In Evangelical Feminism, Wayne Grudem says that the first argument showing male headship existed before the fall while the earth was still perfect in every way, shape, and form is:
“The Order – Adam was created first, then Eve (Genesis 2:7, 18-23.) … it was important to the original readers of the text and the Apostle Paul sees it as important: he bases his argument for different roles in the assembled New Testament church on the fact that Adam was created prior to Eve. He says (1 Timothy 2:12-13.) According to Scripture itself, then the fact that Adam was created first and then Eve has implications not just for Adam and Eve, but for the relationships between men and women throughout the church age.”
I’ve already discussed that the original readers of Genesis would have existed 2,400 years after the events of creation. Whatever is important to them doesn’t necessarily follow that it must also be important to us. For example, it would have been important to them to live in walled cities for protection from raiders and invading armies. We, on the other hand, view trade to be more important so there are no walls, just a lot of roads into and out of our cities.
One thing I really loved about my Message translation is it’s description of the creation of man and woman from 1 Corinthians 11: “Don’t, by the way, read too much into the differences here between men and women. Neither man nor woman can go it alone or claim priority. Man was created first, as a beautiful shining reflection of God—that is true. But the head on a woman’s body clearly outshines in beauty the head of her “head,” her husband. The first woman came from man, true—but ever since then, every man comes from a woman! And since virtually everything comes from God anyway, let’s quit going through these “who’s first” routines.”
Sadly, the author prefers the “who’s first” routine as if it explains everything: “Proof number 1: The special revelation from God that Adam was made first means that he has authority over Eve, therefore all Adams, that is, men, have authority over all Eves, that is, women. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. Moving on …” . While he’s looking around the New Testament for proof of how important being first is, he misses Jesus’ teaching that when it comes to authority the ‘first shall be last’. To him, men cannot be last and so any and every possible reason for the importance of being first counts as valid. And that’s where many in the same school of thought make the mistake of pointing to primogeniture – being the first born son gives a man 2/3 of his father’s inheritance as well as leadership of the family while daughters inherit nothing. Surely, being the first-created man must be the equivalent of being the first-born son. But our God didn’t operate through the first-born sons, not even on a regular basis. God consistently used not-first born sons – David was the youngest, Elijah wasn’t even Eli’s son and he wasn’t a first-born either, between Jacob and Esau it was the older that was to serve the younger – a complete reversal of primogeniture (which wouldn’t be written down until Moses’ time anyway.) God doesn’t seem to be all that concerned with first-born sons; perhaps this is why there’s no direct statement that says: “Adam was created first and given authority over Eve who was created last.” Anyone who believe this is so didn’t read it from the Bible because it’s not in there. What they do have are indirect inferences that could be translated to support their supposition; but it helps to already believe the supposition is true first so you know what kind of evidence to look for to support it. It wouldn’t do to read primogeniture into Genesis and then read about Zelophehad’s daughters being given an inheritance by Moses and the rest of the elders because they made a really, really good argument for it.
Now before we look at what Paul wrote or thought, we have to consider that the author has pulled a New Testament quote to try to strengthen his Old Testament supposition. There’s a saying that hindsight is 20/20; the author is an American who is removed from creation by 5800 years, give or take a few centuries. Were he from the Middle East before Paul’s or Jesus’ time, then all of the verses that he uses from the New Testament would not yet exist and therefore would not prove his assertion. Without Paul’s special revelation, his argument that the order would have been important to the original readers does not prove that based on order alone that men have authority over women for all time everywhere in the world because the first man was made first and the first woman was made last. He would have lived in a patriarchy where by the might of men the second class status of women would have been a cultural norm and not the creation order from the divine; most ancient Middle Eastern cultures were patriarchal even without believing in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Without God, it was a fact of life. With God, it was a divinely sanctioned way of life with his holy approval; same with slavery. There’s no way that could go wrong, right?
Moses was born roughly 2400 years after the events of creation, in the year 1400 B.C.; Paul was born about the year 5 a.d. – which puts him 3800 after the events of creation. Moses might have taken previously written accounts and acted as an editor when he authored the book of Genesis. Paul’s Genesis was the result of centuries and centuries of Rabbis discussing and debating and interpreting and teaching the Written Law. They had even come up with an Oral Law to help fill in the blanks where the Written Law wasn’t clear. As Saul the Pharisee, he was schooled under Gamaliel who was a descendant of the very same Hillel who famously got into a debate with Shammai over the question “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason; even if she’s a bad cook?” The same question was even posed to Jesus in Matthew 19. To answer that, Jesus used Genesis 1, Genesis 2, and an entirely new interpretation of the two to answer the question. The point is that Paul’s Genesis isn’t very much different than our own – we’ve had teachers talk about it, hold fiery debates, disagree about it’s interpretation for so long that odds are everything that can be said, both good and bad, has been said. Now Paul’s teaching could very well have been influenced by others from his time as Saul or he could be responding to quoted sections of the letters of people who wrote to him and who think a whole lot like he used to think and trying to open their eyes to the new reality that Jesus’s teachings presents to a very, very, old passage. And that’s assuming that Paul actually wrote 1 Timothy; there’s some evidence that it wasn’t so that would mean not-Paul is not entirely honest about his identity and the the things that not-Paul personally doesn’t allow doesn’t have nearly as much weight as they would if Paul himself didn’t personally allow something. Whichever the case, it is special revelation and in the Bible so it’s the equivalent as if Jesus himself spoke it – so it doesn’t matter, even though it should.
The author quotes verses 12 and 13: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Conveniently leaving out 14 and 15: “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
True enough, Adam wasn’t deceived. He knew what the rule was when we broke it and he broke it anyway. He didn’t tell Eve what the rule was verbatim. He didn’t tell the serpent what the rule was word-for-word from God to him when the serpent asked him. And yes, the serpent did ask him. When the serpent posed the question, he used the equivalent of “y’all” or “you guys” the Spanish accurately captures it as “ustedes” or “you – plural”. He was not deceived but he willfully broke the rule. To our modern sensibility, being deceived is a lesser sin than willfully breaking a rule which is probably why the author didn’t include it as proof – after all, if a willful breaker of rules is or isn’t a better teacher than one who was deceived really doesn’t help his argument that order is important which is why he ignores the part of it that he doesn’t think helps his cause. Technically, Adam committed the worst sin first (rebellion) and Eve’s first sin (being deceived) was less grievous. And take a look at we have the argument set up: “Statement. AND Statement. BUT statement.” Generally, an “and” statement is something in addition to an a “but” statement is a refutation. Why do we miss this? Probably because the idea that women must have children to be saved is really unfair to anyone who cannot and does not. But could this be a refutation of the original and statement – that the idea that if women are good enough to be mothers who teach their children then they’re good enough to be teachers of God’s children, fully-grown and still-growing, men and women alike? Another point is to whether or not the order is the basis for different roles in the assembled New Testament church is a sufficient reason to insist on the same order outside of that specific context. Does this prohibition still apply in say a college campus ministry? Outside of the New Testament? When the church is not assembled? When not in church at all does order have any implications for how men and women are to interact?
Noting that there was an order doesn’t necessarily mean that the order is the most important part of the story. Remember the story of Jacob and Esau? When Jacob was returning to his home, he sent these things in this order:
two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty females donkeys and ten male donkeys; each group was different herd put in the care of different servants they were instructed to go ahead of him and to leave some space between each herd. Each of the servants in care of the five herds were given the same instruction, to say that these animals were to be a gift to Esau from Jacob. Then Jacob sent over both of his wives, two female servants (Bilhah and Zilhah, the mothers of some of his sons, but they didn’t have the same status as the wives), and eleven sons to wait just on the other side for him. After them, all of his possessions. Jacob was left alone, he got into a wrestling match, and then met up with his relatives. When Jacob sees Esau approaching with four hundred men, he quickly puts his family into yet another order – he put the female servants and their children in the front, Leah and her children in the middle, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. Then he went ahead of them and bowed down to brother seven times on the ground.
Think about that – if Jacob was expecting Esau to attack his family, he used his female servants whose names aren’t even mentioned and their children as the first line of defense. Then he put Leah and her children in the middle as the second line of defense. Rachel and Joseph were his favorites, so he put them at the rear to give them the best chance of escaping from the chaos alive while all the other relatives were trying to fight off the four hundred men that Esau had brought with him. This story is from the same book – Genesis. If order – who’s first – is important in one section of the book then it has to be equally important in every section of the book, so in this story, the nameless servant in charge of the two hundred female goats and twenty male goats has headship over the whole crowd because he was first. Or is order only true when it’s in the first few books of Genesis? Which book does order no longer apply? If order stopped applying at some point after Genesis, why do we insist on it now? It seems to me that ‘order’ most conveniently applies only in Genesis 2 and 3. The order they speak of in Genesis 1 shows that animals were made before people, mankind was made last of all, and men and women were made at the same time so it can’t be used to support their order argument. Genesis 2 has the order they affirm before the fall, but there it is again in Genesis 3 after the fall written as a part of the curse so they can’t really ‘use’ that either. So to them, what happens is something like this: ><>
1 . > Male Headship pre-fall, it is very good
2. < The fall distorts existing roles
3. > Jesus’ death restores Male Headship
But in all three scenarios, men are always the authority over women, the only difference is that sin made for harsh husbands, brought in concubinage, multiple wives, not once was the relationship flipped so that women would be in authority over men. Their order never changed, men were always first and women were always last. It was only their perception that altered; and again, this is in hind-sight. They’re explaining the past through a modern lens, not necessarily proving a universal and timeless truth – we have way too much misinformation to give this teaching any historical, cultural, or statistical support. The difference is that I recognize that we can’t ever really know if they’re right, but they will always view themselves as completely correct because special revelation and inerrancy could never be misused, misinterpreted, and/or a source of misinformation. They’re not sexist because they’re not saying it, it’s God who says these things, or so they say.
We already know that Genesis 1 tells us that men and women were made at the same time. Neither one is first and neither one is last. True enough, the man was made before the woman was Genesis 2. That’s just how the story goes, it does not clearly state that Adam has headship over Eve; it’s more clear that they are to rule animals than they are are to rule each other. But while we’re not letting women do things because one woman a long time ago was deceived, let’s not forget that one man a long time ago willfully broke the rules and that has some serious implications for all men everywhere. It is, they say, the order of things. Then the second adam kept the rules that the first adam could not; he reversed the order. Men are no longer doomed to be rule-breakers and women are no longer destined to be deceived that’s why there are hundreds and thousands of them just waiting for their chance to be allowed to be teachers. If men do not think it is so, then they are the ones deceiving themselves. That’s Jesus’ upside-down kingdom for you, making the last first and the first last – for real.