Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

Adam named Eve because . . . by Andrew Perriman
I follow P.OST the blog of scholar and theologian Andrew Perriman who has recently written a couple of articles about Greg Gilbert’s new book Who is Jesus? published by Crossway for 9Marks.

In his blog post with the comprehensive title, When Adam names the woman, he does not exert authority over her Perriman critiques Gilbert’s presumptions surrounding Adam naming Eve. I have reposted the second half of Perriman’s post with his permission.

Note that the indented quotations are taken from Greg Gilbert’s book. They are not Andrew’s (or my) thoughts.

Photo: Andrew Perriman

In chapter 6 of his book, Greg Gilbert discusses Adam naming the animals. He points out that God realized that it was not good for the man to be alone, so he created the animals and had Adam name them. Why? Gilbert says that this exercise taught Adam two things: first, that the animals would not be good companions for him; secondly, that his job was to rule over things.

“To name something is a way to exert authority, much as a mother and father have the privilege of naming their child. So in giving names to animals, Adam was actually exerting authority over them. He was carrying out his job as the vice-regent of God’s creation, under God himself.” ~ Gilbert

You can see where this is leading. Because the man names the “woman” and then calls her name “Eve” (Gen. 2:23; 3:20), he likewise has authority over her. So what is God’s scheme?

“He’s instituting a whole system of authority in which Adam is given authority over Eve, and the two of them together as husband and wife are given authority over creation, and all of it is meant to reflect the reality that God sits enthroned above it all.” ~ Gilbert

But where does this idea come from—that by naming a person you exert a continuing authority over her? Gilbert doesn’t say. He merely asserts it as a self-evident fact. But neither the story in Genesis 2 nor other naming texts in the Old Testament lends support to his argument.

First, the Genesis 2 story is not about sovereignty or rule or authority. In Genesis 1 man and woman together in the image and likeness of God are given a God-like dominion over all living creatures. But there is no basis whatsoever for carrying this argument over into the narrative of Genesis 2 in order to construct a hierarchy in which God gives authority to the man to exercise dominion over the woman.

Something quite different is going on in Genesis 2. The naming of the animals is not an expression of the man’s authority over them, as though it corresponds to God’s giving of dominion to the man and woman in Genesis 1:26, 28. It is a way of identifying what the animals are in relation to the man. It forms part of the search for a suitable helper. God resolves to make a “helper fit for him”. He creates the beasts from the ground and brings them to Adam to “see what he would call them.” Adam gives them their names but he fails to identify, in the process, a suitable co-worker or companion. So God creates the woman not from the ground but from Adam’s side, which means that Adam can identify her as ʾisha because she was taken from ʾish (Gen. 2:23).

Secondly, naming in scripture is a way of determining the essential character or identity or purpose of something or someone. This is why we have the frequent formula in the Old Testament: a person or thing is called or named something because…. Here are some examples from Genesis.

  • Adam called his wife’s name Eve “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).
  • The city that the descendants of Noah built in the land of Shinar “was called Babel (bavel), because there the LORD confused (bll) the language of all the earth” (Gen 11:9).
  • God tells Hagar to call her son “Ishmael” (“God hears”) because “the Lord has listened to your affliction” (Gen. 16:11).
  • Remarkably, Hagar then ‘called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). Does this mean that Hagar has authority over God? Of course not. It means that she has identified him, she has discerned for herself his essential character.
  • Abraham calls the son born to Sarah Isaac (“he laughs”) because Abraham laughed when God told him that she would give birth (Gen. 17:17, 19).
  • When Jacob wakes from his ladder dream, he exclaims, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God….” So he ‘called the name of that place Bethel (“house of God”)’ (Gen. 28:17, 19). He does not have to have authority over the place in order to do this. He has to understand the significance of the place.

One person names another not because he or she has authority over the named person but because he or she is the right person to identify or determine the essential significance of the named person. This is where the “privilege” comes into it. Adam names the woman because he is in the best position to understand the significance of the fact that she was created not from the earth as a different species but from his own bone and flesh. Andrarchy—the rule of the man over the woman—only enters the picture as a consequence of disobedience: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16).

Read Andrew Perriman’s full post here.

Postscript: September 18, 2021

I like this observation about Eve’s primary and secondary purposes reflected in her “names.” Rabbi Yitshak Armaah comments on the two “names” (or designations) given to the woman in Genesis 2:23 and 3:20 in his book The Binding of Isaac (1961: 73b). Amnon Shapiro refers to those comments here:

In ‘Eve’ he detects connotations of life and birth, which are woman’s secondary and ‘minor purpose’; the name ‘Isha’ [‘woman’] implies equality, the result of ‘the possibility to fully participate in human perfection along with men,’ and this is her primary purpose.
Taken from Amnon Shapira’s paper, “On Woman’s Equal Standing In The Bible—A Sketch: A Feminist Re-Reading of the Hebrew Bible: A Typological View,” Hebrew Studies 51 (2010): 7-42, 13-14. (JSTOR)

Related Articles

A Suitable Helper
Kenegdo: Is the woman subordinate, suitable, or similar to the man?
Ezer Kenegdo does not mean “a helper subordinate to him”
Is a gender hierarchy implicit in the creation narrative of Genesis 2:4-25
Was it Adam’s responsibility to relay God’s command to Eve?
All my articles about gender in Genesis 1-3 here.

32 thoughts on “Adam named Eve because . . .

  1. Wow – this is fantastic! Love the way he uses examples from the OT to show the true purpose of “naming”.

    1. Me too. The OT examples were what made me want to use Andrew’s article.

  2. Very interesting. However, I think he needs to clarify his final sentence. I know men who will thus claim that he is saying that Andrarchy is therefore acceptable and promoted by God.

    1. I know men and women who make that claim too. They think God is prescribing, rather than describing, a consequence of the Fall. I know that Andrew does not support andrarchy or patriarchy.

      1. I rather guessed that he didn’t. Sometimes in writing it is difficult to cover all the possible misreads.

        1. For sure.

      2. I like that distinction, “describing, not prescribing.”

        That gives room for andrarchy to be not in accordance with the will of God, for not every consequence of every disaster is in accord with divine purpose.

        In any event, just in case andrarchy does have a place, it is after the universe is radically damaged, not before: it is not woven into the fabric of the universe itself.

        One cannot argue against every incorrect notion at the same time.

        1. Scott,
          There are several reasons why God’s words to the man and woman were not prescriptive. There was no “because you have done this you are cursed” as there was to the serpent.

          To the man God says something to the effect of – because you heard or listened to your wife talking . Some have thought that meant ‘obeyed’ because shaman means both hear and obey. But because qowl/voice was also added, it is more likely IMO that God may have been pointing out that the man just sat there listening. So, the man listened, offered no help to the conversation, and decided to follow along. Because the man did this when he likely had more information to offer, God cursed the ground. This made more difficulty for the serpent crawling on it. It also made it difficult for humans to work the soil.

          When God spoke to the woman, “I will increase your toil in birthing, likely this meant that He would increase the number of children she could have. Some think this is a help offered to the woman since from her offspring will come the help for not only women but all humans. As well, knowing that the man’s response to the woman’s future clinging would be to dominate her, the children would be a help for her alone feeling.

          In my laboring in interpretation here, I am not finding anything that would suggest that God is telling the man to dominate the woman, nor is He telling the woman to become a servant to the man. Thus, there really isn’t any room for andrarchy being something to look forward to or to accept.

        2. Thanks Scott.

          I’ve sometimes wondered if andrarchy or patriarchy was needed or beneficial for certain desperate situations or during certain periods of history (such as when people have lived with the threat or experience of wars or famines.)

          But I’ve come to the conclusion that if women could have participated in leadership in those societies that were undergoing highly stressful and dangerous situations they may have fared better. I see no advantage in andrarchy. I really don’t.

          I’m grateful for the women who are leading in desperate and tricky situations in some societies today, and the perspective and leadership skills they bring.

      3. At most, it would signify the prescription for those still lost in the first Adam, not those reborn in the Second Adam.

  3. I noticed with each of your examples about naming it was about identity not authority.
    Who is this
    What is this
    Why is this.

    Hey what about this idea of men being the chaser?

    I hear persuer but all I hear in my head is chaser like a hunt…

    What does God say about this innate persueing?
    What is it to him?

    1. Hi Adrienne,

      Yes, naming is about identity and function, and not necessarily about authority.

      As for the other subject you bring up: I don’t think the Bible says anything about men having an innate desire to chase. For example, Esau was a hunter, but Jacob wasn’t. This information about the brothers is given without value judgements in the Bible.

      Are you talking about men pursuing women?

      Many marriages were arranged by parents without an opportunity for a man to pursue a bride.

      When Abraham thought it was time for Isaac to get married, he sent a servant to get a wife for his son (Gen. 24:4).

      When Samson saw a woman he liked, he told his parents to organise a marriage for him (Judg. 14:1-3).

      Naomi told her daughter-in-law how to get Boaz’s “attention” (Ruth 3:1ff).

      Also, most marriages around the time of the Genesis narratives were with close relatives, like half-sisters/brothers. So there wasn’t much scope for pursuit.

      Most later marriages were alliances between families and there was no concept of courtship. But that doesn’t mean that marriages were without affection. The bride and groom in Song of Solomon being the prime example of that.

      The writers of the New Testament say nothing about men pursuing women either, except that Paul says pragmatically, “It’s better to marry than to burn with passion” (1 Cor. 7:9).

    2. If we take Pre-Fall Adam and Eve as the ideal, it was the *opposite* of “persuing.” There is no record of Adam saying, “Hey, it’s not good that I’m alone.” I AM observed it. Adam didn’t go check out all the animals to find a friend; I AM brought them to him. I AM formed the woman from Adam and presented her to him.

  4. Almost like it’s wrong against nature for a woman to be more forward.

    1. I don’t think it’s against nature for a naturally forward woman to be forward. 😉

      I was thinking more about this last night and I remembered Jacob. He “pursued” Rachel by working for Laban for 14 years. This arrangement was pretty much a business deal (Gen. 29:15-30).

      Men have had more freedoms in the past to pursue all kinds of things, but I know many adventurous women.

      I think it’s unhelpful and misleading to make blanket statements that men are pursuers and women are not.

  5. Your reasoning is incorrect and ignores a number of things. First in all ancient cultures and in magic naming something gives one authority over it. Second we see God renaming Abram as Abraham and Iacob as Israel. And we have the word of Paul that commands women to obey their husbands.

    1. Hi cyp,

      How does the idea of authority fit with Hagar giving God a name?
      Also, Paul never uses the Greek word “obey” for the relationship between wives and husbands.

      1. A quick note about Hagar and the naming formula in Genesis

        The combination of the Hebrew verb qara (“call”) and the Hebrew noun shem (“name”) is used in a formulaic way in the Hebrew Bible when people, places, and some special objects (e.g., manna) are given names.

        This verb-noun combination frequently occurs in Genesis. Two examples: “Now the human called (qara) his wife’s name (shem) Eve” (Gen. 3:20), and “he called (qara) his name (shem) Noah (Gen. 5:29). It also occurs a few times in Exodus, for example, “And she called (qara) his name (shem) Moses” (Exod. 2:10). (The naming formuala does not occur in Genesis 2:23).

        This verb-noun combination is used in two verses about Hagar. In Genesis 16:11, the Angel of the LORD tells Hagar that she is to name her son “Ishmael”: literally, “You will call (qara) his name (shem) Ishmael.” And in Genesis 16:13a it says, “She called (qara) the name (shem) of YHWH who spoke to her, “You are El-roi.” The same verb-noun naming formula is used on both these verses.

        God spoke to Hagar and she gave him a name “El-roi,” a name that is recorded in the Bible without any sense of disapproval. El-roi occurs nowhere else in the Bible. However, the well where the divine encounter took place was later named Beer Lahai Roi (“well of the Living One who sees me”). This name commemorates Hagar’s meeting with God and her name of God (Gen. 16:14; 24:62; 25:11).

  6. As always Marg, your blogs are a gift to the church! I’m on here a lot lately as I prepare to teach and I so enjoy reading your wise and gracious interactions with readers! Love this: “But Hagar, the slave of Sarah, gave God a name. A slave girl gives God a name. A name acknowledged and written down in the Bible. So clearly, naming does not always have to do with authority.”
    Thank you so much Marg for all of your hard work and scholarship. I would not be where I am today without your efforts!

    1. <3 Thanks, Krysta.

  7. Thank you! I have always heard the naming signifies authority, but as it is said here that is actually not self-evident! In fact it is more of a colonial, ‘terra nullius’ way of thinking, to name and to claim ownership.
    Eyes freshly opened again. I also really appreciated the other examples of ‘naming’ in the Old Testament.

    1. Lenny, I like your observation. The presumption of others, that naming implies authority, does have a colonial “terra nullius” flavour.

  8. Thank you! I grew up hearing that it was authority. I like this so much better.

    1. Hi Tia, Too many Christians are preoccupied, obsessed even, with who has authority, whereas Jesus wants us to be preoccupied with serving one another (Luke 22:26-27)

      1. THIS!

  9. Someone asked me a question that needed the following information. I’m putting this here also in case I need it again.

    The woman Eve is never called ha’adam after the operation, only the man is. The woman is ishshah from Genesis 2:22 onwards.
    Further, she is mentioned as being with ha’adam several times.
    In Genesis 3:8: “ha’adam and his ishshah (wife/ woman)”
    In Genesis 3:12: ha’adam tells God, “the woman (ha’ishshah) you gave to be with me”
    In Genesis 3:21: ha’adam and his ishshah (wife/ woman)”
    In Genesis 4:1: ha’adam has sex with his ishshah Eve.

  10. I don’t believe Adam named Eve. God did. Adam called her by the name God Gave her. Just as Abraham called Sarah by the name God gave her. It’s absolutely creepy for men to think they have “authority” over women.

    I think their “I am being loving and rational” copout for patriarchy is not any tone I will allow them to “set” as the tone of dialogue.

    1. Whether God gave Eve the name or not, Adam called her “Eve” using a naming formula that we see several times in the Hebrew Bible. And this has nothing whatsoever to do with authority. It’s about recognition.

      I disagree with the points in the article you link to, but more than that, I dislike the tone. I can’t see that this article builds mutuality or unity in relationships between men and women, so I’ve removed the links. I don’t want any part of this kind of unedifying rhetoric and I set the tone on my blog.

      Men are not the enemy. And Paul is one of my heroes: https://margmowczko.com/paul-romans-16-women-coworkers/

  11. I’m thankful for this article, I was worried the patriarchy was Godly and I felt really uncomfortable that I had to be a good godly strong man and rule over my wife (when/if I ever have one).
    No thanks

    1. I do wonder about people who actually think a woman, in general, needs to always be ruled by a man, and that this ruling of women is a defining gender role. Ew, indeed.

  12. I think that naming in Scripture shows authority. I think the man in the garden naming the woman Eve was not authorized by God, so it shows his first example of “he will rule over you.” and that this was sinful contra comp interpretations.

    On Hagar, I think there are 2 ways to parse the verse. Gen_16:13 So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
    One is to put the words “call” and “name” together as the Hebrew naming formula and therefore a counterexample to the idea that use of the naming formula implies authority. However, a second way to parse the verse is to recognize that “the name of the LORD” is a very common way to refer to God, I count about 106 examples, see Gen 4:26, Gen 12:8, 13:4, etc. If you parse “the name of the LORD” as a reference to God, then she is only calling God something that is she uses because she does not know God’s actual name and the Hebrew naming formula is not being used by her.


    1. Hi Don, Sometimes naming is an act of authority. Daniel 1:7 may be an example of this. Then again, the Babylonian official may have given the Jewish men more recognisable Chaldean names simply for his convenience.

      Among them, from the Judahites, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief eunuch gave them names; he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah. Daniel 1:6-7

      The Bible says why Adam named Eve. It gives the reason: “Adam named his wife Eve because she would become the mother of all the living.” The Bible doesn’t say Adam named Eve as an act of either legitimate or illegitimate authority. This idea goes beyond what the text says.

      When the Hebrew Bible says that people “call on the name of the Lord,” shem is typically prefixed with בְּ (an inseparable preposition that can mean in, with, by, on): b’shem. This is what we have in the verses you cited.

      But this is not what we have in Genesis 16:13. Rather we have the construct form of shem which is typically used when naming something. Hagar gave God a name.

      I agree with Andrew that, in most cases, “naming in scripture is a way of determining the essential character or identity or purpose of something or someone.” And one person names another “because he or she is the right person to identify or determine the essential significance of the named person.”

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