Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

This post follows my usual style of putting extended and repeated quotes of the same person in red, not quotes. In this case, the red letters belong to Alistair J. Roberts.)


I once saw a coffee mug with the words:

I got a very responsible position around here. Every time something goes wrong, I am responsible.

That, of course, is ambiguous, as both the technologically handicapped guy who breaks the photocopier, and the technician who repair it, are “responsible for” the broken photocopier. No employer will make the guy who is responsible (as in the one who breaks things) for all that go wrong the one responsible (as in the one who do repairs) when things go wrong. When reading my response below, be sure to not confuse the two. Any time responsibility is discussed, I will replace it with either Problem Causer, or Expected Problem Solver, depending on what it means within a particular context. 

Someone named Alistair Roberts recently asserted, in the comments on Sarah Bessey’s blog, that the man was responsible to teach Eve the law concerning the tree, and she did not hear it directly from God.
He also claimed “the original, prototypical and archetypal situation in the Garden, prior to the coming of Sin, is still one in which the man has a priestly authority and responsibility that the woman does not.” I told him to be careful with teaching assumptions which are not in scripture, to which he answered with the comment that I quote from (the red letters) in this article.

That the woman didn’t receive the commandment directly can be deduced from a careful reading of the text.

I will leave my readers to decide, after seeing his reasoning, if his deductions are correct. For now, I will only point out that he admits to teaching deductions, not the Bible itself. When we do that, we should be honest and admit we are not teaching the Bible.

A few points to recognize:

“First, whenever the actual giving of the command is referred to, it is referred to as something that is given to the man alone, before the woman was created”

That does not mean she did not hear it from God later, or that he was charged with teaching her.

“In the Hebrew, God declares to the man ‘because you (singular) … have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you (singular), saying, ‘You (singular) shall not eat of it’

God talks to the man (singular) about what the man (singular) did wrong. That does not mean the woman did not hear it from God later, or that he was charged with teaching her, or that he had authority over her, the same way it does not mean she did not eat too. That is not in the text.

“Second, the woman was deceived, but the man was not, sinning with a high hand … if the woman had heard the command directly from God… she would have been directly going against what she knew that God had said, directly questioning his character, and would also have been wilfully and knowingly leading another to go against God’s word.

No. You could hear something from God and be deceived into believing something else. Her being deceived doesn’t mean that she did not hear it from God, or that he was charged with teaching her.

“The woman could be deceived because she was receiving mixed messages.”

It could be. But then teach it as a possibility, not as if it is actually what happened. And remember, if God actually told her one thing and the serpent another, she would also have gotten mixed messages. Mixed messages do not imply Adam had to teach her.

“… the Fall itself is the result of the man’s sin.”

I know. What baffles me is how people go from that – being the Problem Causer – to women having to follow and obey, giving Expected Problem Solver type responsibility to the deliberately sinning gender. The argument will be comparable to “The Zanu-PF party caused the hunger and hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. So, Zimbabweans, vote for Zanu-PF!”

“That the woman was deceived and that she was primarily an innocent victim only makes sense when we appreciate that the man knew more than she did and was consequently her teacher.”

No. It makes sense even if God taught her, or if the man knew more but was not her teacher. God sees motives of the heart which we cannot see, and in those he could have seen the reason for her innocence.

“The fact that the serpent addresses the woman, rather than the man and the woman together is significant. She was the one who, through ignorance, could be deceived.”

The Bible never says why the serpent chose her, so this is another assumption. Alistair earlier said she could be deceived through mixed messages – knowing the first message (not ignorance) and then hearing another. Now he says she was deceived through ignorance. Mixed messages imply having heard the right message (from God, the man, an angel, whoever, the Bible never say who she hears it from) and the wrong one. Ignorance implies not hearing the correct message at all.
(Also note that when God addresses the man, Alistair assumes it is because the man has authority. When Satan addresses the woman, Alistair assumes it is because of her ignorance. Through another lens, it could have been: “God speaks to Adam because ignorant Adam does not – like more spiritual Eve – know what he did. Satan speaks to Eve because he needs to seduce the one with authority, who can also lead another into sin.”)

“When God inquires about the sin, he calls the man alone first. Once he has cast judgment on the serpent and the woman, the primary responsibility is placed upon the man,”

In what sense does God place primary responsibility on him? In the case of a crime, the one who did the worst part of the crime carries the Problem Causer responsibility in the sense of a larger jail sentence, but the government certainly does not tell him to keep on leading his accomplice.

“He is also challenged for ‘hearkening to the voice of his wife,’ reversing the order of the sanctuary.”

Nowhere does the text say it was about reversing anything. He was obeying someone who told him to do wrong.

“The fact that the man had the primary authority is seen in a number of facts:

1. He was the source of the woman and, as a consequence, he stood for all of humanity. The woman could not represent all of humanity in the same way (another reason why we fall in Adam alone, rather than Eve alone, or Adam and Eve together).”

Being a source of the fall does not equate to having authority. Authority is Expected Problem Solving responsibility. Falling is Problem Causing responsibility. So, him having primary authority (which would make him the Expected Problem Solver) – is not a conclusion to make from us falling in Adam, the Problem Causer.

“We all bear the image of Adam, not the image of Adam and Eve (cf. Genesis 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:49).”

God called both the man and the woman Adam (Genesis 5:1), so bearing the image of Adam most likely mean bearing the image of the male and female Adam. The confusion came in because the male Adam chose to call the female Adam “Eve”, and we use his name, not God’s name, for her.

“The man can represent God’s authority to the woman in a way that the woman cannot to the man”

Where does the Bible say man represents God’s authority? This writer just explained how man is the big sinner that caused our mess, which would mean representing Satan’s influence.

“2. He received the priestly commission concerning the Garden before the woman was created .. God didn’t suddenly split this commission in two when the woman was created, or declare that it was a purely shared commission…”

Where does the Bible say God never decided it was a shared commission? The Bible cannot record every word  God said to everyone! What is more, in Genesis 1:28 God gives his commission to both.

“3. I won’t repeat the points that I made about the commandment being given to the man alone,”

I won’t repeat my statement that you simply cannot know if God gave it to the woman when she was created (he first gave it to the man at a time when she was not created), or called him to teach her, or my point about God commissioning both in Genesis 1.

“4. The woman is formed for the man and from the man, not vice versa. Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9.”

Yes – she was made for his loneliness (Gen. 2:18) and on his level (the meaning of k’negdo, translated “meet for him”) – he already had authority over the animals, so he did not need someone to have authority over. He needed one like him.

“5. The man named the woman twice: the first time as ‘woman’ (2:23) and the second time as ‘Eve’ (3:20). This is the sign of a certain primacy of representation (much as the fact that a family bears the surname of the father has traditionally been related to the fact that the man is the chief public representative of and person responsible for the family).”

And Hagar names God. (Gen 16:13), does she primarily represent him? And naming being a symbol of representation is not always the case. Arabian culture is very patriarchal, but women in Saudi Arabia keep their surnames. Naming having to mean authority is a mere assumption.

“6. The man is addressed as the one with primary accountability following the Fall, as the one who has to take primary responsibility, and as the one against whom the sanctions are most directed.”

Yes. The man has accountability for what he did wrong, for the problem he caused. To see man as the one who with most Expected Problem Solving accountability (I think the double meaning of responsibility applies to Robert’s use of “accountability” too) in the curse, is methinks a case of, as my Internet friend Don Johnson would say, “reading the Bible with blue lenses” – and then seeing the text as “blue”, or primarily male.

“Of course, Paul takes up these points in 1 Timothy 2. The reason why women cannot teach or usurp authority over a man in the assembled worship of the Church (this is the context of 1 Timothy 2, not general relations between men and women in the wider culture) is because Adam was formed before Eve.”

You read it as a reason, but there are other ways to understand it. (My 3-part series on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 explains some ways different commenters understand it. Here are parts 1, 2, and 3.)

“Adam was commissioned as the priest before Eve’s creation and then Eve was created as a helper suited to him. The Fall resulted

He caused the mess. Will they get out of the mess if his little sister listens to him?

He caused the mess. Will they get out of the mess if his little sister listens to him?

from the confusion of this created order, by a woman taking the priestly lead in the sanctuary.”

Yes, he was called to certain tasks before she was made. Then she was made as a helper (which does not mean assistant, but is a Hebrew word that mostly applies to God) on his level (real meaning of Hebrew translated “suited to him”) to rule the earth with him (Genesis 1:28). That the fall resulted because she took the lead is Alistair’s assumption.

“Men can and should learn from women in many areas of life, the Christian life included. Men can also be led and guided by women in many ways and areas of life. However, a woman is constitutionally incapable of representing the authority of God in his Church.”

Nothing in the Bible says that  a man represent God’s authority and a woman is unable.

Why would the big-Problem-Causer-who-caused-the world-to-fall-into-sin get the authority – the Expected Problem Solver responsibility?

“The man, having come first, can represent humanity in general. He is also the ‘head’ of the woman (1 Corinthians 11:3) and, when the headship of Christ is being represented in his Church, it is through the man that this must occur.”

You just gave clear evidence that head, when not meaning the body part above the neck, means “source” in untranslated Greek. The man is the source (that is what is meant by the word “head” in Greek) because he came first. Obviously. You are not the leader because you existed first, that would mean that mothers have life-long authority over sons.

Mothers over sons is an extremely apt example: This very 1 Cor. 11 passage from which he gets headship because of coming first say, only few verses later:

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

If man is the leader because he existed first, and nowadays mothers exist before sons, and God is the source the male and female Adam, and God is the source of mothers and sons anyway, then proclaiming male authority on birth order is ridiculous. It is so ridiculous that, if the consequences were not so tragic, I would have laughed. “As woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman.” Quote that, complementarians!

“Where the Church lacks a clear symbol of God’s headship, the conception of God’s authority in his Church will start to shift in unhealthy directions or be neglected.”

God’s authority will be neglected if we do not give men authority? I am sorry, but God appears to think the opposite. For example, he did not originally give Israel a king, and when they wanted one, he said they were rejecting him for wanting a king. (1 Sam 8:7 … “the Lord said …they have rejected me”)

In short, Alistair J. Roberts, makes one assumption after the other, and teaches it as if it comes from God and not him. I got to warn him that teachers will be judged more strictly by God. (James 3:1)

Comments on: "Assumptions – the mother of all screw-ups: Answering assumptions on the garden of Eden and gender hierarchy" (1)

  1. I have found that the portrayal of men as representatives of God’s authority has consequences that are just as detrimental for men as women–mainly that it prevents men from being intimate in worship.


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