Women in the Text: Creation Order 2 (Updated 2020)

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I wrote this post in April 2011. I remember being taught for years that women needed to keep their place under men, and that was the way God had ordained it at creation. As I wrote these a posts, nine years ago, my goal was to read the words of Scripture without all the assumptions that clouded my understanding. I was amazed to find that there was not much in the creation account that warranted giving men a special place of authority over women in the home and church. Since then, I have abandoned a Scriptural interpretation that limits women to certain roles and restricts certain church positions to the male sex. In my update on the post, I fixed broken links, added images and updated a bit of the wording.

In my first post on the Creation Order, I wanted new eyes. I’ve listened to many expositions on those chapters in Genesis, and it’s hard to read the text without the bias of years listening to Complementarian interpretation. But using “ignorant eyes” helps me understand what is written and what is assumed. I continue with this post in Genesis.

Complementarian theology orders the sexes as male leader and female follower. As a result, complementarians restrict women from being pastors and teach that wives should not take any lead over their husbands. Because God formed man first, does that mean all men must claim the “First” spot? Because woman was taken out of man, does that mean all women must defer to men? The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) says yes. Here’s how the Danver’s Statement words it:

Headship established at creation?

First, what is headship according to the CBMW? Headship is a responsibility given to men because Paul says that the husband is the “head” of the wife (Ephesians 5:23). They see male headship reflected in the divine order of man being created first. Because man was created first, men are equipped and obliged to lead, provide and protect. This fitness-to-lead implies authority over those who are not, the women. Wives are to submit to their husband’s leadership because God created men first. Complementarians believe this male headship principle is clearly taught in Scripture and confirmed throughout the history of the church.

The Danver’s Statement says that Adam’s headship was established at creation. Was it? Based on the definition of establish, that would mean Adam’s authority was instituted by agreement and firmed up beyond doubt.  It was accepted and recognized by all. Was male authority something God installed? Did God enact Adam to rule Eve? Do we see Adam or Eve agreeing to this headship institution? I challenge you to read through Genesis 1-2 and the first few verses of chapter 5 and find where leadership or rule is given to the man, but not to the woman. The text reveals no such male institution.

What is established?

Ain Sakhri Lovers – British Museum – by Joy of Museums – 27 March 2018

Marriage unity is established with the words, “They are one flesh.”  Joint rule over creation is established with God’s blessing and the words to both the man and woman together, “Rule over every creature.” The need to breed is established with God telling them to increase in number. Don’t misunderstand me. There is a creation order; one came before the other. One was formed because of the other; woman to solve man’s not-good-to-be-alone problem. One was required to leave and cleave; man alone is given that duty in the marriage. But I don’t see rule over the other established in any creation passage (Gen 1-2 or 5). Between the two humans, I only see a joint “other” focus (a companionship-union) that would result in the instituted goals: unity, joint rule, and procreation.

Is Adam given authority over Eve?

Nowhere in Genesis does it say man is to lead the woman. But there are many Complementarians who will reason with the text. Here are a few of the assumptive reasons for male headship, or why man should have authority over woman.

1.   “And the Named God commanded the man, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” Man is commanded not to eat the “knowledge” fruit, not woman. Does this signify God giving man authority? Did God make it the man’s duty to keep the woman away from the fruit? God spoke these words before woman was taken out of man. If God spoke them to man AFTER woman was formed, I’d say without a doubt, yes. But since it happened before she arrived, I don’t think its a clear argument for man’s spiritual authority. Here are some other things that occurred before woman was formed.

  • Man receives God’s breath and lives.
  • Man is commanded to work and guard the garden.
  • Man witnesses the garden planting and the creation of animals. He calls the animals.

Even though man alone did these things, woman is included in the command to rule all creation in Genesis 1, and she is also called the image of God… even though man alone received God’s breath. I think we can assume she held equal responsibility for keeping the “Fruit Command” as well, even though she was not physically taken out of man yet. But we are in speculation on either side of the argument since the text doesn’t explicitly say.

2.  Man named his wife – Eve. Does the man gain authority by naming the woman? As above, the man also called to the animals; yet both the man and the woman are given rule over the animals in Genesis 1. And frankly, the man doesn’t call the woman by name until after the fall, so if anything that works against this Complementarian reasoning. Most convincingly, if giving someone a name equaled having authority over them, then Hagar was God’s master. (Genesis 16:13) She was the first to give God a name – El Roi.

3.  But the Named God called to the man, “Where are you?” God called the man first after they ate of the fruit. This indicates primary  accountability. What does that mean? Primary means first. God asked for the man’s account of things before he asked for the woman’s account. This is logical since the man holds the primary formation. The man was formed first. But does primary accountability equal greater accountability; that the man was accountable not only for his actions, but for the woman’s actions too? I don’t think so. Since God asks the same question of the woman, we know she is held accountable for her own actions. Also, notice that the woman can talk directly to God, she does not go through her husband.

Conclusion

The question for this post is: does the creation order establish that the man is to have authority, or headship, over the woman? It  isn’t in the creation accounts in Genesis. It can only be assumed working backwards from Paul’s writings in the New Testament. But in that case, I wish the Danvers’s Statement would word it that way instead  of saying it was established. Unity, joint rule and procreation are all I see established by the actual words of Genesis.

9 thoughts on “Women in the Text: Creation Order 2 (Updated 2020)

  1. A couple of thoughts.

    It’s my understanding that when Adam said “she shall be called woman,” he was not naming the woman then. The word used for “called” is different than the word used when he “named” the animals. Adam did not actually name the woman until after the Fall. If naming implies authority, then this could be seen as his first instance of “ruling over” her as God had predicted.

    Secondly, since Eve was not named yet at the time they hid from God after they had eaten the fruit, both the man and the woman were still named “adam” (“human beings”) by God. Genesis 5:1-2 says God called both the male and the female “adam” (“human beings”). Therefore, when God called to “adam,” He probably was calling both of them, not just the man.

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    1. Thanks for catching that Kristen. I changed the verse I quoted to the “eve” naming verse. That was the one I meant to quote, oops!
      I’m glad you pointed out the confusion in the naming business. When Adam “named” the animals he was calling them or proclaiming out at them. Then God gave them that name, right? I get confused with the particulars. And so that is what Adam did when he saw woman. He proclaimed out at her and then God called her woman?

      For all that, it is easy to see this naming issue is not a hard and fast rule. There is wiggle room for differing interpretations. So hierarchy folks shouldn’t preach it as such. It is an assumption, a theory. Nothing more.

      I remember a teacher in my past pointing out Hagar naming God (its the same word Adam uses on Eve) as a valid argument against Adam’s rule because of the naming business, and that’s made a big impression on me…years ago. Yet this reason still circles in hierarchy as valid.

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  2. I like your conclusion. There are obviously a lot of other issues that are relevant (for example, whether any gender distinction existed pre-Eve, which you’ve mentioned in other posts), but it seems like people read WAY too much into the creation story. By definition, Genesis 1-11 is in the genre of ancient mythology – the passage conveys the truth that God created the universe, but it’s really a stretch to interpret it as a How-To guide for modern day life.

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    1. I like that you like my conclusion! ; My hubby believes like you that Genesis is a condensed inspired “myth.” We go round and round. I don’t know what I think on that. I could go either way.

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      1. Just to clarify for other readers who aren’t familiar with the term…a myth in this context doesn’t mean that it’s fiction. The ancient world used mythology as a literary style when a story expressed an important truth or cultural values but the specifics weren’t relevant. For example the Iliad and the Odyssey. Our culture still does the same thing – just think about stories of George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and throwing a silver dollar across the Potomac. We don’t care about the details but rather that our founders had admirable qualities.

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  3. Did God make it Adam’s duty to keep Eve away from the fruit?-kb

    I would think his responsibility would have extended to keeping the serpent OUT of the garden and away from the woman.

    “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Gen 2:15

    keep=shamar=to keep, guard, observe, give heed, protect, save life, to be on one’s guard, take heed, take care, beware

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