A couple weeks back I posted “ESS, Slavery, and the Metaphysic of Oppression”. After push back from various folks, it became clear that I needed to defend my claim that I am not an egalitarian while also demonstrating that Complementarianism can and should be divorced from the blasphemy of ESS. So I posted “Complementarity Without Subordination”. Aimee Byrd and Barbara Roberts were kind enough to read and even post fantastic and instructive responses: “Hierarchy and Subordination vs. Headship and Household Mission” and “Complementarity Without Subordination: What Does it Look Like?”  I also received very helpful and constructive comments from Rev. Sam Powell and Rachel Miller. I am more than honored to have received feedback from those that I have learned so much from. I’m even more honored to be considered part of the process of ironing out these important issues.

Along with many very generous and gracious words about the piece, the common critique from them all was of my insistence that the phrase “and he shall rule over you” in Genesis 3:16 is to be understood as the delegation of rightful authority rather than a description of oppressive authority. (Both Sam Powell and Rachel Miller had also written great pieces on different aspects of this subject: “Headship Is Not Hierarchy” and “The Desire of the Woman: A Response to Susan Foh’s Interpretation”.) So against my better judgement, I thought I ought to further defend/explain my position.  Yes, that’s right, take the one narrow band that all of them disagreed with and make it my whole next post; proof that I am not very intelligent.

So I intend below to first summarize what I believe to be the three broadly complementarian options on the subject and then weigh them, first against whatever textual evidence might be mustered, and then against a representative selection of New Testament passages related to men and women, authority and submission. My hope in the process is that my arguments will be considered as collaborative contributions to the discussion, not as a polemic against those I most respect and continue to learn from.

Position 1: ESS Complementarity

Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were ordered hierarchically.  Adam had authority by virtue of being formed first, being the first image of God, not being derivative of Eve, and not being formed for Eve, but rather Eve for him.  Eve was under submission by virtue of being formed to help Adam, being formed from Adam, and bearing the image of God by bearing the image of Adam.

Upon the introduction of sin and rebellion, largely due to Eve’s usurpation of Adam’s authority, God pronounces curses upon His creation and disordered desires are introduced into the relation between Adam and Eve; Eve is now prone to seek ungodly dominance over Adam (her “desire” is for him) and Adam is prone to respond with ungodly use of authority, domination, and antagonistic rule (“he shall rule over” Eve).  Thus, for ESS Complementarians, as also affirmed in the Danvers Statement, headship as hierarchical order of authority existed before the fall and was distorted by the fall.  In this position, Genesis 3:16 is entirely descriptive. Wayne Grudem writes,

Genesis 3:16 should never be used as a direct argument for male headship in marriage. But it does show us that the Fall brought about a distortion of previous roles, not the introduction of new roles. The distortion was that Eve would now rebel against her husband’s authority, and Adam would misuse that authority to rule forcefully and even harshly over Eve. (Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood, p. 35)

Position 2: Headship Without Hierarchy

Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were not ordered hierarchically.  Rather, Adam acted as an “household manager” with “the responsibility to tend to the mission and the purpose of the household” (“Hierarchy and Subordination vs. Headship and Household Mission”). The prelapsarian relationship was indeed ordered, Adam being created first, Eve being created for Adam as his complementary help-meet, but they are nevertheless one flesh, commissioned together by God and together given dominion over creation by God.  There was no order of authority or submission per se as there is no sense in which it was necessary.  As Rev. Sam Powell writes,

Before the fall, before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve served God perfectly. They did not live for themselves; their desires were not to have power over each other, but they both lived as they were created – as one flesh, in perfect unbroken harmony. We can have no idea what this was like, since our state now is far different. (“Headship Is Not Hierarchy”)

Now, upon the introduction of sin and rebellion, as with Position 1, disorder of passions and self-serving interests are introduced.  Genesis 3:16 is also seen as descriptive, except in this case Eve’s desire for her husband is not interpreted as a contrary desire.  Rather, as described by Rachel Miller,

Eve had just been told that childbearing would now be painful. Despite that and despite the now broken relationship between her and Adam, who had moments before blamed her for his own sin, she would continue to desire her husband. (“The Desire of the Woman: A Response to Susan Foh’s Interpretation”)

As for Adam, “he shall rule over you” is to be understood as a distortion of the prelapsarian natural complementarity wherein Adam will exert force and ungodly rule over Eve. As with Position 1, this is fully descriptive, not something that God wants to happen, yet an apt description of sin cursed human relations after the Fall.

Position 3: Complementarity Without Subordination

Prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve were not ordered hierarchically. I fully agree with Sam Powell’s description of the prelapsarian state quoted above.  As I wrote before, there was no sense of hierarchy or order of authority.  It is almost a category mistake to apply authority and submission to a sinless relationship between two people completely uncorrupted by sin, knowing and living fully according to their created intentions.  And in response to Aimee Byrd’s question in her recent post on the subject, I am perfectly fine with referring to the prelapsarian relationship as headship, so long as it is not saddled with the baggage of ESS Complementarity’s definition of “headship”. I also agree with Barbara Roberts that natural complementarity before the fall included (and includes) “man’s duty to protect the woman and the woman’s need for the man’s protection”.

Where I do differ from Position 2 is that I do not believe that Genesis 3:16 is purely descriptive.  I agree fully with Rachel Miller’s assessment of “your desire shall be for your husband”, but not fully with the interpretation of “and he shall rule over you”.

Upon the introduction of sin and rebellion, God introduced rightful authority, where it had not existed before.  Prior to the fall and disobedience of our first parents, a natural created complementarity functioned in the household without disorder, self-service, antagonism, etc. After the Fall, the passions of men and women became distorted and sinful and relations became disordered.  Thus God introduced rightful authority to mitigate the disorder and to carry on the complementary mission that was prescribed before the Fall.  In like manner, God eventually introduced rightful civil authority and rightful ecclesiastical authority and for the very same reason.

Now of course all authority can be, and is often, misused. But such wicked use of authority is not sanctioned by God and is contrary to God’s delegated right to rule.  God defines for us what godly authority looks like, as discussed before, in Matthew 20:25-28, John 13:1-15, Ephesians 5:22-33, and the like. And, to rehash, (1) this authority is delegated, i.e., not due to one’s subsistence, personhood, or gender (Rom. 13:1); (2) submission is to the Lord, not a duty to persons by virtue of their personhood; (3) just, godly, and rightful authority is never a sanction for oppression and self-service; it is always self-sacrificial service, whether in the home, the state, or the church; and (4) it is always temporary.  Authority has been introduced to human relations as a result of sin and will be put to an end by Christ at the consummation (1 Cor. 15:24).  Authority itself is not evil. It is a true blessing to fallen humanity, though simply unnecessary and inapplicable to sinless humanity.

Mâshal = Oppressive Authority?

It is assumed by most (if not all) who argue that Genesis 3:16 is purely descriptive that the “rule” in “he shall rule over you” is an oppressive and antagonistic rule resulting from the disorder of sin.  Grudem argues that the root word translated “rule” in the passage, viz., mâshal, itself conveys the rule between unequals, by force, and is oppressive. Of mâshal he writes,

This term is common in the Old Testament, and it regularly, if not always, refers to ruling by greater power or force or strength. It is used of human military or political rulers, such as Joseph ruling over the land of Egypt (Gen. 45:26), or the Philistines ruling over Israel (Judg. 14:4; 15:11), or Solomon ruling over all the kingdoms that he had conquered (1 Kings 4:21). It is also used to speak of God ruling over the sea (Ps. 89:9) or God ruling over the earth generally (Ps. 66:7). Sometimes it refers to oppressive rulers who cause the people under them to suffer (Neh. 9:37; Isa. 19:4). In any case, the word does not signify one who leads among equals, but rather one who rules by virtue of power and strength, and sometimes even rules harshly and selfishly. (Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood, p. 34)

I think most of this is useless information as every word translated “rule”, “dominion”, or “authority” in the Scripture is used with the above sense at various points.  But if we stick more closely to the context, we can see that the case for mâshal by itself indicating oppressive rule is at best unconvincing.

Two different root words are translated “rule” or “dominion” in the opening chapters of Genesis and continue to be the most common throughout the Old Testament Canon.  The first, of course is mâshal, and the second radah.  I was struck while studying these terms that some commentators are certain that mâshal is oppressive and radah is not, while others just as forcefully assert the exact opposite.  What does seem to be certain is that as we widen our aperture beyond the context of the Books of Moses we see that the sense of the two terms are often indistinguishable.  But in our current context, I believe we can make some positive assertions that contradict the assumptions of Positions 1 and 2.

To begin with, we first encounter mâshal in Genesis 1:16-18:

Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

This is the very first mention of rule, governance, or dominion in the Scripture. In verses 16 and 18 we see the Sun ruling the day and the Moon the night.  So right away, it is difficult to see how the word mâshal itself could of necessity carry with it the notion of rule by oppression.  It makes little sense to say the Sun oppresses the day by force and the Moon the night.

The very next “rule” we encounter in Genesis is radah in 1:26, 28:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (v. 26)

Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (v.28)

Here we have radah conjoined with the requirement to “subdue” or bring into subjection.  We also have a rule or dominion between patent unequals, those created in the image of God are given authority over the rest of creation.  The very next mention of “rule” or its cognates is Genesis 3:16. For one reading through the first chapters of Genesis (and beyond), there is certainly nothing indicating that mâshal in Genesis 3:16 represents oppressive authority.  In fact, given the associations of mâshal vs. radah in the opening narratives, the exact opposite would appear more likely.

If we widen the context a bit from here to the other Books of Moses, we do see both words being used in similar ways, but it is interesting to note that the very next time radah is used after Genesis 1 is in Leviticus 25, concerning Israelite slaves:

 You shall not rule over him with rigor, but you shall fear your God. (25:43)

 And you may take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them as a possession; they shall be your permanent slaves. But regarding your brethren, the children of Israel, you shall not rule over one another with rigor. (25:46)

He shall be with him as a yearly hired servant, and he shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight. (25:53)

In each case radah is an oppressive rule that is forbidden.  We next see radah in the curses pronounced in Leviticus 26:

I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you. (v. 17)

Here again radah rule is oppressive.

This is not to suggest that mâshal cannot be used in contexts to express the same ideas as radah, but rather that we ought not make any assumptions from the word itself as found in Gesesis 3:16, for, if anything, the evidence leans strongly in the other direction.  Consistent with my interpretation outlined in Position 3 above, mâshal is perfectly consonant with godly authority, although it may nevertheless be perverted as can all authority.  As King David hymns of mâshal rule in his last words,

“The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me:
‘He who rules over men must be just,
Ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
Like the tender grass springing out of the earth,
By clear shining after rain.’ (2 Sam. 23:3-4)

Mâshal is a true blessing when carried out in the fear of the Lord. Understanding mâshal in this light, as not itself implying oppression, seems also to fit much better with the correct understanding of “and your desire shall be for your husband”.  In Position 2 we have a one sided antagonism with the woman desiring her husband like the lover in the Song of Songs while the husband alternatively seeks to oppress and subjugate his bride. If we understand mâshal as not intrinsically oppressive and even often a blessing, we no longer have this one-sided antagonism, but rather a good desire that can become sinful and a rightful authority which also can become sinful.

Mâshal as Descriptive?

The very next place we come across mâshal after Genesis 3:16 is when God warns Cain in Genesis 4:7:

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

Here the construction of the last sentence is nearly identical to that of Genesis 3:16, “Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.” Without the need for much argument, I think we can see clearly that mâshal in this statement is in fact prescriptive. It simply cannot be the case that God here is describing what will occur with Cain, for he goes on to murder his brother.  It makes much better sense to say that this rule is prescribed, and so most translators follow.

Another interesting passage for this discussion is in Exodus 21:

 “And if a man sells his daughter to be a female slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who has betrothed her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt deceitfully [treacherously] with her. And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters.  If he takes another wife, he shall not diminish her food, her clothing, and her marriage rights. And if he does not do these three for her, then she shall go out free, without paying money.” (vs. 7-11)

In this passage again we have mâshal, and in the precise form as in Genesis 3:16, yim·šōl. In this passage it is clearly used as rightful authority.  We know this because this right to authority is lost if there is treachery, deceit, or violation of the marital rights of the wife. It is not merely a description of the husband’s authority since the right to it can be lost through treachery.

Based upon the above textual evidence, I would not so much conclude that “and he shall rule over you” must be prescriptive, but I would say it is definitely not purely descriptive. In reality, I don’t actually believe that the issue between Positions 2 and 3 is so much prescriptive vs. descriptive, but is rather an issue of rightful vs. un-rightful authority. Position 1 argues that rightful authority existed before the fall by virtue of the very creation of Adam and Eve and that un-rightful authority is being described in Genesis 3:16. Position 2 argues that complementary order without authority existed before the fall but agrees with Position 1 that Genesis 3:16 describes un-rightful rule. I argue that it is enough for Position 3 to merely say that rightful authority is intentionally introduced by God in Genesis 3:16, for the purpose of guarding the original natural complementarity which had been corrupted by sin.

Positions 2 and 3 In Light of New Testament Evidence

I believe the best evidence for Position 3 is its interpretive power and consistency when applied to the various New Testament passages regarding men and women, authority and submission.  Position 1, ESS Complementarity, has been thoroughly critiqued in previous posts so I will focus primarily on Positions 2 and 3 below.

1 Corinthians 11:3-12

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.  For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

Position 2: It seems to me that Position 2 must see the headship being endorsed here, including the from-whom and for-whom order, as descriptive of the natural complementarity and rightful headship (“household management”) endorsed before and after the Fall.  So my first question is, when Paul concludes the argument with, “this is the reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head,” is this authority included in the natural complementarity?  (Note that the creation account and natural complementarity are given as the “reason” for having the symbol of authority.) If so, then it seems that authority and hierarchy did indeed precede the fall and are in fact concomitants of the very personhood and subsistence of men and women and we are back to Position 1.  A second option might be that for cultural reasons a “symbol of authority” is needed to accommodate the wider culture, in order to not hinder the work of Gospel proclamation. But why then would this be rooted in the creation account itself? A third possibility is that this authority is part of the described un-rightful rule introduced by sin in Genesis 3:16; but why then is it endorsed by the Apostle?  Or, last, this authority is somehow consonant with the prelapsarian state without implying hierarchy.  While difficult to understand, maybe some reasoning could be produced to support this last option. But whatever this reasoning would be, it is shattered by the final verse:

Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord.  For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

Why would Paul include this “nevertheless”? He seems to be saying that although this relation of authority exists and is endorsed, it is in principle untrue of those in Christ (Gal. 3:28), understood as eschatologically realized (under the already but not yet). But if he believed this authority to somehow be a part of the prelapsarian state, yet without hierarchy, why would he make the contrast? It seems to make little sense to contrast the state of sinlessness after the glorification (and in principle now) with the state of sinlessness prior to the fall if neither include hierarchy.

Position 3: I would argue it makes much more sense to see the authority described here as not included in the natural complementarity, not necessarily contrary to it, but rather added to it, in order to guard and maintain it against the disordering forces of sin. This allows us to maintain the prelapsarian natural and complementary order without including an unwarranted assumption of created hierarchy.  It also helps us to see that the postlapsarian authority described by Paul is indeed rightful and is to be endorsed.  And last, it makes sense of the “nevertheless” as this authority is temporary and will be put to an end when the prelapsarian state is restored.

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.

Position 2: In order to retain Position 2’s assumption that Genesis 3:16 as purely descriptive, the “law” referred to above must be just the creational order, the from-whom and for-whom, described a few chapters earlier.  The “law” cannot be Genesis 3:16 itself, for under Position 2 it is merely descriptive and cannot therefore be appealed to as a prescription.  But this again leaves us with some unwanted consequences. First, it was while publicly praying and prophesying that women were required to have the “symbol of authority” in the earlier chapter, yet in this context they are told to be silent.  Not only that, but is it really the Apostle’s aim to show that women must be silent because of the natural complementarity, that is, by virtue of their very creation, order, subsistence, and personhood?

Position 3: If we can, alternatively, take the “law” being referenced as Genesis 3:16 itself, i.e., the introduction of rightful authority to mitigate the consequences of sin and continue the joint commission of husband and wife, then we can also maintain that it is not the very subsistence or personhood of women that is leveraged as the basis of Paul’s prohibition.  To be sure, I believe that to properly understand this passage and make sense of the prohibition there is much cultural and local contextual interpretation needed; but all of that is ruled out of court if the law spoken of is the very order of creation and the natural complementarity.

1 Timothy 2:12-15

And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Position 2: With reference to “for Adam was formed first, then Eve,” all of the same concerns as discussed above apply and I presume do not have to be reiterated.  But here we have an additional problem, the inclusion into the argument of, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” 1 Timothy 2:12-15 makes explicit references to the Genesis 3 narrative.  If we are to see Genesis 3:16 as purely descriptive, then we must conclude that Paul’s prohibition of teaching and having authority is intentionally leveraged on a description of the events, not a consequent prescription due to the events.

But what would be Paul’s reasoning here if this is so? It seems we would be left with something like the interpretation of those who would endorse the simple metaphysic of “unequal in nature, therefore unequal in authority”.  Such propose that Eve (and therefore women in general), showed herself to be easily deceived and therefore naturally not equipped to teach and rule in the church.  If Position 2 is maintained, then being prohibited from the right to teach men or have authority over men cannot be understood as due to a prescribed order of authority resulting from the Fall, but must be hinged on the narrative of events itself.

By reasoning from the deception, we must either see the prohibition as imposed as a result of the deception, or see the deception itself as indicative of inability to teach men or have authority over men (or something similar).  If Genesis 3:16 is simply descriptive, then a proscription of such duties could not be the result of the Fall; rather, the proscription must result from the nature of Eve.

Position 3: It seems clear to me that all of this difficulty is washed away if this is read with the assumption that Genesis 3:16 declares an intended and rightful authority, delegated to maintain the natural complementarity in the face of the disordering consequences of sin.  This passage in many ways parallels Genesis 3:16. Note that it does not say that women should not teach or have authority in general in the church, but rather says they should not teach or have authority over men (“he shall rule over you”). It also concludes with a reference to being “saved in childbearing,” a difficult clause that nevertheless clearly points to Genesis 3:16 (“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children”).  Thus, consequent to Eve’s sin, she is prohibited to have authority over men in the church, as prescribed in Genesis 3:16. This is the only interpretation that can maintain any form of complementarity at all and not fall into either the simple metaphysic of inequality, or the inequality of equals.

1 Peter 3:1-7

Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear…. For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror.

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Position 2: Since we have already covered most of the ground necessary to account for passages like this, I will only note here the example given of Sarah’s obedience to Abraham and her calling him “lord” (we could insert here also the “obedience” commanded in Titus 2:5).  It is interesting to note that the root Greek word here translated “lord” is kurios, the same root used for mâshal in the LXX translation of Genesis 3:16.  But I don’t intend to make much of this.  What is important, as before, is the question: is this due obedience and submission part of the natural complementarity expressed before the Fall?  Or is it the described authority resulting from the Fall?  If the former, then we devolve into Position 1.  If it is the oppressive rule under the descriptive interpretation, why then is it enjoined?

And further, why does Peter add, “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered”?  This produces the same quandary for Position 2 as does the “nevertheless” in 1 Corinthians 11.

Position 3: On Position 3, Peter’s reminder that we are “heirs together of the grace of life” is simply indicative of the temporary nature of this authority, that it is not natural to our creation, nor natural to the created complementarity, nor in principle even true of those in Christ now.  But it is nevertheless enjoined and rightful, until the consummation.


What is probably most clear to all readers of this post is that it has become way too long and is beginning to verge on redundancy; I apologize. But I truly do hope that Position 3 can be weighed and judged objectively as an alternative to Positions 1 and 2—as a Complementarity Without Subordination that rejects the Metaphysic of Oppression, and is both motivated by the word of God and in turn clarifies our interpretation of the same.  Honestly, I think the most prohibitive aspect of Position 3 is that it allows the word “rule” into the realm of godly headship (blame the rampant “Christian” misuse of authority to justify abuse).  But I think I have explained thoroughly in the last post, and in the summary of Position 3 above, what rightful authority looks like. And what is not in accord with that description is simply not rightful nor endorsed by the Scripture or by me.

Further, Position 2 proponents will also need to account for the language of “authority” and “obedience” and “rule” as it is found in the New Testament; but their options are limited.  Such language is either applicable to the prelapsarian created complementarity and as such devolves into the Metaphysic of Oppression. Or it is inapplicable to the post-lapsarian state, contra the New Testament witness.  Or last, we somehow change the meanings of the terms so that they are applicable to the prelapsarian state as well, but then we can make no sense of the “nevertheless” of Paul or the similar in Peter, nor the temporality of all hierarchy.

Option 3, Complementarity Without Subordination, avoids all of these pitfalls.


28 Responses

  1. Sam Powell

    Hi, Brad. I don’t have a lot of time to interact this weekend. I will be unavailable after this weekend, and am pretty swamped right now.
    Your work critiquing complementarianism and ESS is excellent, but you veered off a bit here.
    Your analysis of the words is correct, but the meaning of the words is seen in context, particularly in the context of the whole of scripture. Moises Silva argues that the meaning of a text is seen primarily in the context of the text and not in the minutiae of the use of the words – but that is a discussion for another time.
    There are several things I would like to point out, for you to think about.
    1. If this verse is descriptive, then it is God’s will given to man in order to mitigate sin, as you argue. But the fall-out from this is that sin is placed in the woman, who needs to be controlled, rather than in the heart of man. The testimony of scripture, is, however, that sin entered the world because of the sin of man, not the sin of the woman. Sin (or even disorder) is not due to a failure of man to properly rule over his wife. Rather it is a disease of the heart, common to all.
    Second, your argument is that God assigned godly rule in order to preserve the world because of sin (if I understood correctly). However, the testimony of scripture is that God, after promising a redeemer and providing clothing, allowed sin to go unchecked until “evil was great in the world” in Genesis 6, resulting in the flood, destroying everyone except Noah and his family. It was only at this point, with the Noahic Covenant, that God promised to preserve the world. As a part of that, he commanded capital punishment (giving the sword to the magistrate). It is at THIS point that God covenanted with man to restrain evil with the establishment of rule.
    3. You will have a difficult time explaining what was different in the marriage relationship after Christ if you make 3:16 prescriptive. Was Paul simply repeating 3:16 in Ephesians 5? How do you explain the Song of Songs, where there is no rule whatsoever, but mutual satisfaction, mutual initiation, and mutual belonging? Song of Songs is a picture of a redeemed relationship, whereas Genesis 3:16 is the picture of a cursed relationship.
    Comparing 3:16 to 4:7 must take into account that sin and women are different things, and therefore their desires are different. it is true that the grammar is the same, but the context and the subjects are far different.
    But to me, the biggest struggle that I have with this is that if you bring “godly rule” into Genesis 3:16, then the first time the principle of ruling over people is in a marriage relationship by God’s design, rather than by curse. This puts it into the category of the 5th commandment, which gives the principle of authority. But the fifth commandment puts the father and the mother on an equal footing – a “plurality of elders”. So where do you ground the command of Genesis 3:16? We confess that the whole duty of man is summarized in the ten commandments. So if it is the duty of man to rule over his wife, given to him by God, which commandment does it fall under?
    If it is the fifth, that is contrary to the wording of the fifth. And if it is the seventh (the commandment of marriage) then you are reading more in the text than is there. The seventh commandment speaks of the one flesh relationship, that we strive for. Authority doesn’t belong there. And it doesn’t belong in the fifth.
    I think the only solution is to admit that 3:16 is descriptive of life after the fall, unredeemed, rather than an extra command of God.
    I hope this makes sense. I unfortunately won’t be available to engage much after this, but I will see you mid-April.

    • Profile photo of Brad Mason
      Brad Mason

      Thank you so much for this Pastor!

      First, I just want to point out that I only discussed the words themselves to block the claim that mashal itself implies oppression, not so much to make an argument in my favor; that is mostly done when discussing the New testament passages.

      Next, I am not arguing that a new order comes about after Gen 3 that was not already present, but rather it takes a new form. The “headship” order that was previously natural and unimpaired by sin is now mandated because the nature of men and women is now fallen. There is no doubting that there was a natural complementarity between Adam and Eve before the fall that includes all that you and Aimee have pointed out. After the fall, and all over the scripture, especially in the NT, no one can doubt that “authority”, “submission”, “obedience”, etc., are not only described but clearly enjoined. There is nothing of the sort before the fall and it wouldn’t even make sense to use such language before the fall. Now I take it to be the case that when two regenerate believers live out this godly “authority”, “submission”, “obedience” that is enjoined, and understood by the Matthew, John, and Ephesians passages, it will be more and more identical to the natural complementarity found before the fall. The nature, order, and headship of the relationship is not changed after the fall; rather the desires and passions of men and women are changed. A redeemed relationship looks like Christ and the Church.

      I don’t in any sense believe that sin is placed in the woman that needs to be controlled. I rather think that would actually be the fallout of Positions 1 and 2 when we come to passages like 1 Timothy 2. I see instead that the natural complementarity and headship before the fall wass disordered in both men and women by the fall and that it is this same natural complementarity and order that is enjoined after the fall, yet now with the structure of authority so often enjoined in the Scripture. (Again, authority that is to be exercised Biblically as I described in both articles.)

      As for Genesis 4:7, I am not drawing a parallel between sin and Cain and Adam and Eve, but was at that point in the argument just showing that mashal is there to be understood prescriptively and in the same grammatical form.

      In the end, the New Testament enjoins upon husbands and wives “authority”, “submission”, “obedience”, etc. Where does this come from? Is it a result of the very nature and personhood of men and women due to the order and purpose of their creation? I think not, because it makes no sense before the fall (and is not enjoined), will not be the case after the consummation, and is in principle not even the case now. All God given authority is temporary. If it comes after the fall and is due to the fall, it is easy to understand that it is not part of manhood and womanhood itself, nor natural complementarity. And when this order of authority and submission is carried out by redeemed believers according to godly principles of authority, the home looks more and more like the self-sacrificial yet ordered love relationship that men and women were created for and existed before the fall.

      I proposed a lot of questions for Position 2 in the sections dealing with NT passages. Position 2 either forces authority and submission into the prelapasarian garden, or, alternatively, completely denies that it exists. I am just trying to bring all of the passages together.

      Edit: I also want to reiterate from the post that I don’t so much see this as a question of descriptive vs. prescriptive but unrightful vs. rightful authority. Maybe we could indeed say that upon the fall God describes how the relationship will be, but we canot say that the authority described is always unrightful, for it is enjoined over and over in the scripture as rightful.

    • pduggie

      I think it can be descriptive, but not to “mitigate sin” so much (since, as you mention, sin continues to exist and worsen) but to continue the race.

      Why would A&E, marred by sin so much that they are ashamed of their organs of genertion, and put barriers between them, make any babies? But God ‘seeks godly seed’ so he will fix the problem. There will be pain in childbearing but there will be childbearing! There *will* be desire for a husband. There will also be rule of a wife. This is the ‘fix’ that is appropriate for a new fallen FAMILY condition. Doesn’t speak to issues of state or society.

  2. Barbara Roberts

    I think Sam Powell may have made a typo in his comment when he said, “If this verse is descriptive, then it is God’s will given to man in order to mitigate sin, as you argue.”

    I suspect Sam meant to write “1. If this verse is PREscriptive, then it is God’s will given to man in order to mitigate sin, as you argue.”

  3. Barbara Roberts

    Hi Brad, I honour your willingness to continue engaging and interacting with Aimee Byrd, Rachel Miller, Sam Powell and myself. I hope others come into the conversation too. Seeking to understand what God’s revelation teaches us about male and female distinctives commonalities and relationships, and what complementarianism might look like without ESS, is probably going to be a long-term collaborative project. I am praying that the Lord will use whom He wishes in this iron sharpening iron process. 🙂

    I admit to being disappointed that you don’t seem to have interacted much with my post apart from saying you agree with me that natural complementarity before the fall included (and includes) “man’s duty to protect the woman and the woman’s need for the man’s protection”. There was a lot more in my post than that point.

    I think you have mischaracterised or misunderstood some details of ESS Complementarity.

    ESS Complementarian do say that Eve was under submission by virtue of being formed AFTER Adam, and formed to HELP Adam. But they don’t say Eve was bearing the image of God by bearing the image of Adam — they explicitly reject that idea. They affirm that Eve’s bearing the image of God was not derivative through her being formed from Adam. They say she bore the divine image in exactly the same way Adam bore it.

    And another point. I have seldom if ever heard modern day ESS Complementarians say that Genesis 3:16 means Eve is now prone to seek ungodly dominance of Adam. They say — and they got this from Susan Foh’s 1995 paper — that the Eve’s/the woman’s desire is the desire to usurp her husband’s authority. That quote you gave from Grudem shows another way they phrase their idea of female usurpation: “Eve would now rebel against her husband’s authority.”

    If woman seeks ungodly dominance of man, she is a masochist. If she rebels against the man’s authority, she is a rebel. There’s a big difference! CBMW have never said woman SEEKS ungodly dominance from man. But they have consistently said woman seek to USURP man’s authority and to take the leadership which is properly man’s role.

    • Profile photo of Brad Mason
      Brad Mason

      Hello again!

      First of all, I apologize for the limited correspondence with your post (as well as Aimee’s and Sam’s). It was a great post indeed, I was just trying in this piece to more accurately posit my position and show its benefits in comparison to others’. It was by no means that I didn’t want to, I was just not intending to do too much polemics as much as trying to present my case.

      As for the image being mediated to woman through man, I do believe that is what Bruce Ware argues in his central contribution to the Biblical Foundations of Manhood and Womanhood. I had quoted a couple articles back Ware arguing the following:

      “[…]the female was made the image of God second, in a mediated fashion, as God chose, not more earth, but the very rib of Adam by which He would create the woman fully and equally the image of God. So, while both are fully the image of God, and both are equally the image of God, it may be the case that both are not constituted as the image of God in the identical way. Scripture gives some clues that there is a God-intended temporal priority bestowed upon the man as the original image of God, through whom the woman, as the image of God formed from the male, comes to be.”

      “[…]it is evident that Paul is thinking specifically about the woman’s origination vis-à-vis the man’s, and he reflects here on the importance of the man’s prior creation, out of whose being and for whose purpose the woman’s life now comes. […] Just as the man, created directly by God, is the image and glory of God, so the woman, created out of the man, has her glory through the man.”

      So I did not intend to say that they believe that the Eve was created with a different image, but rather that they believe it is mediated to her through Adam and that she bears it in a different way. In fact, that is the whole focus of his contribution in that book (see pages 82 and 85 for the quotes).

      And I suppose they do not all say that Eve’s “desire” is interpreted in the way I suggested, but it seems to me that that is the basis for their new translation which includes “contrary”. Many, if not all of them, point to Gen. 4:7 for parallel such that Eve’s desire is like Sin’s desire, viz., to have and control. I actually think my poor writing just allowed for the “of” to be interpreted differently than I intended. I was meaning to say that they believe Eve’s “desire” is her wanting to dominate Adam. I should have written, “Eve is now prone to seek to dominate Adam”. I think I will change this in the post because I can see how it would add confusion.

      Thank you so much again for everything!

      • Barbara Roberts

        Thanks Brad. I’m glad you’re changing that detail about women’s “desire” in your post.

        And now I’ve re-read those quotes from Ware about the how the woman’s divine is ‘mediated’ through the man, I rescind my earlier assertion about the comp’s view of that point. I’d forgotten how bad Ware was in that respect. I don’t think all comps would say it the way Ware did, but the fact is, they don’t rebuke him for saying it that way, so they obviously tolerate his viewpoint.

        …. which IMO is just another bit of evidence about how the major comp leaders are acting like a club, and letting club members get away with bad behaviour/wording just because they are famous members of the club.

  4. Barbara Roberts

    In the comments thread that ensued from my post, I put this statement by Alastair Roberts, and I’m pasting it here as well because I think it’s a worthy contribution to the topic. Alastair said:

    “Part of the import of Genesis 3:16, I believe, is that the man would be would be less receptive to the influence of his wife and less attentive to her counsel, frustrating her in that dimension of her vocation, much as the man would be frustrated in his relation to the earth. The importance of the woman’s influence and counsel isn’t something new that is added after the Fall in response to the man’s sin, but a dimension of the good order of created relations between the sexes that is distorted and weakened by sin.”

    (source: https://calvinistinternational.com/2016/09/15/men-women-nature-christian-teaching-two-responses-aimee-byrd/ )

  5. Cameron Shaffer

    In regards to 1 Timothy 2:15, why is this understood as a clear reference to Genesis 3:16 rather than Genesis 3:15? Eve is saved by childbearing: through the seed, Jesus. The use of σῴζω in Paul refers to salvation, and is the only word for saved/salvation used elsewhere in 1 Timothy. The second half of 2:15 also indicates that redemption is in site: she is saved *if* she continues in faith, love, and holiness (cf: 1 Timothy 1:4-5; 1:13; 1:19).

    I have really appreciated the thought and work you have been putting into this series.

    • Barbara Roberts

      Cameron, I’m mindful that we probably don’t want to let this thread go onto to much of a tangent, and that digging into your question could easily end up doing that. But ‘women being saved by childbearing’ is one of those expressions which are heavily (and inconclusively) debated.

      One possibility is that in the church Timothy was pastoring, there were some people who were discouraging wives from bearing children — maybe from some gnostic-type notion that sexual intercourse and giving birth would defile the woman or make her less spiritual. If that were the case, then Paul could have been giving Timothy and his flock reassurance that sexual relations and childbirth would not make the woman less spiritual, and that Christ can save women from whatever potential risks were involved in childbirth.

      • Cameron Shaffer

        I appreciate the comment Barbara. To clarify, I am not struggling to understand the different interpretive options for 1 Timothy 2:15, but why Brad felt comfortable stating that it is, “a difficult clause that nevertheless clearly points to Genesis 3:16.” That’s an assertion, not an argument, and one that needs to be proved to make his case from 1 Timothy 2:12-15. I do not think 1 Timothy 2:15 is referring back to Genesis 3:16, but to 3:15, so I do not think it “clearly” refers back to 3:16. Obviously Brad was providing a summary of how Positions 2 and 3 could address each of these passages, rather than a detailed exegesis, but I would find it helpful to understand why he connected it to Genesis 3:16.

    • Profile photo of Brad Mason
      Brad Mason

      I guess it is not clear to all, so I presumed too much. I do think the “teknogonia” is a reference to the “texe tekna” of Genesis 3:16, with the intent of alluding to the struggle and hard work of childbearing that would lead to the Seed and, in 1 Tim 2, the continuing struggle and work of child bearing that is part of the wife’s continuance in faith, charity, and holiness. I don’t think in this case the point is the Seed, as the Seed had already come, but rather Paul is emphasizing the continuing redemptive historical relevance of her role in the household. I further see the reference to a gender distinctive prohibition, hinged on the deception, plus the reference to “texe tekna” all being the basis for many scholars assuming the reference as well.

      But that is not really the basis of my argument. My argument is more the following: what is it about a mere description of having been deceived that grounds a prohibition to teaching and authority? Merely saying that someone was deceived doesn’t justify a “therefore she cannot have authority”. I see only two options here (or classes of options). Either (1) the fact that she was deceived shows that she is not fit for the office and therefore should not be allowed to it, or (2) the prohibition to such office results from a sanction due to the deception. The former is the traditional “women are more gullible by nature” argument, the latter is that an order of authority was introduced after the fall and due to the fall. E.g., a businessman having been swindled (partly his own failure) of all of his money is not grounds in itself to prohibit him from starting a new venture. But a judge could pull his license to do business as a result (for various possible reasons relating to his own failures). If someone then said, “no, Jimmy can’t do business because he was swindled,” I would have to presume that this person is either telling me that the businessman showed himself incapable of doing business and therefore shouldn’t, or assume that some authority had barred him from it for having been swindled.

      If Genesis 3:16 is entirely descriptive and refers to unrightful authority, then I think we end up with the gullibility argument. If it is describing or prescribing rightful authority, due to the introduction of sin, then we can make better sense of 1 Tim 2 as temporary and rightful prohibition to authority in the Church not due to the nature of the woman.

      I hope this makes sense. I am still trying to learn how to express myself in text. I’ve read through some of your blog posts and you are a lot better at it!

      • Barbara Roberts

        When I next come to the States, Brad, I hope to catch up with Sam Powell and his wife. Perhaps I can also catch up with you and yours, and give you some writing tips. 🙂

  6. Barbara Roberts

    Thanks for clarifying that, Cameron Shaeffer. 🙂

    Yes, I too would like to know Brad’s reasons for asserting that ‘women being saved in childbearing’ points back to Genesis 3:16.

    Of course, the obvious link is that Gen 3:16(a) is about the pain that women would now experience in childbirth (and by extension, the pain and toil she would experience in the whole enterprise of raising children). But other than that obvious link, I don’t see a strong connection.

    Hopefully Brad can explain his thinking on this a bit more. 🙂

  7. Barbara Roberts

    Brad, here are three things you said:

    (i) Natural complementarity before the fall included “man’s duty to protect the woman and the woman’s need for the man’s protection.” (quoting those words from me)
    (ii) Upon the introduction of sin and rebellion, God introduced rightful authority, where it had not existed before.
    (iii) Authority itself is not evil. It is a true blessing to fallen humanity, though simply unnecessary and inapplicable to sinless humanity.

    I agree that authority itself is not evil (point iii). But why can’t we use the term ‘authority’ for Adam’s pre-fall duty to pass on to Eve God’s instruction about the tree? Adam had the duty and responsibility — and I would say the authority — to teach that instruction to Eve in order to protect her from danger. Why can’t we call that authority? Of course, it was an authority that wasn’t evil. Adam was serving God perfectly until the Fall. He was not exercising power wrongly over Eve by teaching her that rule from God. He was exercising his gender-differentiated power rightly: God had given him the woman; he was sinlessly in harmony with God and with the woman; but the woman knew less than he did — until Adam loving and protectively taught her what God had taught him. Can’t we describe what he did there as Adam exercising his God-given authority/duty/responsibility to teach and guide Eve?

    If you are happy for us to use the term ‘authority’ there in regard to Adam’s action, then I’m sure you will agree that it was an example of how authority is not, in itself, evil.

    In sum, I think that the sequence of events:
    God created man/Adam/the earth creature,
    then He gave Adam a very important instruction,
    then He formed woman from Adam,
    means that God gave Adam the authority/duty to pass that instruction on to Eve.

    I believe that authority Adam exercised and the submission Eve evinced in listening to and imprinting on her mind the instruction (until the Serpent beguiled her to discount it) shows that, in the natural pre-fall complementarity of the sexes, there WAS male authority and female submission being exercised without disorder, self-service, antagonism, etc.

    What do you think? Are you willing to agree with me here? Are you willing to agree that one element of the gender distinctives prior to the Fall was that Adam was called to exercise authority by teaching Eve? If so, I suggest you will need to rethink points (ii) and (iii) that I mentioned above.

    • Profile photo of Brad Mason
      Brad Mason

      These are definitely good questions. I would not call the prelapsarian natural complementarity an authority relationship any more than I would say obedience was enjoined upon Eve. I think that after the introduction of sin, the prelapsarian natural complementarity is now sanctioned in terms of authority and submission, not to be contrary to the natural complementarity, but in order to preserve it, since self love and disordered passions have distorted the nature of men and women.

      I come to this largely by noting that all authority in the Scripture is temporary and will cease when sin ceases. It goes no further than the reign of sin and was only introduced because of sin. And we see this profoundly related to husband and wife in 1 Cor. 11. Immediately after saying that the wife is to have a “symbol of authority” on her head, the Apostle says “Nevertheless” and contrasts the “in the Lord” state with the order of authority. Passages like this seem to me to be saying loud and clear that this authority and submission relation is connected with the fallen state since even now in Christ, in a realized eschatological state, no order in principle exists as we are new creations. And this also seems to make clear that when Christ completes His work and the already and not yet becomes the full reality and consummation, sin’s reign having been ended, that such authority is no more.

      Seeing the relation of authority and submission, in all godly realms, as introduced upon sin’s entrance and not applicable upon sin’s end makes sense of all the passages in question, to my lights. Putting that “authority” that Paul contrasts to being “in the Lord” into the garden leads one to ESS Complementarity, or, alternatively, suggests that gender itself must end at the consummation since it is rooted in the creation of men and women. Alternatively, reading the pre-sin natural complementarity into Paul’s assertion of authority makes little sense of his “nevertheless” contrast; what would motivate it? What is the contrast?

      All I am really trying to do is see how all of the scriptural data can hang together without one group of passages rendering another group meaningless.

  8. DL

    I appreciate this dialogue and plan to get caught up with all of the posts referenced, as the discourse mirrors my current research.

    The one thing I thought I might point out is that in Position1 you wrote that the Danvers Statement affirms hierarchal authority prior to the fall. However, that is not a feature of Danvers, unless you imply that the use of headship = hierarchy. I don’t assume that as the original intent:

    Thank you for having this dialogue.

    • Profile photo of Brad Mason
      Brad Mason

      Hello! What exactly are you currently researching? I’d be interested in your findings if it is on this subject.

      As for Danvers, unless they are equivocating on “headship”, then I think they did intend hierarchy of authority. They use as proof texts for headship those which refer to “authority”, “submission”, “subjection”, etc. and they use the word headship for before the fall as well. So unless, as I say, they are being equivocal, then I assume that “authority”, “submission”, “subjection”, “obedience”, etc., also applies to headship before the fall.

      Thank you for reading and for commenting!

      • DL

        Thank you, Brad and Barbara. Barbara – I just followed you on Twitter, so that should help. Due to my current profession, I choose to keep a private social profile.

        Brad, I’m doing my PhD research on Ecclesial Leadership of Women in the Church. I also know a few of the original PCA crafters of the Danvers Statement and according to them, the choice of headship vs. hierarchy and submission vs. subjection are intentional (as opposed to equivocal). The distinction was purposeful. Of course, CBMW has subsequently contorted and equivocated quite a bit. But when I refer to Danvers, I prefer to understand through precise semantics and original intent. Just a few thoughts. Thanks so much. I need to get caught up on your articles! God bless.

  9. Barbara Roberts

    Two comments about the way your Heart and Mouth blog is set up.

    1. The way comments are nested is fine, but the width of the third-level comments is VERY narrow, making it hard to read those comments. Can you change the settings or the template, to make this problem go away?

    2. I’ve been ticking the box to be notified by email of follow up comments, but I never receive any email notifications. Can you look into this? Thanks. 🙂

  10. Barbara Roberts

    Brad I’ve struggled to make a full response to this post of yours for many days. The comments I made up-thread were merely nibbling at the foothills of your position.

    I think that there are many flaws in the arguments you’ve give in this post. I may not be able to fully explain my thinking, but here goes.

    1. There is a failure of logic in your position. You said: “After the Fall, the passions of men and women became distorted and sinful and relations became disordered. Thus God introduced rightful authority to mitigate the disorder and to carry on the complementary mission that was prescribed before the Fall.” On your view, Genesis 3:16 shows God introducing or bestowing rightful authority to men in order to mitigate the disordered passions of men and women which were a result of the Fall and in order to carry on the complementary mission that was prescribed before the Fall.

    But at the same time, you admit that as a result of the Fall the passions of BOTH men and women were disordered. So how on earth can you imagine that God bestowed or introduced “rightful authority to men” at that point, when men’s passions had become just as disordered as women’s passions? It doesn’t make sense. Why would God prescribe that men in this fallen world should have authority over women in order to mitigate the disorder, when men are just as affected and disordered by sin as women are? Wouldn’t that be like God giving sin-biased men the ‘right’ to lord it over women in evil ways? God is never the author of sin.

    Sam Powell is right on the money when he says that your position places sin in the woman who needs to be controlled or restrained by male authority, rather than placing sin in the heart of man. Scripture says sin entered the world because of the sin of Adam. It says “in Adam all die” — not “in Eve all die.” Sam is right that “sin (or even disorder) is not due to a failure of man to properly rule over his wife. Rather it is a disease of the heart, common to all.”

    2. Your position on Genesis 3:16 fails to respect the context in which that verse occurs. In that part of Genesis 3 God is announcing the consequences of the Fall. Every one of those consequences is negative. But your position makes it sound like the words “and he shall rule over you” are a positive announcement not a negative announcement. You assert that “he shall rule over you” is a positive & beneficial law by which God (in your words:) “introduced rightful authority to mitigate the disorder and to carry on the complementary mission that was prescribed before the Fall.”

    Your position makes out that in this fallen world women are the disordered sex and men have been given the authority to mitigate (restrain?) the disorder of women. While I reject ESS and I abhor how ESS has contaminated complementarianism, I find your position just as abhorrent. And you don’t seem to realise how misogynist it is!

    I hope and trust you will give more consideration to this. I’m sure your heart is in the right place but as Sam Powell says, “you veered off a bit here.”

    3. I think you need to read a lot more widely on this topic. In particular, I suggest you read Phillip Payne’s book “Man and Woman: One in Christ”. Payne is a very careful scholar. He devoted nearly four decades to studying Paul’s teaching about male/female relations. He has a very high view of scripture: he holds to inerrancy and divine inspiration of the original autographs. And with all that, despite his intial reluctance to consider the idea, he eventually came to the view that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is an INTERPOLATION added to the text in a series of steps and mis-steps made by later scribes and copyists. Payne thinks that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is not inspired scripture. You really need to read him in detail to assess his argument on that. And until you’ve done that, I suggest you don’t try to use that passage to confirm your position. By the way, I’m not persuaded by all of Payne’s egalitarian views about gender, but the case he puts for that passage being interpolated is very strong.

    4. Your speculation about the ‘nevertheless’ in 1 Cor 11:11 is unconvincing. There are so many difficulties with interpreting that passage. Perhaps our biggest difficulty is understanding the cultural connotations of women’s head coverings in first century Corinth which was a Roman Colony and thus a place where the Roman Emperor had a particular interest in stomping on any early-emergent sedition.

    In the first century, Pagan cults with their ‘secret initiation rituals’ were places where would-be insurgents against the Emperor could easily craft treasonous plots under the guise of being a ‘religious group’. Also, in some pagan cults, women were leaders and those women were not traditional Roman matrons: they were flamboyant examples of ‘New Roman Women’ whose conduct was deemed unwomanly and immoral by the more traditional Romans. The New Roman Woman type was recognizable not only by her conduct but by her appearance (which could include her hair/hair covering). Bruce Winter is the one to read if you want more detail on this.

    Possibly Paul was telling women in the Corinthian church to wear head coverings so that if any of the Emperor’s spies (aka messengers, and the word ‘angels’ can be translated as ‘messengers’) came in to the church services, they would see that the conduct of the women was Traditional Roman Woman conduct. And the spies/messengers therefore would be more likely to report back to the Emperor that these “Jesus followers” were not a cult which posed any threat to the State. This would reduce the risk of the church becoming a target of persecution by the Emperor.

    So perhaps 1 Cor 11 is simply to be understood as Paul giving advice to the Corinthian church about how to minimise the risk that the little church would face persecution… rather like we at A Cry For Justice give our readers tips about how to minimise the risk that their abusers will escalate their abuse.

    1 Corinthians 11 does have a direct relationship with Genesis 2 — “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake” (1 Cor 11: 8-9) — but it does NOT have a direct relationship with Genesis 3. And in my view, to posit a direct relationship between 1 Cor 11 and Gen 3 is to force those two chapters to be bedfellows in a box they are probably not meant to be bedfellows in.


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