The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”

Complementarians are Christians who believe that God has instituted certain, specific ways of expressing masculinity and femininity.[1]  They define masculinity and femininity purely in terms of leadership and submission.  Complementarians believe that leadership is an intrinsically masculine quality.  They believe that God has ordained all men to be leaders.  And they believe that the women’s role is to be fundamentally submissive and responsive to the leadership of all men.[2] (Piper 2006:ch1)

In support of their views, Complementarians place a great deal of importance on the creation narrative recorded in Genesis 2:4-25.[3] They believe that there is a divine mandate of male leadership implied in this passage of Scripture, especially in the creation order of the man being created first, before the woman.  This article will refute the argument that the creation narrative in Genesis 2:4-25 signifies male authority and female submission.  In particular it will refute certain statements made by Complementarian Mary Kassian[4] in chapters one and two of her book, Women, Creation and the Fall.  Chapter one of Kassian’s book is entitled, “The Created Order”.

The Act of Naming

Prior to the creation of the woman, we read in Genesis 2:19-20 that Adam named the animals.  Kassian (1990:16-17) states that there is implicit authority in the act of naming something, and because Adam named the animals, this proves that men were ordained by God to be the leaders of the animals and of women.  It is difficult to see the logic of Kassian’s claim here (that men were ordained to be the leaders of women) considering that women did not even exist at this point in time.  There is simply no logical correlation between Adam naming the animals and Adam’s supposed authority over Eve.  Moreover, Genesis 1:27-28 says that both men and women were given authority over the animals, not just men.

Kassian (1990:19) also states that Adam “recognized his God-given responsibility and authority by naming [the woman].”  Then, without apparent logic, Kassian adds, “If the woman and man were meant to have identical roles, God would have named the woman, just as He had named the man.”[5] God in fact did name the woman just as he had named the man.  God named all human beings “adam”.   The word adam simply means a “human being” in Hebrew.[6]

“When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” [adam] when they were created. (Genesis 5:1b-2, NIV, my underline.)

The Bible simply does not say that God told Adam to name his wife.[7]  Kassian’s assertion (1990:19) that Adam had a “God-given responsibility and authority” to name the woman and thus “a hierarchical relationship between Adam and the woman [was] established from the very outset”, is entirely without warrant.  Yet this is a firmly held tenet of Complementarianism.

Adam naming the animals cannot have been an example of an adult male exercising his exclusive God-given authority, because women have the same authority over the animals (Gen 1:26-28).  The task of Adam naming the animals may have had another purpose than just giving the animals names.  God gave Adam this task immediately after the statement, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I will make a help (ezer) similar to him”  (Gen 2:18).  The task may have been designed to help Adam look for another creature who was like him, “but for Adam there was not found a help similar to him”, so God made a woman who was similar to him (Gen 2:20).  “Similar to him” and “corresponding to him” are the meanings of the Hebrew word kenegdo used in Genesis 2:18 and 20.

Moreover, in the Bible, the act of naming does not necessarily imply authority.  For instance, Hagar (the Egyptian slave of Abraham and Sarah) gave God a name; a significant name that has been recorded in Scripture.  Yet no one can rightly suggest that Hagar had authority over God just because she named him (Gen 16:13-14).

The Creation of Eve

Genesis 2:4-25 is the only creation account that shows that Adam was created first.  The other creation accounts, in Genesis 1:26-28 and 5:1-2, show us that God’s image is expressed in both male and female human beings, rather than in just one male.[8] For this reason, it is hard to justify the very commonly held belief that the first human being in Genesis 2 was essentially or entirely male when he was initially formed.  It is more likely that this one person had both male and female features.[9]  This concept of the first human having both male and female features is shown to have scriptural validity because a part of the first woman was quite literally “taken out” of the first man (Genesis 2:21-23b).

In Genesis 2:21, we read that God put the first human into a deep sleep and performed surgery on him.  God took something out of this person.  Traditionally this “something” has been referred to as a rib.  However the Hebrew word used here, tsalah, can refer to a “part” and not necessarily a rib.[10]  When the first human woke from his deep sleep, something of his was missing.  He was not exactly the same person as he was before the operation.  Something had been taken out of him and had become an integral part in the making of the first woman.  Genesis 2:22 says that, “The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib [part or side] which he had taken from the human.”   When the man saw the woman for the first time, he made several statements; one of these was: “she was taken out of man!” (Gen 2:23d).  The generic first human being was the source for the first male and the first female human being.  The first woman had already been a part of the first human. [More on this here.]

Equality or Heirarchy?

The creation account of Eve (2:21ff) is brief, enigmatic and, many believe, metaphorical.  The purpose of this account, however, is surely to illustrate the equality, affinity and unity of the first man and woman and their joint purpose of caring for the earth.

“The whole purpose of the Creation of Eve narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 is to emphasise the equality of husband and wife.  To read it any other way is to miss the point and distort its meaning! . . . When Adam looked at his new partner he exclaimed that she was “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone”!  A profound expression of equality.  There is no hierarchy here! But to further emphasise the point, verse 24 says that when a husband and wife join in marriage they become one flesh – a point which Jesus also highlighted (Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-7).  Men and women together are made in God’s image.  God’s ideal at creation was that the husband and wife be completely equal and rule over nature together (Genesis 1:26-28).  Complete gender equality is the Godly ideal we should be aiming for.” (From A Suitable Helper .)

Complementarians have missed the point of the Creation of Eve narrative and, instead, have they have read hierarchical authority into it.  They believe that because Adam was created first, he was to be the leader; and because Eve was made second she was to be the submissive follower and helper (2:18,20).[11]  Mary Kassian is emphatic that the creation order reveals this  hierarchical paradigm of gender roles for all men and women.  She writes:

An understanding of creation is central to a correct understanding of male and female roles, as all Biblical teaching on roles is contingent on this historic event.[12] Gender roles are rooted in the created order, and apart from this context, cannot be understood. Therefore the Genesis account of creation is the underpinning for New Testament teaching[13] on the role of women. (Kassian 1990:13)

In the latter half of chapter one of her book, Kassian describes beautifully the unity of the first man and woman.  However she also remarks on their supposed, different roles: “Adam gave loving guidance to the relationship without domineering his wife.  Eve willingly and gladly submitted to Adam’s leadership . . .” (Kassian 1990:20)  This may sound lovely – especially to those who romanticise wifely submission – but it is complete conjecture.  The Scriptures just do not say that Adam led and Eve submitted.  Genesis 2 does not even hint at either leadership or submission between the first husband and wife, instead it portrays affinity, equality and unity.

The Forbidden Fruit

Genesis 2:8ff tells us that God planted a garden full of beautiful trees and that he placed Adam in the garden, before Eve was made.  In Genesis 2:16-17, we read God’s careful warning to Adam not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Failure to obey this simple instruction will result in certain death. Despite the warning, both Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit.

Many Complementarians assume that Eve took the fruit because she was ignorant of God’s command, and that Adam had failed in his supposed “leadership task” of teaching Eve about the command.  While we know that God told Adam the command, there is no reason to assume that God did not also tell Eve at some point.  Perhaps God reiterated his warning to both Adam and Eve many times?  Eve’s reply to the serpent indicates that she did know that fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was prohibited, even if she does not state the warning precisely  (Genesis 2:16-17 cf 3:2-3).

There are many theories as to why the serpent spoke to the woman and not to the man in Genesis 3:1ff; but any attempt to answer this question must be speculative as the Scriptures do not give a reason.  However, if the man had been the evident leader, it makes more sense that the serpent would have spoken to Adam rather than Eve.  Adam’s readiness to eat the fruit that Eve gave to him suggests that there was a trusting, mutual relationship between the man and the woman and not a leader-follower relationship.

The Fall

Kassian (1990:23) states that, “The results of sin were instant. The created order had been violated”.  Yet she does not explain how Eve offering the forbidden fruit, or Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, violated the “created order”.[14]  Moreover Kassian says that, “The sin of woman and man was not that they desired knowledge, but that they misused and violated God’s created order.” (Kassian 1990:28)  This statement is a huge departure from classical theology which asserts that the first sin was disobedience to God’s command not to eat the prohibited fruit.  The command not to eat the forbidden fruit was clearly articulated by God and recorded in Genesis 2:16-17.  There is no command articulated by God and recorded in Genesis involving a “created order”.  Kassian does not explain her reasons for saying that that the first sin was violating a “created order”.  She actually makes numerous, unfounded assertions in her book without revealing her logic or reasoning behind them.

Both Adam and Eve are confronted and questioned by God about their disobedience (3:7-13,16-19).  Adam tries to shift the blame, whereas Eve gives a straightforward, honest confession.  Both Adam and Eve are punished with physical and spiritual death, and must deal with consequent curses.  Adam and Eve at this point in time still appear to be completely equal – equally culpable.

The Curse

Chapter two of Kassian’s book is cheerily entitled, “Born Cursed.”[15]  Here Kassian (1990:29) writes that, “The entrance of sin into the world changed man and woman’s relationship to God, to creation, and to her/his fellow human beings. No longer do women and men walk in harmony with God. The unity and equality present in the first relationship has disintegrated.”[16]    While this changed state of relationships is true, Jesus Christ came into the world precisely to deal with this situation.

Kassian (1990:30) acknowledges that Christ came into the world “to destroy the power of the curse” (Gen 3:16-19); however she is waiting for Christ’s second coming for the curses to be completely removed.  In the meantime she seems content to live with “the curse” and speciously claims that the only way women can be “truly liberated [is] to fulfil their God-given role” which means “adopting a biblical [i.e. hierarchical] perspective on male and female roles.”  (Kassian 1990:30)

Freedom from the Curse

When Jesus walked on earth as a human being two thousand years ago, he continually taught and demonstrated to his followers how to live as Kingdom of God people.  Jesus did not just teach and show a better, more benevolent way of living, he taught about a social and cultural revolution.  Jesus taught against the notions of hierarchy and primacy; he taught that “the first will be last”.[17]  There is no evidence whatsoever in the New Testament for the concept of primogeniture (extra rights and privileges for the first born) in New Covenant relationships or ministry.  At the heart of New Testament teaching is the message of equality of all human beings regardless of race, social status or gender, etc, a message that, on the whole, the church has resisted.

At this present time, as believers, we are already part of God’s Kingdom.  We have been re-born into a new life of freedom and mercy.  We are empowered to live out and demonstrate kingdom principles as Christ’s ambassadors.  Even though we may be hindered by the affects of “the kingdom of Satan” (Kassian 1990:30), and our efforts may be imperfect, we should not merely wait passively for the future fulfilment.  We should be living as Kingdom agents now, bringing peace, hope, justice, and unity wherever we can.  We should be trying to alleviate the pain and discrimination caused by sin.

Kassian’s Claims

Mary Kassian makes numerous claims in her book without explaining her logic or reasoning behind them.   Her strong statements regarding gender roles, which she believes hinges on male authority and female submission, actually have no definitive scriptural basis in Genesis 2:4-25.

Despite the lack of logic in her arguments, and despite the lack of valid scriptural support, Kassian is relentless in her theme, and she continues to make baseless claims throughout her book which promote Complementarian principles.  Kassian continues with her theme and begins chapter three with: “Two basic concepts are inherent in the hierarchy of the created order — authority and submission.”[18] (Kassian 1990:31)  I, however, cannot find any evidence of male authority or female submission, either stated or implied, in Genesis 2.


Endnotes

[1] People who hold to Complementarian ideology, and promote it, include Mark Driscoll, John Piper, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, Wayne Grudem, Mary Kassian and some prominent Sydney Anglicans.

[2] John Piper qualifies the category of “all men” only by the adjective “worthy”. (Piper 2006:ch1)
I am personally alarmed that some Complementarians assert that there is a divine mandate for all women to be submissive to all men.  The Greek New Testament specifies that the wife is to be submissive to her own husband, not to all men in general! (Eph 5:22, Titus 2:5 and 1 Pet 3:1.) Moreover, the New Testament ideal is mutual submission between all Christians, regardless of gender (Eph 5:21).

[3] Many theologians regard the Genesis 2 creation account to be metaphorical rather than literal; the message on gender, however, is the identical whether taken metaphorically or literally.  For the sake of the arguments, this essay will approach this account literally.

[4] Mary Kassian is the distinguished professor of Women’s Studies at Southern Baptist Seminary.

[5] Complementarians assert that the husband is to be the leader of the household/family.  As the supposed leader and authority figure in the family you would expect that it is the husband who names the children (assuming that the act of naming implies authority), and yet there are numerous Old Testament examples of women who named their children, including the wives of prominent patriarchs. (See Genesis 4.25; 19:37-38; 29:32-35; 30:4-13, 17-21, 24; 35:18; 38:4-5, 27-30; Judges 13:24; 1 Sam 1:20; 4:19-22; 2 Sam 12:24; 1 Chron 4:9; 7:16.)

[6] Kassian does not explain why she associates “identical roles” with identical (or non-identical) names and God naming Adam.

[7] To translate adam as “man” conceals the fact that adam is a generic term used frequently in the Old Testament for a human being, and not necessarily a male person.
While God had indeed called all humans adam, Adam (the first human) did name his wife.  He named her after the Fall.  When Adam first saw his wife, he simply called her ishshah (woman) corresponding to ish (man) (Genesis 2:23).  This is a designation and not a name. Later, after the Fall, he named his wife “Eve” (which means “living”) (Genesis 3:20).  The Hebrew word for “name” (shem) does not occur before Genesis 3.

[8]  It is important to note that God is neither male nor female.  He is a genderless spirit.  [My article Is God Male or Masculine? is here.]

[9] I am aware that this may sound controversial; but I believe this concept is worth thinking about.  There are several Old Testament scholars who state that the first human in Genesis 2 is portrayed as having a male and a female side, and that the female side was taken from the first human and formed into the first woman.   So the very first person may not have been really male as we understand it.
The first human, Adam, is not called ish (man) until there is a ishshah (woman).  Or as someone has said, “There is no ish (man) without ishshah (woman)“.  Egalitarians jokingly refer to the first human splitting into male and female as “Splitting the Adam”. [More on this here.]

[10] Tsalah is translated in a variety of ways in the Old Testament: side, quarter, corner, timber, plank, chamber, side chamber, leaf, rib, etc.  The NIV provides the alternate translations of “side part” and “part” in footnotes to Genesis 2:21 and 22.  The Greek word in Genesis 2:21 and 22 of the Septuagint is pleura meaning “side (of the body)”.  In Genesis 2:21-22 of the Septuagint it literally says that, God “took one of his sides . . . and God built the side which he had taken from Adam into a woman . . .”

[11] “It has been said by some that Eve was provided to help her husband, but not vice versa . . . this goes against everything we know from New Testament teaching on human relationships. (E.g. Eph 5:28-29.) Despite having no Scripture that explicitly says that Adam was also to help his wife, we can safely assume that Adam and Eve were to be of mutual benefit to each other [in fulfilling God's command to care for the earth].” (A Suitable Helper)  Moreover, the Hebrew word for helper, used in Genesis 2:18 and 20, is always and only used in the Old Testament in the context of vital and powerful assistance.

[12] The degree of importance that Complementarians place on the “created order” and the primacy of Adam does not seem to be shared by Bible authors.  The “created order” is never referred to again in the Old Testament, and only twice in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and 1 Timothy 2:13.  See footnote 14.

[13] It is possible that Paul refers to the creation order in 1 Timothy 2:13 to correct a Gnostic heresy which gave Eve primacy over Adam.  A discussion on Paul’s meaning in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 here.

Paul also alludes to the creation order in his enigmatic teaching about worship and head covering in 1 Corinthians 11:2-12.  (The considerable exegetical difficulties in this pericope have been widely acknowledged by theologians on both sides of the Women in Ministry and Biblical Equality debate.)  Paul begins this passage by writing some correct, but incomplete statements, about men and women and their origins and relationships.  He follows this up with 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 which is a more complete statement about men and women in Christ.  [More on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 here.]

[14] Complementarians assert that Eve violated “the Created Order” of male primacy and leadership, and female submission and responsiveness, by offering a piece of fruit to her husband.  If this is the case, I often violate “the Created Order” by offering fruit to my husband.

[15] There is nothing in Genesis 3 which indicates that either the man or woman, or mankind in general, was cursed.  Only the serpent and the soil was cursed.  Nevertheless, mankind now live in a world marred by sin.

[16] Kassian acknowledges that the relationship between the first man and woman was one of “unity and equality” before the fall.  (Kassian 1990:29, my underline.)

[17] See Mathew 19:30, 20:16, 25-26; Mark 9:35, 10:31,41-45; Luke 13:29-30, 14:11, 22:26; etc. [More on Jesus' teaching on leadership and community here.]

[18] Chapter three of Mary Kassian’s book is entitled, “Authority and Submission”.


Bibliography

Scripture marked (NIV) is taken from: Holy Bible, New International Version®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Scripture marked (NASB) taken from: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Kassian, Mary A., Women, Creation and the Fall, Westchester, Il: Crossway Books, 1990.  Available online at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Woman website here (accessed March-May 2010)  [N.B. This link is broken.  I aim to fix it when the CBMW site is updated.]

Mowczko, Margaret, A Suitable Helper, November 2009. (accessed April-May 2010)

Piper, John, and Grudem, Wayne (editors), Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Westchester, Il: Crossway Books, 2006.  Available online here. (Accessed March-May 2010) [N.B. This link is broken.  I aim to fix it when the CBMW site is updated.]

This article has been adapted from an assignment entitled “Refuting the Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”, submitted to the Australian College of Ministries on the 7th of May , 2010.

© 7th of May, 2010; Margaret Mowczko

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Posted October 20th, 2012 . Categories/Tags: Equality and Gender Issues, Equality in Marriage, Gender in Genesis 1-3, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

37 comments on “The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order”

  1. pinklight says:

    “There are many theories as to why the serpent spoke to the woman and not to the man in Genesis 3:1ff; but any attempt to answer this question must be speculative as the Scriptures do not give a reason.”

    If you follow the precise word usage and order of the serpent’s question and attack and compare it to the command that God gave to the human while he was alone (before Eve was created) his crafiness can be seen, since Adam was with her and she knew nothing of the command that God had given to Adam before she existed. (She did know though of the command that she said, God said).

    I get the picture that the serpent knew exactly what he was doing by asking the woman about something she had no idea about, with Adam being right there, who didn’t say a word about what the serpent was refering to. Had Adam spoke up on how the serpent was twisting the command that God gave him, Eve would not have been deceived. It was all part of his being crafty.

  2. Don Johnson says:

    I am egal.

    I do not agree that “woman” is a name, although Eve/Chavah is. There is no use of the Hebrew word “shem” (name) in Gen 2, but it is used in Gen 3.

    So what is woman/ishshah? It is an observation that she is similar but different from the man/ish.

  3. Marg says:

    Thanks for your comments pinklight and Don. I appreciate your feedback.

    Don, your comment has made me realise that endnote 8 was a little ambiguous. I have carified my thought there because I actually completely agree with you.

  4. Tom Mayne says:

    Hi Margaret
    Good to catch up with you again on Saturday. Great article. Were you aware that when Piper went to the Cape Town Lausanne Conference earlier this year he tried to get the Lausanne Committee to endorse female submission?!

    Kind Regards
    Tom

  5. Marg says:

    Hi Tom,

    No, I was not aware of that. Very strange.

    Female submission does nothing to help the spread of the gospel. In fact it hinders it in many ways. I’m glad that the other people at the Lausanne Conference could see that; even if John Piper can’t.

    See you in October! :)

  6. [...] The Genesis 2 record does not reveal any hint of male privilege, primacy or authority by virtue of man being created first (despite what some Complementarians assert to the contrary.)  Nevertheless, the man was created first and this Biblical fact needed to be explained to newly-converted Gentile Christians who may have believed pagan myths about the creation of men and women.  A faulty doctrine of the origins of mankind could have led to faulty practises and behaviours. [...]

  7. Verity3 says:

    Perhaps unity in relationship is more “the point” of the creation of Eve narrative, and equality or hierarchy are seen as necessary consequences by egalitarians and complementarians, respectively? (Though I do think when one stops reading-in hierarchy, equality emerges more clearly as the actual state depicted by Genesis before the Fall.)

  8. Marg says:

    I think unity is the main point also. The unity of the first man and woman in the Biblical creation account is especially striking when compared with creation accounts of people from pagan religions.

    I see equality in the biblical account also; and no sense of subordination of either the man or the woman.

  9. [...]  This statement by Marg at Newlife sums up this misinterpretation of the creation narrative nicely – “Complementarians have completely missed the point of the Creation of Eve narrative and instead, they have read hierarchical authority into it.” [...]

  10. Don Johnson says:

    A further comment. There is a difference between bara/create and yatsar/form. Gen 2 uses the latter when forming the human.

  11. [...] Links to the CBMW website in the article above will be fixed when the CBMW site is up to date. [...]

  12. Cynthia Meg says:

    Great article! I was literally laughing at Mary Kassian’s philosophy, so ludicrous.
    What I don’t get is why people try to read things into the text of the Bible and force it to say something it just doesn’t say. When that happens then such people are beating others over the head with the Bible.

  13. Marg says:

    Thanks Cynthia. I think many people are guilty of interpreting Bible verses in ways that make the verses agree with what they already believe, or with what they want to believe.

    I am constantly double-checking my own interpretive practises and integrity.

  14. [...] The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order” [...]

  15. Phyllis Trible addressed the creation accounts in chapter 4 of “God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.” She used rhetorical criticism, only using the Hebrew passages to interpret themselves, and demonstrates, line by line, that Gen. 2 is egalitarian. I had to read the chapter 4 times to “get it.” I think her work sheds brilliant light on this topic. With permission from her publisher, I used Trible’s work as the foundation for my chapter on the creation accounts, making her work readable for the average person. http://www.helwys.com/books/hidden_voices.html

  16. Heather says:

    Thank you again for another great article ! I always look forward to reading your articles as they have helped me sort this issue out ..

  17. Marg says:

    Thanks Heather. :)

    Heidi, I hope to get to your book when I finish this semester. Three more weeks to go.

  18. Jessica Farrish says:

    Great article!

    I’m glad you’re an egal, because the minute a complementarian woman opens her mouth, I have to admit that I tune her out.
    She has already admitted to the world that she can’t be trusted with spiritual things. Why should anyone listen to her witness after that?
    If I want to hear something about the Bible, I’ll just ask her husband.

  19. Marg says:

    Thanks Jessica. ;)

  20. [...] To say that Paul is using the creation order, of male first and female second, to assert a chain of command, is entirely missing the point of creation narrative in Genesis 2:21-24 which shows the complete equality, affinity and unity between the first man and woman.  [...]

  21. pinklight says:

    “Moreover, Genesis 1:27-28 says that both men and women were given authority over the earth, which would include the animals.”

    What’s fascinating is that Adam was never even given authority over the entire earth till Eve was with him. At the time that both were together, as recorded in Gen 1, then and only then did God give authority – to both to rule over the earth which included the animals! So when Adam named the animals, he had not yet been given authority over them. And isn’t that odd?
    His act in naming was identifying the different creatures as in, lion, elephant, tiger, not Leo, Dumbo, and Tony.

  22. Marg says:

    hahaha . . . yes there is a difference between giving someone a personal name, such as Eve (Gen 3:20) or Beer Lahai Roi (Gen 16:13-14), or giving something a “common” name or designation.

    God created people so that they could rule his creation (Gen 1:26-28) but I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say that Adam did not have authority until Eve was created.

    Moreover, I suggest in the article that the first man was not fully male. His female side was taken and became an integral part of the first woman (Gen 2:21-24), so Eve was kind of already on the scene when Adam was giving “common” names to the animals.

  23. Kate says:

    Thanks for lots of great thoughts on the created order. Especially bits about the naming, and the emphasis on equality in Gen 2. How do you respond to I Tim 2:13 where Paul specifically cites the created order for why women shouldn’t be leaders over men in the church?

    One other question. You say, and I agree: “At the heart of Jesus’ teaching was the message of equality of all human beings regardless of race, social status or gender, etc; a message that, on the whole, the church has resisted.” Jesus was radical in the way he treated and befriended women, yet he didn’t make one of them his disciple. Do you think that is significant? How would you respond to someone who used that as a case for complementarianism?

  24. Don Johnson says:

    Jesus did have women disciples, see Luke 8. What Jesus did have was 12 male apostles, but they were also Jewish, so it proves too much for those that think their maleness is important. The gospels also explain why there were 12 (free Jewish males), it was to map to the 12 tribes/patriarchs.

    In 1 Tim 2, Paul does REFER to the creation account found in what we now call Gen 2. It does not need to be seen as a justification from Scripture for a supposed restriction on all women. What it could be is a direct refutation of part of the wrong teaching that could have been along Gnostic lines, such as the woman was created first and had special knowledge. Paul is then refuting such false teaching directly by referring to Scripture.

  25. Marg says:

    Hi Kate,

    Jesus chose his Twelve Disciples before his death and resurrection and before the Holy Spirit came. He chose them while the curses of the Fall were in full operation. He chose them before the possibility of a new creation and true equality and affinity between the sexes. Jesus stated that his main ministry was to the Jews (Mat 15:24) and he chose 12 free Jewish men as a symbol to show that his ministry and New Covenant was for all Israel. When Judas died he was replaced. But after Pentecost, and when the Gentiles were included in the Church, when subsequent apostles died they were not replaced. I have written more about why the Twelve were all male here.

    As to 1 Timothy 2:13: The preposition gar (“for”) is used in all sort of contexts in the New Testament. (I’ve been meaning to compile a list of more obscure uses of gar in the New Testament. There are plenty of them.) Gar is used in variety of contexts and a simple translation of “for” does not always convey the true intent of the word. I suggest that gar introduces, not the rationale or reason for Paul’s prohibition, but his repudiation of the proto-gnostic heresy in Ephesus.

    I suggest that Paul was giving the creation order to correct a false teaching in Ephesus that Eve was created first, and that Adam was deceived. There are surviving ancient Christian Gnostic manuscripts which state this topsy turvy idea. I have written about the heresy in Ephesus as part of a series on 1 Timothy 2:12 here.

  26. Jason says:

    Hi Marg,
    In reading Ephesians 4-5 I understand the context to be ‘the church’, Paul writing to the Church in Ephesus giving them instruction on how to live as believers in Jesus Christ. Chapter 5 verse 21 seems to be at the end of a section of instruction to all believers in Ephesus, relating to their attitude and actions to their brothers and sisters in Christ. ‘Submit to one another’, which helps to eliminate pride and arrogance between fellow believers. Whereas verse 22-33 is directed specifically to a wife and her husband, then chapter 6 goes on to speak specifically to chidren and their parents, then slaves and masters. Paul specifically says wives, submit to your husbands, and husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. There does seem to be instruction that wives are to submit to their husbands. But I would suggest that likewise Paul asks husbands to submit to Christ by laying down their very lives for the good of their wife. ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’. Paul seems to be saying to the husbands ‘give up your life because that is what Christ has done for the church’. I understand that submission is not easy for anyone, but I don’t think Paul is asking wives to do something that he is not also asking the husbands to do. There is no inequality in scripture. Wives and husbands are both asked to submit, but within marriage the emphasis may be differnt – wives are to submit to their husbands and the husband is to submit to Christ. Of course wives also submit to Christ, but in this particular passage it seems that Paul is highlighting that the husband must submit to Christ by laying down his life. I am not saying that husbands don’t submit to their wives, because I don’t think verse 21 can be excluded from a marriage context. For example there are regular times when my wife is right about something and I am wrong. It would be absolute nonesense to say that I would not submit to her ‘right’ thinking just because I am her husband. Pride would encourage me to argue my point and insist I am right but that is just plain wrong! I believe husbands are charged to lead, but leadership when leadership is equated with rulership and superiority, submission is not viewed as something beautiful. I read scripture’s definition of leadership as servanthood, as being the least, as being sacrificial of one’s life. This could go on and on, so I’ll stop here. I would appreciate your comments

  27. Marg says:

    Hi Jason,

    Giving yourself up for someone sounds a lot like submission. I believe Paul is telling husbands to be submissive to their wives, but doesn’t use the word submission. Wives were used to being submissive to their husbands, so Paul speaks plainly about this (but qualifies it in relation to Christ.) Men in Greco-Roman society viewed humility and submission as undignified, so Paul used other words to make it sound more dignified for men.

    I have written about Ephesians 5:22-33 here. The word for “be submissive” is absent in the better, older Greek manuscripts of verse 22. The theme of submission carries on from the mutual submission in verse 21.
    http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-main-point-in-eph-5_22-33/

    Peter also speak about submission.
    http://newlife.id.au/bible-study-notes/1-peter-3_7-8/

    It is important to note that the husband is never called the leader of his wife in the Greek New Testament using any of the many Greek words for “leader” or “authority”. The husband is called the “head” (kephale). In English, head can mean leader, but I have yet to find an example of kephale in original untranslated Greek literature, or inscriptions or papyri, where it means leader. (There is one instance in the Shepherd of Hermas where kephale probably means leader, but the Shepherd was written by someone who was a native Greek speaker, and some believe it was not originally written in Greek.)

    I have more about the meaning of Kephale here:
    http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/
    http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-gnosticism-paul/
    http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-chiasm-in-1-corinthians-11_2-16/
    http://newlife.id.au/lsj-definitions-of-kephale/

  28. […] The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order” […]

  29. […] Genesis 1 and 2 shows that both men and women were given authority over the animals, but no man or woman is given authority over another man or women. There is no hint of any gender hierarchy among humankind before sin entered the world. There is also little evidence of a so-called “creation order” in either of the creation accounts in Genesis. […]

  30. […] Jesus’ saying, “The first will be last, and the last will be first”, which he repeated on several occasions, should put an end to the specious doctrine of “the created order”. […]

  31. […] The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order” […]

  32. […] The Complementarian Concept of “The Created Order” […]

  33. bruised reed says:

    Another excellent article! I think further support for your counter-argument against the complementarian idea that naming represents an example of exercising authority can be found in the fact that it is Eve and not Adam who names their sons (further examination shows that the names are prophetic and not just descriptive, giving weight to her legitimacy in doing this).

    • Marg says:

      I can’t find where it says that Eve named her sons. But I am aware that plenty of other Bible women named their children. See endnote 5.

      P.S. I saw that you quoted my articles on Phoebe on Christianity.Stackexchange. It made my day! Thank you.
      :D

      • bruised reed says:

        cf. Gen 4:1 & 25 – I’m no Hebrew (or Greek) scholar, I’m just going by the various english translations (and their footnotes) I can access. With regard to the Christianity.SE post, I’m glad you’re ok with that – I tried to let you know/ask for permission, but there was a problem with the reply submission – maybe because I was including a link?

      • bruised reed says:

        I missed your footnote 5 before – so many examples! (I knew there were more, but the only other one that sprung immediately to mind was Rachel’s ‘Ben-ommi’ which was not a really good example as the name didn’t stick – and rightly so). I think that section would be improved slightly if you added a sentence to refer to the practice of (biblical) women naming their children and put your footnote at the end of that sentence.

        • Marg says:

          Eve’s declaration in Genesis 4:1 sounds like a naming declaration . . . but not quite. But the one in Genesis 4:25 is quite clear; I’ll include it in my list. Thanks for that.

          It’s a good suggestion, but I’m worried that I might overload “The Act of Naming” section with too much detail if I add the mothers to it. I’ll think about it though.

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