Theological Adams: Gendered

Someone asked what the ramifications would be for male female relationships if the Gen 1-3 stories are not intended to be “history,” as such.

Here, I don’t think that literal history matters very much.

The point of the story is to describe how things came to be the way they are. They provide indicatives that fall short of ideals. Between Gen 1 and Gen 2-3 we get some pointers for what gender means for our relationships.

Here we will run into some of the challenges of two different stories making, at times, very different points.

Genesis 1 depicts the creation of humanity as male and female created in God’s image–to rule the world on God’s behalf. The striking implication would seem to be that we are all created to rule the world for God, not just men.

To anticipate the questions that 1 Timothy raises: women are created to share in the authoritative speaking and acting for God that defines humanity and that is reembodied in ecclesial leadership.

Gen 2-3 is a bit more tricky. People rightly note that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, his side, and that she was created as a “helper.” Far from “helper” indicating subordinate, in the OT ‘ezer language often refers to YHWH in relationship with Israel (Gen 49; Exod 18; Deut 33). So there are indications of equality.

But there are also indications of male primacy. The Man names all the animals. The Man names the Woman. The Man receives God’s command and is presumably responsible for propagating it. The Man is given charge of the garden, and the woman is given to help him in his task. So there are also indications of subordination.

As the story plays out, the disobedience of the first couple creates tensions: the Man blames the Woman, the Woman blames the serpent. The creation will give evidence of rebellion and brokenness. Food will come through thorns and thistles. Children will come through pain.

And, the Woman’s desire will be for the Man and he will rule over over.

By the time we’ve moved from Gen 1 to Gen 3, the story has fallen apart. Almost entirely. Reading the stories back-to-back, canonically, humanity’s God-given gift of rule has been marred almost beyond recognition.

The epitome of the disorder of the world is that human rule is no longer shared, shoulder-to-shoulder, male-and-female standing before God on behalf of the world and standing before the world on behalf of God. Instead, the man rules his co-ruler. Creation is undone.

As a story of beginnings, Gen 3 tells us about a world gone awry. And in the middle of that skewed situation is hierarchy displacing partnership in the relationships of Man and Woman.

History, it seems, matters little for making this point, that subordination is a result of the fall, and to perpetuate subordination as God’s intent is to give up on the power of new creation to undo the disorder of the world.

So what are we to do with 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 11? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.

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