Thursday, August 2, 2007

Gender Roles (3) -- The Fall (Gen. 3)

"If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males." ~ Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-8, p. 203

Read part 1.

Read part 2.

In the creation, man and women were created as spiritual equals. Without woman, man is the only part of creation that God calls "not good;" yet woman is made from man. They are jointly given responsibilities over creation. Their only difference is physical.

Then came sin.

Who's Fault?
The common understanding is that Even ate the forbidden fruit, liked how it tasted, went to find Adam and persuaded him to eat it. However, as I read the text, I get an entirely different picture of how events transpired. While it is true that Eve is presented as Satan's target for the initial temptation, her sin was committed with Adam standing right there!! (v. 6). So the picture is more of a conversation with three "people" present: the serpent, Adam, and Eve. The primary conversation is occurring between two, but the third is taking it all in. In this scene, Adam is just as much a part of the initial sin as is Eve. She just happened to take the first bite! The text nowhere says that she seduced or tricked him into eating it. She took a bite and handed it to him, and he took a bite.

I don't know about you, but in my mind that was a significant realization. I had always believed that the woman sinning first was because she "usurped" the authority that was legitimately the man's and that the results serve as proof that she should have kept her proper role. Many other commentators throughout church history have also interpreted the story this way. John Mark Hicks notes several such scholars in his valuable study, found here (look at the bottom of the page for the entire series; go to lesson 2).

Their joint guilt for this sin is bolstered by the presentation of the New Testament. While 1 Tim. 2:14 seems to place the primary responsibility on Eve, Rom. 5:12-14 and 1 Cor. 15:21-22 seem to place it on Adam. This is no contradiction; rather, it is Paul using the aspect of the story that was most fitting for the point that he was making at the time. Blame could legitimately be placed on either party because they were both EQUALLY guilty.

The Curse
As a result of the sin, each party involved receives a "curse." Relevant to this study is Gen. 3:16. "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Whatever this means, it clearly indicates, for the first time, a subordinate relationship.

Jay Guin makes some important observations. First, he point out that "[Eve's curse] was a change. If Adam already had the rule over Eve, then why did God say He was doing this to her because of her sin? Thus, nothing in Genesis 1 or 2 can support an argument for male rule" (p. 37). Also, since complimentarians apply this curse not only to the home, but also to the church
and society, Guin notes, "God states that husbands rule over wives -- under His curse. He does not curse all women with being under the rule of all men" (p. 37). Therefore, even if the subordinate relationship of Genesis 3:16 is viewed as normative, it can only be applied to the home. Denial of female leadership roles in other areas cannot be supported from this passage.

So what is the female "desire" for her husband? In seeking an answer to this question, we must take seriously the similarity of language between Genesis 3:16 and 4:17. In4:17, we read that "[sin] desires to have you, but you must master it." This is almost identical in structure to the clause in 3:16. The meaning in 4:17 seems to be clear -- sin wants to be master (or ruler), but it must be mastered (or ruled). In the same way, while the wife may want to rule her husband, God says that the husband will rule the wife. In other words, marital strife comes as a result of sin.

So subordination only came as a result of the Fall and was not a part of the created order. What does that mean for us today? Are we to recognize this as our just punishment and live as Christians under a curse? Or are we to seek to return things to their original created perfection?

One important observation in seeking to answer this question is that 3:16 may not even be a command, as in "I command you to desire your husband, and I command your husband to rule over you." Rather, it may very well be God exercising his divine foreknowledge to "predict" the general course that history would take from that point forward, as in "From now on, you're going to want to rule your husband, but he is going to rule you." History has certainly proven this to be the case, as men have generally run the world ever since.

Also, Christians are never told to accept the results of the fall, whether it be our separation from God, the resulting death, or the corruption of creation. Rather, we are called to escape the results of the fall through Christ (Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Cor. 15:21-26). It can be debated whether this escape is relegated to the afterlife, or is a reality that we are called to bring into the world as much as possible today.

However we interpret Eve’s “curse,” it should be consistent with our interpretation of the other “curses” mentioned. Once again, Jay Guin makes excellent points:

This argument will surely be hard for many readers to accept, but it becomes much clearer when we consider the other curses. The man is cursed to work by the sweat of his brow. Does this mean that air conditioning is a sin, because it is contrary to God’s eternal design? Are antiperspirants wrong? Is it wrong to use herbicides and pre-emergents to prevent the growth of weeds?

Didn’t God intend that we work the fields by hand to rid them of weeds? Mus all men work in the fields? Is office work sin?

Is it a sin to use anesthesia to relieve the pain of childbearing? Or is that also part of God’s eternal plan? For that matter, why should we resist any of the world’s corruption? God corrupted it, who are we to oppose it? (p. 40)

While my examination of Genesis 1-2 resulted in a slight preference for the egalitarian interpretation, the egalitarian case is much stronger in Genesis 3. The picture at this point seems to be fairly clear: God's created order did not involve a subordinate relationship between male and female. This only came as a result of the fall.

Next week: Women in the Old Testament

1 comment:

Lin said...

"Rather, it may very well be God exercising his divine foreknowledge to "predict" the general course that history would take from that point forward, as in "From now on, you're going to want to rule your husband, but he is going to rule you." History has certainly proven this to be the case, as men have generally run the world ever since."

Something to consider here. If you take the entire consequence of sin for Eve, it includes pain in childbirth. Then it says you will desire her husband and he will rule over you.

There may be a relationship here between the pain in childbirth and the desire for. The desire in Hebrew is a 'longing' for. It could be emotional, physical, etc.

We see later that Adam is ordered out of the Garden specifically.
Eve is not mentioned but we know she followed him. Desire?

Just some thoughts.