Theses on Women in the Church – Part One

Arnold J. Voigt

(Revised October 1999)

The following contains resources and commentary in dialogue with Women in the Church: Scriptural Principles and Ecclesial Practice, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: CTCR, September 1985).


The question of women’s participation in the life, structure, and ministry of the Church is debated these days within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, as well as in the Church catholic.  The question surfaced in the parish I serve because of a congregational constitutional question: should there be specific gender designations for elders and president?  Our congregational president and Constitution Committee asked me to explore and explain relevant biblical data.  This paper is the result, and this material was shared with and discussed by our Board of Elders.   The material was then shared with our District officials to share with them the biblical basis for our parish stance and as an effort seeking to resolve biblically the congregational constitutional question.  That has now been resolved (albeit not theologically, but administratively).

I now circulate this paper to address the biblical issues and to seek discussion and response.  This essay is a dialogue with the document, “Women in the Church: Scriptural Principles and Ecclesial Practice,” prepared by Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and released in September, 1985.  I render this in accordance with Bylaw 2.39c of the Handbook of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (1995 Edition).  The bylaw indicates that in matters of “a doctrinal nature, dissent is to be expressed first within the fellowship of peers, then brought to the attention of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations ….”  Therefore I submit this to my “fellowship of peers,” seeking discussion and input.

This paper has been shared with the president of the Rocky Mountain District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the Rev. Roger Krause, and he is aware of the process I am following.

In the Synod we commit ourselves to “walk together.”  We accept without reservation the “Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the written Word of God and the only rule and norm of faith and practice” (Article II Confession).  “Walking together” begins with being “together in the Word” (“No resolution of Synod is binding if it is not in accordance with the Word of God …[Italics added]” (Article VII Relation of the Synod to Its Members).

The covenant of “walking together” does not preclude or prevent or curb examining the resolutions and positions of Synod on the basis of the written Word.  Indeed, faithfully “walking together” drives us deeper into the Word and expands our collective discussions based on the Word.  We begin neither with church fathers and Lutheran patriarchs, nor do we limit the basis of our discussions to them.  Synod’s history supports this.

The careful reader will note some inconsistencies, a lack of overarching cohesion in argumentation.  The operative word is “resources.”   Study, choose, make your own decision letting the Spirit guide.  The Commission on Theology and Church Relation’s document, is after all, only one human construct among many.  The arguments and points of view herein will not necessarily convince, but in the least this paper ought to suggest that the Commission on Theology and Church Relations has not completed its exegetical homework.  The question of our understanding of how God also equips and employs and empowers women for ministry within the community of faith is still open for discussion on the basis of the written Word of God.

And we must remember that this discussion is not about “women’s issues” or “women’s problems.”  This description points a finger of blame.  Rather, the discussion is about our inadequate and incomplete understanding of God’s will for all his people, an understanding that will only be opened up on the basis of the continuing study of the written Word and Will of God.  The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church today through the written Scriptures.

Arnold J. Voigt

Pastor, Ascension Lutheran Church

1701 West Caley Avenue, Littleton, Colorado 80120-3109


Theses on Women in the Church


Please note: A symbol usually introduces a quotation from the Commission on Theology and Church Relations’ document, Women in the Church: Scriptural Principles and Ecclesial Practice (September 1985), herein abbreviated as CTCR-WIC.  Sometimes a symbol introduces a quotation from other sources within the synod which address the question of women’s roles. All sources as such are identified.  These quotations are then followed by response and commentary.  I have drawn liberally from many scholars and do not claim origin of authorship or ideas. All resources are listed at the end of the document (i.e., at the end of Part Three of the internet version).

The following sections are arranged in a sequence that follows the traditional ordering of the biblical books. These are the topics, in order, that will be examined in the following set of theses:

1. The Lutheran Understanding of Interpreting Scripture

2. Genesis 1

3. Excursus on Order of Creation

4. Genesis 3:16

5. Other Old Testament testimony about women’s roles

6. Passages from the Gospels on women’s roles

7. Acts

8. Pauline Canon

9. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

10. 1 Corinthians 14:26-36

11. Excursus on Paul’s interpretive methods

12. Excursus on the New Creation

13. Ephesians 5:21ff

14. Excursus on “subordination” and its relation to the Order of Creation

15. Jesus described as ανθροποζ rather than ανερ

16. 1 Timothy 2:8-15

–the historical situation

–the Artimas cult

–“… let a woman learn ..”

–“… let a woman learn in silence..”

–“ …with all submissiveness …”

–“ .. or to have authority over men ..”

17. The General Epistles

18. The Lutheran Confessions

19. Some Thoughts and Tentative Conclusions

20. Conditions of Membership in the Missouri Synod

21. Sources and References Used in the Following Set of Theses




✠ “In this way the distinction between the Holy Scripture of the Old and New Testaments and all other writings is maintained, and Holy Scripture remains the only judge, rule, and norm according to which as the only touchstone all doctrines should and must be understood and judged as good or evil, right or wrong.  Other symbols and other writings are not judges like Holy Scripture, but merely witnesses and expositions of the faith, setting forth how at various times the Holy Scriptures were understood in the church of God by contemporaries with reference to converted articles, and how contrary teachings were rejected and condemned” (Formula of Concord, Part I: Epitome 7,8).

Thesis 1: The Holy Scriptures are in their entirety the inspired Word of God, and as such are the only source and norm of Christian doctrine.

Thesis 2: The data and content of the Scriptures never change.  Human interpretations, being subject to human limitations (“All our knowledge, sense, and sight, Lie in deepest darkness shrouded …[The Lutheran Hymnal, #16, verse 2]; “Now I know in part …” [1 Corinthians 13:12]) do change.

(A) Human knowledge, understanding, and application of the unchangeable biblical data do grow (e.g. the church’s understanding of slavery; of insurance; of women’s suffrage; once not permitting women to teach in parochial schools, now permitting it).

(B) “While the Lord ‘changes not’ and while His Word is not ‘up for grabs’ on the basis of majority rule or public opinion, how that Word is applied and communicated most effectively in changing cultures ought always be matters for discussion” (Issues in Christian Education, Fall 1992, 7).

(C) There is a difference between inspiration and interpretation.

✠ “The undeniably necessary effort to hear a text of Scripture first of all in its particularity, its meaning ‘then and there,’ must be balanced by an equal effort to hear the text both in its integral relation to all the rest of Scripture and its meaningfulness for all who hear it today.  This effort does not require an arbitrary flattening out of the rich variety of the biblical witness into a dull one-dimensional uniformity” (CTCR, “A Lutheran Stance Toward Contemporary biblical Studies,” 10).

Thesis 3: Any passage of Scripture must first be understood as God’s Word to the people of its original time and culture, and only then can the meaning be correctly applied to our time, our culture, and our ecclesiastical situation.

Thesis 4: The “dark” passages of Scripture are to be interpreted by the “light” or clearer passages of Scripture.  Scripture interprets Scripture.

Thesis 5: No doctrinal point can be established unless derived from and grounded in clear passages of Scripture.  A distinction is made between what Scripture expressly teaches and those matters which lie in the area of inference from Scriptural data and therefore lie in the sphere of Christian judgment, not Scriptural doctrine.

Thesis 6: “The true treasure of the Church is the most holy Gospel of the glory and grace of God” (Martin Luther, Thesis 62).

Thesis 7: It is not a change in the content of Scriptures that is needed, but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, an opening of our eyes.

(A) God never invites a change in the revealed Word of Scripture (Matthew 5:18), but he does invite an examination of our attitudes which, clouded by sin and self-centered pride, affect all we do, including our interpretations.

(B) The Law addresses “the heart,” seat of our attitudes and biases, and our attitudes which color interpretations and practices must continually be exposed to God’s searing Law and healing Gospel.




▀ Genesis 1:26-28 ▀

[26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

Thesis 8: Female and male, like the Trinity in whose image they are created, are partners-in-fellowship.

(A) “[vs 26] Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image'”:  The Persons of the Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are “equal in glory, coeternal in majesty … no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons” (Athanasian Creed).

(B) “[vs 26] Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image ..'”: The Hebrew term here is adam, the form of which is the generic term for humanity.   By the term “man” is meant both male and female human beings, as Scripture defines them in Genesis 5:1-2 (NIV): “This is the written account of Adam’s line.  When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.  He created them male and female, and blessed them.  And when they were created, he called them ‘man’.”  The term “man” here refers not to the male gender, but to humankind, both female and male.

(C) “[vs 26] Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image‘”: “… man ..” equals “humanity.” Humanity is created in the image of God.  By implication, aspects included in the image are:

(1) both male and female are created in the image of God (“… in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them”; note the pairing); woman is not created in the image of the male, but of God;

(2) distinctions (1:27b [“male and female he created them”] explains 1:27a [“in the image of God he created him”]);

(3) equal responsibility within the created order (“let them have dominion…”; “… said to them, ‘Be fruitful …’”);

(4) equal function/position within the created order (“let them have dominion over the fish of the sea … and over every creeping thing …”);

 (5) parity, partnership: both are created simultaneously (“male and female he created them”); the text, at the least, suggests parity, not priority or secondary derivation.

(D) “[vs 26] …Let us make man in our image“: The nature of the Godhead is Persons-in-fellowship where “no one is before or after, greater or less than the other”; for humanity to be in the image of God, then, suggests both male and female within God’s created order are beings-in-fellowship, as male and female, both equal (“no one is before or after, greater or less than the other”), mutually dependent and singularly independent and jointly interdependent.


□ “the image has to do with spiritual qualities—features that correspond and relate to the Creator… This equality is a spiritual equality of man and woman before God” (CTCR-WIC, 19)

(E) The text suggests, contrary to the CTCR suggestion, that the image is also a “material equality” lived out in history and time in concrete relations.  Woman is “his equal before the Creator” and also his equal in creation.


□ “Man was woman’s head from the first moment of her creation, but after the fall the will to self-assertion distorts this relationship into domination and/or independence” (CTCR-WIC, 24)

Thesis 9: In Genesis One there is no suggestion of superordination or subordination or superiority or inferiority in the relationship between male and female.

(A) “[vs 26]  … let them have dominion …”: The only reference to dominance (and by inference, subordination) is that of humankind having “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (Genesis 1:28).  The suggestion is that humanity is to exercise this dominion as beings-in-fellowship, in partnership (“… let them…”).

(B) This understanding sheds interpretive light on 1 Corinthians 11:11-12:  “Nevertheless, in the Lord” — that is, as in relationship to each other and in faith toward the mutually interdependent Trinity — “woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man so man is now born of woman.

Thesis 10: These beings-in-fellowship, where neither “is before or after, greater or less,” live, as God intends, in mutual relationship and work and have mutual dominion in the historical, created order.

(A) “[vs 26] … Let them have dominion … over all the earth …”:

 □ “Man and woman are equal in having the same relationship to God and to nature” [emphasis added] (CTCR-WIC, 20)

(B) The conclusion, apparently drawn by the CTCR-WIC document, is that female-male equality is both spiritual (in the realm of grace: “the same relationship to God”) and natural (in the created order: “the same relationship …to nature”). Yet this conclusion about equality in nature is consistently ignored throughout the document.

 (C) Genesis 1 offers no support for an “order of creation” theology.


▀ Genesis 2:18-24 ▀

[18] Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make a helper fit for him.”  (NEB: “I will provide a partner for him”; JB: “I shall make him a helper”; NIV: “I will make a helper suitable for him”; TEV: “I will make a suitable companion to help him.”) [19] So out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.  [20] The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper fit for him.  [21] So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh;  [22]  and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.  [23] Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  [24] Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.


□ “Fourth, woman is created to be helper for man. She is created from him and brought to him. While the word ‘subordination’ is not actually used in Genesis 2, this account of the creation presents the foundation for 1 Corinthians 11” (CTCR-WIC, 23-24)

□ “It has been argued that the word ezer does not necessarily imply subordination in any way. Sixteen of the twenty-one uses of the word in the Old Testament refer to God as a superior helper to human beings. The remaining three refer to men helping other men. But ezer must be seen in context. The phrase says that God created woman to be help for man; that is to say, the purpose of her creation was to be a help to the man. There is apparently some kind of subordination indicated by the phrase” (CTCR-WIC, 23, footnote 29).


Thesis 11: The phrase “[vs 18] …a helper fit for him” does not imply “some kind of subordination …”  No; note the following:

(A) The  biblical word translated “helper” is the Hebrew word ezer.

(1) Ezer is found 21 times in the Old Testament.

(2) Sixteen of these times the word refers to God or Yahweh who is a strong and superior helper or who supplies the help (Exodus 18:4, Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalm 20:2, 33:20; 70:5; 89:19; 115: 9, 10, 11; 121:1, 2; 124:8; 146:5; Hosea 13:9).  Three of the others refer to people who receive no help (Isaiah 30:5, Ezekiel 12:14, and Daniel 11:34), and the other two are in the Genesis 2 passage.

(3) The general sense of ezer is of a stronger helping or assisting the weaker: in most instances of Old Testament usage (e.g. Psalm 121:1-2; also compare 1 Samuel 7:12) the word refers to God.  God does not fit the description of a lesser assistant.

(4) “Thus, forms of cezer as used in the Bible can mean ‘to save’ or ‘to be strong.’  In Genesis 2:18b, when God speaks of the being He is to create to relieve the man’s loneliness, He is surely not creating this creature to be the man’s savior.  This makes no sense.  God creates this new creature to be, like the man, a power (or strength) superior to the animals.  This is the true meaning of cezer as used in this passage” (Freedman, 57).

(5) Ezer is never used in the Old Testament to designate a subordinate.

(6) Consequently the word conveys no implication of subordination, weakness, inferiority or lesser ranking.

(B) “[vs 18] … a helper fit for him”:

(1) “ … kenegdo … appears in the Bible only once … In later Mishnaic Hebrew, the root keneged means ‘equal,’ as in the famous saying that ‘The study of Torah is equal (keneged) to all the other commandments’” (Freedman, 57).

(2)  The Hebrew negdo (“fit”) with the preposition ke (“a particle of comparison” , Langenscheidt, page 139) means “corresponding to,” “equal and adequate to” (Langenscheidt, 206), similarity, someone in front of or in the presence of another.

(3)  The particle of comparison admits no subordination. “The root word neged, when used as noun, refers to rulers and leaders in the Old Testament” (Pareles, 3).

(C)  If anything, ezer suggests the women is superordinate, not subordinate.

(1) “The two Hebrew words that describe the position of the to-be-created woman vis-a-vis the man are cezer kenegdo…  They should be translated instead to mean approximately ‘a power equal to man.’  That is, when God concluded that he would create anther creature so that man would not be alone, he decided to make ‘a power equal to him,’ someone whose strength was equal to man’s.  Woman was not intended to be merely man’s helper.  She was to be instead his partner” (Freedman, 56).

(2) “When God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, His intent is that she will be – unlike the animals — ‘a power (or strength) equal to him.’  I think that there is no other way of understanding the phrase cezer kenegdo that can be defended philologically” (Freedman, 58).

 Thesis 12: The context, which the CTCR-WIC document states as necessary for understanding the meaning of ezer, argues against the idea of subordination of women.

(A) “[vs 18]… It is not good that man should be alone“: God understands the male’s need as a need for companionship, something he cannot supply himself, something none of the animals could give him; animals certainly could help (note farm animals and their usage), but not to meet this need of the male.  The male’s need implies neither domination nor subordination on his part.  If anything, the need suggests incompleteness.

(B) “[vs 21] … the Lord … took one of his ribs … [vs 24] … he made into a woman …”: God’s creative action suggests parity.

(1) Adam and the animals were made from the dust.  Their origin and source was the dust.

(2) But the woman is different.  The man is the “source” of the woman.

(3) We do not assume the man was inferior to the ground.  Source or derivation does not translated into subordination.

(4) The man sleeps when God takes the rib; the man plays no part and has no claim to superiority through action.

(5) The context of “rib” implies relationship.  The Hebrew word for “rib” can also be translated “side” (BDB, 854).

(C) “[vs 23]… bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh“: The male understands the relationship not as subordination but equity, parity, unity, oneness.

(1) The male expresses no understanding of the woman as being subordinate or inferior or ranked beneath him.

(2) “Eve was literally created from Adam’s bone and flesh.  But the idiomatic meaning in the Bible of ‘bone and flesh’ is ‘very close relative,’ ‘one of us’ – in effect, ‘our equal.’ For example, when Laban refers to Jacob as ‘my bone and flesh’ in Genesis 29:14, he provides Jacob with free hospitality.  But in verse 15, where Jacob is demoted to ah (brother, kinsman,’ he has to work for his keep” (Freedman, 58).

(D) “[vs 24]…Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh“:  The divine writer understands that the relationship, even of marriage, is “one flesh,” a mutuality, partnership, equity, with neither greater or less than the other, neither subordinate nor superordinate in relation to the other.

(1)  The man’s “aloneness” need has been met by a partner equal to him.

(2) The same Hebrew verb is used for the “taking of man from the dust” as is used for “the taking of woman from the rib.”  The divine author suggests thereby that God is treating both equally.

Thesis 13: The CTCR-WIC statement is not helpful because for some inexplicable reason the document’s conclusion (“… apparently some kind of subordination …”) ignores, or misunderstands, or contradicts the evidence the document itself supplies (“…sixteen of the twenty-one….”) (CTCR-WIC, 23).


□ “Everyone knows that a carpenter’s helper is subordinate to and lesser than the carpenter. This is how we understand the relation of man to woman” (Comment by a lay person).

□ “In the narrative [of Genesis], then, the woman’s role is understood in relationship to the man, which indicates some kind of subordination” (Clark, 25).

(A) When CTCR-WIC finds ezer designating the woman in Genesis 2:18, it simply assumes that when one is “to be a help to the man” one must be lesser or subordinated (“There is apparently some kind of subordination indicated by the phrase” [CTCR-WIC, 23, footnote 29])!

(B) An intensive care unit nurse helping a patient does not imply subordination, but skill,  strength, expertise, and even authority (“Here, swallow this pill!”).  To suggest subordination of the female here is to read into the Hebrew word an alien modern understanding and to deny the basic Hebrew sense of the word.  There is also no suggestion here that head and helper are opposites or even separate roles.  (An argument could be made for male subordination!)

(C) “However, if the woman is subordinate to the man simply because she was created to meet Adam’s need for a helpful assistant, then his authority over her should pertain only to those tasks with which he would have needed help before she was created.  Her helping tasks should concern only the sort of work for which the man would have had responsibility when he was working in the Garden alone” (Groothius, 130).


□ “Third, Adam immediately begins to exercise his authority by naming the animals (vs. 10). He also names his wife ‘woman’ (vs. 23)” (CTCR-WIC, 23).

Thesis 14: “[vs 23] … and she shall be called Woman ..“: “Woman” is not a personal name, but a gender identification.

(A) “She shall be called woman” is God’s designation, not the man’s, just as woman’s “being taken out of man” is not man’s doing, but God’s.

(B) “Woman” is not a “name” as is “antelope,” “anteater,” or “aardvark,” which are “names” given to animals over which humans do rule.  “Woman” is sexual identity which differentiates her from male, not from humanity.  The male’s understanding is that here is someone like him (and unlike the animals), yet differentiated sexually.

(C) “[vs 23] … and she shall be called Woman ..“:  Naming someone usually implies dominion over that person.  Here we find something different.  New nouns are used to describe the man and the woman: “The man (ish) calls the new creation woman (ishsha).  He does not employ the technical naming-formula here, for ishsha is not a proper name.  Instead, this Hebrew pun recognizes sexual differentiation and not subordination.  The similarity between the Hebrew words emphasizes the equality of woman and man.  Thus, man acknowledges before Yahweh and in the woman’s presence the equality of the partnership between the couple.  Woman and man relate in like mutuality” (Gritz, 56).

(D) “While an official act of ‘naming’ takes place in Genesis, there is a distinctive formula that is followed.  It includes the specific verb, qarah (“call”), followed by the noun, shem (“name”).  This formula is followed in 2:19-20 where the man names the animals; it appears in 3:20 where the man names (or more correctly renames) Eve; it is employed in 5:2 when God names the two of them “Adam”; and the formula appears in Genesis 4:17, 25, 26; 5:3, 29; 11:9, and so on.  But in [Genesis] 2:23, the formula is absent: the noun shem does not appear” (Fleming and Maxson, quoted in Groothius, 128-129).

(E) The naming “Eve,” by the man comes later (Genesis 3:20) and after the Fall.  Before the Fall they shared a God-given name, adam (Genesis 5:2) (Groothius, 128).

(F) Therefore, the context suggests the relationship here is not subordination/headship, but  partnership and companionship.

Thesis 15: The particular way in which woman should be “[vs 18] … a helper fit for him” is defined by listening to the context.

(A) She is not described as being a helper by bearing children, mothering, being subordinate, or serving at the male’s beck and call.

(B) She is a “helper suitable for him”  precisely because he recognizes ([2:23] “…this, at last!, is …”) she is like him; unlike the animals, she is able to be in human companionship with him.

□ “Certainly women can teach Sunday school, and, I might add, they made excellent teachers. And women can surely lead topics in their own groups. But, you see, the real point at issue has to do with the relationship between women and men. Paul insisted that women should not domineer over men, and he referred to God’s act of creation to prove his point. In other words, in God’s creative scheme He gave a submissive role to women” (A District President, writing on women’s suffrage in the church, Lutheran Witness [March 1968], 21-22).

□ “… it is a very specific kind of subordination—the kind that makes one person (sic) out of two” (CTCR-WIC, 24, quoting Clark, 28).

(C) “[vs 23]…Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.'”  God gave a partnership, not dominant/submissive roles, to males and females.

(1) “… that women should not domineer over men” does not equate with or imply, on the other hand, “a submissive role” on the part of the woman or that men should domineer over women.

(2) Why, in God’s paradisical world, should either dominate? The other (biblical) option is partnership (“bone of my bones”).

(3) Peter Lombard: “Eve was not taken from the feet of Adam to be his slave, nor from his head to be his lord, but from his side to be his partner.”

(4) “Man’s joy in the first wifely ‘thou’ (observe the threefold enraptured ‘this one’) is quite elemental and knows nothing yet of the ‘supra mundane facts (Eph., ch. 5), which are adumbrated in this mystery of marriage'”  (von Rad, 82).

 (5) Note Ephesians 5:21: mutually submissive is God’s intent.

(6) “Woman was created not to serve Adam, but to serve with Adam” (Groothius, 132).


□ “He is the ‘first-born’ and hence would have a natural precedence by birth” (CTCR-WIC, 23).

□ “Second, the man is designated as Adam (vs. 20), which is also the term used to describe the race. That the man is given this name suggests that he occupies the position as head of the relationship” (CTCR-WIC, 23).

□ “The creation of man as the first in sequence is integral to the narrative structure of Genesis 2” (CTCR-WIC, 23).

Thesis 16: Creation chronology or order or derivation does not imply subordination or inferiority or “natural precedence.”  There is no internal evidence or suggestion in this text that God ordains  a hierarchical priority because of gender or creation sequence.

(A) The birds and beasts, the creeping creatures and the crawling ones, all were created before the woman, indeed, also before the man.  Yet they do not have “natural precedence” or superior worth over humanity.

(B) Since humankind was created after the animals and is the crown of creation, one just as logically could infer that woman, created after the male, is superior to the male.

(C) Humanity’s source is the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7); yet we would not argue that humanity is subordinate to the dust.  That woman’s source is the man’s rib does not, likewise, suggest inferiority or subordination; derivation does not imply subordination..

(D) Genesis 1:27 implies a simultaneous creation of male and female, or at least a creation in which precedence and priority are not issues.

(E) In Genesis 2, the inspired writer uses exactly sixteen words in Hebrew to describe the creation of the male (Genesis 2:7) and later exactly sixteen words in Hebrew to narrate the creation of the female (Genesis 2:21b-22) (Dennis, 13).  The equal number of words suggests the writer’s careful balancing of the male and the female as persons in parity.

(F) In Genesis 2, the male is incomplete – in need – until the woman is created.  The direction of the text is not from superior to inferior, but from incompleteness to completeness (Dennis, page 16).  The creation of woman is the climax of the account.

(G) That God is not concerned with “temporal priority” is indicated in that he held each one (man, woman, serpent) responsible for what each did.  God did not accept the finger pointing and blame casting.  See also Romans 5:12-14, in which Paul shows his concern is not with “priority” (“Who sinned first?” – finger pointing: “It’s his/her fault!”) because instead of citing Eve, he cites Adam as prototype for all humanity.

(H) “Did God believe (long before there even was an ancient Middle Eastern mind-set) that the first-born ought to have special privileges?  Did God regard primogeniture as something of a universal law operative even at creation?  Is this likely?  Is this consistent with Scripture? (Groothius, 220).

(I) Esau, the first-born, lost out to Jacob, and this was within the purview of God’s intent and plan (Genesis 25:23).  Birth order does not suggest divine mandate, nor does creation order.

(J) 1 Corinthians 11:11 suggests temporal precedence is not a New Testament issue.

(K) What happens in Scripture when either a person or a group insists on “being first” or when they perceive it to be some sort of divine right?  “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all, the servant of all” (Mark 9:35).  Luke 14:7-11 suggests that God operates in a different economy than we who “would be gods” do.

(L) Are we reading back into the Genesis account material and emphases that are not there, and saying more than Scripture itself says?  The CTCR’s “natural precedence by birth” is a conclusion unwarranted by exegetical examination.


▬  Genesis 3:5-7 ▬

[5] “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” [6] So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.  [7] Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

Thesis 17: The Genesis text holds both man and woman equally responsible for the Fall, and the text does not argue that Eve should be subordinate because “she is first responsible for sin.”

(A) “Did God say, ‘You [plural] shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1).

(B) “The text of the Hebrew Bible, as well as its Greek translation, the Septuagint, states that Adam was with Eve when she partook of the forbidden fruit [Gen. 3:6].  Though many translations lack the statement, the Hebrew literally says, ‘She gave to her husband, who was with her.’  Furthermore, the Hebrew text indicates that the serpent is speaking to both the man and the woman, for the plural form of the second person is used.  The account infers that Adam and Eve were equally responsible” (Kroeger, 20).  Compare the NIV translation of Genesis 3:6.

(C) “The man silently participates in her act of wrongdoing.  He, too, has heard about knowledge and becoming wise, for he is present with his wife” (Quell, TDNT, 1:282).

(D) The man, who stands by and says nothing to stop the process, himself decides to eat the fruit handed to him.  The text does not indicate the woman “tempted” or “seduced” him.

(E) “Moreover, the fact that Adam was so willing to follow Eve in eating the fruit suggests that they had not been accustomed to functioning along lines of male authority and female subordination” (Groothius, 142).

(F) “…there is also another thing missing, something quite conspicuous by its absence, that God would have said if Adam had been left in charge of Eve.  To illustrate, parents are in charge of their children, and if they passively watch a child drink poison, they are guilty of neglecting their duty.  Similarly, Adam was with Eve, and he did not try to stop her as she ate the forbidden fruit: ‘She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.’ (Gen. 3:6) Look closely at God’s words of chastisement: “because you listened to your wife and ate …” (Gen. 3:17)   Had Adam been left in charge of Eve – been given authority over her – he would have become guilty of neglecting his duty while he passively watched her eat of the forbidden fruit.  Yet, God specifically faulted Adam for a sin of commission; not one word was breathed by God about a sin of omission: failure to exercise authoritative command!” (Lepper, 3-4).


▀ Genesis 3:16 ▀

[16] To the woman he said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

□ “The ‘curse’ pronounced in Genesis 3:16 does not institute subordination as such, but it does make this relationship irksome for both parties” (CTCR-WIC, 24)

□ “When the New Testament talks about the origin of the subordination of woman to man, it does so on the basis of Genesis 2 and not on the basis of Genesis 3. The foundation for this teaching is not the ‘curse’ of the fall but the original purpose of God in creation” (CTCR-WIC, 24).

 □ “Man was woman’s head from the first moment of her creation…” (CTCR-WIC, 24).

Thesis 18: Superordination and subordination stem not from God’s ordering, but from the Fall.

(A) The will of God for his human creatures is described in terms of “made in the image of God,” companionship, partnership, “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.”   The accounts suggest equity-with-differences, beings-in-partnership, as God’s creation design and intention.

(B) The creation accounts in Genesis do not introduce the idea of subordination of female to male.  In the perfection of Paradise there is no need for superordination or subordination;  both “walk with God.”

(C) The relationship with God and with each other is now ruptured (Genesis 3:7ff.).  Enmity sets in; the delight in each other is no longer present.  In Genesis 3:12, the man blames the woman (and God!) for his own participation in the fall (“…the woman you gave me..”).  Sin is at work, creating self-justification at the expense of the other, fracturing God’s order of unity and parity.  A hierarchy of blame is established.

(D) Genesis 3:16 describes the consequences of the fall into sin.

(1) Genesis 3:16 is a prime example of the perversion of humanity and of the effects of the fall rather than a prescription of God’s intention and ideal order.

(2) This verse does not describe or denominate the immutable will of God for how male and female relate within the created order; it is description, not prescription.

(3) The consequence of sin depicted in Genesis 3:16 textually cannot be morphed into some “immutable order of creation.”

(4) “Headship” in a relationship is necessary only in so far as people live in a fallen, sinful, world; police and armies are needed for the same reasons.  God’s people will endeavor with the aid of the Spirit to return to God’s original intent of parity, of equity with differences.

(E) “[vs 16] … and he shall rule over you…”:

(1) The Hebrew verb is future tense, not imperative; God is describing the future, not ordaining some new arrangement.  The implication is not “should” (prescriptive) but “will” (descriptive).

(2) The text “does not say that the man would continue to rule but would now do so in a cruel and domineering fashion.  The news to the woman was simply that the man would rule, not that he would rule differently” (Groothius, 140).

(3) “Consistency holds that if prior to the Fall the serpent had not traveled on its belly and the ground had not borne thorns and thistles, then man had not ruled over woman” (Lepper, 4).

(4) The mutual interdependence and help-meet support of each other is corrupted by the desire to set oneself up “as gods” (Genesis 3:5), a desire which causes humankind once again to “be alone” (Genesis 2:18) in an over-and-against-the-other posture. In verse 16 is where hierarchical structure and arrangements begin!

(5) In this self-centered pride is conceived for the first time the desire to “rule over you” (James 1:15). The command of God was to subdue (Hebrew: kabash) the earth.  After sin entered, humanity began to subdue (Hebrew: mashal) humanity.  The verb in vs. 16 (mashal) is not the same as is used for humanity’s dominion over the animals in Genesis 1:26,28, which uses the verb radah, “to tread down, have dominion over.”

(6) Whatever hierarchical structure is suggested here is between wife and husband (“… yet your desire shall be for your husband …”) and not for male/female relationships and society apart from and outside of the marriage covenant.

(F) “[vs 16] … multiply your pain in childbearing … shall bring forth  ..”: This is not a curse, but a judgment.

(1) “No cursing language is used in this verse.  God does not issue the command, ‘You must experience great pain in child birth.’  Rather, the simple future tense form of the verb is used to describe what will happen to the woman, not what must be.  She must pay the consequences of her actions; she brought the pain upon herself” (Pareles, 11).

(2) This is parallel to the statement that “he shall rule over you.”  If “he shall rule over you” is prescriptive, God’s intent, then the “multiplying your pain in childbearing,” a parallel construction, is also prescriptive, and no drugs or pain killers should be used to alleviate child birth pain.

 (G) “[vs 16] … yet your desire shall be for your husband …”:

(1)  “Teshuga can justifiably be translated ‘to turn’: ‘Yet you shall turn to your husband, and he would rule over you.’  Here teshuga can refer to when a woman turns to her husband for her needs and does not turn to God for them. If a wife looks to her husband for everything, rather than to God, then she places tremendous power in her husband’s hands, which he can easily use to rule over her” (Pareles, 12).

(2) Lepper quotes Kaiser: “The Hebrew reads: ‘You are turning away to your husband and he will rule over you..’” He [Kaiser] found the Hebrew teshugah, almost universally translated as “desire,” previously was rendered as “turning,” not desire, in the twelve known ancient versions of the Bible: the Greek Septuagint, the Syriac Pashitta, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Old Latin, the Sahidic, the Bohairic, the Ethiopian, the Arabic, Aquila’s Greek, Symmach’s Greek, Theodotion’s Greek.  Thus the Hebrew conveys: “You are turning away (from God) to your husband, and (as a result) he will rule over you (take advantage of you).”  “This text only predicts how some husbands will take advantage of their wives, when the wives turn to their husbands after turning away from God” (Lepper, 3).

(H) Luther sees the Fall as instituting subordination, thus disagreeing with the CTCR.  The following quotations are from his commentary on Genesis:

(1) “ … she is the mistress of the house just as you are its master, except that the wife was made subject to the man by the Law which was given after sin” (138);

(2) “Now the sweat of the face is imposed upon man, and woman is given the command that she should be under her husband” (138);

(3) “This means that Eve’s sorrows, which she would not have had if she had not fallen into sin, are to be great, numerous, and also of various kinds” (200);

(4) “Now there is also added to those sorrows of gestation and birth that Eve has been placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free and, as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband” (202);

(5) “If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of the males” (203).

(I) [The TEV mis-translates verse 16 as saying, ” … yet you will be subject to him..”; this lays the weight of responsibility on the obedience of the woman.  The accurate translation, “… he shall rule over you ..,” puts the responsibility where it belongs, on sinful domination by the male.]

Thesis 19: God’s creative intent is wholeness, not brokenness.

(A) “[vs 16] … I will greatly multiply your pain …”: The Hebrew issalon (pain) used here is the very same word used in verse 18 for the consequence of the man’s action: “In toil (issalon) you shall eat of it.”  The consequence of the man’s sin is the same as the woman’s.  Both are treated equally.

(B) The pain in child-bearing is symbolic of all the pain in the world (physical, emotional, spiritual, social).  Whenever anyone exploits another (whether by gender, race, or nationality), this pain is evident.

(C) This is not a curse or God’s intent for Eve and her daughters, forever binding them into subordination to males.

(D) This brokenness (pain) is humanity’s condition when it chooses to live apart from God and his holy purposes (Romans 1: 24, 26, and 28 [“… God gave them up…”] is a Pauline commentary on Genesis 3:14-19).

(E) If dominion by male over female is part of God’s intended “order of creation,” then by the same logic we must also conclude that pain and brokenness are part of God’s intention for humanity.  But note Jesus’ miracles throughout the Gospels.

 ▬  Genesis 3:20 ▬

[20] The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Thesis 20: Here he first exercises domination over the woman.  The consequences of the Fall have begun.

(A) It is now, after the Fall, that the man begins to exercise power over the woman, naming her (Eve) even as he named the animals.

(B) “Man asserts his power and authority over the woman in Genesis 3:20 when he names her using the technical naming-formula.  He reduces her status to that of the animals he previously named” (Gritz, 59).

(C) Luther: “We heard above that the punishment of being under her husband’s power was inflicted on the woman.  An indication of that power is given here.  It is not God who gives her a name; it is Adam, as the lord of Eve, just as he had previously given names to the animals as creatures put under him. … This is an indication and a confirmation of the punishment or subjection which the woman incurred through her sin” (Luther, Luther’s Works, “Commentary on Genesis, 219).


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