The Bible and Women Pt 1

The Trinity is the pattern for all human relationships.  The incarnation now means this relationship is inserted into humanity.  Our understanding of all relationships is now viewed through the life, love, community and Personhood of the the Father, Son and Spirit.  There is vitality in this relationship where service to each Person by the other shows us a circular relationship rather than hierarchy.  However, there is no subordination but each is willing to be ready to serve the other.  The Father, Son and Spirit are distinct in their person but are one in their being.  I personally believe there are feminine characteristics in all three persons of the Trinity.  The level of relationship between the Persons of the Trinity goes far beyond what we can ever imagine.  At the same time, our knowledge of the Trinity can give us clues as to how we should strive for a relationship that builds and encourages.  To properly understand the role of women in the church not only requires that women be educated in the truth we find in Scripture but even more so, men need to be re-educated in such a way that properly reflects the image of God presented to us in the glorified human being Jesus Christ.

There is the ever continuing blame game against women over the Fall.  Even though Jesus Christ is the undoing of the Fall, this blame game has continued.  There is the age old saying that when we point a finger, there are three pointing back at us.  As a result of the Fall, it would be fair to say that both Adam and Eve are to blame.  Eve may have been tempted by the Deceiver and succumb to its temptation.  Adam was also tempted by Eve and succumb to her temptation.  They were both weak.  Both have suffered the consequences of which the entire human race has suffered ever since.  Such is the pride and arrogance of men, as Adam was when questioned by God about eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they stood along side Adam and condemned the woman ever ready to cast the first stone.  There are some sections of the modern evangelical movement who still have a beef with women over the weakness they portrayed in the Genesis story.

Men can be so hung up about who is first.  To be first in many areas of society is often associated with power and status.  When this is overlayed onto the Genesis story, then because Adam was created first, it is taken that He has the power and status over the woman.  This flies in the face of Jesus words, ‘those who are first in the Kingdom of God will be last . . . (Matt 20:16; 19:30)’  Even though Adam was first, it is noted that it was not good for Adam (or man) to be alone (Gen 2:18).  Here we have the account where Eve was taken from the side of Adam and was formed.  We have Adam and Even sharing the same being but are distinct in their person.  It was then that God said this was ‘very good’ and indeed it was.  So close was their being, they were counted as one flesh.  Adam and Eve was the prize of God’s creation.  These were, ‘both together,’ the image of God.

The woman has often been represented in Genesis as the helper or assistant of Adam.  This often portrays her as being in a more subservient or subordinate role.  However, the Hebrew word azar is a verb ‘to help’ from the noun ezer ‘helper.’ Ezer reflects more the role of the woman as  the saviour of the man where her purpose is redemptive, making him complete.  This is how the Hebrew noun is used elsewhere in Scripture.  What this means is the purpose of Eve was to lead Adam out of his loneliness and make him complete.

John Chrysostom describes the role of the woman in Genesis in this way paraphrasing God,

‘In the beginning I created you equal in esteem to your husband, and my intention was that in everything you would share with him as an equal; and as I entrusted control of everything to your husband, so did I to you.’

In the Ancient Near East the world view of women by men is they were thought to be made of inferior material.  The Creation narrative of Genesis we find that women are portrayed as being made of the same material as men.  This was ground breaking in a way that cut across the pervading world view at the time.  Even right through to the inter-testimental period and the New Testament era, this was the widely held view.  At this time, the surrounding views had influenced Hebrew thought and the status of women was far removed from what God had intended from the beginning.

What have in this very brief word study is the woman in Genesis is given much more esteem than many in modern evangelicalism are prepared to afford.  The emphasis on having some form of hierarchy is based on fallen thinking rather than a new way of thinking as a result of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  Women suffered immensely as a result of the Fall but so did the men.  the mistake many men make in justifying their position on the subordination of women is they blame the women for the demise of all humanity, just as Adam had done when God questioned him.  It is obvious here that nothing has changed since the Fall, even in the face of the resurrection and the pouring out of the Spirit on all humanity.

We firstly examined the nature of the Trinity showing us a pattern of relationships that is mutual, shared love with no hierarchy and subordination between the Persons.  We also examined that the Genesis account of the creation of the male and female also follows the pattern of mutual and shared love and therefore a mutual exercise of authority.  What about the New Testament?

There are many texts in the New Testament that appear to support an authority over women by men.  1Cor 11, Eph 5, Titus 2, 1Peter 2-3, 1Timothy 2, Col. 3 are passages that appear to support this view. they key metaphor used here is the word ‘head’ from the Greek word ‘kephale’.   Without going into too much detail regarding what these passages say, I will rather rely on assumed knowledge of those who are reading this regarding its support for the subordinate position of women to men.  What I want to address is the alternative exegesis of the passage if we are to take the above view of Genesis into account.

Our first step in this process is to explore Jesus position on women.

When Jesus arrived on the scene, His views on women were nothing short of controversial and absolutely revolutionary.  Jesus allowed women to touch Him, He spoke in public to them, He addressed them with honorific titles like daughter of Abraham and described Himself as a Mother Hen.  These were actions that flew in the face of the tradition of the elders in his community.  Jesus had women follow Him with the twelve disciples.  It was the women who were the first to witness the resurrection.  So ingrained was the culture regarding women in the Apostles that the word of the women was not taken seriously.  All this is consistent with Jesus’ down up view of servanthood where the power hungry and ambitious of the selfish is not in keeping with the Kingdom of God.

We only have to consider what Paul had said to the Galatians in chapter 3:27-28

‘As many of you as were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew nor Greek, there is no longer slave nor free, there is no longer male nor female, for all of you are one in Christ.’

We must consider this consistency stretches back to the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  Both were created together in partnership.  Both fell together and suffered the consequences.  No matter how hard the man tries to blame the women for the fall, he cannot remove his own responsibility as he too is fallen as much as the woman and both need redemption.  Men squarely pointing the blame at women for the Fall are functioning out of their own falleness and are driven by pride, arrogance and fear.  Now as a result of Jesus Christ, male and female are equally redeemed and are equally restored and both require the dignity, courtesy and respect of each other.