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May 10, 2013

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Some might argue that your interpretation ignores Paul's statements about the creation order in 1 Cor 11. I realize your specialty is Old rather than New Testament interpretation, but surely in your studies you must have considered that passage. How do you harmonize Paul with what you have convincingly laid out here?

There is no question that both men and women have equal value in God's eyes and should have equal value in our eyes also.
However I point you to Romans 5:12 which states that by one man sin entered the world. We know that Eve ate of the fruit first. Why doesn't the verse say, "by one woman sin entered"? I believe that God created Adam and Eve with equal value but with different roles as noted. I believe that Adam's role was to be the spiritual leader, therefore it was his sin that counted against mankind.
However, we also know that Isreal was called to be the spiritual leaders of this world and to lead their neighbors to Christ. When they failed to do what they were called to do then God gave that role to others.
Using this logic, is it possible that God intended men to be the spiritual leaders but where men have failed in fulfilling that role, God has called women to step up in their place? We do refer to Christ as "the second Adam" and not as "the second Eve" again following that same logic.
It is clear throughout history and the Bible that God has called certain women to help spread the Gospel. It is my observation that this happened when the men were either not willing or not able. Who am I to question who God has called?

Just my personal thoughts on a subject that I personally do not feel is a salvation issue.

Regarding 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, the Greek word translated "head" by Paul in verse 3, in the context of the passage probably should be translated as "source." (This word does not mean "authority over" in the first-century Greek of Paul's day.) Paul is speaking of three chronological sources in creation and redemption: Christ was the source in creating the first man (Genesis 2:7), then the first woman came from man (from his rib/side, Genesis 2:22), and then in the incarnation the source of (the one who sent) Christ is the God (head) (John 12:44, 49). The principle Paul lays down is that man should respect his source by not having his hair long in a way that in Paul's time was considered effeminate (verse 4), and a woman should respect here source by not having her hair hanging down in a way that in Paul's time indicated infidelity to her husband (verse 5). Lest anyone get the idea that by such instruction regarding "wild hair" Paul is affirming a male headship over women, Paul continues by adding that "in the Lord" men and women are not set apart from each other (verse 11), and just as woman was from the man, so man is also through the woman (verse 12). Paul counterbalances woman's creation from man (from Adam's rib) with the fact that every man is born through woman; thus he asserts the equal rights and privileges of women and men in the Lord, both to be welcomed into ministry as called and gifted by God.

Dick, you do a good job in setting out why most of us view the pre-creation order as one of both ontological and functional equality. But you do not address the very real actuality of differing roles prior to the fall. Even you use the phrase functional "equality," not functional "sameness." The roles of Adam and Eve prior to sin were of equal value and worth, with no sense of hierarchy, but they were not the same roles. I would not use the term "headship" to describe Adam's role, but I might use the phrase spokesperson or representative of both the human race and the family, as you do above.

But I'm puzzled by your denial that this representative role does not continue generally in family units, as not only 1 Cor. 11 references this (I think "source" is hard to maintain, as it would imply a heretical notion of God being the source of Christ, which we reject), but also Eph. 5:23. Ephesians is especially instructive, as the use of kephaly there is clearly in the context of authority over, and not source, as it is simply not true that the husband is the "source" of the wife. This continuing concept of representative role is the only thing that makes sense of Paul's reference in 1 Timothy 2 to both the order of creation and the fall in justification for male leadership.

I think all the points you list above help describe a role for Adam of coordinator of the family unit in relation to the larger world, with Eve being the mistress of the domestic sphere. Neither of them have authority over the other, because in the pre-sin condition, all decisions could be arrived at mutually. The fall, of course, adds the element of hierarchy to these relationships that did not exist prior to the fall. This then creates a different set of ideals about gender roles of leadership that are recognized in the appointment of male priests and male disciples. Whether that distinction continues on in the office of elder is of course what we are trying to understand. But let's get to that understanding by being as clear as possible about the gender roles that the Bible does pretty evidently set out.

Thank you for causing us all to think more deeply about these important topics.

God being the source of Christ does not need to be understood ontologically in 1 Cor 11. Jesus on more than one occasion mentioned having come from the Father. But he also came to do the will of the Father.

It is not necessary to impose an either/or dichotomy on the meaning of "head," which may indicate both source and authority or "representative role." Man as head of woman (1 Cor 11:3) is most likely a reference to the creation account, mentioned also in verses 8-9, and 12. Adam was the source of Eve, which could indicate a representative role.

So "head" may mean authority as well as source; Paul could have both dimensions in mind in Eph 5:23.

1 Tim 2 does not refer to headship. A more complete treatment of Paul's view of the order of creation as it applies to male/female relationships is found in 1 Cor 11, where verses 11-12 provide the balance 1 Tim 2 lacks. "For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God."

In 1 Tim 2 Paul is dealing with women in Ephesus who had apparently forgotten to respect that aspect of the creation order that spoke of the man being the source of the woman. For this reason, he does not mention the balancing aspect, mentioned in 1 Cor 11:11-12.

When we consider Paul's more complete statement on the creation order in 1 Cor 11:11-12, we cannot use his partial statement in 1 Tim 2:13-14 to exclusively determine our theology of women in leadership.

If there is a connection between women in church leadership and the creation order, let us remember that Paul's creation order is not limited to the idea that Adam was formed first (1 Tim 2:13). It also includes the ideas that man is not independent of woman (1 Cor 11:11) and "man is now born of woman" (1 Cor 11:12).

Since "man is now born of woman," it may be appropriate to appoint women as church leaders along side the men, whose ancestor, Adam, was formed first.

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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