Prove All Things:
A Response to Women in Ministry
Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture
Samuele Bacchiocchi, Ph. D., Professsor of Theology, Andrews UniversityRecently the question of whether women should be ordained to serve in the church in the headship role of elders and pastors has been hotly debated in many Christian churches. Some churches, like the Lutheran church, have actually been split over this issue. At the root of the controversy is one's understanding of the biblical teaching regarding headship, submission, and equality in male-female relationships. This fact is clearly recognized by the special pro-ordination committee set up by the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary to supervise the production of the symposium, a collection of chapters by different authors, called Women in Ministry: Biblical and Historical Perspectives. In the introduction to the part of the book dealing with "Perceived Impediments to Women in Ministry," the committee lists as the first of four "serious obstacles" to the ordination of women "the concept of the headship of all males over all females." 1
The symposium, made up mostly of teachers at the Seminary, attempts to overcome this "serious obstacle" by arguing that the Role distinctionsrole distinctions of male headship and female submission derive from the Fall (Gen 3:16) and that they apply exclusively to the home. In the church, women can serve in the headship positions of elders and pastors. The methodology used to construct this position consists primarily of two strategies. First, the Genesis passages (Gen 1:26-31; 2:18-25; 3:1-24) are interpreted in isolation from the rest of Scripture as teaching "perfect egalitarianism," that is, full equality with no role distinctions between Adam and Eve. Second, the crucial Pauline passages, which interpret the Genesis passages as prohibiting women from serving in a headship role in the church (1 Tim 2:11-15; 1 Cor 11:3-12; 14:34-36), are interpreted as temporary restrictions which apply exclusively to the home, or perhaps to problematic women who caused disorder in the church.
An Overview of the Assumptions of the Symposium
The fundamental assumption of the symposium is that the role distinctions of male headship and female submission were not divinely ordained at creation but were introduced after the Fall and are limited to the governance of the home, not to the community of faith. Thus, Christians are called to return to the creation ideal of "perfect equality," understood as obliteration of gender-based role distinctions.
Before we examine the specific arguments used to construct this position, some general observations are in order regarding Women in Ministry 's perception of the problem and the moral implications of the position adopted by the contributors to the symposium.
First, we have already noted that the symposium sets out to examine "perceived impediments to women in ministry," among which it lists "the concept of the headship of all males over all females." Yet I have never seen this concept expressed in the Seventh-day Adventist church. It is certainly not the view of opponents of women's ordination known to me. Women in Ministry offered no references to books by Adventist authors which set forth such a view. By framing the issue in this extreme way and arguing against it, the book imputes to its opponents a view which they do not hold while failing to deal adequately with the views they do hold.
Further, by listing this view of headship as a "perceived impediment to women in ministry," the book implies that those who do not share its views are opposed to women in ministry. In fact, the opposite is true, as I shall observe in more detail below. The authors of the book you are now reading believe that there is a significant place for women in ministry and a genuine need for their services. They believe that respect for the biblical view of roles and headship in the home and church does not prevent women from ministering, but channels their ministry into the areas where it may be most effective.
To turn next to the moral implications, Women in Ministry 's assumption that male headship and female submission reflect "God's plan for fallen human beings rather than an original mandate for the sinless world" 2 implies that functional role distinctions are intrinsically evil. But we must ask, Is this true? The answer is, Absolutely not! The most compelling proof is the fact that functional role distinctions exist within the Trinity itself! The Bible tells us that "the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3) and that the Son Himself "will be subjected to him [the Father]" for all eternity (1 Cor 14:28). If there is nothing morally wrong with functional distinctions within the Trinity, why is it morally wrong for functional distinctions to exist within male-female relationships?
This leads us to another observation, examining the assumption that male headship entails superiority and female submission inferiority–a subtle and deceptive assumption that underlies the whole symposium. We ask, do functional male-female role distinctions imply superiority and inferiority? Absolutely not! This is true in the Trinity and is also true in male-female relationships. In the Trinity the headship of the Father does not make the Son inferior. Christ Himself affirmed, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). In human relationships, male headship does not make women inferior because of their submissive roles. We "are all one in Christ," and consequently there is no male superiority or female inferiority (Gal 3:28-29).
The fact that I am a man called by God to serve as the head of my family does not make me superior to my wife. In a certain sense she is "the boss," because she has constantly reminded me through the years of my God-given responsibility to serve as the spiritual head of our home. Functional role distinctions have nothing to do with superiority or inferiority but only with the different–and complementary–roles God has called men and women to fulfill in the home and in the church.
The Real Issue
The real issue in the debate over women's ordination is not whether men were created superior and women inferior. No Adventist scholar opposed to women's ordination holds such a view. Rather, the real issue is whether God created men and women equal in nature and worth yet different in function, with the man called to serve in the servant headship role and the woman in the submissive helper role.
It is most unfortunate that the symposium fails to address this fundamental crucial issue, choosing instead arguments about superiority and inferiority–arguments that are foreign to the Bible and to the whole question of women's ordination.
Those of us who for biblical reasons oppose the ordination of women to the headship roles of elders and pastors are often thought to be trying to deprive women of the opportunity to minister in the church. Nothing could be further from the truth. We strongly believe that if ever there were a time when the Ministry of womenministry of women in the church was needed, it is today. The many broken homes, single parents, and abused children inside and outside the church call today more than ever for the ministry of women who have been trained theologically and psychologically to meet such situations.
Simply stated, the issue is not whether women should minister in the church. On this point we are all in full agreement. Rather the issue is, should women serve in the headship roles of elders and pastors? The answer of Scripture is abundantly clear. In both the Old and New Testaments women were precluded from serving as priests, elders, and pastors, not because they were inferior or less capable than men, but because these offices entail the headship role of a spiritual father and not the supportive role of a spiritual mother. This does not mean that the church has no need of spiritual mothers. The contrary is true. As a home without a mother lacks the tender, loving care that only mothers can give, so a church without spiritual mothers lacks the warmth, care, and compassion that spiritual mothers can best give. Summing up, the biblical teaching is that men and women are equally called by God to minister in the home and in the church, but in different, complementary roles.
A Review of the Pivotal Chapter
This review focuses on the fundamental issue of "Headship, Submission, and Equality in Scripture," which is examined in chapter 13 of Women in Ministry. The chapter's author chairs the Old Testament department at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. Over the years I have learned to respect him, not only for his outstanding scholarship but also for his commitment to the Lord. Though I must differ with what he has written in this chapter, I intend no negative reflection on his scholarship as a whole or on his personal character. In several of my books I have quoted extensively from his writings. My review here is limited to the chapter under consideration. It examines exclusively the chapter's methodology and arguments, with no intent to question its author's sincerity or integrity.
The Women in Ministry chapter offers a reinterpretation of the biblical data relating to the headship-submission pattern in attempting to provide a biblical justification for the ordination of women. This chapter is fundamental to the whole symposium. The author himself acknowledges that a definition of the biblical teaching on headship-submission is "foundational to determining whether or not women should be ordained as elders and pastors in the church." 3
In many ways the whole symposium Women in Ministry stands or falls on this chapter's interpretation of the biblical teaching on headship and submission in male-female relationships, because the other nineteen chapters are built upon the premises laid down in chapter 13. If the conclusions of this chapter are found to be based on a misinterpretation of the biblical data, then much of the work set forth by the other contributors collapses for the lack of an adequate biblical foundation. In view of the foundational importance of this chapter, we must closely examine the methodology the author used to reach his conclusions.
The Chapter's Conclusions
It may be helpful at the outset to state the Women in Ministry chapter's conclusions. Fortunately, they are expressed with enviable clarity at the end. "Before the Fall there was full equality with no headship-submission in the relationship between Adam and Eve (Gen 2:24). But after the Fall, according to Genesis 3:16, the husband was given a servant headship role to preserve the harmony of the home, while at the same time the model of equal partnership was still set forth as the ideal. This post-Fall prescription of husband headship and wife submission was limited to the husband-wife relationship. In the divine revelation throughout the rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament witness, servant headship and voluntary submission on the part of husband and wife, respectively, are affirmed, but these are never broadened to the covenant community in such a way as to prohibit women from taking positions of leadership, including headship positions over men." 4
Simply stated, our author believes the Bible to teach that before the Fall there was perfect equality with no functional distinctions between the man and the woman. The role distinctions of husband-headship and wife-submission originated as a result of the Fall (Gen 3:16), and they apply exclusively to the home. Consequently, in the church women can serve even in "headship positions over men" without violating a biblical principle.
Can these conclusions be drawn legitimately from the Bible? Are functional role distinctions between men and women a post-Fall phenomenon, applying exclusively to the home and not to the church? My study shows otherwise. Both male-female equality and role distinctions, properly defined, are part of God's creational design for the harmonious functioning of humanity. God created the man and the woman perfectly equal in their moral worth and spiritual status but clearly distinct in their biological and functional roles. In the partnership of these two spiritually equal human beings, man and woman, God created man to function in the servant-headship role of husband and father, and woman to function in the submissive role of wife and mother. These distinctive roles apply equally to both the home and the church, because from a biblical perspective the church is an extended spiritual family, often referred to as "the household of God" (Eph 2:19; 1 Tim 3:15; 1 Pet 4:17; Gal 6:10).
To determine which of the two paradigms rightly interprets the biblical data, we must begin our investigation with Genesis 1 to 3. The author acknowledges that these Bible chapters are foundational for defining the role relationships of men and women. 5 The three passages of Genesis which are central for our understanding of the relationships between man and woman are (1) Genesis 1:26-31, the creation of the human race; (2) Genesis 2:18-25, the creation of woman; and (3) Genesis 3:1-24, the story of the Fall and its consequences. Let us examine what each passage says.
PART I — GENESIS 1: MALE AND FEMALE
1. Equal, Yet Different Before the Fall
Genesis 1:26-31 contains three key statements: (1) God created mankind in His own image and likeness; (2) God created mankind as male and female; (3) God gave mankind dominion over all the living things with power to increase and multiply, that is, to become a race. These three statements embody two vital concepts, equality in being and differentiation in gender.
Equal Yet Different. Equality is suggested by the fact that both man and woman were created in the image of God. Genesis 1:26-27 says, "Then God said: ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea . . . .' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." "Man" is mentioned twice here and refers inclusively to man and woman. This is indicated first by the Hebrew word for "man" ( 'adam ) which can be translated as "mankind, humanity": "Let us make mankind in our own image." The second indication is the plural "them," which points to "man" as being a plurality consisting of both man and woman. The fact that Genesis 1:26-27 moves back and forth three times between the singular "man" and the plural "them" clearly indicates that the term "man" is used collectively to refer to both man and woman.
Genesis 1:27 corroborates this conclusion. The statement, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him," is clarified by the following statement, "male and female he created them." From these data, our Women in Ministry chapter argues that "the equal pairing of male and female in parallel with ha'adam [man] in this verse [shows that] there is no hint of Ontologicalontological or functional superiority-inferiority or headship-submission between male and female. . . . Both participate equally in the image of God." 6
The conclusion that the "pairing of male and female in parallel with ha'adam [man]" excludes any hint of a headship-submission distinction between male and female ignores two important considerations. First, equality must not obscure the sexual differentiation which is made unavoidably clear in this passage: "male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). The two sexes are part of God's original purpose for the human race and both are good. Both men and women are essential to the proper functioning of the human race. Denying or perverting Sexual differentiationsexual differentiation is a rejection of the order established at creation and is condemned in the Bible as "abomination" (Deut 22:5; Rom 1:26-27).
Genesis 1 does not say much about the roles of men and women. It simply affirms that man and woman are equally created in the image of God but are sexually different. The implications of the gender distinctions are explained subsequently in the Bible, beginning with Genesis 2.
The second important consideration is the fact God designated both the male and the female as "man– ha'adam." We see this again in Genesis 5:2, where the word man denotes both male and female: "He created them male and female; at the time they were created, he blessed them and called them ‘man.'"
Paul's Use of Genesis 1:26-27. Supporting the above conclusion is Paul's use of the terms "image" and "glory" in 1 Corinthians 11:7 in his discussion of the manner in which men and women ought to participate in public worship.
Paul alludes to Genesis 1:26-27 when he writes, "For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man" (1 Cor 11:7). Paul is not implying that a woman reflects the image of God to a lesser degree than does man. The focus of his discussion is not the personal dignity or worth of men and women implied in Genesis 1:26-28, but rather the headship of man in marriage and worship implied in Genesis 2:18-23. Paul refers specifically to the man's headship in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9. It is in this context that man images God and that woman does not. It is obvious that women bear God's image in other senses, as Paul himself recognizes in Ephesians 4:24, where he speaks of all believers as being renewed according to God's image in terms of "righteousness and holiness" (cf. Col 3:10).
Paul is careful in 1 Corinthians 11:7 not to say that the woman is man's image. Rather he says that "woman is the glory of man." The language of Genesis 1:26-27 in the Septuagint is "image" ( eikon ) and "likeness" ( homoioma ) and not image and glory ( doxa ). Thus Paul's use of the term "glory" is significant. To understand its meaning we must note that Paul uses "glory" in the context of the relation of man to God and of woman to man. Man images God and gives Him glory by being submissive to Him and by being a loving, self-sacrificing head (Eph 5:25-29). The wife is the glory of her husband in the way she honors his headship by her life and attitude. This meaning is well expressed in the Septuagint version of Proverbs 11:16, which says, "A gracious wife brings glory to her husband" (cf. Prov 12:4).
What is significant about Paul's use of "image" and "glory" is the fact that he interprets Genesis 1:26-27 in the light of Genesis 2 to explain why the woman is the glory of man, namely, because she was created from and for man and not vice versa (1 Cor 11:8-9). All of this shows that Paul understood the image of God in man and woman mentioned in Genesis 1:26-27, not in the light of the Egalitarianegalitarian model but in terms of the functional distinctions mentioned in Genesis 2:20-22.
In light of these considerations we conclude that Genesis 1:26-27 does affirm male-female equality, but that it also alludes to male headship by twice calling the human race, "man– ha'adam" rather than "woman." Furthermore, by differentiating between man as "the image and glory of God" and woman as the "glory of man," Paul shows that the equality between men and women implied by Genesis 1:26-27 does not negate their functional distinction implied in Genesis 2:18-23.
PART II — GENESIS 2: EQUALITY AND SUBMISSION
Genesis 2 expands on the creation of mankind covered in Genesis 1:26-31. While Genesis 1 affirms that God created mankind as male and female in His own image, Genesis 2 elaborates on how the two sexes were created and on the relationship between them. God first created man from the dust and breathed into him the breath of life (Gen 2:7). He stationed man in the Garden of Eden to develop it and guard it (Gen 2:15). He instructed man to eat of every tree except of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:16-17).
God paraded the animals before Adam for him to name (Gen 2:19, 20). This task entailed more than slapping an arbitrary label on each beast. It required considering the characteristics of each animal so that its name was appropriate to its particular nature. From this exercise Adam discovered that there was no creature that shared his nature (Gen 2:20). God, who even before He brought the animals to Adam had evidently already planned to create a "helper fit for him" (v. 18), now proceeded to create the woman from Adam's rib (Gen 2:21-22). Adam greeted Eve with rhapsodic relief, acknowledging her as part of his own flesh and calling her "Wo man" because she was taken out of Man (Gen 2:23).
In her equality with himself, Adam perceived Eve not as a threat but as a partner capable of fulfilling his inner longing. God blessed the blissful union, saying, "Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). The creation account closes with a reminder of the perfection in which Adam and Eve first came together: "And the man and his wife were both naked and they were not ashamed" (Gen 2:25). They felt no shame because they had nothing to hide. They lived together in perfect integrity and harmony.
Although the narrative focuses on the sameness of nature and the partnership between man and woman, within that equality and partnership there exists a clear sense of the woman's submission to man. We use the term "submission" here not with negative connotations of oppression, denigration, or inferiority, but in the positive sense of depending upon another person for direction and protection and to ensure unity and harmony.
Four main elements of the narrative suggest a distinction between the headship role of man and the helper role of woman: (1) the priority of man's creation (Gen 2:7, 22), (2) the manner of the woman's creation out of man (Gen 2:21-22), (3) the woman's having been created to be man's "helper" (Gen 2:18-20), and (4) man's naming of the woman both before and after the Fall (Gen 2:23; 3:20). Our Women in Ministry author examines each of these elements but contends that none of them support the headship-submission distinctions between the man and the woman. Is this right? Let us analyze the arguments.
1. The Priority of Man's Creation
Man Created First. Does the fact that Adam was made first reflect God's plan that man should serve in a leadership role in the home and the church? The answer offered in the chapter we are considering is No! It says, "A careful examination of the literary structure of Genesis reveals that such a conclusion does not follow." 7 It argues that the entire account of Genesis 2 "is cast in the form of an inclusio or ‘ring construction,' in which the creation of man at the beginning of the narrative and that of woman at the end correspond to each other in importance. . . . The movement in Genesis 2, if anything, is not from superior to inferior, but from incompleteness to completeness. Woman is created as the climax, the culmination of the story. She is the crowning work of Creation." 8
The fundamental problem with this interpretation is that it ignores details of the narrative as well as the meaning the Bible itself attaches to the priority of Adam's creation. To say, for example, that "the movement in Genesis 2, if anything, is not from superior to inferior, but from incompleteness to completeness," ignores first of all that the point at issue in our discussions is not superiority versus inferiority (I know of no scholar today who argues that man was created superior to woman), but equality versus functional distinction. Superiority is a non-issue.
Further, role distinctions don't imply inferiority! There are three Beings in the Godhead who are equal in glory and in being but who differ in function. The Father leads, the Son submits to Him, and the Spirit submits to both. These role distinctions do not negate the fact that the three Persons are fully equal in divinity, power, and glory. The Son submits to the Father, but not because He is inferior, a kind of junior God. The ranking within the Trinity is part of the sublime "equal yet different" paradox that serves as a paradigm for male-female relationships.
The narrative does indeed suggest that the creation of woman is "the climax and culmination of the story" because in her, man found at last the "helper fit for him" (Gen 2:20). This is evident by Adam's explanation: "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" (Gen 2:23). The movement of the narrative is indeed "from incompleteness to completeness," but it is Adam who experiences the process of becoming complete as a result of Eve's creation, and not the other way around. But the woman's creation as the climax and culmination of the narrative does not necessarily imply that there are no functional distinctions between man and woman, for we have already noted that at least in the process of producing children there are very clear distinctions.
Paul's Interpretation of the Order of Creation. Paul's interpretation of the creation of man and woman is the most decisive line of evidence that discredits the attempt to deny headship significance in the priority of Adam's creation. It is unfortunate that our Women in Ministry author interprets the critical passages in Genesis 1 to 3 in isolation without taking into account the inspired commentary provided by Paul. Doing this is typical of Higher criticismhigher criticism, but not of responsible Seventh-day Adventist scholarship nor of the author's work in other areas.
We should note that later in his chapter the author briefly discusses what Paul says about headship and submission, but he makes no attempt to explain Paul's appeal to the order of Eve's creation. Instead, he merely argues that such passages refer to the role of women in the home and not in the church. But even the editor of the symposium appears not to be persuaded. She observes, "The text [1 Tim 2:11] seems to be discussing attitudes in worship rather than marriage relationship." 9
Paul appeals to the order of the creation of Adam and Eve to justify his injunction that a woman should not be permitted "to teach or have authority over a man" (1 Tim 2:12 NIV). He writes, "For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner" (1 Tim 2:13-14 NIV). In the Greek, the order of Adam and Eve's creation is strongly marked by "protos, first" Adam and " eita, then" Eve.
The logic of this passage (1 Tim 2:13-14) and of the parallel one in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, where Paul speaks of the manner of the woman's creation out of man and not vice versa, is abundantly clear. Paul saw in the priority of Adam's creation and in the manner of Eve's creation a clear indication of the headship role God intended man to exercise in the home and in the church. The fact that the woman was created after man, out of man, and as his helper, meant to Paul that God intends the woman to fulfill a submissive role in relation to man. In the church, this role is violated if a woman teaches in a headship position or exercises authority over a man.
By rooting the headship-submission principle in the order of creation rather than in the consequences of the Fall, Paul shows that he views such a principle as a creational design and not the product of the curse. Contrary to Women in Ministry 's argument that headship and submission are the consequences of the Fall, Paul grounds such a principle in the pre-Fall order of creation described in Genesis 2.
The local circumstances of the Christian congregations in Ephesus and Corinth may have provided the context of Paul's injunction, but they do not provide the reason. Paul's reason is creational, not cultural. This is a most important consideration, one that makes Paul's injunction relevant for us today. It is unfortunate that pro-ordinationists choose to ignore the creational reason given by Paul for not permitting a woman to teach in the church as the head of the congregation.
The Meaning of "First-Born." To some it may appear arbitrary and irrational that headship should be assigned on the basis of priority of creation. From a biblical standpoint, however, the arbitrariness and irrationality disappear, because the priority of creation represents not an accident but a divine design, intended to typify the leadership role man was created to fulfill. This typological understanding is reflected in the meaning that both the Old and New Testaments attach to primogeniture (being the firstborn). The firstborn son inherited not only a "double portion" of his father's goods, but also the responsibility of acting as the leader of worship upon his father's death.
Paul uses the typological meaning of the firstborn also to refer to Christ in Colossians 1:15-18: "He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation; for in him all things were created. . . . He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent." The rich imagery of this passage presents Christ as (1) the Image of God, (2) the Firstborn, (3) the Source of Creation, (4) the Head of the church. All of these are drawn together to establish the preeminent authority of Christ over everything.
This use of the "firstborn" typology to express the headship and authority of Christ suggests that Paul attached the same meaning to Adam's being "first formed." In light of the Old Testament background, Paul saw in the priority of Adam's formation a type of the headship God called man to fulfill, and thus, a reason why men, rather than women, should teach in a headship, authoritative position in the church.
2. The Manner of the Woman's Creation out of Man
Genesis 2 suggests the principle of headship and submission not only by the order of creation of Adam and Eve, but also by the manner of their creation. God created man first and then made woman out of his rib (Gen 2:21-22). He did not make Adam and Eve from the ground at the same time and for one another without distinction. Neither did God create the woman first and then man from the woman and for the woman. God could just as easily have created the woman first and made man out of Eve's rib, but He did not. Why? Most likely because that would have obscured the distinction between the male-headship and the female-submission roles that God wanted to make clear.
Our Women in Ministry author rejects the possibility that the woman's derivation from Adam implies submission. He argues that "derivation does not imply submission. Adam also was ‘derived' from the ground (v. 7), but certainly we are not to conclude that the ground was his superior. Again, woman is not Adam's rib. The raw material, not woman, was taken out of man, just as the raw material of man was ‘taken' (Gen 3:19, 23) out of the ground. . . . As the man was asleep while God created woman, man had no active part in the creation of woman that might allow him to claim to be her superior or head." 10
These arguments are based on invalid reasoning. First of all, they ignore the biblical distinction between Adam and the ground from which he was formed. The ground could never be Adam's superior because it is inanimate matter given to man to cultivate. To compare Adam with the ground is worse than comparing apples with oranges, because there is no similarity of nature and function between the two.
Second, the fact that Adam was asleep when God created woman is irrelevant, because male headship is not based on Adam's part in Eve's creation but on God's assigned roles revealed in the order and manner of the first couple's creation.
Third, the different ways God created man and woman are closely related to the different tasks they are called to fulfill. This point is well expressed by Werner Neuer: "The man is formed from the soil, whose cultivation is entrusted to him by God (Gen 2:15; 3:17), while the woman is created quite differently, out of man's rib, to be his helper. This is her God-given task in life (Gen 2:18). The appointed tasks of the sexes are as basically different as the ways in which they were created by God. Their different modes of creation are intimately related to their tasks in life. It is worth noting that Genesis 2 and 3 in their own language make clear the very different world-outlooks of the sexes. . . . While the man has an immediate relationship to the world of things, the woman is primarily directed to the world of persons (i.e., in the first instance to her husband)." 11
Lastly, the notion that "man had no active part in the creation of woman that might allow him to claim to be her superior or head" again reflects the subtle and deceptive assumption that headship implies superiority—-a concept that is foreign to the Bible and to the issue of women's ordination.
Equality and Oneness. We cannot know all the reasons why God created the woman from Adam's body instead of making her as a separate creation from the dust like AdamAdam. However, three possible reasons stand out. First, creating the woman from man's rib suggests the sameness of nature between man and woman. Adam could acknowledge that the woman was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh (Gen 2:23). Her creation from his rib suggests that "she was not to control him as the head, nor to be trampled under his feet as an inferior, but to stand by his side as an equal, to be loved and protected by him." 12
Second, the human race, including the first woman, derives from the same source, Adam, who is the head and representative of humanity (Rom 5:12; 1 Cor 15:22).
Third, woman's creation from man establishes the basis for the one-flesh principle in marriage (Gen 2:24; 1 Cor 7:4), a principle that rests on a real biological and historical foundation.
Paul's Interpretation of the Manner of Creation. The decisive line of evidence that undermines our author's interpretation of Genesis 2:21-22 is the inspired Scripture's own interpretation of the passage.
In 1 Corinthians 11:8 Paul defends his call for women to respect the headship of man by appealing to the manner of the woman's creation: "For man was not made from woman, but woman from man." For Paul the order and manner of the creation of Adam and Eve are the theological foundation of the headship-submission principle. In biblical thought origin and authority are interrelated (see Col 1:15-18). A child must respect the authority of his parents because he derives from them. In Adam's historical situation Eve derived from him in the sense that God formed her from his body. Thus, Adam was her "source" to whom she owed due respect.
This line of reasoning, though present in Hebrew thought, is not explicit in Genesis 2. What is explicit there is that God entrusted Adam with certain responsibilities. He named first the animals (Gen 2:19-20) and then the woman herself, both before and after the Fall (Gen 2:23; 3:20). By this act Adam exercised the leadership role assigned him by God. Man was also instructed by God regarding the forbidden tree and was apparently held responsible for passing on the information to his wife (Gen 2:16-17). After the Fall, God held man accountable for the original transgression (Gen 3:9). In light of these facts, Paul's terse remark that the woman was taken "out of" the man represents a faithful interpretation of Genesis 2 and a legitimate theological reason for the apostle to call upon women to respect the headship role of men.
3. The Woman Created to Be Man's "Helper"
Genesis 2 further suggests the principle of headship and submission by the central role of man in the account of the woman's creation. God created man first and provided him with a garden, an occupation, and finally a wife to be "a helper ( ‘ezer ) fit for him" (Gen 2:18). Though the word "helper" suggests the woman's supportive role, our author rejects this interpretation. Instead, he argues that the Hebrew word ‘ezer (helper) does not imply submission because "The Hebrew Bible most frequently employs ‘ezer to describe a superior helper–God Himself as the ‘helper' of Israel. This is a relational term describing a beneficial relationship, but in itself does not specify position or rank, either superiority or inferiority." 13
It is true that the word "helper" in itself, whether in Hebrew or in English, does not necessarily imply submission. But the meaning of a word cannot be determined without consideration of its context. In this case the word occurs within the phrase which says that God created woman to be a helper fit for man. "If one human being is created to be the helper of another human being," as George W. Knight rightly notes, "the one who receives such a helper has a certain authority over the helper." 14 This does not mean that woman exists solely for the sake of helping man, but rather that she is a helper who corresponds to man because she is of the same nature.
The Old Testament does portray God as our Helper (Ps 10:14; 54:4; 22:11). This only serves to prove that the helper role is a glorious one, worthy even of God Himself. But this fact does not exclude submission, because the very nature of a helping role presupposes submission. Whenever God undertakes to help us, in a certain sense He subordinates Himself to us. But this does not "undo" His deity in helping us. To help us Christ emptied Himself and assumed a servant role, but this did not make Him any less God. The difference, however, between the helping role of God or of Christ and that of the woman is that while God assumes the role of Helper to meet human needs, Eve was created specifically to function as a helper suitable for Adam.
Corresponding Helper. The author seeks support for his interpretation in the adjoining word kenegdo, usually translated as "fit for him" or "suitable for him." He writes: "The word neged conveys the idea of "in front of" or "counterpart," and a literal translation of kenegdo is thus ‘like his counterpart, corresponding to him.' Used with ‘ezer [helper], the term indicates no less than equality: Eve is Adam's ‘benefactor-helper,' one who in position is ‘corresponding to him,' ‘his counterpart, his complement.'" 15
The attempt to transform the word neged which denotes "in front of" or "counterpart," into a "benefactor-helper" role for Eve, is ingenious but is based on invalid reasoning. What Raymond Ortlund correctly observes in regard to alleged superiority applies also to the allegation of equality: "If neged means ‘superior to [or equal, in our case]', then what are we to make of, say, Psalm 119:168? ‘All my ways are before ( neged ) you.' Is the psalmist saying ‘All my ways are superior [or equal] to you Lord'? Not only is that an unbiblical notion, [but] the whole burden of Psalm 119 is the excellency and authority of the law over the psalmist. The neged element in kenegdo merely conveys the idea of direct proximity or anteposition. The woman, therefore, is a helper corresponding to the man." 16
The woman's creation from man and for him ("a helper fit for him," Gen 2:18) suggests a functional dependency and submission. As Gerhard von Rad points out, Genesis describes the woman not in romantic terms as a companion to man, but in pragmatic terms as a "helper" to him. 17 Bible writers speak of human relationships with a certain practicality.
Like many others, our author rejects the notion of a functional submission of woman to man in Genesis 2. He argues that in Eden before the Fall there was a perfect 50-50 partnership between husband and wife. He sees God as having introduced the notion of the headship of man and the submission of woman as part of the curse. This raises an important moral question to be examined later: Why would God establish role distinctions after the Fall if He knew such distinctions to be (as feminists claim) morally wrong? And, we might add, why did God assign the headship role to man rather than to the woman (Gen 3:16)?
This view, which finds no submission before the Fall, stems from a negative evaluation of all forms of submission and especially that of woman to man. This conviction has led our author and others to interpret all the Scriptural references to submission as reflecting the post-Fall condition. The strongest objection to this view is that submission, as we have seen, is present in Genesis 2, that is, before the Fall (described in Gen 3). We have seen that Paul calls upon women to be submissive to the headship role of man, not on the basis of the curse but on the basis of the order and manner of God's creation.
Paul's Interpretation of "Helper Role." The decisive factor against Women in Ministry 's interpretation of the phrase "helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18) is Paul's allusion to this text in 1 Corinthians 11:9: "Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." Paul makes this statement in the context of his admonition that women should respect male headship in the church by covering their heads according to the custom of the time. The head covering was a custom (1 Cor 11:13-15) subservient to the principle of male headship (1 Cor 11:3). While the principle is permanent, its application will vary in different cultures.
Significantly, Paul alludes to Genesis 2:18 to buttress his admonition to women to respect male headship, but he does so without using the phrase "helper fit for him." Instead he gives his own interpretation of this phrase, namely, that woman was created for man and not the other way around. There is no doubt in Paul's mind as to the meaning of "helper fit for him." He did not have to dissect kenegdo in order to come up with an interpretation. The apostle states unequivocally the plain meaning of the phrase "helper fit for him," namely, that woman was created for the sake of man. If woman was created for man's sake, that is, to help him in the tasks God gave him, then it follows that her helping role is a submissive one.
To avoid possible misunderstandings, we must note that Genesis 2:18 and Paul's interpretation of it in 1 Corinthians 11:9 do not say that woman was made to be man's slave or plaything; they say rather that she was made to meet man's need for a fitting companion and fellow-worker. When men view their wives as less than God-given helpers, they are unfaithful not only to the teaching of Genesis but also to the example of Christ's servant headship, which is the model for husband-wife relationships (Eph 5:23-30).
The foregoing considerations show the fundamental importance Paul attached to the order and manner of the creation of Adam and Eve as found in Genesis 2. For Paul, the creational order constitutes the theological basis requiring that women not serve in a headship role in the church. Such a role would not accord with the submissive, helping role God envisaged for woman at creation. To reject Paul's interpretation of Genesis 2 means to reject the internal witness of the Bible.
4. Man Names the Woman both Before and After the Fall
Genesis 2 indicates the principle of headship and submission still further by the fact that God entrusted man with naming not only the animals (Gen 2:19-20), but also the woman herself, both before and after the Fall (Gen 2:23; 3:20). In the Bible, name-giving often indicates authority. God exercises this prerogative by naming things He created and by later giving new names to such people as Abraham and Jacob (Gen 17:5; 35:10).
Giving a name is more than labeling. It is, as Gerhard von Rad puts it, "an act of appropriate ordering, by which man intellectually objectifies the creatures for himself." 18 God entrusted man with the responsibility of naming the animals to help him comprehend their characteristics and the environment surrounding him. Naming expressed an assessment of each creature's character (Gen 2:19).
"God was not waiting to see what sounds Adam would associate with each animal," James Hurley observes. "The prerogative of assigning them names reflects control. He was allowing his vicegerent to express his understanding of and to exercise his rule over the animals by assigning them names. Adam does so, and demonstrates his control: ‘whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name' (Gen 2:19)" 19 In naming the animals Adam fulfills part of his commission to subdue the earth (Gen 2:18), which consists not only in transforming it physically, but also in comprehending it intellectually. It is significant that Adam, not Eve, is entrusted with naming the animal kingdom. This was to enable man not only to comprehend his environment, but to lead him to realize his need for a "helper fit for him" (Gen 2:18).
When Adam discovered that there was no animal suitable to be his companion, God proceeded to fashion a woman from his own body. In his reaction to the creation of woman, Adam revealed not only his joyful astonishment but also his intellectual understanding of the nature of male and female:
"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" (Gen 2:23).
Note that God does not introduce the woman to man, nor does she introduce herself. Adam himself grasps the new situation. In designating her "Woman" Adam defines her identity in relationship to himself. He interprets her as feminine, unlike himself and yet his counterpart. He sees her as part of his own flesh. He defines the woman not only for his own understanding of her but also for her self-understanding. Adam's defining of the woman is in keeping with the headship responsibility God entrusted to him.
"Adam's sovereign act [of naming the woman] not only arose out of his own sense of headship, it also made his headship clear to Eve. She found her own identity in relation to the man as his equal and helper by the man's definition. Both Adam and Eve understood the paradox of their relationship [equal and yet different] from the start." 20 Adam's responsibility to serve as God's subordinate ruler continues after the Fall. In Genesis 3:20, Adam assigns the woman a new name which reflects God's promise that, despite their transgression, the woman would bring forth children to continue the race (Gen 3:15-16). "The man called his wife's name Eve [ Hawwah, life-giving], because she was the mother of all living" (Gen 3:20).
There is no indication that Adam's assigning of a personal name to the woman after the Fall was any different from what he did originally in giving her a class name after her creation. In both instances the man exercised his headship responsibilities. By the first name, "woman–' ishshah," Adam defined the woman's nature as "taken out of man" (Gen 2:23); by the second name "Eve– Hawwah," Adam defined her function as "the mother of the living" (Gen 3:20). Both naming acts were in keeping with Adam's headship responsibilities.
The Author's Interpretation. Rejecting this interpretation, our author argues that although "assigning names in Scripture often does signify authority over the one named, . . . such is not the case in Genesis 2:23." 21 The first reason he gives is that "the word ‘woman' ( 'ishshah ) is not a personal name but a generic identification. This is verified in verse 24, which indicates that a man is to cleave to his 'ishshah (‘wife') and further substantiated in Genesis 3:20, which explicitly records man's naming of Eve only after the Fall." 22
This argument has three major problems. First, while indeed the word "woman" is not a personal name but a "generic identification," this does not diminish the responsible role of Adam in giving her a class name. Such a name was designed to define who she was in relationship to himself at the moment of her creation. By giving Eve a class name Adam fulfilled the role assigned him by God to name all the living creatures according to their characteristics. We do not know what language was spoken in Eden. In Hebrew the name for woman, 'ishshah, sounds very much like the name for man, 'ish. A pun of sorts may have been intended.
The reason given for assigning Eve such a class name is "because she was taken out of man" (Gen 2:23). This explanation suggests that Adam called Eve 'ishshah, woman, because he realized that she was indeed his own kind, from his own body.
Second, while Genesis 2:24 "indicates that a man is to cleave to his 'ishshah (‘wife')," this does not minimize the headship role of man. The function of this text is to affirm man's responsibility to form a committed marital relationship. This commitment involves leaving father and mother and cleaving to his wife. In both instances it is man who is called upon to take the initiative and responsibility to form a committed marital union. The use of the "generic" class name 'ishshah (wife/woman), rather than a personal name, reflects the general principle stated in the text that man is to cleave to his wife.
Lastly, Adam's assigning the personal name "Eve" to his wife after the Fall (Gen 3:20) only serves to reconfirm his headship role. After Eve's creation, Adam gave her a class name to define her identity in relationship to himself. After the Fall, Adam gave her the personal name "Eve" to define her role as "the mother of the living" (Gen 3:20). In both instances Adam acts in keeping with his headship responsibilities by defining the woman's nature and function.
The second reason the author gives for rejecting any headship role in man's naming of the woman in Genesis 2:23 is his claim that this text "contains a pairing of ‘divine passives,' indicating that the designation of ‘woman' comes from God, not man. Just as woman ‘was taken out of man' by God, with which man had nothing to do, so she ‘shall be called woman,' a designation originating in God and not man." 23
Assuming for the sake of argument that the designation of "woman" originates from God and not from man, does this negate the headship role of man? Hardly so! Why? Because Adam would then be using a term coined by God Himself to define the woman's derivation from himself. In this case, Adam exercised his authority by using a divinely coined term to define the woman's relationship to himself. However one looks at it, Adam is involved in naming Eve before and after the Fall, simply because this is part of his God-assigned headship role.
Are Submission and Equality Contradictory? Most feminists today view the principle of equality in nature and submission in function, which is present in Genesis 2, as a contradiction in terms. For example, Scanzoni and Hardesty write, "Many Christians thus speak of a wife's being equal to her husband in personhood, but subordinate in function. However, this is just playing word games and is a contradiction in terms. Equality and subordination are contradictions." 24
The claim that equality and subordination are an unacceptable contradiction fails to recognize that such an apparent contradiction exists in our Savior Himself. On the one hand Christ says, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30) and "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9), and on the other hand He states, "I can do nothing on my own authority; . . . I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30) and "the Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). Christ is fully God (John 1:1; Col 1:15-20) and yet "the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3; cf. 15:28).
The submission in Genesis 2 is similar to the one that exists in the Godhead between Father and Son. In fact, Paul appeals to the latter model to explain in what sense a husband is the head of a wife, namely, as God is the head of Christ (1 Cor 11:3). This is a unique kind of submission that makes one person out of two. Man is called to be the head of a one-flesh relationship. Submission in Scripture does not connote subservience, as commonly understood, but willing response and loving assistance.
Susan T. Foh aptly remarks, "We know only the arbitrariness, the domination, the arrogance that even the best boss/underling relationship has. But in Eden, it was different. It really was. The man and the woman knew each other as equals, both in the image of God, and thus each with a personal relationship to God. Neither doubted the worth of the other nor of him/herself. Each was to perform his/her task in a different way, the man as the head and the woman as his helper. They operated as truly one flesh, one person. In one body does the rib rebel against or envy the head?" 25
PART III — GENESIS 3: SIN AND SUBORDINATION
1. Distortion of Creation
The first two chapters of Genesis present God's creation as He intended it to be. We have seen that God built male headship (not male domination) and female submission into the glorious pre-Fall order of creation. The third chapter of Genesis describes the disruption and distortion of creation brought about by the Fall. Our purpose here is to analyze briefly how the Fall affected the relationship between man and woman.
Genesis 3 is a crucial chapter for understanding what went wrong with God's original perfect creation. If human life started out in Edenic bliss, how do we account for the pain, sorrow, conflicts, and death that afflict mankind today? Genesis 3 explains their origin and gives us hope for God's provision of redemption and ultimate restoration.
Much of the chapter consists of what might be called a trial, in which God interrogates Adam and Eve, establishes their guilt, and pronounces punishment over the serpent, the ground, the woman, and the man. Of special interest for our study is the judgment pronounced upon the woman in Genesis 3:16. This judgment has two aspects. The first relates to childbearing and the second to her relation to her husband. Childbearing, part of the pre-Fall divine design for filling the earth (Gen 1:28), was now to become a painful process (Gen 3:16). The husband-wife relationship would also experience a painful distortion: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16).
The Author's Interpretation. Our author finds in this passage the beginning of the submission of woman to man which he believes did not exist before the Fall. He maintains that it was only "after the Fall, according to Genesis 3:16, that the husband was given a servant headship role to preserve the harmony of the home, while at the same time the model of equal partnership was still set forth as the ideal. This post-Fall prescription of husband headship and wife submission was limited to the husband-wife relationship. In the divine revelation throughout the rest of the Old Testament and the New Testament witness, servant headship and voluntary submission on the part of husband and wife, respectively, are affirmed, but these are never broadened to the covenant community in such a way as to prohibit women from taking positions of leadership, including headship positions over men." 26
So far we have examined the author's thesis by focusing on his interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. We have found his attempts to negate the presence of male headship and female submission in these two chapters to be unsuccessful. A close study of significant details of these texts in the light of Paul's interpretation of the same passages has shown that the principle of male headship and female submission is rooted and grounded in the very order and manner of Adam and Eve's creation.
At this juncture we need to analyze the Women in Ministry chapter's interpretation of Genesis 3:16. We intend to address two questions: (1) Does Genesis 3 mark the origin of male headship and female submission, as our author claims? Or does it allow for the possibility of a painful distortion of an already existing headship-submission principle? (2) Is male headship restricted to the home, as the author contends, or does it extend also to the community of faith in such a way as to exclude women from serving in headship positions over men? We shall attempt to answer these questions by considering first the role of Adam and Eve in the Fall and then the divine judgments passed on them.
The Nature of the Temptation. In the first five verses of Genesis 3, Satan, masquerading as a serpent, plants seeds of doubt in Eve's mind which lead her to question the limitation God had placed on them regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent pretended to disclose an important secret to Eve, namely, that by partaking of the forbidden fruit she would reach her full potential and become divine. Eve succumbed to the deception. Genesis describes in a matter-of-fact way the actual acts of Adam and Eve: "She took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Gen 3:6 KJV).
What happened has significant implications. The text clearly indicates that Eve played the leading role in taking the fruit, eating it, and giving it to her husband, who enters the scene at a later time. The latter is suggested by the prepositional phrase "with her" ( immah ) which, as H. C. Leupold points out, "strongly suggests that at the outset, when temptation began, Adam was not with Eve but had only joined her at this time." 27 Ellen White states even more plausibly that Adam was not at the tree during the temptation at all, but that Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, went in search of Adam and brought some to him. 28
Note that Adam did not take the fruit from the tree but received it from his wife, who played the leading role in the Fall. Adam willingly let his wife take the lead. Apparently, as Ellen White indicates, Eve "was flattered [by the serpent] with the hope of entering a higher sphere than that which God had assigned to her" 29 at her husband's side. She usurped Adam's headship, and instead of being his helper to live as God intended, she led him into sin.
A careful reading of Genesis 3 suggests that the original sin of Adam and Eve was largely due to role reversal. The Fall did not originate male headship and female submission, as our author contends, but actually resulted from a failure to respect these roles. Adam failed to exercise his spiritual leadership by protecting Eve from the serpent's deception, and, on her part, Eve failed to respect her submissive role by staying by her husband's side. The tragic consequences of the first sex role reversal carry a solemn warning for Christians today who are told that Role interchangeabilityrole interchangeability is a sign of human emancipation.
Why Is Adam Responsible for Mankind's Sin? If our author's contention is correct that "before the Fall there was full equality with no headship-submission in the relationship between Adam and Eve (Gen 2:24)," 30 then why didn't God summon Adam and Eve to account together for their transgression? After all, Eve had played the leading role. Why did God call out only to Adam, "Where are you" (Gen 3:9)? Why does Genesis 3:7 say that it was only after Adam ate of the forbidden fruit that the eyes of both were opened? Why does Paul hold Adam responsible for the entrance of sin into this world when he writes, "Sin came into the world through one man" (Rom 5:12)? Why didn't he say "sin came into the world through one woman" or "through the first couple"? Why is Christ portrayed as the second Adam and not the second Eve? The answer to these questions is simple: God had appointed Adam to serve in a headship role. He bore primary responsibility for failing to exercise his spiritual leadership at the time of the temptation. Consequently, as the head of Eve and of the human family, his transgression brought sin and death to fallen humanity.
In both Genesis 2 and 3, Adam is addressed as the one to whom God had entrusted the responsibility of spiritual leadership. Adam received the divine instructions not to eat of the tree of knowledge (Gen 2:16-17); consequently, he was in a special way responsible for instructing Eve so that neither of them would transgress God's command. The great fault of Adam in the Fall was his failure to exercise his role of spiritual leadership. Instead of leading his wife into obedience to God's command, he allowed his wife to lead him into disobedience.
The leadership position that God assigned to Adam made him especially responsible for the transgression of the divine commandment. Werner Neuer rightly observes that "the leadership position of the man intended by God in Genesis 2 precludes ascribing to Eve the chief guilt for the Fall, as has happened time and again in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. His seduction by Eve offers no excuse for Adam, for he was pledged on the basis of his spiritual responsibility to correct his wife and to prevent the disobedience initiated by her from turning into joint rebellion against God." 31 Because of his failure to exercise his spiritual headship role at the time of Eve's temptation, Adam is fittingly viewed in the Bible as the head of fallen humanity. If this interpretation is correct, as the text strongly suggests, then Women in Ministry 's contention that male headship is a post-Fall phenomenon is clearly incorrect.
The Curse on the Serpent. After interrogating the first human couple, God states the consequences of their actions to the serpent, the woman, and the man. These consequences have been generally referred to as "curses." The curse upon the serpent affects not only the serpent as an animal (Gen 3:14) but also the relation between Satan and mankind, characterized by an "enmity" and hostility which will eventually end at the destruction of Satan himself (Gen 3:15). God's merciful promise to defeat our enemy through the victorious Offspring of the woman is our only hope for a glorious destiny.
The Judgment Upon the Woman. The divine judgment upon the woman is of central concern for our study, because it deals directly with the impact of the Fall upon the husband-wife relationship. The judgment upon the woman has two aspects. The first relates to her role as a mother and the second to her role as a wife. As a mother she will still be able to bear children, but God decrees that she will suffer in childbirth: "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children" (Gen 3:16). Childbearing, which was part of the pre-Fall divine design for the filling of the earth (Gen 1:28), will now become a painful process.
As a wife, the woman will suffer in relation to her husband. "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gen 3:16). This divine judgment represents a measure-for-measure response to Eve's attempt to usurp her husband's headship. The meaning of the first phrase appears to be, as Leupold puts it, "She who sought to strive apart from man and to act independently from him in the temptation, [now] finds a continual attraction for him to be her unavoidable lot." 32 Feminists may try to banish a woman's attraction for man, but it is there to stay. This is not necessarily a punitive element. The meaning of the word "desire" (Hebrew teshuqah ) is illuminated by its occurrence in Song of Solomon, where the Shulamite bride joyfully exclaims, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is for me" (Song 7:10).
The second phrase, "he shall rule over you," has been the subject of numerous interpretations. Our Women in Ministry chapter acknowledges that the "word mashal [to rule] in this form in verse 16 d means ‘to rule' (and not ‘to be like') and definitely implies subjection." 33 The meaning appears to be that as the woman sought to rule man by taking control in her own hands and leading him into temptation, now her penalty is that she will be ruled by her husband. This does not mean that God gives a license to man to exercise despotic rulership. The author rightly points out that the Hebrew word for "to rule," mashal, is used in many passages "in the sense of servant leadership, to ‘comfort, protect, care for, love.'" 34 The Old Testament uses mashal in a positive sense to describe God's rulership (Is 40:10; Ps 22:28) and the future rulership of the Messiah (Mic 5:2).
When a man rules in the spirit of Christ, such rule is not harsh or domineering and "may be regarded as a blessing in preserving the harmony and union of the relationship." 35 But where sin prevails, then such a husband's rulership may become a miserable domination. God ordained that man should exercise godly headship, not ungodly domination.
The phrase, "he shall rule over you," represents God's rejection of the woman's attempt to take on the leadership role at the time of the Fall and His summons to the woman to return to her creation submission to man. The story of the Fall shows how the woman endangered herself and her husband by her bid to dominate. God's judgments upon the woman represent the divine remedy to maintain the intended order of the sexes as it appears in Genesis 2. The divinely intended submission of women has nothing to do with male domination and oppression of women. It is a beneficial arrangement designed to protect men and women from the destructive powers of evil.
Not all the elements of the divine judgment are punitive. God's declaration that the woman will bear children is not punitive; only the pains of birth are punishments for the Fall. Similarly, her desire for a man is not necessarily punitive, because the same is said about man before the Fall: the man leaves his parents in order to cleave to his wife (Gen 2:24). The punitive aspects of Genesis 3:16 do not imply that all aspects of subordination must be seen as punishment.
Summing up, we can say that the wording of Genesis 3:16 does not warrant our author's conclusion that the relationship between man and woman has been fundamentally altered by the Fall. George W. Knight cogently points out that "Genesis 3 presumes the reality of childbearing (Gen 1:28), in which the woman will now experience the effects of the Fall and sin (Gen 3:16). It presumes the reality of work (Gen 1:28; 2:15), in which the man will now experience the effect of the Fall and sin (Gen 3:17ff.). And it presumes the reality of the role relationship between wife and husband established by God's creation order in Genesis 2:18ff., a relationship that will now experience the effects of the Fall and sin (Gen 3:16). ‘He shall rule over you' expresses the effect of sin corrupting the relationship of husband (the head) and wife. Just as childbearing and work were established before the Fall and were corrupted by it, so this relationship existed before the Fall and was corrupted by it. Neither childbearing, nor work, nor the role relationship of wife and husband is being introduced in Genesis 3; all are previously existing realities that have been affected by the Fall." 36
The Judgment Upon Man. The divine punishment for Adam's disobedience contains three significant points worthy of consideration. First, man's relationship to the ground is distorted: "Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; . . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread . . ." (Gen 3:17-19). Work is not the punitive element, just as childbearing was not Eve's punishment. The punitive element is the pain in cultivating the ground in the sweat of one's brow.
The second important point is God's rationale for inflicting the punishment. The first reason God gave for inflicting the punishment was not "Because you have eaten of the tree which I commanded you," but "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you" (Gen 3:17). The point here is obvious. Adam sinned first of all because he listened to the voice of his wife rather than to the command of God. By so doing, he abdicated his headship. Second, and as a result of the first, Adam sinned by transgressing the simple and plain command God had given him (Gen 2:17).
Note that God issued a formal indictment only before sentencing Adam, and not before sentencing Eve. The reason is that Adam was the head and thus ultimately responsible for the disobedience of both. God did not place the blame on both as if both shared equal responsibility. God says: "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife . . . cursed is the ground because of you" (Gen 3:17). The "you" refers exclusively to Adam, because he had been entrusted with the responsibility to serve as the spiritual and moral leader.
A third point to note is that God told only Adam that he would die: "till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Gen 3:19). Eve died too, of course, but God pronounced the death sentence on Adam alone, because he was the head, and the death sentence upon him included Eve and all members of the human family that he represented.
Paul's Use of Genesis 3. In our study of Genesis 1 and 2 we noted that Paul faithfully appealed to the implication of these chapters to support his teaching that women ought not "to teach or to have authority over men" (1 Tim 2:12). We must now turn our attention to Paul's use of Genesis 3. His main reference to Genesis 3 is found in 1 Timothy 2:14: "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." This is the second of the two reasons Paul gives to support his teaching. The first reason is the priority of Adam's formation (1 Tim 2:13).
This second reason, based on Eve's deception, has produced many dangerous interpretations. Some have assumed that this verse teaches that women are disqualified to act as leaders in the church because they are more gullible than men. Paul "may have in mind the greater aptitude of the weaker sex to be led astray." 37 A variation of this interpretation is that women "are inferior in their gifts so far as the teaching office is concerned." 38
These interpretations are wrong because nowhere does Scripture suggest that women are more prone to err than men or that their teaching gifts are inferior. If the latter were true, how could Paul admonish women to teach their children and other women (Titus 2:3-5; 2 Tim 3:15)? How could he praise women fellow-workers for their roles in the missionary outreach of the church (Rom 16:1, 3, 12; Phil 4:3)?
To understand the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:14 we must note that this verse is linked to the preceding one by the conjunction "and" ( kai ), which Paul often uses as an explanatory connective (see 1 Tim 4:4; 5:4-5). In this case the connective "and" suggests that the typological meaning of Adam's having been formed first, as mentioned in verse 13, is connected with the typological meaning of Eve's deception, mentioned in verse 14.
Apparently Paul is saying that both Adam's formation and Eve's deception typologically represent woman's subordination to man. As we have noted, Paul's first reason for his teaching appeals to the order of creation and the second reason to the Fall. The second reason shows what happens when the order of creation is disregarded. When Eve asserted her independence from Adam she was deceived.
The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary supports this interpretation, "The apostle's second argument for the submissiveness of women is that when Eve tried to assert leadership she was beguiled." 39 In a similar vein George W. Knight writes: "In 1 Timothy 2:14 Paul also refers to the Fall after citing the creation order . . . to show the dire consequences of reversing the creation order on this most historic and significant occasion." 40
Our study of the first three chapters of Genesis has shown that the principle of male headship and female submission was established by God at creation and not, as Women in Ministry contends, after the Fall. We have found that Genesis 1 simply affirms that man and woman are equally created in the image of God but are sexually different. By twice calling the human race "man" (Gen 1:26-27), God whispers male headship already in Genesis 1, though it is explained in chapter two.
Genesis 2 clarifies the equality and gender distinctions of Genesis 1. Man and woman are equal in nature, because they share the same human flesh and bone and have the same spiritual value before God. Yet they are different in function, because woman is to be submissive to man. The latter is indicated by the following four elements of the narrative: (1) the priority of man's creation (Gen 2:7, 22), (2) the manner of the woman's creation out of man (Gen 2:21-22), (3) the woman's creation to be man's helper (Gen 2:18-20), and (4) man's naming of the woman both before and after the Fall (Gen 2:23; 3:20). The headship of man is implied also in chapter 3 where God calls upon the man to answer for the pair's transgression and indicts the man (not the woman) for failing to fulfill his headship role by listening to the voice of his wife rather than to His command.
Genesis 3 describes the distortion of the creation order brought about by the Fall. This distortion affected not only the serpent, the land, work, and childbearing, but also the submission of woman to man. Sinful man would now take advantage of his headship to dominate and oppress his wife. Contrary to our author's view, the curse on the woman marked not the institution of submission but rather its distortion into oppressive domination.
Paul attaches fundamental importance to the teachings of the first three chapters of Genesis. We found that he appeals to the pre-Fall order and manner of creation as the basis for the submission of woman to the leadership of man, both in marriage and in the church. Paul's appeal to the order of creation is in line with Christ's teaching that calls for a restoration of the creational relationship (Matt 19:8) by the members of His kingdom. The function of redemption is not to redefine creation but to restore it, so that wives may learn godly submission and husbands may learn godly headship.
Paul bases his teaching concerning the role of women in the church not on the consequences of the Fall described in Genesis 3, but on the pre-Fall order of creation presented in Genesis 1 and 2. The foundation of his teaching is not the divine judgments pronounced at the Fall but God's original purpose manifested in the order and manner of human creation. It is unfortunate that in his interpretation of Genesis 1, 2, and 3, our author consistently ignores Paul's appeals to these chapters to support his teachings in regard to male-female role distinctions in the home and in the church. Ignoring the internal witness of the Bible can give rise to private interpretations.
Genesis 1-3 deals primarily with husband-wife relations, but the underlying principle of equality and submission has broader implications for the roles of men and women within the community of faith. This will become evident in the next two sections, where we examine the ministry of women in both Old and New Testaments. We shall see that though women ministered to God's people in a variety of vital religious roles, including that of prophet, there are no indications in Scripture that they were ever ordained to serve as priests in the Old Testament or as pastors, elders, or bishops in the New Testament. The reason is to be found, not in the patriarchal mentality of Bible times but in the recognition of the headship role which God appointed man as the "firstborn" of the human family, to be fulfilled in the home and in public worship. The Bible implies this principle in the creation story of Genesis 2 and upholds it in both the Old and New Testaments.
PART IV — HEADSHIP, SUBMISSION, AND EQUALITY
IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
Husband-Wife Relationships. The author's fundamental thesis is that the principle of male headship and female submission originated at the Fall (Gen 3:16) and was designed to govern only the husband-wife relationship and not male-female roles in the religious life of God's people. To prove the validity of this thesis he endeavors to show in the second half of his chapter that in both the Old and New Testaments the principle of headship and submission applies to the home but not to the religious community of faith. Since elsewhere I have dealt at length with the ministry of women in the Old and New Testaments, here I will limit my comments to a few basic observations. 41
The author finds in the Old Testament ample "evidence for the husband headship principle in marriage," but he emphasizes that "such headship does not override the basic equality between marriage partners, nor does it imply the husband's ownership, oppression, domination, or authoritative control over the wife." 42 On this point we are in perfect agreement. God never intended that husband headship should be a means of domination or oppression but a responsibility of service. A survey of the evidence in this area is unnecessary because there is no disagreement.
The area of disagreement centers on the role of women in the religious life of ancient Israel and of the New Testament church. Our author maintains that "while the headship principle of Genesis 3:16 clearly functions to regulate the Old Testament husband-wife relationship, this principle is not widened into the covenant community in such a way as to cause the rejection of women leaders on the basis of gender–even women leaders exercising headship over men." 43
Does a Prophetess Exercise a Headship Role? Deborah is the author's major example to support his contention that women served in headship roles over men in the Old Testament covenant community. He writes, "I note particularly the leadership role of Deborah the prophetess and judge (Judges 4-5). Deborah clearly exercised headship functions over men as the recognized political leader of the nation, the military leader of Israel on an equal footing with the male general Barak, and a judge to whom men and women turned for legal counsel and divine instruction. There is no indication in the text that such female leadership over men in the covenant community was looked upon as unusual or was opposed to the divine will for women." 44
In examining Deborah's role in ancient Israel, we first note that she is introduced to us in Scripture as a "prophetess" who judged the people under a palm tree and not as a military leader. "Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lappidoth, was judging Israel at that time. She used to sit under the palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim; and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment" (Jud 4:4-5).
Did Deborah as a prophetess exercise a headship role over men in ancient Israel? The answer is No! Why? Because the role of a prophet or prophetess is that of a messenger, not a leader. A prophet exercises no authority of his own but communicates the messages and decisions of the One who has sent him.
The careers of the Old Testament prophets make it clear that they did not exercise headship. They often rebuked the leaders who did have the headship, trying to persuade them to change their evil course and turn to God. All too often their efforts were rejected. Some of them, such as Micaiah (1 Kings 22) and Jeremiah (Jer 38), were imprisoned because their messages displeased the rulers. Isaiah is said to have been sawn in two at the order of the king. Jesus recognized and lamented how the prophets had been treated: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you!" (Matt 23:37). Clearly the prophets did not exercise headship in Israel. Their messages had great power and moral authority, because they came from God; but the prophetic role entailed no headship. Even when the country's leaders obeyed God's word conveyed through the prophets, the prophetic role was never that of head. The relationship between prophets and leaders (heads) in the best of times is illustrated in Ezra 5:1, 2: "Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God, helping them" (emphasis mine).
What is true of the male prophet is no less true of the female prophetess. Her role was not that of head but of messenger. The Bible sees the prophetess in a supportive and complementary role which does not negate male headship. Paul clarifies this point in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, where he defends the right of women to pray and prophesy in the church because the gifts of the Spirit are given to the church without regard to sexual differences (Joel 2:28; 1 Cor 12:7-11). Note, however, that Paul opposes the behavior of those women who disregarded their subordinate position by praying and giving prophetic exhortations to the congregation with their heads uncovered like the men.
Paul opposes this practice because "any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head–it is the same as if her head were shaven" (1 Cor 11:5). The "head" being dishonored is her husband, for Paul states in verse 3 that "the head of a woman is her husband." Why would it dishonor her husband for a woman to pray and prophesy in public with her head uncovered? Simply because the head covering, whatever its nature, was seen in that culture as the sign of her being under the "head" or authority of a man (cf. 1 Cor 11:10). Thus, the removal of such a sign constituted a repudiation of her husband's authority or headship, which a woman was called to respect, not only in the home but also in the church.
Did Deborah Exercise a Headship Role? The implications for our study are clear. Since the prophetic role did not involve headship, prophesying by a woman, such as Deborah, did not violate the principle of male headship, as long as she did it in a proper manner and demeanor that did not negate male headship. There are several indications that Deborah respected the principle of male headship explained by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.
First, Deborah's role as a judge was unique, for, contrary to our author's assertion, she is the only judge in Judges who did not serve as a military leader. Instead of leading an army into battle like other judges, as the Lord's messenger she received instruction from Him to summon Barak to lead an army of ten thousand men into battle against Sisera, the general of Jabin, king of Canaan, who was oppressing Israel (Jud 4:6-7). It is significant that Deborah did not assume the headship role of an army general; she conveyed God's call to Barak to serve in that capacity.
Second, in a discreet way Deborah rebuked Barak for his unwillingness to go to battle without her (Jud 4:8). Because of his reluctance, Deborah warned Barak that "the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Jud 4:9). But the woman who earned the glory by killing Sisera while he slept in her tent was not Deborah but Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite (Jud 4:17-22).
Third, perhaps to avoid any possible misunderstanding about their role within their culture, the prophetic ministries of Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) differ significantly from those of male prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Male prophets exercised their prophetic ministry in a public manner, being commissioned to proclaim the word of the Lord before the people and the king himself (Is 6:9; 7:3; 58:1; Jer 1:10; 2:2; 7:2; Ezek 2:3; 6:2). For example, the Lord said to Isaiah, "Cry aloud and spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet; declare to my people their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins" (Is 58:1). Similarly, to Jeremiah the Lord said, "Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all of you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord" (Jer 7:2).
The prophetic ministry of Deborah was substantially different from this. She did not go out and publicly proclaim the word of the Lord. Instead, individuals came to consult her privately under the palm tree where she sat: "She used to sit under the palm of Deborah . . . and the people of Israel came up to her for judgment" (Jud 4:5). Presumably she came to be known as a godly woman through whom God communicated His will. People came to trust her judgment in resolving their disputes. Though it would not have been out of place for Deborah as a prophetess to proclaim God's word publicly, she did not exercise her prophetic ministry in a public forum like the Old Testament male prophets. Even when she spoke to Barak she talked to him privately (Jud 4:6, 14). And the song of praise was sung by Deborah and Barak together (Jud 5:1), which suggests equality rather than headship. More telling still is the fact that she is praised as a "mother in Israel" (Jud 5:7). It is evident that she was perceived to be primarily a spiritual mother, not as filling the traditional role of an elder or judge or prophet.
Similarly, Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) did not proclaim God's word publicly, though it would not be wrong for a prophetess to do so since the prophetic role does not entail headship. Huldah, however, explained the word of the Lord privately to the messengers sent to her by King Josiah (2 Kings 22:15), giving no occasion to anyone to misinterpret her adherence to the womanly role. Miriam's prophetic ministry also avoided misinterpretation, for she ministered only to women. "Then Miriam, the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dancing. And Miriam sang to them" (Ex 15:20-21, emphasis mine).
The preceding considerations suggest that the ministry of Deborah as a judge was unusual, even unique. It is possible that the Lord used her at a critical time of apostasy, when the spiritual leadership of men was lacking. We are told that "the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord . . . and the Lord sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan" (Jud 4:1-2). The exceptional calling of a woman like Deborah at a time of crisis can hardly be used to establish the general principle of women serving in a headship role over men in the covenant community. As if anticipating the current debate, Calvin makes a pertinent comment regarding Deborah: "If any one brings forward, by way of objection, Deborah (Jud 4:4) and others of the same class, of whom we read they were at one time appointed by the command of God to govern the people, the answer is easy. Extraordinary acts done by God do not overturn the ordinary rules of government, by which He intended that we should be bound." 45
To sum up, women who fulfilled a prophetic ministry in the Old Testament did not exercise a headship role, nor did their male counterparts. In the New Testament, women prophesied publicly before the congregation, but their demeanor (head covering) had to show respect for male headship.
Note that prophetic speaking in the Corinthian congregations was understood in the broad sense of communicating a message of exhortation from God. We may conclude that this ministry did not involve assuming the leadership role of the church for at least two reasons. First, Paul suggests that the prophetic ministry of "upbuilding and encouragement and consolation" (1 Cor 14:3) was open to all: "For you can all prophesy one by one" (1 Cor 14:31). This by itself indicates that the prophetic role did not convey leadership or headship on the one who exercised it. Second, as we have seen, the prophetic role was that of a messenger, not of a leader or head. The prophets often had to convey the messages of God to the leaders, but they did not have headship power to implement the instructions in those messages.
In light of the above considerations, we conclude that the prophetic ministry of women in both the Old and New Testaments was not seen as exercising headship over men but as respecting the leadership role of men in the community of faith, even when the prophetic ministry involved bringing messages of rebuke or correction from God.
No Women Priestesses in the Old Testament. Regrettably, in his discussion of the role of women in the covenant community of ancient Israel, our author does not address the crucial question as to why women served as prophetesses but not as priestesses. An examination of this question could have provided a much-needed corrective to his claim that women exercised headship positions over men in the religious life of ancient Israel. The absence of priestesses shows otherwise. The reason women were precluded from ministering as priestesses is that priests served as representatives of God to the people. Their headship role could not legitimately be fulfilled by a woman. This fact alone constitutes a serious challenge to the author's thesis.
Another author addressed the question, "Why not a woman priest in Israel?" in chapter 2 of the same symposium, Women in Ministry. Since our first author frequently refers to this scholar, we will briefly consider the two basic reasons our second author gives for the exclusion of women from the priesthood. The first is historical and the second is theological. His historical reason is that priestesses in the ancient Near East "were often associated with sacred prostitution." Thus for him, the absence of priestesses in ancient Israel "is to be understood as a reaction to pagan syncretism and sexual perversion." 46
This popular argument falls short on at least two counts. First, the fact that some of the pagan priestesses served as prostitutes cannot be a valid reason for God to exclude Israelite women from serving as exemplary priestesses at the sanctuary. A legitimate practice cannot be prohibited because of its perversion. The sons of Eli "lay with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting" (1 Sam 2:22), but there is no indication that these prostitutions resulted in the abolition of male priesthood or of the ministry of women at the entrance of the sanctuary. If the argument were valid, then not even men should have functioned as priests because of the danger of male prostitution, which the Bible views as more abominable than female prostitution, calling male cult prostitutes "dogs" (Deut 23:18; Rev 22:15).
Second, there are indications that many, if not most, of the pagan priestesses in the ancient world lived chaste and devoted lives. Some of the Babylonian priestesses lived in cloisters. 47 The women priests who officiated, for example, at the temples of Vesta, Apollo, Athena, Polias, and Dionysius, as well as in the various mystery religions, were in most cases either celibate or very continent in their life-styles. This shows that the argument regarding the danger of "sacred prostitution" does not hold water. 48
Why Couldn't Women Offer Sacrifices? The theological reason the second author gives for the exclusion of women from the priesthood is "because of the sacrificial function, the only priestly act denied to women." 49 Women could not offer priestly sacrifices, he writes, because of "the incompatibility of the sacrifice, normally associated with death and sin, and the physiological nature of the woman traditionally associated in the Bible with life and messianic pregnancy." 50
The notion that women were precluded from the sacrificial function of the priesthood because physiologically their nature is "associated in the Bible with life and messianic pregnancy," sounds more like an ingenious rabbinical speculation than a biblical reason. Nowhere does the Bible suggest such a reason.
Our second author seeks support for his view in the command, "You shall not boil a kid in its mother's milk" (Ex 23:19), but it doesn't fit. First, the primary reason for this injunction is generally recognized to be God's concern to prevent the Israelites from adopting a common Canaanite ritual practice. Second, boiling a kid in its mother's milk was not the same as a woman's offering an animal sacrifice. The former was prohibited, he speculates, "because it would be incongruous to associate the milk of the mother, carrier of life to the kid, with the death of the very kid." 51 But this hardly applies to a woman sacrificing an animal, because she would not be sacrificing her own offspring. In fact, sacrificing an animal would not have contradicted a woman's capacity to give life, because God promised to restore life through the death of the offspring of the woman (Gen 3:15). Typologically speaking, a woman could have offered sacrifices more fittingly than a man, because the animal she would sacrifice could represent her Messianic offspring, who would be sacrificed for the salvation of His people.
The Representative Role of a Priest. The true reason for the exclusion of women from the priesthood is to be found in the unique biblical view of the priest as representative of God to the people. This second author himself acknowledges this to be the "essential concept underlying the priesthood," namely, that "the priest was considered as God's representative." 52 He also correctly points out that in both the Old and New Testaments "the Messiah is consistently identified as a priest." 53 It was because of this headship role of a priest as representative of God and of the Messiah to come that women were excluded from the priesthood.
The priesthood developed through several stages in the Old Testament. During patriarchal times the head of the household or of the tribe fulfilled the priestly function of representing his household to God. Thus Noah (Gen 8:20), Abraham (Gen 22:13), Jacob (Gen 35:3), and Job (Job 1:5) each served as the representative priest of his family. With the establishment of the theocracy at Sinai and the erection of the tabernacle, God appointed the tribe of Levi to serve as priests in place of the firstborn or head of each family. "Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn that opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, for all the firstborn are mine" (Num 3:12-13). We noted earlier that the notion of the firstborn derives from Adam, the first created, and is even applied to Christ, "the firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15). The firstborn was the head of the family, and the priests served as the spiritual heads of Israel.
While God called all the people of Israel, male and female, to be "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6; cf. Is 61:6), after the Sinai apostasy the Levites were chosen to serve as the representative heads of the whole nation because of their allegiance to God (Ex 32:26-29). When the priests ministered they acted as the representatives of God to the people.
Because of this representative role which the priests fulfilled as heads of the household of Israel, women were excluded from the priesthood. A woman could minister as a prophet, because a prophet was primarily a communicator of God's will and God communicates His will through men and women, irrespective of gender. But a woman could not function as a priest, because a priest was appointed to act as the representative of the people to God and of God to the people. As James B. Hurley correctly observes, "The Mosaic provision [for an exclusively male priesthood] stands in a historical continuum and continues the practice of having representative males serve to officiate in public worship functions." 54
"The fact that most pagan religions of the time did have priestesses, as well as priests," notes John Meyendorff, "shows that a male priesthood was the sign of a specifically biblical, i.e. Jewish and Christian, identity." 55 This unique, counter-cultural Jewish and Christian practice stems not from the religious genius of either Judaism or Christianity but from divine revelation which at creation established a functional headship role for man to fulfill in the home and in the household of faith.
Did God Dress Eve as a Priestess? The second author's most imaginative attempt to find "biblical" support for a priestly role for women in the Old Testament is his interpretation of the garment of skins God made for Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21). "God chose animal skin. This specification not only implies the killing of an animal, the first sacrifice in history, but by the same token, confirms the identification of Adam and Eve as priests, for the skin of the atonement sacrifice was specifically set apart for the officiating priests (Lev 7:8). By bestowing on Adam and Eve the skin of the sin offering, a gift reserved for priests, the Genesis story implicitly recognizes Eve as priest alongside Adam." 56
This claim that "Adam and Eve were, indeed, dressed as priests" cannot be supported biblically. The Bible gives no indication that priests wore garments made from the skins of the animals they sacrificed. The priests wore fine linen garments (Ex 28:29), which were often called garments of "salvation" (2 Chron 6:41; Ps 132:16) because they typified the purity and salvation that God offered through the ministry of the priests. No such typological significance is attached to any skin garment in the Bible. We are on much firmer ground if we interpret the text at its face value as meaning, to use the words of Ellen G. White, that "the Lord mercifully provided them with a garment of skins as a protection from the extremes of heat and cold." 57 While the slaying of animals for man's needs may suggest the idea of sacrifice, the text per se, as Leupold points out, "does not teach that, nor is it an allegory conveying a lesson to that effect. The meaning is what the letter of the statement says–no more." 58
Had God dressed Eve as a priest at the time of the Fall, it would be surprising that we do not find a single clear example of a "female priest" in the Bible. The reason is not cultural but theological, namely, the biblical teaching that only men could serve in the headship roles of priest in the Old Testament and of apostles, elders, and pastors in the New Testament.
Conclusion. Women played a most vital role both in the private and public religious life of ancient Israel. As full members of the covenant community, women participated in studying the law and teaching it to their children (Prov 1:8; Deut 31:12; Neh 8:2), in offering prayers and vows to God (1 Sam 1:10; Gen 25:22; 30:6, 22; 21:6-7), in ministering at the entrance of the sanctuary (1 Sam 2:22), in singing, and in the prophetic ministry of exhortation and guidance (Ezra 2:65; 1 Chron 25:5-6; Jud 4:4-6; 2 Kings 22:13-14).
But, in spite of the first author's attempts to prove the contrary, the religious roles of women in ancient Israel were different from those of men. Women served in accordance with the principles of equality of being and submission of function that are implicit in the creation story. The principle of male headship in the home and in public worship is recognized even by Clarence J. Vos, an Evangelical feminist, who writes: "It was not her [the woman's] task to lead the family or tribe in worship; normally this was done by the patriarch or the eldest male member. That a male was appointed to this function no doubt rested on the idea that the male was considered the ‘firstborn' of the human family–a motif discernible in the creation story of Genesis 2." 59
PART V — HEADSHIP, SUBMISSION, AND EQUALITY
IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the final section of his chapter, our first author endeavors to prove that the New Testament is consistent with the Old Testament in applying the principle of headship and submission only to husband-wife relationships and not to the role of women in the church. To prove his thesis he attempts to show that "all of the New Testament passages regarding headship and ‘submission' between men and women are limited to the marriage relationship" "and not men and women in general." 60
For the sake of brevity I will comment only on the three Pauline passages relevant to our discussion on the role of women in the church (1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:34-36; 1 Tim 2:8-15), addressing the fundamental question, Are Paul's admonitions regarding women's behavior in the church meant for wives only or for women in general? 61
1. Headship and Headcovering: 1 Corinthians 11:2-16
In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 Paul discusses the appropriate headdress for men and women during a worship service. The basic rule for church order that Paul gives in this passage is that in worship services men should leave their heads uncovered while women should have their heads covered. It seems probable that Paul was responding to a report received about some Corinthian women who were either refusing to cover their heads or who were questioning the practice. Possibly some women saw the abandoning of their Head Coveringshead coverings as an expression of their liberty and equality in Christ.
The importance of this passage lies not so much in what Paul says about head coverings as in the significance that he attaches to head coverings as a symbol of the role distinctions that men and women must preserve at church. For Paul, these distinctions are not grounded on cultural conventions but on the principle of male headship and female submission established by God at creation. To support this principle, in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 the apostle appeals not to the story of the Fall in Genesis 3 but to the manner of the creation of Eve out of man and for man in Genesis 2. If the submission of women were regarded as a consequence of the Fall, as our author contends, then the headcovering would have been a shameful sign of guilt. But Paul sees it as a sign of honor for women (1 Cor 11:7, 15), because in Paul's culture it represented obedience to the submissive role that God assigned to women.
Modern readers find it difficult to comprehend why Paul should place so much importance on such a trivial matter as headcovering. The key to understanding why this custom was important for Paul is found in the opening verse of the section: "But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor 11:3). Paul is concerned that the principle of male headship and female submission be outwardly respected in the church through the custom of women covering their heads.
What matters to Paul is not the headgear itself but respect for the distinction between the sexes which the headgear expressed in that particular culture. By laying aside their headgear, the Corinthian women were rebelling against their divinely-intended submission. What to some appears as a petty fight over a trivial matter of women's head covering was in reality an important theological battle against women who wanted to obliterate role distinctions set in place by God Himself at creation.
Seen in its proper light, this passage speaks volumes to our culture today, where the feminist movement is promoting role interchangeability, the obliteration of sexual role distinctions in all realms of life. Ultimately, this effort results in the breaking down of the fundamental structure established by God for the well-being of the home, the church, and society.
Wives or Women? On the basis of still another author's analysis of 1 Corinthians 11 in Chapter 15 of the same symposium, Women in Ministry, 62 our author argues that the passage affirms male headship only in marital relationships and not over women in general. "The context in 1 Corinthians is one of wives submitting to the headship of their own husbands, and not the headship of men over women in general." 63 The main support for this conclusion is two Greek words, Gyne gyne and aner, which can be translated either as man and woman or as husband and wife. "The context of 1 Corinthians 11 clearly favors the translation ‘husband' and ‘wife.'" 64
As we noted at the beginning, Seventh-day Adventists opposed to women's ordination do not hold to "the headship of men over women in general." In offering a choice only between this general headship and headship confined to the marriage relation, the author presents a false dichotomy. Taken together, the writings of Paul do not assert the subordination of all females to all males but the subordination of females under their proper heads. In the home, the proper head is the husband or father, as our author affirms. Paul's counsel in Ephesians 5:22, 23 is evidence for this view: "Wives, be subject to your husbands . . . . For the husband is the head of the wife." In the church family, the proper head is not all males but the appointed male leadership of the elder or elders, who serve in the role of father to the entire church, both male and female (see 1 Tim 3:2-5).
The author is correct when he says that the statement, "the head of a woman is her husband" (1 Cor 11:3, RSV) most likely refers to the husband-wife relationship. In fact, Paul uses the same words in Ephesians 5:23 when speaking exclusively of the headship of the husband over his wife. In spite of this evidence, four considerations give us reason to believe that the passage has a broader application that includes also the relationships and behaviors of men and women in the church.
First, verses 4 and 5 speak inclusively of "every man" and "every woman" respectively. The qualifying word pas, "every," suggests that the regulation about head coverings applies to all men and women and not just to husbands and wives.
Second, verses 7-9 appeal to the manner of the creation of Eve out of Adam as a basis for the regulation given. This theological reason suggests that Paul is thinking of all men and women rather than of husbands and wives exclusively.
Third, "verses 11-12 speak of the mutual interdependence of the sexes in the process of procreation. If only husband and wife were meant, these verses would be illogical, for the husband does not come into being through the wife nor is the wife the source of the husband. Verses 13-16 argue from nature, which would give greater support that men and women in general are being discussed rather than just husbands and wives." 65
Fourth, the ambiguity which is caused by the double meaning of gyne, namely, wife and woman, can be clarified when we bear in mind that for Paul the husband-wife relationship in marriage is the paradigm for the man-woman relationship in the church. For Paul, the submissive role of a married woman is a model for women in general, and by the same token the headship role of a married man is a model for men in general. This important point will be elaborated shortly. This means that although 1 Corinthians 11 focuses on husbands and wives, the principle of headship and submission is applicable to the broader relations of men and women in the church. In Paul's view, men should behave properly like men, regardless of their marital status; likewise women, regardless of whether they are married or not, should behave in ways that befit women. It is not a matter of all men exercising headship over all women, but of each person respecting his or her God-given role.
We would conclude with Fritz Zerbst that "the Apostle had husbands and wives in mind when he wrote this passage. However, Paul in this passage at the same time speaks also generally of man and woman. In order to understand Paul we must bear in mind that the relationship between the sexes always has its center in marriage." 66
2. Women Speaking in the Church: 1 Corinthians 14:33-36
In 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36 Paul gives brief instruction regarding the role of women in church somewhat similar to the advice found in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. The passage reads as follows: "As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What! Did the Word of Godword of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?" (1 Cor 14:33b-36).
This passage occurs in the context of the discussion of how to maintain order in the worship assemblies. Beginning with verse 26, Paul gives specific instructions on how speaking in tongues and prophesying should be regulated in the church, so that good order might prevail. It is in this context that Paul gives his instruction regarding the silence of women in the assembly. This instruction has been the subject of considerable controversy, especially because it appears to stand in stark contrast to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where Paul assumes that women may pray and prophesy in the church.
Does 1 Corinthians 14:34 Contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5? The apparent contradiction between the two passages can be resolved by recognizing that Paul's concern in both situations is for women to respect their submissive role. In 1 Corinthians 11:5 respect for male headship entailed that women comply with the head-covering custom of the time when they prayed and prophesied in the church. In 1 Corinthians 14:34 respect for male headship entailed that women comply with the custom of the time by refraining from asking questions publicly of their husbands or church leaders. 67
To appreciate the consistency of Paul's teaching about women's speaking and being silent in the church, it is important to distinguish between the permanent headship-submission principle and its cultural, time-bound application. Wearing a head covering and refraining from asking questions in the assembly were customary ways in Paul's time for women to show submission to their husbands and church leaders. Thus, "not asking questions in the assembly" was a custom subservient to the principle that "[women] should be subordinate" (1 Cor 14:34). While the principle is permanent, its application is culturally conditioned. Yet in every culture the principle is to be expressed in the home and in the church through appropriate customs.
Paul seeks to maintain an authority structure in the home and in the church, where men are called to exercise responsible and sacrificial leadership, and where women respond supportively. Repeatedly the apostle emphasizes the importance of respecting the headship-submission principle. "The head of a woman is her husband" (1 Cor 11:3). "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22; cf. Col 3:18). "Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men" (1 Tim 2:11-12). "Train the young women . . . to be submissive to their husbands" (Titus 2:4-5).
In light of the headship-submission principle, it is understandable why Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:33b-34 would deny to women an authoritative speech function, such as questioning their husbands or church leaders in the church. To allow these things would have undermined the above principle. On the other hand, in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul readily allowed women who had proper demeanor to pray and prophesy in the church, because these activities did not involve assuming a position of authority over men.
Wives or Women? To defend his thesis that the principles of headship and submission apply only to the home and not to the church, our author endeavors to prove again that "Paul is not addressing women in general in these verses, but certain Corinthian wives, since the same Greek word gyne can mean either ‘woman' or ‘wife,' depending upon the context. This becomes obvious in light of verse 35, in which reference is made to the husbands of these women: ‘And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home.'" 68 This restrictive interpretation overlooks some major considerations.
First, we already noted in our discussion of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that for Paul the husband-wife relationship is the paradigm for the man-woman relationship in general. Married women, who made up the majority of women in the congregation, served as a model for women in general. Stephen B. Clark illustrates this point with a fitting analogy: "If Paul had forbidden children to speak in public as an expression of their subordination to their parents, no one would hesitate to apply the rule to orphans as well as to children with parents. The parent-child relationship would be the normal case, but the rule would also apply to children with surrogate parents. Similarly, unmarried women would be expected to adhere to a rule for married women." 69
Second, it is difficult to see why only married women would be singled out and required to be silent, especially since in 1 Corinthians 11 married women with a proper demeanor are permitted to speak. In much of the ancient world marriage meant an improvement in the freedom and status of women. Thus we have reason to believe that Paul and his readers would reason that if married women were enjoined to be silent, how much more the single ones?
Third, in 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 Paul assumes that all the members of the church, men and women, participate in worship. "When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all these things be done for edification" (1 Cor 14:26). If each member is encouraged to participate in worship, why would married women be excluded?
Fourth, we should note that Paul's ruling concerning women in the church in 1 Corinthians 14 is given in the context of a chapter dealing with spiritual gifts which are given to all, irrespective of marital status. This makes it hard to believe that Paul would exclude married women from exercising their spiritual gifts. Paul's concern is not to exclude the participation of married women from the worship service, but to ensure that all women exercise their spiritual gifts in accordance with God's law. "They should be subordinate, as even the law says" (1 Cor 14:34). The "law" to which Paul refers is presumably the headship-submission principle which he grounds in the order of creation (1 Cor 11:79; 1 Tim 2:13-14). This principle, as we have seen, applies to the behaviors of men and women in the church and not exclusively to the relationship between husbands and wives.
Fifth, are we really supposed to think, to use the words of Donald A. Carson, a highly respected Evangelical scholar, "that Christian women enjoyed full freedom and perfect egalitarianism in function in the church as long as they were single, and then from the day of their marriage onward became silent for fear of offending the husband to whom they were to submit? These considerations effectively dismiss those interpretations that admit that Paul insists on certain role distinctions between the sexes but limit such distinctions to the home, denying that they have any bearing on the church." 70
3. Women and Leadership in the Church: 1 Timothy 2:9-15
From the earliest days of the New Testament church, most Christians have believed on the basis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15 that the New Testament places certain restrictions on the ministry of women in the church. It is not surprising that in the contemporary debate over the role of women in the church, this passage more than any other has polarized interpreters. The passage says, "Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."
The significance of this passage lies in the fact that it specifically addresses the question of the role of women within the church by stating unequivocally: "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent." It is not surprising that this passage has been examined at great length by evangelicals who oppose or limit the full participation of women in the ministry of the church, as well as by those who support it.
In light of the immediate and wider context of the pastoral epistles, 71 Paul's intent is not to prohibit women from participating in the general teaching ministry of the church ("they [women] are to teach what is good," Titus 2:3), but rather to restrain women from aspiring to the restricted teaching role of the leader of the congregation. The reason for Paul's ruling is that the exercise of a headship function by a woman is incompatible with the submissive role which God at the creation assigned to women in the home and in the church.
Paul's teachings regarding the role of women in the church appear to have been occasioned by False Teachersfalse teachers who sowed dissension (1 Tim 1:4-6; 6:4-5; cf. 2 Tim 2:14, 16-17, 23-24) by teaching abstinence from certain foods, from marriage, and probably from sex altogether (1 Tim 4:1-3). These false teachers had persuaded many women to follow them in their ascetic program (1 Tim 5:15; 2 Tim 3:6-7). Apparently they were encouraging women to discard their submissive role in favor of a more Egalitarianegalitarian status with men. This is suggested by their encouragement to abstain from marriage (1 Tim 4:3), which indicates they probably denigrated traditional female roles. Paul's counsel in 1 Timothy 5:14 to young widows "to marry, bear children, rule their household" may also reflect his effort to counteract these false teachers by affirming traditional female roles in order to "give the enemy no occasion to revile us" (1 Tim 5:14).
The situation in Ephesus is remarkably similar to that of Corinth. In both metropolitan cities, church members appear to have been influenced by false teachers who promoted the removal of role distinctions between men and women. Most likely it was the need to counteract these false teachings that occasioned Paul's teaching about the roles of men and women in church ministry.
Contemporary Relevance. Paul's teachings on the role of women are relevant today, because in some ways the contemporary emancipation of women may closely reflect that of his time. 72 If, as numerous scholars argue, Paul's opponents in the pastoral epistles included "women [who] were in the forefront of the libertarian trend" 73 as evidenced by their extravagant dress, the "forsaking of domestic roles such as raising children in order to assume such a prominent role in congregational life–as teaching," 74 then Paul was addressing a situation strikingly similar to the one existing today.
The existence of a "Women's Liberationwomen's liberation" movement in early Christianity is implied not only by Paul's strictness (1 Tim 2:11-12; 5:13; 2 Tim 3:6; 1 Cor 11:5-10; 14:34), but also by such post-New Testament documents as the fictional Acts of Paul (about a.d. 185). In this book, Paul commissions a woman, Thecla, to be a preacher and teacher of the Word of Godword of God. "Go and teach the word of God," he says. Thecla obeys by going away to Iconium, where she "went into the house of Onesiphorus . . . and taught the oracles of God." 75
The attempt of this apocryphal document to present Paul, not as forbidding but as commissioning a woman to be an official teacher of the Word of God in the church, offers an additional indication of the possible existence of a feminist movement in Paul's time. 76 If such a movement existed at that time, then Paul's instruction on the role of women in the church would be particularly relevant to our time, when the feminist movement is gaining strength within the church.
Wives or Women? To defend his thesis that male headship applies only to the home and not to the church, the author interprets 1 Timothy 2:8-15 like the previous two Pauline passages. In his view, this passage also applies only to "the relationship of husbands and wives and not men and women in general." 77 His arguments are similar to those already examined. For example, his first argument is that when "gyne and Aner aner are found paired in close proximity, the reference is consistently to wife and husband and not women and men in general." 78 He has used this argument with the two previous passages. The rest of his arguments are designed to buttress his contention that Paul's ruling applies exclusively to husband-wife relationships.
Surprisingly, his arguments apparently did not persuade the very editor of the symposium, despite the fact that she argues for the same Egalitarianegalitarian view. She correctly observes, "The text itself seems to be discussing attitudes in worship rather than the marriage relationship." 79 She recognizes that the purpose of 1 Timothy is not to instruct Timothy on how husbands and wives should relate to one another but on "how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:14-15).
Our author's attempt to differentiate between wives and women on the basis of the dual meaning of gyne is a legitimate academic exercise but is totally foreign to Paul's thought. For the apostle the role of a wife in the home serves as a paradigm for the role of women in the church because, after all, the church is an extended spiritual family, the household of God. To this fundamental biblical concept we shall return shortly.
Had Paul intended to confine his prohibition in verse 12 only to the relationship of a wife to her husband, then he likely would have used a definite article or a possessive pronoun with man: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over her man." This is how the apostle expressed himself when writing specifically about husband-wife relationships: "Wives, be subject to your (Greek idiois ) husbands" (Eph 5:22; Col 3:18). But such a possessive pronoun is absent from 1 Timothy 2:12.
The context is abundantly clear. Paul addresses men and women in general as members of the church and not just husbands and wives, as he does in Ephesians 5:22-23 and Colossians 3:18-19. The apostle calls upon all men, not just husbands, to lift up holy hands in prayer (1 Tim 2:8). He summons all women, not just wives, to dress modestly (1 Tim 2:9). Similarly Paul prohibits all women, not just wives, to teach authoritatively as the head of the congregation (1 Tim 2:12). This Teaching may not be popularteaching may not be popular, but it has the merit of being true to Scripture.
4. Excursus: The Church as a Family
Time and again throughout this study we have noted that our author differentiates between the roles of husband and wife in the home and of men and women in the church. Such a distinction presupposes that the church functions more like a service organization than like a family. In a service organization, roles are assigned on the basis of competence, irrespective of gender. In a family, however, it is different. Certain basic roles are determined by gender. A man is called to serve as a father and a woman as a mother. What is true for the home is equally true for the church. The reason is simple. In the Bible the church is seen not as a service organization but as an extended spiritual family, patterned after the natural family.
The Bible uses the family model to explain the respective roles of men and women within the church. Just as husbands and fathers ought to exercise godly leadership within the home, so upright and mature men ought to be appointed as spiritual fathers of the church, the household of God (1 Tim 3:1-5). Similarly, just as wives and mothers ought to nurture and train the children, so caring and mature women are to serve as spiritual mothers in the church (1 Tim 5:9-16; Titus 2:3-5). It is noteworthy that Deborah is praised in the Bible for having served God's people as "a mother in Israel" (Jud 5:7) rather than as judge. Just as in the case of marriage there is a certain distinction between the roles of father and mother, so in the church there is a certain distinction between the spiritual roles of men and women.
New Testament View of the Church as a Family. The New Testament teaches in various ways that the church is an extended spiritual family and not merely a service organization. By accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, believers "receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:5). As adopted children they call God "Abba! Father!" (Gal 4:6) and relate to one another as "brother and sister" (James 2:14-15; 1 Cor 8:11; 1 Thess 4:6; Rom 12:1). Within this spiritual family Christ Himself is called "the firstborn among many brethren" (Rom 8:29). Believers are called "sons of God" and "children of God," in contrast to unbelievers, who are outside God's family (1 John 5:1-5). To be a child of God means to have intimate fellowship with God the Father (Rom 8:15) and with Jesus Christ our elder brother (Rom 8:29).
The pastor-elder functions as a spiritual father within the church family because of his role in bringing new converts into the church and nurturing them subsequently. For example, Paul refers to the Corinthian believers as his children and to himself as their father. "I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. . . . For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:14, 16; cf. Eph 5:1; Gal 3:26). Furthermore, he refers to church members as "beloved children" (Eph 5:1), "sons and daughters" (2 Cor 6:18), "brethren" (1 Cor 1:10, 11, 26; 2:1), "sisters" (Rom 16:1; 1 Cor 7:15), all terms indicative of a family relationship.
This understanding of the church as an extended family of believers, led by elders who function as spiritual fathers and shepherds, explains why women were not appointed as elders or pastors, namely because their role was seen as being that of mothers and not fathers.
Paul develops the theme of the church as the family or household of God especially in his first letter to Timothy. He calls Timothy his "son" (1 Tim 1:2, 18) and advises him to treat older men like "a father; younger men like brothers, older women like mothers, younger women like sisters, in all purity" (1 Tim 5:1-2). He also reminds Timothy that a church leader must be a respectable family man, with the tried virtues of fatherhood. "The saying is sure: If anyone aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task. Now a bishop must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, sensible, dignified, hospitable, an apt teacher, no drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and no lover of money. He must manage his own household well, keeping his children submissive and respectful in every way; for if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how can he care for God's church?" (1 Tim 3:1-5).
The analogy between the church and the family is not an incidental illustration but the basis for defining leadership roles in the church. In effect, Paul is saying that a fundamental criterion for appointing a man to serve as church leader is a track record of being a good father. Why? Because the same skills and spiritual headship needed for a father to manage well "one's own house" are also required for overseeing the church family.
Women as Spiritual Fathers? The analogy between the church and the family helps us understand why the Bible precludes appointing a woman to serve as the representative spiritual father and shepherd of a congregation. The reason is not that women are less capable than men of piety, zeal, learning, leadership, preaching, or whatever else it takes to serve as a pastor, but simply because such a role is perceived in the New Testament as being that of a spiritual father and not of a spiritual mother. The New Testament emphasizes the importance of respecting the functional role distinctions of men and women established by God at creation. These role distinctions, we have noted, do not imply superiority or inferiority, but reflect a divine design and concern for well-ordered and harmonious relations within the home and the church.
Men and women were created not superior and inferior, but rather different from and complementary to one another. What God made woman to be and what He intends her to do make her different from but not inferior to man. This difference is reflected in the different roles men and women are called to fulfill in life. The woman is to be wife and mother, while the man is to be husband and father. As a father, a man is called to be the caring head and guardian of a home. This divinely established role in the natural family must be reflected in the church, because the church is the extended family of God. This means that to appoint a woman to serve as elder or pastor is analogous to assigning her the role of fatherhood in the family.
The Danger of the Partnership Paradigm. The biblical model of different yet complementary roles for men and women in the home and in the church may well be a scandal to liberal and evangelical feminists bent on promoting the egalitarian, partnership paradigm. Nonetheless, Christians committed to the authority and wisdom of the Scriptures cannot ignore or reject a most fundamental biblical principle. Blurring or eliminating the role distinctions God assigned to men and women in the home and in the church is not only contrary to His creational design but also accelerates the breakdown of the family, church structure, and society.
Donald G. Bloesch, a well-known evangelical theologian inclined toward the ordination of women, acknowledges that "it cannot be denied that the Women's Liberationwomen's liberation movement, for all its solid gains, has done much to blur the distinctions between the sexes and that many women who have entered the ministry appear committed to the eradication of these distinctions." 80 This trend, as Bloesch observes, "is in no small way responsible for accelerating divorce and the breakdown of the family." 81 Feminist ideologies are generally opposed to the sanctity of the family and to the worthiness of the call to motherhood. The reason is that such ideologies, as Michael Novak keenly observes, "thrive best where individuals stand innocent of the concrete demands of loyalty, responsibility, and common sense into which family life densely thrusts them." 82
To realize freedom from the constraints of motherhood, some Evangelical feminists, like their liberal counterparts, denigrate the role of woman as homemaker and advocate abortion on demand. Donald Bloesch warns that "the fact that some clergywomen today in the mainline Protestant denominations are championing the cause of lesbianism (and a few are even practicing a lesbian life-style) should give the church pause in its rush to promote women's liberation." 83 Such things ought likewise to give us pause in the rush to promote women's ordination, one facet of the women's liberation movement.
The Danger of Role Reversals. Another important consideration is the negative impact of role reversal when a woman serves in the headship role of elder or pastor in the church. If male headship in the church is replaced by that of a woman, male headship in the family will be imperiled. The headship of a husband in his family can hardly remain unaffected if a woman or his own wife serves as the head of the congregation to which he belongs. What impact will this role reversal also have on the families of the congregations? Will it not at least tempt some women in the congregation to arrogate to themselves a position of headship in the family similar to the headship exercised in the church by their female pastor?
Consideration must also be given to the impact of the role modeling a female pastor can have on the children of divided families who have no father figure in their homes. To these children the pastor sometimes becomes the only positive father role model in their lives. A female pastor would deprive these children of an appropriate father role model.
Even more crucial is the negative impact that role reversal can have in our apprehension of God as our heavenly Father. Vern Poythress perceptively remarks that "the absence of godly, fatherly leadership within the church makes the affirmation of the Fatherhood of God closer to an abstraction. God's Fatherhood is, of course, illustrated preeminently in the great deeds of the history of redemption that embody His fatherly rule, care, and discipline. But we are richer in our understanding of God because most of us have enjoyed having a human father, and we are richer still if we can see the fatherly care and rule of God embodied at a practical level in the older men of the church (Titus 2:2) and especially in the overseers." 84
C. S. Lewis rightly warns that "we have no authority to take the living and seminal figures which God has painted on the canvas of our nature and shift them about as if they were mere geometrical figures." 85 The sexual role distinctions, Lewis notes, go beyond physical appearance. They serve "to symbolize the hidden things of God." 86 Lewis warns that when we are in the church, "we are dealing with male and female not merely as facts of nature but as the live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge." 87
Lewis means that the male role of father in the home and of the pastor as spiritual father in the household of faith (1 Cor 4:15) points to a much greater reality, "largely beyond our direct knowledge," namely, that of the heavenly Father, the original and ultimate "Father" of the home, the church, and the human family. Paul clearly expresses this connection in Ephesians 3:14-15. "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood ( patria ) in heaven and on earth derives its name" (NIV margin). The text suggests that all earthly fathers, whether biological fathers in the home or spiritual fathers in the church, reflect the image of the heavenly "Father," albeit in a human, creaturely way.
It is in no way derogatory to the female sex to affirm that an elder or pastor exercises fatherhood and not motherhood for God's family, because as E. L. Mascall observes, "his office is a participation in God's own relationship to his people and God is our Father in heaven and not our Mother." 88 The female sex has its own distinctive dignity and function, but it cannot represent the Fatherhood of God to His people, a dominant theme in both Old and New Testaments. The reason is simple. The sexual and symbolic role of a woman is that of mother and not of father. To change the nature of the symbol means to distort the apprehension of the reality to which the symbol points. To put it simply, a woman who stands for motherhood cannot appropriately represent the Fatherhood of God in the home or in the extended family of faith, the church.
The objective of our study has been to examine Women in Ministry 's fundamental thesis that the role distinctions of husband-headship and wife-submission originated as a result of the Fall (Gen 3:16) and apply exclusively to the home. Consequently, he contends, in the church women can serve even in headship positions over men.
Our study has shown that the author's thesis, though ingeniously defended, does not do justice to the biblical witness. We have found that the principles of male headship and female submission are rooted in the order of creation and apply not only in the home but also in the church. The Fall marks not the institution of the wife's submission but its distortion into oppressive domination.
Respect for the principles of male headship and female submission is evident in both the Old and the New Testament. Women served with distinction in ancient Israel and in the New Testament church in various vital ministries, yet they were never ordained to function as priests, elders, or pastors. The reasons were not socio-cultural but theological, namely, the recognition that God created man to serve in a servant-headship role in the home and in the community of faith.
The nature of this investigation has required that considerable attention be given to headship and submission in the man-woman relationship because of Women in Ministry 's attempt to restrict it to the home. The study of this important principle should not be seen as an end in itself, but rather as an exploration of a divine plan designed to ensure unity in diversity. "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body" (1 Cor 12:12-13). The reason why God gave different gifts and functions to men and women is not that we may argue about who is the greatest in the kingdom, but that men and women, as joint heirs of the gift of eternal life, may use their different gifts to build up the body of Christ and bring human beings with their many differences into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. In willingly following the divine plan, we will find our greatest strength and harmony both in our homes and in the church.