Ten reasons: Number Eleven

The author does leave a footnote mentioning that he believes in an eleventh reason why headship existed before the fall: “that woman was created ‘from’ or ‘out of’ man.”

One tradition hold’s that Adam’s first wife, Lilith was created at the same time and of the same earth that Adam was made from. She refused to be subservient to Adam as she was in every way his equal, so she left the Garden of Eden. Since it was ‘not good’ for Adam to be alone, God made Eve, this time from part of Adam’s side; the ‘rib’ translation is part of another myth. But most translations will say ‘rib’ because it’s easier than “a part of Adam’s side (not necessarily the rib.)” This is why there are two contradictory creation accounts. Without tradition; we just have two contradictory creation accounts:

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” – Genesis 1:27
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being … So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. – Genesis 2:7, 21-22

Looking at some ancient Jewish commentators, they believed that Eve was made from Adam’s side. Some say that Adam and Eve were initially created as a single being – with male and females halves. God determined that it was “not good” that man be a complete unit – feeling he is perfect and needs no one else, and so God turned His creation into two incomplete halves. On the woman’s role as a helper, Rashi translated ‘a help meet for him’ literally and said ‘if the man is worthy, the woman shall be a help to him; if he is unworthy she shall be opposed to him, to fight him.

According to Rabbi Joshua: “God deliberated from what member He would create woman, and He reasoned with Himself thus: I must not create her from Adam’s head, for she would be a proud person, and hold her head high. If I create her from the eye, then she will wish to pry into all things; if from the ear, she will wish to bear all things; if from the mouth, she will talk much; if from the heart, she will envy people; if from the hand, she will desire to take all things; if from the feet, she will be a gadabout. Therefore I will create her from the member which is hid, that is the rib, which is not even seen when man is naked.”

Now the word that we know as ‘rib’ is elsewhere translated as ‘side’ almost every single time; so it’s almost undoubtedly that in this instance word is ‘side’ but that’s not nearly as tidy as an idea of a ‘rib’.

No one today would take the idea seriously that because somebody donated a kidney, to another, they would have ‘headship’ just because they gave them a component vital to their continued life. I’m not sure what myths we could point to to suggest what original readers would have thought – if just by virtue of being made out of something that something has authority over the thing that was made out of it sounds like a difficult belief to accept.

Paul had heard that argument once or twice before and he had his own response:

” A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.” – 1 Corinthians 11:7-12

The author might love the idea that because woman comes from man, man has headship and authority over her, but Paul reminds men that everything comes from God. I think the Message captures the sense of it better than a literal interpretation:

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. – 1 Corinthians 11:10-12

If man were created last of all, then it would be remembered as the shining culmination of creation, after all the inferior and lesser plants and animals were created; then woman who is most like man, then saving the best for last – man in all his glory. But woman is last and she’s not viewed as ‘the best for last’ at least, not in any meaningful sense.

Why does the author insist on believing in something Paul does not teach is so? Perhaps there’s an element of Genesis 3:16 in headship, after all, they both have in common that only men may lead; which is expected for patriarchal societies. The difference begins with Christ – he laid down his power, something men have had difficulty doing from the very beginning. We seem to have this understanding that God wielded his power and authority with absolute sovereignty and Christ obeyed him without question; but we forget that Christ had authority of his own that he did not use for his own benefit; rather, he didn’t use it so that everyone would benefit. Jesus’ words on authority and leadership actually undermine ‘headship’ in every way:

“When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Matthew 20:24

When the ten others heard about this, they lost their tempers, thoroughly disgusted with the two brothers. So Jesus got them together to settle things down. He said, “You’ve observed how godless rulers throw their weight around, how quickly a little power goes to their heads. It’s not going to be that way with you. Whoever wants to be great must become a servant. Whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That is what the Son of Man has done: He came to serve, not be served—and then to give away his life in exchange for the many who are held hostage.” (Same Verses, Message translation.)

Headship isn’t ‘having the last word’ ‘making the final decision’ ‘being more accountable for one’s family’ that’s incongruous with Jesus’ words; servants obey their masters, slaves are the least powerful people out there – who have no representation or power of their own, servants take orders and they never give them. Servants have no ‘final decision’, servants are never ‘ more accountable’, and servants never have ‘the last word’. If headship teaches otherwise, then it violates Jesus’ teachings about authority and misses the whole point. Which is what has happened from the very beginning.

Almost all societies the world over has always placed power squarely in the hands of men who often (though not always) use that power to keep women in check:

  • Egyptian society was patriarchal; they based the subordination of women on her fertility; women had the duty to bear children and serve her husband. One of the more important duties of women was as ‘mistress of the house.’
  • Babylonian society was also patriarchal; the Code of Hammurabi did offer some protections for women despite that the laws clearly gave power to men.
  • Persian society was patriarchal; but they also viewed women to be extremely important. Women even had the right to divorce their husbands. Women were not expected to marry and have children, so they had an unusual amount of freedom. This was also the society which Esther served as their Queen; I think any other society would not have allowed her to take the actions she did to save her people.
  • Greek and Roman societies were also patriarchal, believing that women ought to be limited to working in the home but challenged by the reality that women often exceeded their beliefs.

Is it no wonder then that ancient Israelite society, who wanted king to be ‘just like their neighbors’, would not also take to patriarchal attitudes to fit in? Moses grew up in Egyptian society, fled to Midian where he was under the influence and in the household of the patriarch Jethro; he was predisposed with patriarchal ideas when he wrote Genesis; yet scriptures make it clear that Eve was deceived and not in blatant rebellion. I wonder if his people would have understood how this subtle point steers away their mythology from the tendency to blame women as Greek and Roman myths had blamed Pandora for opening the jar that released all the evils into the world. In the Author’s quest to assert headship, he’s also affirming the very attitudes and beliefs that societies have for many millennia – that men are more fit to lead than women, that women belong in the home, that women ought not speak, that women are emotional, etc.; in effect, he’s returning modern Christians to the very thing Paul might have tried to get our ancient counterparts to leave behind.

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