from the 1880s. Keep in mind that in that era the word "man" was still commonly used in the generic sense of "humanity," including both sexes. In these two quotes all italics, parentheses, and brackets are in the originals.

Adam is the common Hebrew word which means man, and it is almost always so rendered in the Scriptures. Now the first place where it is mentioned is in the opening chapter of Genesis, and there it is said that "God created (Adam or) man in his own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them." Thus on the sixth day of creation it would appear that the human family was called into being, and, like all the lower races, consisted of males and females. So, too, at the beginning of the fifth chapter we read: "In the day that God created man (or Adam), in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them, and called their name (man or) Adam in the day when they were created." In this passage we seem indisputably to be taught not only that man was created male and female from the very first, but also that Adam was a generic term, including both sexes, and applied to both at the time of their creation. (James Reed, Swedenborg and the New Church. Boston: Houghton, Osgood and Company, 1880, p. 19-20)

Here James Reed, a prolific 19th century Swedenborgian author, picks up on Swedenborg's reference to Genesis 5:2 in showing that the Hebrew term adam encompasses both male and female.

We read in Genesis (v. 1, 2): "In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God created He him, male and female created He them, and blessed them and called their name Adam [or man]." It requires both the male and the female to make the âdâm—the man—that is the whole man. Therefore God called the name of the two conjoined—the male and the female—their name, âdâm. And the Adam, including both sexes, is said to have been in the likeness of God. The reason is, that the female was created to be an image more especially of the Divine Love, and the male to be an image more especially of the Divine Wisdom. (Benjamin Fiske Barrett, Heaven Revealed. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1885, p. 293-294)

Here Benjamin Fiske Barrett, another prolific 19th century Swedenborgian author, adds the standard derivation (in Swedenborg's theology) of both male and female from the nature of God.

These concepts about Adam are common in Swedenborgian literature and tradition right from that tradition's origins in the late 18th century.

So in the Swedenborgian Christian tradition, Adam, or "the human," in the early chapters of Genesis is seen as a figure representing the earliest "church," or spiritual culture of human beings on earth, encompassing both men and women. Thus Adam, though not usually pictured by Swedenborgians as physically androgynous, is seen as androgynous in representation and concept. In more traditional language, "Adam" is interpreted as a generic term for the men and women of the earliest spiritual era on earth, taken together as a culture or society.

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