Session 2 & 3 - The Created Order and the Role of Women in the Church
So God created man in his own image, in the image
of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis
Then God made a woman from the rib he had taken out
of the man, and he brought her to the man. Genesis 2:22
- The two accounts of creation.
- Genesis 1.
- God commands and creation is executed for most of creation. Yet
God addresses humankind directly (for they are created in his image
two creatures, one image, no mention of subordination). (1:26
- Both man and woman were created in the image of God. The image
carries the sense of relationship (just as God says, Let us..,
indicating the mysterious relationship of the triune God). (1:26,
- The image of God is not lost after the fall. (Genesis 9:6)
- Humankind is not inherently sovereign but enjoys dominion by the
grace of God. (1:28-39) Man and woman stand in community with a common
commission and function.
- The setting is one of peace and harmony (no conflict between male
and female). (Isaiah 11:6-9)
- Genesis 2.
- God creates man to complete the creation. Initially the creation
was barren (2:4, 5) and God sends up fountains to water the earth
and creates a garden in which to place man. Man was to work the garden.
(2:15) Despite some stretched interpretations, the man initially set
in the garden (2:7) is clearly male (not an amalgamated male/female
who is later divided [2:21]).
- In the middle of the garden God placed the tree of life and the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (2:9)
- Man is given permission and prohibition. This prohibition is clearly
spoken to the male initially. (2:16, 17)
- The creation of woman is given more attention than the creation
of man. She is the only creature which does not derive directly from
the earth. (2:21, 22)
- Mans initial response to woman appears to be one of mutuality
and equality, that is, one flesh. (2:23 25) Given this mutuality,
can we assume an hierarchical concept of spiritual leadership?
- Some suggest we cannot easily conclude a hierarchical
spiritual relationship from Genesis 2. Woman is created as a companion
(neither subordinate nor superior). The structure is similar to
that of a ring narrative (familiar in ancient writings),
not an hierarchical narrative. God is first and supreme.
Man and woman are connected to God directly and to one another
equally. The creation of woman completes creation and man rejoices
in the culmination of creation by simultaneously naming woman
and himself. (2:23) On this view the man naming the woman should
not be taken in the same sense as man naming the animals. In other
words, the act of man naming woman is an exclamation of pleasure
and praise rather than a sign of male priority and leadership.
- Others suggest that the hierarchical nature of creation is
self-evident. God created man first and woman was created as a
helper for man. The family structure in Israel was linear, not
circular. First born males maintained the family line (a patriarchy).
- The best reading is probably the linear reading and this certainly
coincides with I Timothy 2:13. Nevertheless, the jump from a linear
order in creation to male spiritual leadership is less clear from
- Woman was created as a suitable helper. According to
some, woman was created to help man, not visa versa. Nevertheless,
helper in itself does not imply subordinate, for the Psalmist,
using the same Hebrew word, writes Surely God is my help
(Psalm 54:4). Differences in the interpretation of Genesis 2 regarding
the roles of men and women in large part involves whether woman as
helper refers to:
- Woman as complementary to man (woman as completing
man and bringing wholeness to Gods creation). On this view,
a mutual, helping relationship is established by God at creation
between man and woman which does not necessarily imply a differentiation
of roles. or
- Woman as created for man. On this view, the roles of man and
woman must be different. (Again, recognize those who hold this
view typically do not devalue the spiritual worth of woman.) or
- Woman as created superior to man, i.e. a helper superior to
man. (This view is proposed by some feminist scholars yet in no
reasonable way can it be supported by the text, by the old law,
nor by Christian doctrine.)
- Some suggest that male spiritual leadership is inherent from the
outset, for man was first-born, a different concept from
born first, but more related to the rights of the first born in Israel
(e.g. Genesis 27:1 45) and Christ as the first born of God
(Colossians 1:15 20). On this view, Gods first command
(2:16) was given to man before woman was created. Man is the spiritual
head. God possessed the status to name Adam. Adam, as first-born and
ruler over the animals, could name them. Adam names woman
(taken out of man). Woman and man therefore have different spiritual
responsibilities because man is first born (though there is no difference
in spiritual value). The pattern of the relationship between man and
woman is set from the beginning with the creation of the woman from
man and after man. Man was first-born, first created, and therefore
tied to Christ (the first-born of God) as the sacrificial spiritual
leader (Ephesians 5) from the beginning.
- Though the concept of first-born among humans as having
special significance is inherent the scriptures (e.g. Reuben, the
first-born of Jacob, took responsibility in Genesis 37:22), applying
this concept to Adam is problematic.
- Adam is obviously the first to be mentioned in the
genealogies, such as Luke 3:37, yet key persons in these genealogies
were not necessarily the first-born in their families (e.g. David
and Jacob). The term first-born is not used specifically
in reference to Adam. (In I Timothy 3:13, Paul refers to Adam
as first formed, the Greek word used is not prototokos, the word
used to refer to Christ as first born.)
- The concept of first-born among humans is almost always applied
to sons in relation to other sons. In other words, there is no
other place in scripture where first-born applies to a man being
born into a family before a woman and he is first born
because of this birth order.
- Adam was born of God, not man. Christ was first-born of God
(e.g. Hebrews 1:6), the new Adam. The first born of God was Christ,
- When Paul compares Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12 21
the term first-born is not used of either. In other instances
in the New Testament, of course, Christ is referred to as the
first-born of God.
- The consecration of the first-born was a spiritual consecration,
yet this consecration was under the old law (Exodus 13:1, 2).
The rights of the firstborn Christ do no apply to humankind.
- Regardless, it appears that man and woman were not so conscious
of gender initially (2:25) though gender was a reality. They certainly
did not concentrate on the differences in gender nor the potential
for conflict between genders.
- Man and woman were created primarily to relate to God (they were
created in His own image so they were the only creatures who could
relate to God). Genesis 2, whatever ones interpretation of gender
relationship, is Gods ideal unspoiled by sin. In this way, Genesis
2 complements and expands Genesis 1, the reason for two creation narratives.
These are not conflicting accounts of the creation.
- The temptation and fall. (Genesis 3:1 - 13)
- The scene shifts and God is initially absent. Rather the serpent
challenges the harmony of the created order and the intent of the Creator.
- The serpent speaks to Eve, but there is no indication that Adam was
not present. The serpent consistently uses the plural address and the
woman uses the plural response.
- Some believe that the serpent spoke to Eve because Eve (woman)
was more open and trusting and therefore more susceptible to being
deceived. (3:1, 2)
- Some suggest that the serpent spoke to Eve because she was more
attracted to the dark side of life. (3:5)
- We do not know why the serpent spoke to her. We only know of her
- The woman assumes responsibility and initiative when the serpent speaks
to her, of this we can be certain. We also can be certain that she understands
what God has willed. (3:2, 3). It is unclear whether God spoke his promise
and prohibition directly to Eve or whether Adam conveyed Gods will
to Eve. Once Eve had fallen to temptation, we know that God spoke to her
directly. (3:13) Some suggest she should have looked to Adam for guidance
when tempted and in this she disobeyed Gods divine ordinance of
male spiritual leadership. We do not have a clear statement that this
was the case (or that it was not the case).
- The serpent challenges whether it is necessary for humans to live in
relationship with God and obey His command. (3:4, 5) The temptation is
to rise above conformity. He tempts her with wisdom (remember the Greek
deity for wisdom was Athena), the knowledge of good and evil. He tempts
her to be on par with God. In this way, she is clearly tempted to rise
above her station in life. She falls to this temptation. She attempts
to usurp spiritual authority, the authority of God!
- The woman does not tempt the man in that she coaxes him
or persuades him to eat the fruit (which suggests to some that Adam must
have been there and tempted by the serpent as well as by the fruit handed
to him by the woman). She simply gives him the fruit and he eats it. (3:6)
- After Adam eats the fruit the man and woman realize differences they
did not realize previously, the difference between them and God (3:8)
and the difference between themselves (3:7).
- When God challenges them, both the man and the woman try to displace
the responsibility. (3:12, 13)
- Some suggest that Adam was guilty of two sins, first the sin of being
deceived (as was Eve) and second the sin of abandoning his role as spiritual
leader and protector. On this view, Adam was the first addressed by God
after the fall (3:9) even though Eve was the first addressed by the serpent.
- Curses and Punishments. (Genesis 3:14 24)
- The serpent. (14, 15)
- The created order is disrupted, the order where the creatures live
in harmony. (Isaiah 11:6 9).
- The serpent, who tried to rise above his station in life, who challenged
God, now must crawl on its stomach and eat dust.
- There is discord between the serpent and woman. They strike at
one another (though woman is in a superior position). Most Christians
believe the discord is between Satan and Christ (born of a woman).
- The serpents natural role in the future, therefore, would
be that of tempter and antagonist (he strikes at the Achilles
heel of humankind).
- The woman. (16,)
- The woman is the only one of the three who is not directly cursed.
- Just as man will suffer pain in labor, the woman will suffer pain
in her own labor. The pain free, toil free life in the
garden has ended. Some suggest that her natural role (wife and mother)
will now be accompanied by pain.
- The second aspect of the punishment of the woman is that the original
relationship she had with the man will be changed. Man will have dominion
over woman (which has been more or less true throughout history),
but is this part of the consequence of sin or is this rather a more
painful playing out of the original pattern God created? What is clear
is that the former peaceable and loving relationship will be replaced
- Some suggest that in the unspoiled created order man practices
servant leadership whereas after the Fall, man dominates
woman (which leads to conflict).
- The man. (17 - 19)
- Man receives the longest address.
- He loses his joyful working of the garden. According to some, now
he must continue his natural role as breadwinner with
pain and the sweat of his brow.
- He loses his life (this curse clearly is upon both the man and
- The ultimate curse and punishment. (21 24)
- The vital relationship of man/woman with God (the availability
of the tree of life) has been destroyed.
- Man and woman are not self-sufficient, on friendly terms with God
(walking in the garden together). Helpless creatures, their lives
shattered by strife, discord, enmity and shame, man and woman are
hardly worthy of the divinity they desired.
- Man and woman are driven out of the garden.
- Strife and conflict arise at virtually every turn thereafter (e.g.
Cain and Abel, Noah and his sons, the tower of Babel).
- A reprieve? (20)
- This verse appears to be out of place. Can there be hope in the
midst of this curse?
- Since life eternal has been destroyed and man must return to death,
is there hope?
- Yes, for women (and man for that matter) become a wellspring for
new life. Woman becomes the mother of all the living (Eve means living).
- Ultimately, through Mary, the author of Life (Jesus) is brought
forth in childbirth.
- Conclusions from the creation narratives and the narrative of the fall.
- Gods initial creation was an harmonious creation.
- It is debated whether there was a divine order inherent in creation
from Genesis 2. Man was born first yet the privileges and responsibilities
of this birth order are not entirely clear from reviewing this passage
alone. Nevertheless, on the basis of other texts, some order is implied
(and certainly Paul refers back to this order). The significance of this
order in terms of male-female relationships is uncertain. Areas of debate
- The concept of first-born.
- The meaning of helper.
- The nature of the changes in the relationship between man and woman
between the end of Genesis 2 and Genesis 3.
- The interpretation of Genesis 1 3 in light of New Testament
passages, such as I Timothy 2:13 15.
- The sense of hierarchy and gender differences were much less apparent
in Genesis 2 compared to Genesis 3. .
- Both the man and the woman sinned. Later in scripture, the sins of
the man as well as the woman are noted (Romans 5:12; I Timothy 2:14).
- The relationship of man and woman to God and to one another changes
drastically from Genesis 2 to Genesis 3 (it is not whether this relationship
changes that is debated but rather in what ways).
- Even with the tragedy of the Fall, hope comes by man (Christ) through
woman (3:15, 20). We are not given a glimpse of that hope in the Genesis
1 3 yet only a few chapters further along, the hope becomes more
apparent (12:1 3). A key factor in understanding the role of the
woman in the church is to what extent this hope (such as Pauls exclamation
in Galatians 3:28) establishes a new creation in the Kingdom of God where
gender barriers are broken down.
- Marrs RR: In the beginning: male and female (Gen 1-3), in Osburn CD (ed):
Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity. Volume II. Joplin, Missouri, College
Press, 1995, pp1 36
- Smith, FL: Male Spiritual Leadership. Nashville, Tennessee, Gospel Advocate,
- Ortlund RC: Male-female equality and male headship, in Piper J, Grudem
W (eds.): Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Biblical
Feminism. Wheaton, Ill, Crossway Books, 1991 pp. 95 - 112