Thursday, April 17, 2008


As mentioned in my last post, I take a position that Grace returns relationships [and ultimately all things including fallen creation but we will focus only on one thing at the present... the male /female relationship] to their original God ordained plan and purpose as seen in scripture. The best way to discover this is to go back to the place where it all started. Let's do it.

Biblically, in the first two chapters of Genesis there are no words used in the text which gives the account of the creation of Adam [male/female created He them] that would even hint of a subordination of the woman to the man. To the contrary, they are seen in a partnership with equal responsibilities that are not defined by roles at all. Jointly, they were to care for the garden, animals and be involved in the process of reproduction. ["Let them have dominion...them multiply."] There is NO language of male rule or subordination of the woman here at all. It will take some later language interpreted culturally to bring that about as we shall see.

Even the word "helper" [helpmate: Hebrew is Ezer] used of the woman, when examined as scriptural language, is a word that reflects NO subordination. It refers to one who comes to rescue those in need. It was used of God Himself several times regarding His relationship to Israel and the nations. No subordination there. Just purpose. God is the one needed to make things right. So was the woman with this lonely man.

In fact, the first hint of a subordination of the woman to man in Genesis is in 3:16 and is clearly, when interpreted by the text alone, to be seen as the tragic outcome of sin in both the man and woman in terms of relationship. She..will "desire" her husband. It is the same word used in chapter 4 where sin is said to desire Cain after the killing of Abel. It is a word that means a "longing to control." Sin desired to control Cain. The Woman desires to control also....after sin has entered the picture.

In the same verse the man is seen as determined to "rule" over the woman. This also the first instance of any language of scripture portraying such an idea as the word "rule" used between the male/female. The word means to be a "dictator or despot" when used other places and is a negative thing which, clearly, is the consequence of sin entering the picture. So, again, our first view of the man/woman relationship is one of partnership and equality without defined roles except to be as one together with no "whose the boss?" emphasis at all in the scriptural text. Until, that is, the entrance of sin and the subsequent fall of man.

So, from where does the subordination of women to men come? It comes from the entrance of sin into the human race and the resulting cultures/societies of fallen humanity that built it into male/female relationships as an on-going pattern revealed in history, including biblical history. [We will look a little more fully at this later in this series of talks.] But, originally it was not so and it is back to the original plan and purpose of God for men/women relationships that Grace takes us as we shall see.

When we do find a Grace prescription passage for family male/female relationships, [the Genesis 3:16 verse is descriptive of sin's consequence NOT God's intention as I've said] it will not be one of subordination at all. It will take us back to that partnership of Genesis. Where do we find it? Ephesians 5:21-31. But there culture will raise it's interpretive head too unless we are careful to let the text speak without reading into it our presuppositions culturally. This passage we will look at next time and try to see if, in fact, those fallen male/female relationships in the family are restored to the original..

Paul B.


traveller said...

Paul, another great post. This one is very correct. When we read the "fall" into the creation story we make a huge error.

If I remember correctly the only time that the Hebrew word ezer (the one coming to the rescue) is used in the Old Testament other than for God is with regard to Eve, and by implication all women. So, that puts women in pretty good company!

I am afraid that our long, fallen cultural history of patriarchy is read back into the English translation. For to most the idea of "help meet" or "helper" implies a lesser position or role. However, I have read a number of Jewish scholars who say the best translation of ezer kinegdo is "a power or strength equal to". So, that it would read that woman was a power or strength equal to man.

I do think in context that the idea of power or strength must include the idea of women being our rescuers as well. Quite frankly, in my marriage I would have to say that has played out pretty often. I am very thankful for a wife/life partner/woman that is powerful and my rescuer. I would not want her to be any other way....just as God created her.

Paul Burleson said...


Great comment on the word "ezer."

I've decided to put up shorter posts with a little more regularity to keep the continuity going. I was tempted to go ahead with a look at Ephesians 5 but decided to do that the first of next week. Of course there is a road.. paved to somewhere.. with good intentions. :)

Bob Cleveland said...


I haven't given this a lot of thought or study, but one thing I noted previously was that Eve knew which trees she was, and wasn't, supposed to eat from, whereas the instructions seem to have been given to Adam before Eve's arrival. If that's the case, it seems that Adam had at least acknowledged his responsibility to pass along the information to her.

traveller said...

I hope you are able to translate your good intentions into reality....and miss that road to somewhere. :-)

bryan riley said...

You are hitting upon one of the first main reasons I began to leave behind my complementarianism. I remember being a teenager cheering on our local convention for kicking out a church for electing a female deacon ("those liberals," I said at the time); I've changed a bit. :)

Fantastic post.

Paul Burleson said...

Bob, Traveller, Bryan,

You guys caught me in the middle of some things that were keeping me busy running. I posted your comments but didn't have time to respond which I usually try to do. So I'll say a collective "thanks for coming by."


I hadn't given much thought to this whole thing of Adam and Eve either until I began to see some dangers in the theology of some in an authoritarian way that seemed to go beyond my understanding of the scriptures. Then my study of the New Covenant clinched it. We were [IMHO] misinterpreting the whole thing from the beginning. [Genesis] That's what I'm attempting to address. Keep letting me know what you think.

Lin said...

I, too had not given much thought to the creation story until I saw some serious abuses in authority and the excuses made.

When I went back to really study Gen 1-3, I was astounded at how much we have read into it that is not there. Not once in Gen 1-2 does God tell Adam he is in charge of Eve. I studied it in depth line by line, word by word and with quite a few translations and resources.

I was amazed at how it has been twisted BEFORE Gen 3:16. this makes sense considering that the consequences of sin, as a result of the fall, would not work as 'doctrine' unless it could be proven to be inherent in Gen 1-2.

It is almost universal for people to believe that Eve 'usurped' her 'role' by eating the fruit. Where is this? We are studying Gen in my SS class and I was amazed at how many women believe this. I had to take them through it slowly and ask them to show me where this is taught. They thought it was 'help' as in Adam's assistant. And of course, we studied Ezer in depth.

We have made a pact in our class to only study scripture books word for word and not add anything. It is amazing what they are learning from this.

Bob, you ask an interesting question. Speaking from memory, Eve says...'God said not to....' She did not say that Adam was told by God and told her'... so we do not know. How she knew about the fruit. It could come into play as part of why she was 'deceived' as she did not see any of the creating as Adam did.

However, I do know some very well known pastors who teach that Adam was not even there when she ate it. I find this incredible.

Paul Burleson said...


I said to my wife this morning that Wade's blog and several of the comments were worth their weight in gold. Your comments are always part of that gold group.

I know this comment is on the post preceding the one on Who's the boss but it goes with ALL I'm trying to say on this subject. Thanks for weighing in.

Lin said...

I have not even read your latest yet. I am working my way up the posts...I hate being 'redundant' in comments. :o) I have been trying to copy them and print them out but my printer has some gremlins today so I am behind in my reading.