Monday, April 22, 2013

It's "help meet," not "helpmeet."

This has been on my mind for years, and since it came up this week in my scripture-reading and in church today—and since I am all-powerful on sawasnow.blogspot.com—I decided to write about it.

First, let's cover the basics.  There are four scriptures that reference why Adam needed Eve.  Let's review:
  1. Genesis 2:18
    And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
  2. Moses 3:18–20*
    And I, the Lord God, said unto mine Only Begotten, that it was not good that the man should be alone; wherefore, I will make an help meet for him.
    And out of the ground I, the Lord God, formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and commanded that they should come unto Adam, to see what he would call them; and they were also living souls; for I, God, breathed into them the breath of life, and commanded that whasoever Adam called every living creature, that should be the name thereof.
    And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but as for Adam, there was not found an help meet for him.
  3. Abraham 5:14*
    And the Gods said: Let us make an help meet for the man, for it is not good that the man should be alone, therefore we will form an help meet for him.
Now, after each of these verses is the part where God takes a rib from Adam and creates woman.

There are two points I'd like to call to your attention—one is a matter of grammar and the other is a matter of meaning, which, as all English lit. graduates know, is inextricably tied to the words themselves.  So.  Here is what I want to say:

The scriptures read "help meet."  They don't read "helpmeet" or "help-meet."  "Meet" in all of these scriptures is used an an adjective that means "fitting, proper" and "precisely adapted to a particular situation, need, or circumstance."  (That's from m-w.com.)  But even if you used the word as a verb, the slight definition change still gives us something interesting.  My old Oxford College Dictionary puts it this way: "to come into conjunction with; to join."

If woman is a help meet for man, then, we can say that she provides precisely adapted relief and support to him.  Yes, Merriam-Webster also defines "helpmeet."  It's a word that comes from "helpmate," and it very vaguely (in my opinion) defines that as a "companion" or "helper."  But that word—helpmeet—doesn't give much meaning to the relationship between Adam and Eve.  In fact, it suggests that Eve was just an assistant and maybe an afterthought.  In the second set of verses I referenced above (Moses 3:18–20), though, we are essentially told that of all the creatures on the earth, none were good enough to assist Adam.  None were "suited to, worthy of, or corresponding to him," as the footnotes of the LDS King James Bible** specifies.  Eve wasn't just a helper for Adam.  She wasn't just a gal God threw together to do any extra and mundane work.  She was created specifically for and equally to him.  She was symbolically made from a bone in his side—his equal in purpose.  She was precisely adapted for that time and that place and that man.  She was meet for him.  And women, in general, are meet for men.  A yin and a yang.


*The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has additional scriptures, besides The Holy Bible.  There is also The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, which is the book that contains the second and third sets of scripture I reference in this post.
**Here, you can read the LDS version of the King James Bible online.  (It's the same as the King James version that most people read, except that it has footnotes that reference other LDS scripture and scholarship.)  You can also read all of those additional scriptures on the Scriptures page of LDS.org.



Thing I'm thankful for: the word "swirling."  It's such a good word.

1 Comments:

Blogger Amy Stone said...

me gusta. thanks for your insights!

4:18 AM  

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