Menu Home

Gender in Genesis 1-2

Here are some thoughts I wrote during Old Testament last semester, which have formed the basis for some of my thinking about gender.

Equality in creation ordinances: Genesis 1:26-28

Genesis 1 has a bold message of human equality.  Genesis 1:26-28 establishes the essential oneness of humankind through the ‘image of God’.*  Whatever the ‘image of God’ refers to, its use here concerns the unity of humankind. Male and female are presented corporately as humankind.  God creates ‘man’ but ordains rule for ‘them’; God creates ‘man’ but makes ‘them’ male and female.  Image-bearing is conferred on male and female together.  Humankind’s twin tasks of filling the Earth and subduing it are likewise given to humankind as a whole.  In this, the image of God is connected with humankind rather than sexually differentiated individuals.  In this case, the reference to ‘male and female’ is mainly connected with the commission to ‘be fruitful and increase in number’ rather than the image of God.

Genesis 1:26-28 therefore teaches that the identity of both male and female is founded in God, defined corporately in their God-given humanity.  There is a striking contrast here with other Ancient Near Eastern accounts of divine image, which concern only the king rather than the royal couple.  Genesis emphatically democratises the divine image to include both male and female together and, by extension, the whole of humankind.  If there is any wider significance to be found in the sexual differentiation mentioned in Genesis 1:27, it does not come from Genesis 1 itself.

Complementarity in creation sequences: Genesis 2:4-24

In the second creation text, Genesis adds to and nuances its message of human equality.  The respective creations of the man and the woman point to a relational complementarity alongside the equality of male and female.  What develops is a picture of equality in complementarity.

God first forms the man out of the earth and breathes life into him, grounding the man in the earthly realm yet distinguishing him from the earth creatures (2:7).  God then places the man in the bountiful garden and commissions him to take care of it (2:8-15).  Along with this, God provides many trees for the man (2:16) and prohibits one of them (2:17).  This creational sequence involves three key features, raising three questions for us:

  • God creates the man and the woman each at a different moment and in a different manner. Why are the man and the woman not created at the same moment and in the same manner?
  • Before the creation of the woman, God’s commission for work in the garden is addressed to the man alone (2:8, 15). Why are both the man and the woman not present together?
  • Before the creation of the woman, God’s provision and prohibition of the trees is addressed to the man alone (2:16-17). Why are both the man and the woman not present together?

This is pertinent because nothing in the text is random or haphazard.  Every aspect of the text is an essential communication in the narrative.  With the differences between male and female emerging here, there’s no sense of complete male-female sameness.  There is some kind of difference within human equality.  Without spelling out what this looks like for relationships in general, Genesis 2:4-24 appears to present the man as primarily responsible for both the undertaking of God’s garden commission and the obedience to God’s tree prohibition.  But where does this leave the woman?

A ‘helper’ is required for the man (2:18).  Despite the beauty and complete sustenance provided by the garden, despite even the presence of God, the man is ‘alone’, which God declares ‘not good’.  The sole man is both relationally and functionally incomplete.  The man’s uniqueness is not right.  And the man’s ‘helper’ must be a very specific kind: one suitable for or rather corresponding to him (2:18).  This is hugely significant: this helper is the man’s equal complement, his counterpart and match, not his twin, not his subordinate.  ‘Helper’ itself ultimately carries no personal evaluation, no sense of lesser value; besides, the term is used of God elsewhere (eg, Ex 18:4).  The woman’s construction out of the man’s rib, or rather side, emphasises her oneness with the man (2:21).  In contrast to the animals, she is his equal partner, which he immediately celebrates (2:23).

Therefore, while men and women are each equally human, humanity is incomplete without both.  Men and women each have their nature and purpose integrated with the other’s.  Men require women and women require men; there is nothing superfluous about either.  Together, they are to be co-workers in creating human community in an outworking of God’s commission.

Equality in complementarity

The initial creation of the man points to his equality with and complementarity to the woman. Likewise, the creation of the woman inheres both equality and complementarity in their relationship.  Although the narrative does not detail the ways in which the roles of men and women are to be complementary, it is clear that they are to be so.  Men and women interrelate like matching jigsaw pieces rather than carbon copies of one another.  In this way, the opening of the Bible presents us with a magnificent vision of working together in the pursuit of human community under God.

– – – –

* There has been a wide variety of views about the meaning of the ‘image of God’, but I reckon the best explanation is that it encompasses the whole human person, in which function, relationships and personage are all intertwined.

Categories: Woman Written by Arthur

Tagged as:

Arthur Davis

Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

42 replies

  1. “Every aspect of the text is an essential communication in the narrative.” While I agree with that sentence for some it’s a controversial claim.

    A good analysis of the text. I liked that you mentioned but didn’t make a big deal of this: “There is a striking contrast here with other Ancient Near Eastern accounts of divine image, which concern only the king rather than the royal couple.”

  2. Hey Arthur,

    A question (genuine!):

    – “Genesis 2:4-24 appears to present the man as primarily responsible…”
    – “Although the narrative does not detail the ways in which the roles of men and women are to be complementary, it is clear that they are to be so.”

    Do you have an extended paper where you argue these views and set out your rationale for them? I’d be interested in understanding your exegetical reasons for reaching these conclusions, which I presume have been left out of the above for brevity.

  3. Cheers Sam.
    This is the stripped down version of an essay, but the rationale is all here. In trying to make sense of the text, it is those 3 questions that point me to complementarity. If the narrative is essentially about male-female sameness, these features are confusing to say the least.

    I did find some other adequate explanations of these features, but these were feminist readings that saw God and Adam as patriarchally oppressing Eve from day one.

    The idea of the man’s responsibility is a secondary point here. I think Gen 1-2 leaves us with equality in complementarity, which it doesn’t really map out.

  4. Thanks mate. Maybe I should clarify: Reading between the lines of the language you used and knowing your position, when you say “complementarity”, I presume you actually mean “complementary gender roles”, rather than merely “physical complementarity”?

    I ask because I’m in agreement with equality & complementarity, as are most non-radical egalitarians, but I suspect you intend non-physical gender-role theology via your use of the terms? (ie. CBMW/Equal But Different).

    Re: my questions, basically I’m trying to flesh out the premises which lead from your questions to your conclusions which I can’t quite figure out.

    I’m *guessing* your logic is along the lines of:
    1. God put the man in the garden to work it before the woman was created.
    2. God gave the man the initial prohibition regarding the trees.
    3. This temporal precedence indicates that God has given the man some special responsibilites which the woman does not have.
    4. Therefore, the man must be “primarily responsible for both the undertaking of God’s garden commission and the obedience to God’s tree prohibition”.

    Do correct me if I’ve guessed #3 incorrectly. Assuming I haven’t, it seems that you’re arguing from the chronological order of creation and the sequence of communication — a variation on the “First created is Foremost” view (though I recognise you would probably not want to employ the language of “foremost”).

    Is that a fair summary? If not, how you would put it? How do you get from #2-4 in the list above?

  5. Hi Sam,

    Why would the “chronological order of creation and the sequence of communication — a variation on the “First created is Foremost” view” be problematic?

  6. @Luke: I’d argue it would be problematic because that idea (first-created as foremost) isn’t in the text — that is, one can pre-suppose the view and find some possible evidence to support it, but the text doesn’t offer explicit evidence for it.

    (Dragging in 1Tim 2 or 1Cor 11 at this point is obviously a separate exegetical discussion).

  7. Good article Arthur. I don’t think that ‘man’ in 1.27a,b is a collective noun (‘humankind’) but I’m sure you had good reason to argue that in your essay.

    Some thoughts on the discussion that has developed:

    The point seems to be that (in gen 2) before Eve is made Adam is able to do all that God intended for him except “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen 1.28). For that he needs Eve. Hence his aloneness is “not good” – it doesn’t conform with God’s purposes for creation.

    Therefore I don’t think that dishing out roles is really on view (as Arthur has said). Instead the aim is to show what is possible (or rather not possible) for man without woman.

    Also, I think that temporal precedence of commands is less relevant than Eve being given to Adam by God. I take it that if God entrusts something to you he intends you to love/care for/seek the welfare of that thing given. That would include a responsibility to ensure she doesn’t put herself in harm’s way …say by rebelling against her creator.

    Some might say that’s a bit paternalistic, but i think it is a necessary outworking of loving your neighbour.

  8. @Reuben: I don’t think I’ve heard such a view before. Do you get the idea of “given” or “entrusted” all from v22 in Gen 2?

  9. @Sam
    I don’t think Gen 1-2 explains gender roles. That’s not to say it has nothing to tell about gender roles (which is why I hinted at “responsibility”), but this is not the text’s primary focus. The fact is, there is some kind of creation sequence/order on view. I’m much less concerned about what this sequence/order might mean than that there is a sequence/order to account for. There is difference between the man and the woman. While the text doesn’t map out what this means, the point is equality in complementarity, which involves male-female difference.

    Now, is this difference purely physical? Gen 1-2 presents human persons in a robust, holistic way, without any dichotomy between physical and personal. So I’m speaking of complementarity involving every aspect of human personage. I’m not sure what other kind of complementarity could be on view, because at no point does the text separate the bodily from the personal.
    For example, I take it that:
    – When the man is ‘alone’, he is not just physically alone (as if he only needs physical partnership).
    – The man’s ‘helper’ is not merely a physical complement (as if the only ‘help’ the woman provides is offspring).
    – The woman ‘corresponds to’ the man in every aspect of her person. The distinctiveness of the woman is not reducible to her uterus.

    Let me know what you reckon. :)

  10. Hi Sam,

    I can’t let you get away with saying “it would be problematic because that idea (first-created as foremost) isn’t in the text”

    I don’t mean to be combative Sam, but how is Adam not given created first and given priority in the Genesis chapter 2?

    2:7 “God formed the man of dust from the ground”
    2:16 “God commanded the man”
    2:20 “The man gave names”
    2:22 “from the man he made”
    2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother”

    (esv)

  11. Thanks guys.

    @Arthur: I know you were trying to avoid roles but I think your language talks about the concept without using the word.

    (For clarity, I’ll contrast physical complementarity with psychological complementarity below, happy for better terms to be suggested).

    On your points: I’d agree that aloneness is not merely “needs a second set of arms+legs to help”.

    But, your citing of “helper” and “corresponding to” as supporting some form of psychological complementarity seems to be stretching it. Yes, that wouldn’t be an impossible interpretation, but again I’m not sure that’s the point of the text, or that it explicitly suggests such a notion.

    @Luke: My language was unduly provocative. Apologies. Obviously the man is created first: the question is whether or not this means that he is given special rights, responsibilities or roles. In response to your proof-texts, respectfully, I would simply say “And?”. None of those verses explicitly offer any support for your case. As I’ve tried to illustrate by fleshing out Arthur’s logic above, you need to add additional premises and conclusions (which have to be argued) to reach your conclusion.

    Can I point you both, Arthur & Luke, toward Martin Shields (Sydney bloke) MTh paper on “Man & Woman in Genesis 1-3”. He specifically goes through many of these points in detail with a view to addressing the various claims made by complementarians and egalitarians alike, which covers much of what you’re raising here.

    I’ve summarized some portions of his paper here: http://bit.ly/8gRyb and here: http://bit.ly/I7vuU. I’ve mentioned it before to Tamie, so I don’t want to be harping on about it — but I’m convinced his paper is a very valuable contribution to this discussion.

    Cheers,
    Sam.

  12. @Sam C – yeah…that would do it! I could say more but don’t want to hijack the thread

    Just quickly:

    The idea feeds into my understanding of the general principle that authority (over the earth, over subjects in a kingdom or whatever) is given in proportion to responsibility. i.e. authority enables responsibility to be effectively executed.

  13. Hi everyone

    Reuben, I was just wondering if you could explain your comment about the woman being needed to ‘be fruitful and increase in number’. Arthur’s suggesting that she’s more than just a baby making / raising machine. Do you agree?

  14. Hi Tamie,

    For sure! But bearing children is a hugely significant contribution that she brings to humanity in the thought of Gen 2!

    I was pointing out that the woman functions initially in the narrative to provide resolution to the reader’s question ‘how will the man multiply and fill the earth?’ (raised in Gen 1.28 and reintroduced by alerting us to adam’s aloneness in 2.18). The reader will of course be aware that this is impossible without her!

    Here’s how I get there:
    I take it ‘alone’ does not speak of adam’s loneliness. Read with ‘not good’ it tells us that if Adam were to stay alone creation would not conform to God’s purposes (i’m understanding ‘good’ in that same way it is used in Gen 1 not as desirable or something like that, but complete and in conformity with God’s purposes).

    So to make things ‘good’ the woman is made. She is introduced as the one who completes humanity.

    Adam makes it immediately clear though that she is more than a baby maker to him: ‘you are flesh of my flesh’…etc. (2.23). He’s clearly into her! …and not (in Arthur’s words) just her uterus.

    Does that clarify? answer?

  15. No worries Sam,

    Unsupported Claim:
    You haven’t provide any evidence for why this view is wrong:
    “First created is Foremost”

    I think the “prooftexts” (Jesus used them by the way) show without a doubt Adam chronologically proceeded Eve. It’s up to the Egalitarian camp to explain why this chronology actually means equality instead of a complimentary relationship of unequal power. Chronology = leadership by the way is well established argument. God of course often subverts it in teh OT by allowing the younger brother to triumph. In fact that’s where some Egalitarian arguments might make a good Scriptural starting point.

    Using other parts Scripture is a great idea:
    Furthermore we never read Scripture in isolation so 1Tim 2 or 1Cor 11 & 14 are of great help in explaining Genesis 2-3.

    Martin Shield:
    Regarding Martin Shield’s paper, of which I’ve only looked at your quotes. This put me off immediately:
    “first, an examination of ancient Near Eastern creation stories to determine whether any patterns exist in their treatment of male-female relationships which might guide us in our interpretation of Genesis 1—3”
    Why do we need to examine ancient Near Eastern creation stories to understand Scripture, when Scripture is sufficient for faith and godly living? (2 Tim 3:14-17)

  16. Hi Reuben

    It kind of answers the question but I still feel like I need more clarification if that’s OK. I’m not sure that I can see how the pieces of the narrative are holding together in what you’ve said.

    It sounds like you’re saying that the reason for the woman’s being is to bring the possibility of children i.e. that the reason she’s created *is* to be a baby-maker.

    But then Adam decides he likes her as well. You sound like her “flesh of fleshness” to Adam is kind of incidental.

    I might be playing with words here but for some reason the nuance seems important: Is her creation (and hence all women’s creation) primarily for baby-making, with partnership being one of the perks? Or is she created as partner to Adam, one aspect of which is baby-making?

  17. @Luke: Hi, hope you don’t mind me jumping into your conversation.

    I am sympathetic to your concern about scripture being sufficient for faith and godly living. But are you saying that nothing except for the words in the canonical books are permissible for understanding the faith proposed? I think that might be a hard case to make!

    Even at the level of language we are reliant on extra biblical sources – texts in cognate languages, or other texts in the same language to establish the meaning of words. It’s just a necessity of living so far after the fact and so long after a culture has died out.

    Some people want to limit extra biblical help to this level of philology/language study. However I don’t see why same principle shouldn’t be applied at higher levels of meaning – such as social conventions or literary forms. In this case i would have thought that other ANE sources are going to be potentially helpful.

    My big proviso (the ‘potentially’ but) with this approach is that other sources shouldn’t be used to make the biblical text say something that it clearly does not!
    I guess i’m saying authority finally rests with the scriptures, but we can find help in understanding those words from outside it.

    What do you reckon?

  18. Hi Sam
    I feel we’re talking past each other. :) I wish I hadn’t mentioned “responsibility” because it seems to have got you rather preoccupied! :) It’s also worth noting that Luke and Reuben are each making rather different points to what I’m getting at.

    I don’t think Martin’s paper (which looks great) is especially relevant here; I more or less agree with every single one of his points. I would hope you might have got wind of that from my original post, where I didn’t mention things like primogeniture precisely because I don’t think they’re arguments worth making. I’m not trying to prop up authority or hierarchy; I don’t see them on view in Gen 1-2. I’m keen to deal with the text rather than align myself with some camp or other.

    I think complementarity is the first thing for us to work out. I’m not talking about psychological complementarity, as if the text tries to narrow things down to that. I’m talking about holistic complementarity (although I don’t think the text really spells out what this is). Why/how would the text be concerned with anything otherwise?

    I’m really keen to hear how you make sense of the narrative. :)

  19. @tamie – sorry i need to give a short response. i’m getting too distracted (need to be learning hebrew!!)

    No, I what I said is that she completes humanity. One outworking of this in Gen 2 is that with her it is possible for humanity to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it”

    The reason she is created is to complete humanity thus making things ‘good’. She is primarily the completer (compliment?) and everything else flows from that.

  20. Hi Reuben,

    If we were to take a fragment of scripture, or even a single word, we’d need extra-biblical evidence to explain what it meant, however as the word becomes a sentence which becomes a passage which becomes a book which becomes a cannon it progressively exerts “gravity” over all it’s parts. So even if you had extra-biblical evidence that pointed one way, the collective whole of Scripture is more authoritative, more powerful then any single bit of extra-biblical evidence.

    Let’s road test this on the Lord of the Rings.”Goblin” Extra-Tolkein studies would suggest a variety of meanings. As the single-word quote stands that would be acceptable, however taken as part of the Tolkein cannon and based on the interpretation passed down since JRR Tolkein we interpret “goblin” in one specific way and no other.

    This is the strength and beauty of the Historical Church. The Holy Spirit has through history allowed truth to continue in a steady, consistent, growing and controlling stream of interpretation. So the long and short is: extra-biblical info good as long as it doesn’t contradict the whole or change the parts that lead to a challenge of the whole.

  21. @Arthur – I thought i was making pretty much the same point! The only difference i can see is that in the narrative woman completes man and not the other way round.

    so if anything I’d word the first sentence of your last paragraph differently:
    “The creation of the woman points to her equality with and complementarity to the man.”

  22. @Luke: I think I’ve been unclear on two points:

    Firstly, I completely agree that there is chronological precedence. What I’m disputing is your *interpretation* of the *meaning* associated with this chronological precedence.

    Secondly, I absolutely agree that Scripture must interpret Scripture, and that we must take into account ALL of it, especially 1Tim2 & 1Cor. However, the initial exegetical discussion should focus on understanding Gen 1-3 in it’s context. Only then should we consider the NT passages.

    To quote from one of my blog posts: To assess whether or not Paul is *actually* using Genesis in the way that complementarians think he is (in 1Tim 2 and 1Cor 11), we must first gain a clear understanding of what Genesis 1-3 does and doesn’t say. Because if an interpretation is suggested for the Pauline passages in the NT which requires a very unlikely reading of Genesis 1-3, then we should suspect that the interpretation of Paul is incorrect.

    Now, on the passage — can I suggest that you haven’t shown any evidence why first created IS foremost! If you want to suggest that the few snippets of verses you quoted constitute evidence, then you need to show *why* they support your position.

    Your logic overall seems to be thus:
    1. Adam was created before Eve.
    2. Therefore, Adam & Eve have a “complimentary relationship of unequal power”.

    I agree with #1, but where do you get this idea in #2 from? What makes you think that #2 follows from #1? Where does Gen 1-2 speak of this power?

    Lastly, on your objection to Shields examing ANE sources, and your contention that all we need is Scripture. Reuben has made the right point. Your response seems to conclude less firmly than your earlier objection to Shields even considering ANE sources, but I still want to disagree.

    You say: “extra-biblical info good as long as it doesn’t contradict the whole or change the parts that lead to a challenge of the whole.”

    This pre-supposes you’re in a position where in one hand you have the Scriptures, perfectly understood, and in the other hand you have some extra-biblical info which suggests a different view.

    But to even gain ANY understanding the first place from the Greek & Hebrew you need to use extra-biblical sources!

    Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely agree with Reuben’s conclusion that extra-biblical sources should not produce a drastically different or strained reading. But they should be very carefully considered to help understand nuance. And that is exactly what Shields does in his paper.

    @Arthur: Will reply later, have run out of time right now!

  23. “I absolutely agree with Reuben’s conclusion that extra-biblical sources should not produce a drastically different or strained reading.”
    Then you and Reuben have already run into problems. Extra-biblical information can only ever reinforce what we get from the text anyway, anything else and it has more authority then the text.

    Shield is still wrong:
    “first, an examination of ancient Near Eastern creation stories to determine whether any patterns exist in their treatment of male-female relationships which might guide us in our interpretation of Genesis 1—3″
    Ancient Near Eastern creation stories should not guide our interpretation of Genesis 1-3. This is a very dangerous presupposition to have before arriving at the text.

    This statement of yours is problematic for two reasons:
    “But to even gain ANY understanding the first place from the Greek & Hebrew you need to use extra-biblical sources!”
    1. We don’t read Scripture in a vacuum, with each Greek or Hebrew word in isolation. We read it with 2,000 years of tradition informing our exegesis..
    2. Like I said earlier the whole exerts an authority and power over the parts, this is true with any text.

    (I’ll talk about chronology separately.)

  24. @Sam
    I see, that’s cool. It’s not about the chronology, it’s about what the chronology means. Your right, I need to mount a case, however you also need to mount a case for why chronology isn’t important. If we were going through a door I’d say after you, but I’ll go first. ;-)

    Why Chronology is important:
    1. Genesis has a pattern, therefore the order of things must be important.
    2. Adam before Eve, receives from God a command. (God is important, what he says is important so who he says it to must be important in some sense.)
    3. Adam names the animals, identity is important, Adam before Eve arrives, gives them their identity.
    4. The OT and NT says being the “first-born” designates significance.
    5. Eve arrives after Adam and then reverses the chronology during the Fall.

    *Yet Eve is made from Adam’s side and humanity is mentioned as male and female in one breath, what’s going on? The significance (which comes from the precedence) of Adam must be limited to a unique sphere, the sphere of leadership and responsibilty.

    Therefore Adam must be the leader of Adam and Eve, and interestingly humanity.

    (I think the biggest problem Egalitarian arguments have is explaining why Adam is held solely responsible for Original Sin, but we can save that for later.)

  25. Thanks Luke,

    you said “Extra-biblical information can only ever reinforce what we get from the text anyway, anything else and it has more authority then the text.”

    great point and i’m totally on board (and have been from the outset)

    Could you agree that this kind of reinforcing is good and useful though?

    A fairly simple example: don’t you think it’s great to know that the father in the prodigal son is disgracing himself by running to meet the child on his return? It’s not in the text as explicit statement, but can readily be demonstrated that this is what such an action meant at that time and in that culture. These kind of insights add’s depth and colour to the parable for a modern reader. it’s not necessary to know this to make sense of the parable (the text says enough) but in my opinion it’s not useless either. Rather than take away from the bible’s authority it brings it out with more vigour and clarity.

  26. @Luke: Regarding extra-biblical info: your two points you made in response don’t negate mine: that we cannot understand the Scriptures in their original languages without extra-biblical sources helping us. I am referring here to the basic language tools which allow us to understand Koine Greek & Hebrew as languages.

    I’ll leave it there for now, not sure this is the most productive format for such a conversation. I’ve been meaning to write a blog post on this for many months (I reckon it’s the “Sola English Scriptura” fallacy) which might be a better avenue for discussion.

    Back on Genesis. Thanks for setting our your logic. I hear your reasons, but I disagree with ’em! :) I don’t have time to argue a detailed response to each point, but Shields tackles most of them in his paper (and he’s a Hebrew nut whereas I don’t know a word of it).

  27. @Sam Sure, I don’t mind, I’ll keep an eye on your blog. Good iron sharpening iron time.

    @Reuben Yeah I’d agree with that, extra biblical information gets rid of our own extra-biblical assumptions. That’s a good reason to know about it, because of the aids in communication.

  28. @Arthur: Let me note firstly that I am extremely wary of the terms “complementary”, gender “roles”, and “equal but different” concerning men & women because these are terms which comp’s have taken on and given nuance meanings (moreoever, some people argue that these terms and highly inaccurate). And as far as I can tell, this whole notion and language of gender “roles” is an entirely new theological angle which has only arise in the last ~100 yrs (according to my understanding: happy to be corrected).

    Re-reading your original post, my unease is that your thinking in the paragraph (“This is pertinent…”) seems to jump straight from this difference/complemtarity to the conclusion of role-theology.

    My current high-level take on this issue in Gen 1-2 is that the text is emphasizing M/F equality, goodness, made-for-each-other-ness, and the great mystery of two becoming one flesh. The focus on joyous relational unity is striking. So I’d agree with the the descript of Eve as “his counterpart and match, not his twin or his subordinate”.

    But when you say this: “Although the narrative does not detail the ways in which the roles of men and women are to be complementary, it is clear that they are to be so.”

    I wanna say whoa! You’ve just made a huge leap from one question (are men & women complementary?) to another (do men & women have specific eternal gender roles?). The two are quite seperate, and if you think the latter follows from the former then you need to argue for that to be the case.

    That’s probably not a comprehensive answer, but hopefully it clarifies somewhat.

  29. Thanks Sam :)
    You really seem to have latched on to what I only intended as *an aside* about “roles”, which is all that I think Gen 1-2 itself does — an aside, a hint, an inkling, if anything. I’ll walk us through my thoughts.

    I think the absolute, resounding clarion call of Gen 1-2 is equality and mutuality, which I hope did come through in the original post. (Tamie has picked up on this again in her new post.) So I agree 100% with your take on the narrative.

    At the same time, the narrative connects equality with correspondence, not sameness in every respect. This is what I’ve been getting at in my discussion of “complementarity” — that the woman and the man are not clones or twins of one another, but counterparts like two jigsaw pieces. They are to play *equal* parts in being the image of God, but they are to play *corresponding* parts, not identical parts, just as their persons are not identical but corresponding (v23). This was the thrust of my 3 questions — I see these as 3 intractable facts of the narrative that can only be explained by this correspondence. I’d still like to hear what you make of this.

    At this point, of course, the question shifts to whether these “intractable facts” are teaching something more specific in particular — and it is indeed a leap of sorts. I’m not pushing down that path because I don’t think the narrative is really going there — and this is exactly where I have very little time for Bruce Ware and others. What I was getting at is *not* that the man has some role or other over and above the woman, but that I think there’s a sense in which the man somehow answers to God for the commission and prohibition (which helps makes sense of God addressing the man in Gen 3). Now, what exactly might that mean? The narrative doesn’t go any further.

    You might have noticed I’ve just switched to talking about “correspondence” rather than complementarity! I believe meaning is determined by usage, which can lead to words becoming unhelpful. In fact, the original essay asked whether subordination of women can be found in Gen 1-3, which I argued against on the grounds that “subordination” implies inequality. If you think there’s more appropriate terminology to use, I’d love to hear about it! It looks like there might be some complementarian buzzwords that have tipped you off in an unhelpful way, and I want to ensure that my language is as clear and edifying as possible.

  30. @Arthur, I’ve just re-read your stuff above.

    In your original post you describe “relational complementarity alongside the equality of male and female”, which I think I’d agree with, but you then argue a *different* point, that “Genesis 2:4-24 appears to present the man as primarily responsible for both the undertaking of God’s garden commission and the obedience to God’s tree prohibition”.

    You raise three points as your support, which I’ll try to briefly respond to:

    1. Order of Creation (why not at the same time?)
    Adam being created first, and his search for a mate, culminating in Eve, I think serves to emphasis the likeness of the two; the made-for-each-otherness of male & female.

    You can try to argue it indicates responsibility. But (I think it’s fair to say) that’s a weak inference at best, and not an idea the text directly suggests.

    2. God’s first command(?) is addressed to the man alone, not Eve
    I’m slightly confused here. Firstly, the text doesn’t seem to describe any command, only that God “placed” the man in the Garden. Secondly, Eve wasn’t yet created, which is obviously why she’s not present at that time… This seems to simply be a variation on #1?

    More importantly: if there is any language in Gen 1-3 which I’d describe as a commission it would be 1:28, which is clearly given to both genders. I think this makes it quite difficult to read Gen 2 the way you seem to be.

    3. God’s provision & prohibition of the trees is given to man alone, not Eve
    As per #1/#2 above? Not sure that this is a new point.

    When I read 2:8-25, all of the points you raise I see as working to heighten the “not good” in v18, and the trimphant song and conclusion/fulfillment in vv.23-25.

    The only possible place I think your conclusions are suggested is from the curses in Gen 3. Personally I don’t think I ‘get’ the whole curses section, and how the snake fits in. But even if we grant that Gen 3 is pointing toward your conclusion, you’re still arguing from an inference again at best.

    Hope that clarifies my reasoning. Keen to hear any further thoughts you have! :)

  31. I’m slightly confused here. Firstly, the text doesn’t seem to describe any command, only that God “placed” the man in the Garden.
    Sorry to re-enter the debate again Sam, but God does command Adam before and seperately to Eve. (2:15-17 a command to Adam, precedes Eve’s arrival 2:18)

    Also I would add to Arthur’s argumentation the importance of God addressing Adam first after the eating of the fruit followed by cursing the man and not the woman with death. The Apostle Paul then sees Adam as the one held responsible for the Fall and passing on his guilt to us through his leadership role as head of humanity. Death doesn’t pass magically from Adam to Eve, it passes to Eve because Adam is the responsible leader of them both therefore culpable for both.

  32. @Luke, thanks for the input! The only command I can see in that small bit is v16, which is more of a warning. Is there a command or commission there to *work* the garden?

    In response to your argument regarding Gen 3:9:
    – That’s a fairly big inference at best, and obviously isn’t a view the text we’re looking at suggests
    – Paul’s interpretation is a seperate exegetical discussion, and I don’t think I’d agree with your summary

  33. @SamC
    I don’t have much to add to my last comment. I’m putting aside “responsibility” at this point because I want to get clear the main thing: that the passage is about equality in complementarity. On reflection, my post probably began to conflate the two things, but let’s deal with them one at a time. (And it’s worth noting again that Luke’s argumentation is not my argumentation. :D )

    Along with subordination and inequality, the thing that I’ve been countering is the idea of sameness-in-every-respect. Earlier, you suggested that the only possible sex/gender difference on view in the passage is physical, and I said that Genesis has a holistic rather than dualistic vision of human nature. What do you think?

    If we’ve got equality in complementarity sorted, I’m happy to talk about “responsibility”. :)

  34. I didn’t actually suggest that the only possible gender differences on view were physical. I wouldn’t try to argue that. Rather, I was trying to understand exactly what you meant with your usage of the word complementary.

    Let’s agree that the passage presents a picture of equality and “same-but-different” ness.

    What are you arguments on the topic of responsibility? :)

  35. @SamC
    Thanks for noting that there’s not really a commission in Gen 2:8, 15 — God doesn’t actually address the man at that point. I think this takes the force out of “#2”.

    I’m writing a new post to continue the convo…

  36. Arthur, this has been a great post to read through. I imagine that in practice you and I are very similar even if I identify as an egalitarian and you identify as a complimentarian.

    The only question I have for you is what does it mean for you and your wife to be complimentarians?

    My interactions with comps have largely been about specific roles within the church and within the home. As an egalitarian I fully embrace gender differences and am quite happy about them. I see no problem with women and men being physically and psychologically different from one another. I fully support women who want to be stay at home mothers and who prefer the leading of a male in their church but at the same time I affirm those women who are gifted to lead and teach. If I were to call myself a complimentarian because of these views I fear I would be lumping myself into a group of people who also try relegate women to western traditional gender roles even when they don’t fit that mold. A hard complimentarian can’t explain a Deborah, or a Phoebe or a Priscilla. As an egalitarian I can differentiate between egalitarianism and feminism – some egalitarians are also feminists, I am not.

    I agree that we must understand Genesis before we seek to understand Paul and you have done a good job of assessing the text here. You have affirmed that the text does more to show equality than to typify gender roles. I could even use the word “compliment” here but it brings baggage I am unwilling to claim!

    What does complimentarianism add to the way you and your wife live in the world? It seems that you are interested in complimentarianism so you demonstrate that women and men are different, but I can affirm that as an egalitarian. At what point do those differences break down into gender roles and functions?

  37. Well, as a complimentarian, my job is to offer compliments to my wife… :P

    Anyway. Thanks for asking this, Joey, it’s been helpful — I found myself writing so many disclaimers about what I don’t think, it was getting ridiculous! If I can boil it down, it’s this:

    • Tamie and I each bring something distinctive to our marriage. That means we do not inhabit separate spheres, but that we are involved in the same world with two interlocking perspectives. And that means that our marriage/family is not about me, or about her, but about the creative synergy between us.

    • What does that synergy look like? From my perspective, as the head of my wife, I am to give my life up for Tamie. It means I’m to be the first to serve. It means my job as her husband is to bend my own decisions and ambitions and desires to her benefit, so that she can flourish. And as the one given this initiative for service, I have a particular responsibility before God for my family.

    Also, have a look at my second Genesis post, and some of the other stuff under the ‘man’ category.

    Keen to keep talking about it! :D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: