Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Adam was created first, and this means . . .

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I was chatting with a young man yesterday and during our conversation he stated that he believes the Bible teaches “a soft patriarchy while we’re on earth.” One reason he believes in this “soft patriarchy” is because he regards primogeniture as being part of God’s pattern for society, with Adam being created before Eve as a key example of this primogeniture.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “primogeniture” can have two meanings. It can simply mean “the state of being the firstborn of the children of the same parents” with differing implications, or it can mean “an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son.” With the first definition in mind, Adam and Eve might be understood as being children of the same parent, God (Luke 3:38; cf. 1 Cor. 11:12).

Genesis 2 and 1 Timothy 2:13 (which is a summary statement of Genesis 2) tell us that Adam was created first and Eve was created second. But do these scriptures indicate that this order is significant and part of God’s design for relationships, or that there is a continuing pattern of primogeniture or priority (of man first and woman second)? Do these scriptures somehow mandate an exclusively male authority or a soft patriarchy? Do these scriptures indicate “an exclusive right of inheritance” for Adam which excluded Eve?

To link the notion of a soft patriarchy (or any kind of male-female hierarchy) to primogeniture is fraught with problems. First, after the operation recorded in Genesis 2:21-22, the first (hu)man was different than when he was first created by God. A part of him had been taken out. A part of him was now missing and had become an integral part of the woman. This transference of a significant body part from Adam to Eve makes the idea of man first, woman second, less clear cut and decisive.

Second, while the custom of primogeniture was part of ancient Israelite society (which was patriarchal), it only involved sons, not daughters. Yet, importantly, the custom was not followed in many prominent families.

Cynthia Westfall writes,

Throughout the Genesis narrative, it is clear from the beginning that someone who was born or came first did not necessarily have authority. Primogeniture among brothers was continually subverted, so Genesis cannot be used to provide an argument for male authority based on Adam being formed first. Cain was born first, but Abel received God’s favor. Esau was born first, but God chose Jacob. Reuben was born first, but the line of Christ came through Judah, and Joseph saved the family and assumed authority over them. Manasseh was Joseph’s firstborn, but Jacob placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head to say that he would become greater.”[2]

Other books of the Old Testament also show that God endowed younger brothers with a greater authority than that of their older siblings. For example, Moses had more authority than his older brother Aaron; David was the youngest son of Jesse but was chosen by God to be king of Israel; and Solomon became David’s successor despite not being David’s firstborn son. Clearly, the custom of primogeniture was not closely or universally followed by the Israelites.

Lastly, the concept of primogeniture has no place in the New Creation. Rather, Jesus taught that in his kingdom “the last are first and the first are last” (Matt. 20:16). He also taught other similarly counter-cultural and equalizing principles. (More about Matthew 20:16 and the parable of the vineyard workers here.)

The only person who can claim the right of primogeniture is Jesus himself. Westfall points out that “Jesus is the firstborn of all of us” who are in Christ (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, 18), and that this truth “relativizes relationships among his followers.”[3] In other words, there is equality among Jesus’ followers as we each, without respect to gender, are being conformed into the image of our older brother.

Primogeniture is not a dynamic which God instituted in society or that Jesus condoned.[4] Furthermore, Paul debunked the idea that men have some special position or privilege simply because Adam was created first. In 1 Corinthians 11:12, Paul taught that even though the first woman came from the first man, every other man has been born from a woman. And he stated, “But everything comes from God.” Both men and woman ultimately have God as their source. There is no gender distinction here.

Men do not have a greater level of authority nor do they have a better inheritance than their sisters. Rather, we will all share in an amazing inheritance (Eph. 1:21-22). Christian men and women are co-heirs with not the slightest sense of primogeniture.[5] We are even co-heirs with our older brother Jesus (Rom. 8:16-17)!

Meanwhile, the amazing theological truths of the New Covenant and New Creation in Christ have a direct bearing on our relationships within the community of Jesus followers. In this community, the church, there should be no place for a gender hierarchy or a patriarchy of any description.


Endnotes

[1] The Hebrew word tselah, which is traditionally translated as “rib” in Genesis 2, typically means “part” or “side”. In the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), tselah is translated into Greek as pleura which means “side”, particularly the side of the body. An English translation from the Septuagint is that God “took one of [Adam’s] sides . . . and he built the side into a woman” (Gen. 2:21-22).

[2] Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 78. Westfall quotes Richard Hess in a footnote: “The norm among the patriarchs is not primogeniture but God’s blessing on the second or third born.” “Equality with and without Innocence: Genesis 1-3,” in Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, ed. Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2004) 84.

[3] Westfall, Paul and Gender, 78.

[4] Jesus never mentions anything like a created order of man first, woman second. In the gospels he quotes from Genesis 1 where the narrative indicates that men and women were created at the same time. For instance, in Matthew 19:4, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Haven’t you read that the Creator, from the beginning, made them male and female?” Jesus also quotes from Genesis 2: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” Jesus taught about unity (i.e. oneness) in marriage, not a male priority or a hierarchy (Matt. 19:5-6).

[5] Question and answer 34 of The Westminster Shorter Catechism says that, through adoption, we “have a right to all the privileges of the Sons of God.” There is no gender distinction here.


Related Articles

The Status of Christian Women, in a Nutshell
The Complementarian Concept of the Created Order
Do women have a special obligation to be helpers?
Articles on Gender in Genesis 1-3, here.
Articles on 1 Timothy 2:13, here.
The Chiasm in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

Posted March 3rd, 2017 . Categories/Tags: 1 Timothy 2:12, Equality and Gender Issues, Gender in Genesis 1-3, , ,

Unkind, judgemental, bizarre, and off-topic comments will be deleted.

54 comments on “Adam was created first, and this means . . .

  1. Gail Wallace says:

    So thankful you are tackling these issues, Marg! I believe this work will have an enduring impact on the kingdom!

    • Marg says:

      Thanks, Gail.

      I’m glad more and more men and women are realising that the idea of male-only authority has a flimsy basis and goes against Jesus’ kingdom principles.

      It’s disturbing to think that the church has been obsessed with who has and doesn’t have authority (contra Matt. 18:1-5, etc), and has been delegating power primarily on the basis of gender rather than requirements such as character or ability. How is that a good idea???

      • Wit Brown says:

        Can I ask the author to consider that All the comparisons about being born first is related to Males. ” Cain was born first, but Abel received God’s favor. Esau was born first, but God chose Jacob,….” these are all male men.

        But if we look at Saul and his Children, the First Born was female, but it was Jonathan who was the man of Valour on the battle field. Not Merab. [ 1 Samuel 14:49]

        It is some what misleading because the idea of Male Headship is in relationship to women . Being born first is one of reasons that God and Paul used to justify why men are Heads of and NOT women, and why patriarchy is designed by God.

        Since Jesus became the ” First Born of those who Slept” and He was a Male, it was consistent with Adam being First Male and the patriarchs being male [ Colossians 1;15-21]
        Thanks.

        • Marg says:

          The point about heirs being male is clearly made in the article.

          And I agree that the idea of connecting primogeniture with Adam and Eve is weird (or misleading, as you put it), since Eve is female. Yet, it is a concept that is brought up by some complementarians and patriarchalists, like the one I spoke to the other day.

          The husband being the “head” of his wife (as per Eph. 5:23ff) is far removed from patriarchy. No one who faithfully abides by Paul’s instructions and his intent in Ephesians 5, correctly understood, is a patriarchalist.

          God did not institute patriarchy, even if he has tolerated it among his people in the past. Patriarchy is a result of sin entering the world and is not God’s ideal (Gen. 3:16d). Thankfully, Jesus came to deal with sin and its consequences. As redeemed followers of Jesus we are living in a new era, with a new life and a New Covenant, as well as a new way of being in community. And I’m very grateful for that!

          And, of course patriarchs are male. The female equivalent is matriarch, a term that applies to Deborah who was “a mother in Israel” (Judges 5:7).

  2. Credo says:

    In Jesus There are no différence between man and woman. They are the same.But noly in the mariage institutions that bible said man is the head of woman , but this dors not means man should domination woman.But is the responsabilité given to man

    • Marg says:

      What does “head” mean in French, Credo? Does it refer to a person with extra responsibility or authority?

      Unlike English, Latin, Hebrew, and German, in the original language of the New Testament (Koine Greek) “head” is not the word usually used for a leader. Rather, “head” is part of a head-body metaphor in Ephesians 5 signifying unity. Unity was what Paul wanted for Christian husbands and wives.

      Do husbands have a greater responsibility than wives? Sacrificial love is required of husbands, but this is also required of all followers of Jesus (Eph. 5:1-2). Submission is required of wives, but this is also required of everyone (Eph. 5:21). And none of this has anything to do with Adam being created first.

  3. Erik Peter Sauter says:

    Dear Marg, sorry, but I don´t see that male dominance (or as you put it ‘delegating power on the basis of gender‘) in today’s Western world any longer (possibly with the exception of the Catholic Church)…

    and again, I find you line of argumentation rather biased…

    all the examples from Genesis you listed above (citing Westfall) where primogeniture doesn’t play a role are exceptions! The norm is the principle of the first-born….

    …as you can clearly see in the narrative of Esau and Jacob… Esau, as the firstborn, is selling his right for a soup of lentils and later Rebecca and Jacob have to deliberately trick blind Isaac into blessing Jacob and not Esau…. this trick or fraud is needed to break the norm!

    that’s why, for me, your article is biased.

    with respect,

    Erik Peter Sauter from Weinstadt, Germany

    • Marg says:

      Hi Erik Peter,

      I do not write with the western church in mind. I write with the global church in mind. I have many readers from India, Pakistan, and various countries in South America. (Check the tabs at the very top of the page.)

      I fully acknowledge in the article the primogeniture was part of the culture of Bible times, even if it was subverted in key families, including Esau’s family.

      (I have removed a couple of misguided, judgemental words from your comment.)

  4. Erik Peter Sauter says:

    …and just to clarify what I meant that I don’t see that male dominance in the Western world:
    my own country, Germany, has been governed, or should I say ruled, by Angela Merkel for over 11 years (sawing off many promising male candidates of her own party over the years- a fact little noticed abroad – with the result that she is pretty lonely now…), maybe a reason why I am a little sensitive on that topic; England has a female Prime Minister, the US almost got a female president and the heads of the two most powerful financial institutions – the FED and the IWF – are again held by women – Janet Yellen and Christine Lagarde.
    I am not saying they are not doing a good job, but what I don’t like is the myth of male superiority in today’s world (of course, I am not talking of the Arab or Hindu world)
    best, Erik Peter

  5. Erik Peter Sauter says:

    …just one more thought: Westfall’s and your list of younger-born but spiritually more blessed brothers are all that: brothers, in other words m a l e s.

    • Marg says:

      We are all aware of that. It’s plain in middle section of the blog post that we are talking about brothers and sons. Not sure how I could have made it clearer.

      Furthermore, primogeniture, according to the second definition provided, refers to first born sons: “an exclusive right of inheritance belonging to the eldest son.”

      But primogeniture was not instituted by God. There were elements of Israelite society that was not according to God’s ideal (e.g., polygamy). And patriarchy is a result of the fall (Gen. 3:16d).

      Society in the community of Christians should be different. Everyone who belongs to Jesus, the “first-born son”, is a son of God, me included (Rom. 8:14-16 NKJV; Gal. 3:26-27 NKJV; Eph. 1:5 NKJV, etc). This wonderful theological truth has sociological ramifications.

  6. Erik Peter Sauter says:

    I forgot to include/repete the list: Abel, Jacob, Judah, Joseph, Moses, David and Salomo.

  7. Olivia S Butz says:

    Such a helpful reminder and rejoinder that it was the pattern of God to choose the younger brothers in the narrative of the Pentateuch.

    Amen to our status, male and female, as co-heirs with our older brother Jesus, the only one who can rightly claim primogeniture.

  8. Erik Peter Sauter says:

    Dear Marg, let me be clear, I don’t want to be impolite and I don’t want to question your struggle for equality (where necessary) and I also like your closeness to Scripture, but I have the feeling that in the article above you’re instrumentalizing a number of Bible Verses for your own means (which might be a just cause); so what I am mainly criticising is the way you use Scripture to get your desired result…

    And I don`t think that’s doing justice to Scripture; if the books of Bible (some or all?) refer to some kind of male leadership (as in 1 Cor 11:3:’ Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ (NIV), than we should realize it as such.
    If for one reason or the other we don’t think that this is fitting for today’s world, then we can come up with other concepts. For me, that’s honest and o.k.
    But I don’t think we should read our (modern) concept into the old (but valid) texts of the Bible.

    • Marg says:

      ~ There is no struggle on my part.
      ~ I address Bible verses which patriarchalists and complementarians use in their arguments. I do not bring them up “for my own means”.
      ~ I disagree with your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:3. One meaning of “head” in English and German is “leader”, but kephalē (“head”) rarely meant “leader” in first-century Koine Greek. More on this here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/
      ~ I have a masters degree (from the ancient history department of Macquarie University) with a specialisation in early Christian and Jewish studies. I strenuously avoid reading modern concepts into ancient texts, including the biblical texts.

  9. Wowsa…another fab article!

    Shared this to my FB with this preamble…

    “Yes…another really great article, and it thoroughly debunks the complementarian/patriarchal views of so much of the culture…
    Here is sumfin I have ALLUS focused in on, since I was in my early twenties (and yes, since then I have developed these ideas within myself quite a bit)…Adam was created first, yes…out of dirt…along with every other created thing…dirt.
    And Eve? SHE ALONE of all things…ALL things in creation…was created from Living Flesh.
    That SHOUTS metaphorical meaning to me!! And then she is given a name like she is given??? Yunno…not the name that Adam gives her (which sometimes seems like a breathless gasp of lust: “ish-ahhhh”)…
    no, the name that God gives her…I will let you go look it up if you don’t know it already.
    No, if ANYTHING, Adam’s being created first was simply another unfolding of creation to completion step by step…and Eve was the
    Crowning Glory to all of creation…which fits Proverbs too…
    but hey, that might scare some of the little boys…any men out there worth their salt know enough to give glad praise for the gift they were given in Woman…”

    • Marg says:

      Thanks, Charissa. And thanks for the shares on Twitter and Facebook. 😀

      Not sure about the lust thing. The Hebrew wording in Genesis 2:25 indicates a naivety and innocence, especially when compared with the word describing the snake’s intelligence and cunning in the following verse (Gen. 3:1). There’s a play on words in these two verses, as there is elsewhere in the Hebrew text of Genesis 2-3.

      Adam’s expressions in Genesis 2:23 indicate that he was thrilled with the similar nature of Eve. She was his soulmate in every sense of the word.

  10. Lyn Kidson says:

    Hi Marg, what you’ve said is so obvious if one is familiar with the Bible. But I have never seen this discussed in the comp literature. I think it just underscores the fact that certain writers and thinkers are writing with a bias at best and an agenda at worse.

    • Marg says:

      You’ve never seen primogeniture or “Adam first” discussed in complementarian literature? I’m glad you’ve been spared this. The arguments are contrived.

      I’m loving Cynthia Westfall’s book!!! Without a doubt, it’s a must-have for any looking at the Pauline letters and what they say about men and women. Though, I’m not sure it will add to your particular project at the moment. Looking forward to celebrating it’s completion. 🙂

  11. J. Christine says:

    I really wish my church believed this, or that I could find another that did in driving distance. Feeling really discouraged and low these last few years. Most in my church, (or family or older friends) just don’t want to have this conversation. I have tried only to get shot down. I don’t want to wreck the things that do work, so I’ve kept to myself for the most part. My husband is the only one I have to really talk to.

    At least I have that I guess.

    • Marg says:

      Some Christians feel threatened, even fearful, when other Christians hold to ideas they haven’t come across before, no matter how well-grounded in scripture these ideas are. I can understand why they don’t want to talk about it. But it’s very frustrating. I’m glad you can talk about this with your husband.

  12. Wit Brown says:

    Patriarchy means ” Rule of the Father”. The idea came from God as Father.Through out the Bible there is a Consistent theme of Patriarchy. Hence the Patriarchs of Old- all men.
    Hebrews ch7 spoke of the Patriarchs; if it wasn’t of God, why would God the Holy Spirit inspire the writer to record the Patriarchs.?

    I disagree that God did not institutionalized Patriarchy, for He Created Man First and He gave Man the Dominion Rule over Eve and His Creation. And God saw it was good ; because Adam did not abuse his ” Authority to Rule” the animals and Eve.

    After the fall, God allowed Adam to exercise ” authority ” again, by calling her Eve. God did not give Eve equal authority to name Adam. It was Adam alone having ultimate Dominion over animals and Eve.
    This is done for purpose and to have order. Hence the doctrine of One.

    Gen3:16 does not nullify the Headship of Adam or men. It highlights the distortion of the relationships and the hardship that will follow as a result of Eve’s desire to rule over,and Adam’s ability to reject her attempt. But from that time onward, God always call MEN and gave the Patriarchs His instructions which he was to pass onto his family.

    If sinful men abuse a system, it does not mean the system is wrong or bad. Is democracy a bad Idea? Sinful men and women abuse each other under that system as well.

    Biblical Patriarchy is not abusive, because it was meant to pattern after the Love of God the Father.
    Thanks again…

    • Marg says:

      I agree, there is a constant “theme” of patriarchy throughout the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. There are also constant themes of strife and war and hardship and unfaithfulness and idolatry. That doesn’t mean that these things are part of God’s ideal plan for his people.

      The Holy Spirit inspired the biblical authors to record plenty of stuff that wasn’t according to God’s perfect will. Most of the Old Testament is about Israel going from one disaster to another.

      Patriarchy is not necessarily abusive, but many patriarchs and rulers were abusive. David using his power and authority to have Uriah killed springs to mind. Most of Israel’s leaders had some serious flaws. So I think it is unwise to broadly use the biblical example of patriarchs as examples of godly leadership.

      Nowhere in the Bible does it say that patriarchy is God’s idea. Nowhere, in the New Testament, does it say anything like God’s will is that only men are to be “leaders” using any of the usual Greek words for “leader”.

      We have a very different view of Adam and Eve’s relationship. I see perfect compatibility, mutuality, equality and unity in Genesis 2. You see authority, even though Adam is never called a “leader” and Genesis 1:27-28 states that men and women had the same authority and the same status. Genesis 1 tells us that they both had authority over animals, and there is no mention in Genesis 1 or 2 about any person having authority of another person or people.

      There are so many statements in your comments that have no basis in scripture whatsoever, and they have nothing to do with our new life in Jesus Christ. We can have nothing more to say to each other. I won’t be approving further comments from you.

      • Erik Peter Sauter says:

        Hi Marg,

        I still have two questions: if patriarchy was not instituted by God but is a result of the fall, why does Eph 3:15 read: ‘from whom (i.e. God) all fatherhood is named…’ (I know that modern translations also use ‘family‘ instead of ‘fatherhood‘…)

        and secondly, if Jacob didn’t have 12 sons with four women (Lea, Rachel, Bilha and Silpa), there wouldn´t have been the 12 tribes of Israel, which play a big role in all of the Hebrew Bible and still at the end of times (the 144000 of Revelation 7 and 14);
        I do see the point that this polygamous constellation wasn’t easy, especially not for less-loved Lea, but it seems clear to me that God – in this case – is using polygamy for his purposes, and hardly seems to criticize it…
        by the way, the fact that Laban is giving the first-born Lea to Jacob in the wedding night (contrary to their deal) is just another proof for the importance of the first-born, in this case also applying to sisters…

        • Marg says:

          Hi Erik Peter,

          I am a Christian. A follower of Jesus. And my primary paradigm for life and living are the teachings found in the New Testament about Jesus’ Kingdom and the New Creation. The Old Testament is part of my heritage, but life is very different for those of us who have experienced redemption through Jesus and sanctification and empowerment through the Holy Spirit.

          Jacob’s sons and daughters (of whom only Dinah is mentioned, though I have little doubt he had other daughters who married their half brothers) lived before redemption and sanctification. They lived under a different covenant. Nevertheless, I maintain that even then patriarchy and primogeniture were not God’s best intention for his people.

          Genesis 1, written about a time before sin entered the world, tells us that men and women had the same status and the same authority, and this authority did not extend to having authority over people. I firmly believe that equality and harmony is the message in the creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2. This was ruined by sin. But Jesus and the Holy Spirit make equality and harmony possible again in the new creation.

          By the way patria is best translated as “family”, “nation”, or “people group”. The word is translated in Ephesians 3:15 as “family” in the NIV, ESV, NASB, KJV, HSCB, NET, NRSV, etc. The CEB has “ethnic group”. Patria is derived from the Greek word for “father” but there is a danger in allowing etymology affect our understanding of the word. Many families in the Greco-Roman world were identified by their paterfamilias, a few by their materfamilias (e.g., Lydia’s and Chloe’s household), but authority structures in Greco-Roman families are not the paradigm for Christians. “Fatherhood” is a contrived and inaccurate translation of patria.

          God is our Father, but Jesus warned his followers not to have any other father with a sense of authority in their community (Matt. 23:9). Jesus is our older brother, but primogeniture stops with him as far as relationships in the kingdom are concerned.

          I acknowledge that patriarchy was a prevalent feature in the community of God’s people in the past, but I dare not set aside Jesus’, Paul’s and John’s profound teaching about status and relationships among Jesus’ followers. These teachings have a direct bearing on our relationships right now. The obsession with authority and insistence of patriarchy is the antithesis of what Jesus taught (Matthew 18:1-5; Gal. 3:28: etc). If we want to be hearers and doers of the Word we must put Redemption and New Creation theology into practice (James 1:22-23).

          By the way, I don’t know of any Christian in western cultures and most other cultures today, who insist that their daughters marry in order of their birth. This custom, and others associated with a kind of primogeniture, has died out. And I think that is a good thing. Would you insist your children marry according to their birth order? There were many customs in Israelite and Greco-Roman society that God never mandated.

          • Erik Peter says:

            Dear Marg,

            thanks for answering so thoroughly and friendly. I do agree with almost everything you say and I don’t think people should exercise power over other people (in a negative way). And I also see and criticize that men have used their power over women negatively over many centuries – in and outside the Church – and are still doing so, especially in Muslim, Arab, Hindu but possibly also in Orthodox or Catholic cultures…

            Yesterday, I read a little bit into your outlines and interpretations of the Greek kephale (head) of 1 Cor 11 and Eph 5 (as you suggested). I found it really interesting, you and other scholars emphasize the ‘origin‘ and ‘source‘ meaning of it a lot and for you it mainly stands for ‘being connected‘ to the body (i.e. wife, church..), if I understand you correctly.

            What, for me, was missing a bit are the usual associations we combine with the word ‘head‘: observing (eyes), speaking (mouth), thinking (brain) and decision making (brain, but I think also the heart comes in here)….

            Altogether, I see where you are heading at, the new loving relationships among each other in the body of Christ, but don’t you think that, as long as we live in this (‘fallen’) world, we need some structure, authority, leadership? Like also police, army etc. (even if we don’t like them too much)…

            If I understand you correctly, you say that through the coming of Christ many human institutions like polygamy, man ruling over woman (Gen 3:16) have come to an end or at least we should be aiming at that, but aren`t women still having pain when giving birth (also in Gen 3:16), just to give a very concrete example that we are still waiting for full redemption?

            Don’t you think that till the second coming of Christ God uses structure, leadership and, in a way, authority (in and outside the Church), just as Martin Luther talked of two regiments, a spiritual and a worldly one?

            I wish you a wonderful Sunday,

            best, Erik Peter

        • Marg says:

          Hi Erik Peter,

          The associations that we today make with “head” are not necessarily the same as the associations first century people had. Surprisingly, the 2nd century AD physician Galen was one of the first to conclusively prove that the brain was the control centre of the body. Before that there were a lot of strange ideas about what the brain did and what it consisted of. There’s a discussion about what the Greeks and Romans and other ancients believed about “head” on this page. Note that Egyptians removed the brain when mummifying people in preparation for the afterlife because they regarded the organ as useless, and that biblical Hebrew doesn’t even have a word for “brain”. As you cautioned me, allow me to do the same: we mustn’t read modern concepts in ancient texts.

          The important question is. “How did Paul use “head” in Ephesians 5:22-33?” The answer is that he used it as part of a head-body metaphor. Paul never instructs husbands to lead or make decisions in Ephesians 5, rather he tells them “they should love their wives as their own bodies . . .” Love and unity is what Paul was getting at. Authority and leadership just doesn’t come into it.

          In a fallen world we do need some structure and authority, but hopefully this authority is delegated on the basis of ability and it is limited in scope. A policeman on duty can ask to see my driver’s licence, but an off-duty officer is (almost) a regular person with no special authority. The prime minister or president has the authority to make laws (with checks and balances) but he or she cannot come into my home uninvited. There is also a difference between being authorised to do a job, and having authority over another person. Jesus warned against the idea of having authority over others.

          Authority and order are needed in broader society, but in a marriage of two capable people there is simply no need for one person to always be the leader with a supposedly greater level of authority, and the other person to always be the follower with supposedly less authority. Rather, it makes good practical sense that the responsibilities of life be shared according to the individual skills, abilities, temperaments, available time, and other resources of the husband and of the wife.

          I don’t think patriarchy, polygamy, slavery, dowries, and other customs that disadvantage certain sectors of society, were ever what God wanted for his people, but he did tolerate these things. Now that sin has been dealt with by Jesus, however, there is the real potential for us to live in communities were people are treated with dignity and equity, and not like property or second-class or worse.

          We are still waiting for redemption to be fully finalised, but there is much that is accessible to Jesus’ followers now. As it happens, my first labour was completely pain-free and 6 hours long, my second labour was not pain-free but it was 4 hours. And both pregnancies and labours had minimal medical intervention. I know other women who have had pain-free easy deliveries, but we tend not to talk about it because there are so many labour horror stories, and we don’t want to make our friends feel bad.

          As agents of Jesus Christ, empowered by his Holy Spirit, we have a mission to bring his shalom. God doesn’t want us to sit on our hands but to do what we can along the lines of Luke 4:18 and to implement, where we can, his principles for society. More on this here.

          And women are very much included in this mission. Families need their gifts, but so does the church and the world.

          I think it’s important for the church to understand that “worldly” governments are not “Christian”, but we must be influencers in broader society and lead by example. Until Jesus returns as king, no “worldly” government can be truly Christian.

    • Marg says:

      Wit, Just to be clear, patriarchy is in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament books which record events and thoughts after the fall. As such, patriarchy can be described as biblical, and yet there is no biblical basis for patriarchy in the New Covenant.

      As well as patriarchy, polygamy, slavery, treating women and slaves as property, forced marriage, rape, child (or young-teen) marriage, the custom of dowries, stoning disobedient children, war, genocide, and the slaughtering animals as worship are mentioned in the Old Testament and therefore might be described as biblical.

      At least one of these things was indeed instituted by God and there are instructions regulating it.

      Other things in this list were not instituted by God. Nevertheless, he tolerated them before the New Covenant and he made laws to curb abuse and excesses. None of the things in this list, however, have a legitimate place in the community of Jesus’ followers today. None!

      Patriarchy was not instituted by God. The only time when it mentions a man ruling his wife is in God’s statement in Genesis 3:16d after the fall. This statement is in the future tense and predictive: “he will rule over you”. It doesn’t say, “he must rule over you.” Genesis 3:16d is neither a divine command or instruction.

      In Esther 1:22 there is a statement that men should rule their households. Apart from this statement, which was a royal decree of a pagan king, there is nowhere in the entire Protestant Bible where it says “every man should be ruler over his own household.”

      As followers of Jesus, we should be taking our cues for living from his teachings, and not from the fall or from pagan kings.

      The idea that patriarchy was instituted by God as his ideal for his pre-fall and post-Pentecost people is not found in the Bible.

      As you’ve said, patriarchy means the “rule of the fathers”. I don’t know of any other Bible verses, other than Genesis 3:16 and Esther 1:22, that mentions husbands or men ruling their wives or households. Importantly, these verses are not instructions or commands given to the church.

      Where are the biblical commands for a husband to rule his wife? I stand by my comment that your views on patriarchy as being instituted by God have no biblical basis.

  13. Knut AK says:

    Marg, first of all: thank you for your site! I believe with Gail Wallace that your work will have an enduring positive impact on the kingdom.

    Still, I feel again that I have to be a little critical. Most of all, I reacted to you saying that «Paul debunked the idea that men have some special position or privilege simply because Adam was created first». Actually, it isn’t that Adam was created first that Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 11, but rather that Eve was made out of a part from him. It is «woman came from man» (NRSV translation) that he sets against «man comes through woman».

    If simply being older (by however little) gives an authority, then that would set up any older person in authority over any younger, a rather drastic result. However, while Adam being created first is a clear and obvious aspect of the story in Genesis 2, it isn’t really made any point of. That Eve is made out of a part from him, is, on the other hand, emphasized in v23 when Adam talks about how she is «taken out of» him. It seems that this is significant. And the significance seems to be primarily that the two are the same kind of being, the same «flesh and bone».

    However, the expression «taken out of» could perhaps also be an allusion to how men are usually «taken out of» women. This would support Paul’s idea. Maybe we are meant to see Eve’s creation from a part of Adam as something that should be set against how it usually is women who give birth to men.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Knut AK,

      I believe 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is written as a chiasm and that the verses in the second part of the chiasm address the verses in the first part. And I believe one of the overall themes of the passage is origins, rather than hierarchies as many Christians suggest.

      Since it is about origins, it is kind of about who came first. But the significance of who came first has been misinterpreted by many Christians. Furthermore, if people associate ‘hierarchy’ with origins, then verses 11 and 12 do overturn, or debunk, those ideas.

      I completely agree that simply being older does not give anyone a greater level of authority in the kingdom or in western society today. Things are different in other societies, though, past and present.

      The whole point of the article is to show that primogeniture among Jesus’ followers has no validity in the kingdom. So, if I’m understanding you correctly, I think we are in agreement with this principle.

  14. Erik Peter says:

    Dear Marg, in the lines Knut AK is commenting, may I also ask how you interpret Vers 9 (of 1 Cor 11, which – thanks to your article – still makes me think a lot about gender relations in God’s kingdom), which says that ‘man wasn`t created for woman, but woman for man‘ (NIV)?

    And also V. 10, which talks of a ‘sign of authority’ on women’s heads.Reading more of the Pauline instructions for the young Christian churches (as part of the New Covenant), I do get the impression that authority and hierarchy does play a role in building them up.

    Isn´t it possible that total equality and absence of rank will only be achieved after Christ’s Second coming, as indicated in Gal 3, 28?

    • Marg says:

      Hi Erik Peter, I’ll work backwards through your three comments.

      (1) I agree that the total equality and the abolition of rank will be fully achieved after Jesus’ second coming. But since it is a kingdom principle, we should be applying it, or living it out, when and where we can now. We are already part of the New Creation (2 Cor. 5:16-17). We are already being led by the Spirit in order to emulate Jesus and carry on his ministry. No one says, let’s wait for Jesus to come back before we display the fruit of the Spirit, or let’s wait before we live justly and righteously. We should be developing, maturing and conforming to Jesus Christ and his ideals now.

      (2) There is a difference between being authorised to do a task or perform a certain ministry and having a permanent and pervasive authority over another person.

      In the past many husbands, male householders, and male and female slave masters (and some clergy!) had this second kind of authority which effectively creates two classes or castes of people. Instead of two or more castes, we should be one.

      Some Christians, such as John Piper, even teach that all men have authority over all women regardless of the relationship or differing levels of competence. (If you think that sounds crazy, which it is, take a look at his chapters in this book.)

      All of us have ministries and responsibilities to keep. But the authority to fulfil these roles waxes and wanes depending on the given situation. It should never involve having a permanent authority over another capable, well-behaved person.

      I think the church has really got the idea of authority wrong. I’ve written about it here.

      Also, in the Greek there is no word for “symbol” or “veil” in 1 Corinthians 11:10. Moreover, every NT verse that uses the word exousia (“authority/right/freedom”) is about the authority of the person mentioned in the verse. So verse 10 is about the woman’s own right or freedom concerning her own head. That is, she is the one who can make the decision whether to cover or uncover her head. Especially, as Paul regards a woman’s hair as a valid covering. Paul also acknowledges that the churches don’t have a universally accepted custom about head-coverings (1 Cor. 11:15-16). (Check recent English translations of 1 Corinthians 11:10.)

      (3) The statement “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9) is, of course, absolutely accurate. Sadly, these truths often have often been interpreted in ways that miss the mark by a long shot.

      The first woman was made for the first man because he was alone. The problem was solitude (Ge. 2:18). As soon as she turned up, the problem was solved. Yet some people think that all women continue to have a role of unilaterally helping men. Surely mutual and reciprocal help, regardless of gender, is better for everyone concerned. (More on this here.)

      Paul, expands on the ideas that woman was created for man, and woman came from man, in verses 11-12. In verse 11 Paul says that, rather than women unilaterally helping men, we are mutually interdependent on one another: woman is dependant on man as man is dependent on woman. In verse 12, Paul acknowledges that while the first woman came from the first man, every other man has come from a woman. He is playing down the significance of origins. (Origin–family and town of birth–played a huge part in a person’s identity in ancient times.)

      Anyway, I feel like I’m regurgitating stuff that is freely available in my articles. Click on the links in this comment if you want to know more about this stuff. Here is my article on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.

      In a nutshell: Men do not have a God-given or intrinsically greater level of authority than women, and vice versa.

  15. Erik Peter says:

    Thank you, Marg.

  16. Anna says:

    K so to all the people who can’t read their Bibles, read the KJV. First, there is a difference between “created” and “formed” similar to thinking of what you will make for dinner, and then actually making it.
    So, Genesis:
    Animals are created.
    Male and female in His image created He them, and gave them dominion.
    Adam is formed.
    Animals are formed.
    Eve is formed.

    So if we are basing this off of “who’s created first gets dominion” that’s off (animals, remember?) and if it’s the same with formed, that’s off too because animals were formed before Eve but she is still given dominion over them.
    Fixed it for you. 🙂

    I read these kind of blogs and articles all the time. They give me hope, and then I’ll scroll through the comments and oh, look! The first male to comment is arguing against the article!

    Marg, I like your blog, thank you.

    P.s. the word in the Bible for “head” is the Greek word “kephale” is does not mean chief or ruler. More like physical head or the first one into battle, or cornerstone.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Anna,

      Yep, kephalē (“head”) rarely, if ever, meant “chief” or “ruler” in first-century Greek. (I’ve written about this here.)

      In Genesis 1, the Hebrew verb for “create” is bara (“create”, “shape” or “form”). This word occurs in Genesis 1:1, 1:21, and three times in 1:27.

      Bara also occurs in Genesis 2:3 and 2:4a, in Genesis 5:1 and twice in 5:2, and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible.

      The second creation account, beginning at Genesis 2:4 (or 2:4b), was written by a different author (or authors) to that of the first creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3 (or 1:1-2:4a). This is evident in how God is consistently referred to as Elohim = “God” in the first account, compared with YHWH Elohim = “LORD God” in the second account. (I think the CEB may be correct to start a new paragraph for the second creation account midway through Genesis 2:4).

      In the second creation account, the verb yatsar (“form” or “fashion”) is used for the creation or “formation” of the first human (Gen. 2:7, 8), and for the creation or “formation” of the animals who are not mentioned until Genesis 2:19.

      The verb banah (“construct” or “build”) is used for the creation or “construction” of the first woman (Gen. 2:22).

      The verb asah (“make” or “accomplish”) is also used many times in both creation accounts (Gen. 1:7, 1:11, 1:12, 1:16, 1:25, 1:26, 1:31; 2:2 (twice), 2:3, 2:4, 2:18, 3:1, 3:7, 3:13, 3:14, 3:21; cf. 5:1, 6:6, 9:6).

      Regardless of the precise meaning of the four different verbs–and I acknowledge there are different nuances between them–the understanding is that God created man and woman, animals, and everything else. So, for the sake of simplicity, I’ve gone with the English verb “created” in the article.

      Please don’t get too disappointed by the comments. 🙂

  17. Steven Mcdaniel says:

    Ephesians 5:22 – Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord

    Ephesians 5:25 – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

    1 Timothy 3:4 ESV
    He must manage his own household well, with all dignity
    keeping his children submissive,

    Colossians 3:18 ESV Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

    1 Peter 3:7 ESV Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.

    As you can see there is a role. There is a place. And what I’m saying is say if more me loved there wives the way Christ lived the church then this wouldn’t be an issue. My wife submits to me… not in the way submission has been thought of in the past 100 or so years… but she recognizes me as the leader, the head of the house hold, because I love her to the fullest everyday. I work hard pay bills and treat her to things unexpectedly. We go out, we laugh and joke and love each other. This is the relationship that Christ has to us. I have that relationship with him anyway… but I know he is the head and the ruler over me and my house. These verses fall away when the man doesn’t love or treat his wife the way the Bible tells us to.

    • Marg says:

      Hi Steven,

      I’m not sure we see things in exactly the same way. And I can’t see a direct connection between your comment, or your choice of Bible verses, and the topic of this page. (1 Tim. 3:4 about elders seems totally off-topic.) But here are a few responses from me.

      When the New Testament was written there were many roles and many “places” in the Christian community (i.e. the church). Thankfully, being a slave and being a master (male or female) are no longer valid roles in many communities today.

      Today there are also many roles and many places for Christian men and women in the Christian community.

      I appreciate that love is the key to Christian relationships, whether we are married or not (John 13:34-35). And love has no interest in connecting power or authority with who was created or born first (to get back to the topic of this page). Furthermore, Jesus warned his disciples not to be like the pagan gentiles who exercised power over others (Matt. 20:25).

      In the New Testament, submission from wives is tied to the love of husbands. In pagan texts, it was tied to the power of husbands. This is a big difference. Unfortunately too many Christian husbands and wives misunderstand Paul’s meaning of “head” in Ephesians 5:23, and they see the husband as having a greater level of power and authority than the wife. This is not what Jesus or Paul or Peter wanted in marriage or in the church.

      Some Christians seem to forget that we are all called to submit to one another and love one another like Christ loves us (Eph. 5:1-2, 21).

      • Steven Mcdaniel says:

        I am sorry you feel
        This way. This is most certainly incorrect. Or you take my meaning wrong. You compare pagen religion to Paul’s comments and this is completely out of context. There is a role for a man that differs from a women or God would not of called eve his helper. I pray you can understand this.

        • Marg says:

          I don’t think I misunderstood you. I was adding my own comments. Not all of my remarks were a direct response to your comment. (None of your comments are related to the article on this page which is about primogeniture and Adam being created first.)

          Allow me to explain my comment about pagan attitudes. Paul was writing to Christians surrounded by pagans. Many Christians had been converted from paganism. In the broader context of the Greco-Roman world, wives were told to submit to husbands because wives were inferior and subordinate to their husbands who were seen as being superior and powerful.

          It is in this context that Paul writes that wives are to submit to their own husbands, but rather than having a power over their wives, husbands are to sacrificially love their wives as Christ who “gave himself up” for the church he loved. This is the new revolutionary teaching that Paul brought. Furthermore, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. There is no hierarchy or language of authority here, but oneness.

          There is no “leadership” language in the instructions to husbands in Ephesians 5:21-33. Rather the husband is to love and nurture his wife, and recognise the unity that he should have with his wife. Paul uses “head” and “body” language to explain this unity. “Leader” was one common meaning of kephalē (the Greek word for “head”) in the middle ages, but not in the first century. This is an unfortunate misunderstanding of too many Christians.

  18. Steven Mcdaniel says:

    We are all equal in the eyes of God of course. There will be no difference in inheritance this is most certain. There are kings and queens, princes and princesses, male and female. I will agree hat reall godly men are few and far between and this may altar your view of authority of males in the house hold and church and community. I understand this. But scripture is clear. We must remember we must not twist scripture to fit what it is we see in the world. Mean and cruel and unmerciful men do not fit in the discription so they have no place of authority. I truly hope this is revealed to you.

    • Marg says:

      Steven, I am surrounded by godly men who I love and respect. I do not think godly men are few and far between at all. I’m sorry that you think otherwise. You are speaking about your own experiences and observations, not mine. And they have nothing to do with what the New Testament says relationships. Jesus and Paul don’t assume the worst about men, and neither do I.

      I’m also sorry that you think the Bible is clear about male authority. The Bible never says that only men can be leaders in the church. Rather, the New Testament shows that women were house church leaders and teachers and missionaries, etc.

      And nothing in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, in the Greek, necessarily rules out women, including 1 Timothy 3:4. I have written about 1 Timothy 2:4 here.

      I do not accuse you of twisting the scriptures to get at your interpretation. I would appreciate the same courtesy and grace. I think we may have to agree to disagree on the issue of “male authority”. The scriptures do not indicate that a male-only authority is God’s ideal in the community of his New Covenant people or in Christian marriage.

      Anyway, I recognise that you are a godly, kind man, and I wish you well.

    • Marg says:

      Steven, I read your personal message to me. I appreciate your concern, but you have completely misjudged me. You’ve misjudged my ability, my intention, and my history or personal experience. This is unfortunate and unwarranted. My views on our new life in Jesus Christ are based on a careful reading of the New Testament in the original language, with an eye on the culture and dynamics of the Greco-Roman world, and nothing more.

      It is unwise to read other peoples’ words and insert your own thoughts into these words, thoughts that simply are not there in the text. I know you are a good guy, but you are reading your own thoughts and ideas and presupposition into my words, and you are jumping to wrong conclusions.

      I respectfully suggest you may be reading your own thoughts and ideas into New Testament passages, ideas that differ from the original and best intention of Jesus and Paul. Perhaps these are ideas you’ve heard in church, or they may be your own genuine interpretations.

      Anyway, if it makes you feel better, I assure you that I am submissive to my own husband and I am respectful to people who have a job with some kind of authority. You really don’t know me.

  19. Anna says:

    It always comes back to the creation order. However, we aren’t told that Adam was given authority over Eve, or that being formed first symbolizes dominion. I think the part in 1 Timothy about Adam being formed first was because supposedly there were rumors in Ephesians that woman had been formed first and was therefore superior.
    I’ve been studying and learning a lot on these subjects recently. Unfortunately, people are stubborn, and they want to believe what they always have.
    If I argue that women can and should teach, I’m (rudely) reminded that “man is the head of woman” either because that’s how God wanted it (demonstrated by making Adam first) or because Eve blew her shot at equality when she listened to the serpent. I’m told that men are naturally more capable of leading, that all the other examples of women leading in modern times or the Bible are exceptions and only happened because no men were willing. Oh, and my favorite: women should nurture and run the children’s Sunday school.
    I’ve been called blind, rebellious, a feminist and been told that I need to repent. It surprised me at first because I make sure I’m not being condescending to people or when I try to get my points across.
    And this hurts men too! If a man argues for women preaching people think his wife is leading him around by the nose, he’s emasculated. And if a women does the same she’s labeled a Jezebel spirit.

  20. Steven Mcdaniel says:

    Oh my…

  21. Steven Mcdaniel says:

    Seems like you misunderstand. No one try’s to demean you? Or belittle or down play or make you feel like there is only a place for you only under a man. I am fully aware there are women of courage in the Bible. Women who saved nations. But if you want to get twist scripture and make it seem like there is no role, no gender based role then give 1 Timothy 2:8-15 a read or two. Then tell us again about the gospel of the Egyptians.

    • Marg says:

      Telling someone they are twisting scripture is belittling them and their abilities.

      Here’s some information about the Gospel of the Egyptians (the Greek one, not the Syriac one):

      “Despite the paucity of the extant fragments, the theology of the Gospel of the Egyptians is clear: each fragment endorses sexual asceticism as the means of breaking the lethal cycle of birth and of overcoming the alleged sinful differences between male and female, enabling all persons to return to what was understood to be their primordial and androgynous state. This theology is reflected in speculative interpretations of the Genesis accounts of the Creation and the Fall (Gen. 1:27; 2:16-17, 24; 3:21), according to which the unity of the first man was disrupted by the creation of woman and sexual division. Salvation was thus thought to be the recapitulation of Adam and Eve’s primordial state, the removal of the body and the reunion of the sexes.”
      Ron Cameron, ed., The Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospel Texts (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press 1982) 49.

      More about this “gospel”, and it’s relevance to 1 Timothy 2, here: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

      “Give 1 Timothy 2:8-15 a read or two”? Not only have I read this passage countless times, I have written about it many times:
      http://newlife.id.au/category/equality-and-gender-issues/1-timothy-212/

    • Marg says:

      Allow me to repeat myself:

      “I do not accuse you of twisting the scriptures to get at your interpretation. I would appreciate the same courtesy and grace. I think we may have to agree to disagree on the issue of “male authority”. The scriptures do not indicate that a male-only authority is God’s ideal in the community of his New Covenant people or in Christian marriage.”

    • K. Martin says:

      @ Steven McDaniel

      I read 1 Tim 2:9-15 a number of times, and I am still dumbfounded when comps aka patriarchy supporters cite it in an effort to support their gender role proganda. MOST of the characteristics listed 1 Tim 2:9-15 are unisex; they apply to both men and women: doing good deeds, being quiet, being submissive, being faithful, loving others and walking in holiness. None of these characteristics are gender roles. They are simply part of a Christian lifestyle.

      Verse 10. Good deeds – Doing good deeds certainly isn’t a gender role. Christian men & women are created in Christ to do good deeds (Eph 2:10).

      Verse 11. Submission isn’t just for women. Men are also instructed to submit to God and earthly authorities. Husbands should also obey their wives when necessary, and there are verses to support that. After all, God told Abraham to obey Sarah in Gen 21:12.

      Verse 12. Be quiet – Ecclesiastes and Proverbs both teach the benefits of being quiet (Ec 3:1, Ec 9:17, Pr 13:3, Pr 21:23). Christian men and women are instructed to lead QUITE lives (1 Tim 2:2, 1 The 4:11). Being quite isn’t a gender role. Being quite is part of the Christian lifestyle.

      Verse 14. Eve was deceived in the garden, but that doesn’t mean that women are more easily deceived than men. Throughout history and around the world, countless men have been deceived. For example, the Middle East is full of deceived men (idolaters) who mislead their wives and kids away from the 1 true God and into idolatry.

      At one time WE too were foolish, disobedient, DECEIVED and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

      According to Titus 3:3, WE
      HAVE ALL BEEN DECEIVED AT SOME POINT IN OUR LIVES. Being deceived has absolutely nothing to do with gender and everything to do with mankind’s weak and sinful nature.

      Verse 15. Childbearing is really the only thing in this passage (1 Tim 2:9-15) that applies solely to women because men can’t bear children. A woman’s salvation is not contingent upon her ability to bear children. That would contradict the consistent message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ and not by works (Eph 2:8-9).

      Verse 15. Continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety – These virtues are not gender roles. They are part of a Christian lifestyle.

      Comps aka patriarchy supporters like to cite 1 Tim 2:9-15 as a model for women, however MOST of the characteristics listed in that passage are unisex: doing good deeds, being quiet, being submissive, being faithful, loving others and walking in holiness.

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