Thursday, 18 July 2013

Why I am a Complementarian (pt3) - Adam and Woman

In my last post in this series (way back in April) I looked at the introduction to the whole Bible and saw just briefly a hint at the roles males and females have in creation. They are both equal and "very good" but also different and go about achieving their tasks in complementary ways. In the next chapter of Genesis we are given another creation account, this time it is more people centered than the first one. It is in this account that we meet Adam and Woman (she is named Eve in the next chapter). I know there is a modern debate about the historicity of these figures but like with the literal or non-literal days of creation in Genesis 1, this post isn't about that issue at all and more about the original authors intent of the passage and the Bible's own reflection on this account.

In Genesis 2 we see that God formed the man from the dust of the ground and made him a living creature (Gen 2:7). This was possibly before any tress or plants had been made (Gen 2:5, 8). God than made a garden and placed the man in there and gave him the warning about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:15-17). The fist sign that something was not good in creation happens when God stated that man should not be alone (Gen 2:18). God then made all the animals and showed each one to Adam who then named them, but sadly, no suitable helper was found (Gen 2:19-20). God then took a rib out of Adam and made a woman from that and once Adam saw her he gave her the original name "Woman" (Gen 2:23) (later Adam gets slightly more creative and names her Eve (Gen 3:20)). In verse 24 the author then breaks a bit away from the narrative and then draws a point about how since the Woman was taken out of Man, the man should leave his father and mother and hold on to his wife and become one flesh.

From this account (ending before the Fall - that may be my next post in this series) there are at least four main observations for the complementarian position.

1) The order of creation
Unlike in Genesis 1, in this account Adam is made first. In fact Adam is made in verse 7 which took place "when no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up" (Gen 2:5) and then in verse 19 the animals get created. In this account it seems that Adam is created before the plants and animals. Admittedly this fact alone is not a rock solid argument for Adam's predominates. So what if Adam came first, does the text say that the first created thing is by right the leader and head of everything else? Well not here. But Paul, when talking about gender roles and teaching does say:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. (1 Tim 2:12-13)
Later I will probably spend a whole post on this verse, because I too have read John Dickson's book (it was free in January). For now Paul seemed to be quite comfortable in saying a woman should not teach or exercise authority over a man (in the content of church - remember I am not arguing for patriarchy) because "Adam was formed first, then Eve". Here we have one part of the Bible interpreting another part. I am not fumbling around in Genesis 2 wondering if the order of Adam before Woman is significant, Paul has explicitly stated that it is.

2) God gives the law to Adam
Before Woman was created, Adam was told not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17). This command was in Adam's hands to pass onto Eve. In the next chapter Eve somehow knew abut this command (Gen 3:3) even though she was not there. Although the text doesn't say, I think it is safe to assume that Adam told Eve this law. This is stepping on the next post a bit, but we see that Eve ate the fruit first and then Adam who "was with her" (Gen 3:6) ate second, and yet it is constantly Adam who gets the blame for bringing sin into the world (1 Cor 15:45-49, Rom 5:21-21). Adam was given the law and under his watch let it be broken. For that we are now all "in Adam" and not "in Eve".

3) Woman was created to be Adam's helper
The purpose of Woman is to be a "helper fit for" Adam (Gen 2:18). This line has undergone a lot of examination in the past. What does "helper" mean and imply and what does "for" mean and imply?

The way I see the world "helper" implies that the Woman is in no way inferior (or superior) to Adam. A parent can and often helps a child to things. The Bible also speaks of God helping people throughout history, and the Holy Spirit is even called  the Helper (John 14:26). So because Woman was to be a helper to Adam does not mean she was somehow inferior to Adam. Some have even push this line of reasoning to argued that because Adam needed help it implies that Eve is superior to him. I think that is over stating the case, as a child can legitimately help a parent and a student can legitimately help a teacher. So I don't think the word "helper" can be used to assign rank to either person/sex.

The word "for" can be a tricky one (in the ESV footnotes it says Gen 2:18 could be read she was made corresponding to Adam - that might be helpful to note). For example consider this statement: the government is to make laws for the people. Does that mean the government makes laws to support or benefit the people, or does it mean the government makes laws on behalf of the people (or both!)? In the first case there is a favorable aspect to the governments role, but in the second case their isn't, only their governing is concerned. How about this example: I have something for you. Is that thing favorable or in support of me, is it something that will belong to me? (Also in cricket someone or a team could be 3 for 12, but that has nothing to do with this.) How is Woman for Adam? I don't think the sense is possessive as you can get things that you will not own (friends books, ideas, procedures, rental apartments, votes etc).

I think in context of Genesis 2, Woman was fit for Adam because she fulfilled the first thing in creation that was not good (Gen 2:18, 20). She brought goodness back into creation, as Adam was alone. She was "fit for" Adam, not because she now somehow belonged to him (although in another sense they both belonged to each other as she came from him and they returned to become one flesh), but because she was someone, and Adam needed someone (and not an animal) to not be lonely. She was not just a copy of Adam, but fit for Adam. She would help and assist Adam as in some areas as she would be better at some things than him and in others he would be better. She was different to Adam. She would... compliment Adam.

4) Adam names her Woman
This may not sound like a great name at first, but there were no other women about for this name to be confusing. Adam also means "man" so really both names to start with were pretty generic.

Throughout the Bible people are named and renamed by others in authority. God renames Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Jesus renamed Simon to Peter. Moses renames Hoshea to Joshua. Pharaoh renames Joseph to Zaphenath-Paneah (that one didn't really stick) and Nebuchadnezzar's office renamed Daniel to Belteshazzar. In all these cases it was God, Jesus, Moses or a king who renamed someone who was under their authority, never is it the other way round. The most equal name change in the Bible is when Naomi renamed herself as Mara (Ruth 1:7), but besides that one mention of "Mara", throughout the rest of the book of Ruth she is still called Naomi by everyone (more Bible rename examples here).

Now that was renaming, what about naming? The idea still applies. In context Adam names all the animals (Gen 2:19-20). The fact that God allowed Adam to do this shows some derive responsibility from Him to Adam. God tells Sarah to call her son Isaac, an angel tells Elizabeth to call her son John, and Mary to call hers Jesus. Here it is always someone in authority doing the naming.

One objection I have heard to this naming point is that women in Israel often named their sons (see Gen 29:31-30:24 for the best example of this). So does this mean that females (mothers) are an authority over males (sons)? To which I reply: that is exactly what I thought the fifth commandment and Ephesian 6:1-2 are saying. Parents have authority over their children. One example of this is that they can name them. God did not name Woman, he let Adam do it. God did not name you, he let your parents do that. They are allowed to that, because they have authority over you, so be nice to your mother.

So much for this trying to be a quick summary. I will try to be more concise in my next post in this series.

Related links:
Why I am a Complementarian (pt2) - Creation - A look at Genesis 1
Why I am a Complementarian (pt1) The Issue - Pointing out what this issues is about
Why I am a Complementarian Calvinist Amillennial Christian - The bigger intro to this whole series


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