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Discovering Biblical Equality: chapter 2

It’s been while since I decided to work my way through this large scholarly volume, but I haven’t forgotten about it. Hopefully, throughout the summer, we can cover quite a bit of the material. 

 Chapter Two discusses “gender in creation and fall” and this is one of the most important texts to ground this conversation. Many people take their views on gender from this chapter (or import ideas from Paul back into the reading instead of taking Genesis to Paul). I’ve also seen really weird things done with the material. (Such as the man who insists that Genesis 2:23 means that men are responsible for romance.)1

Again, I will not break down all the details of each of these points. That’s why they wrote the book. Hopefully this recap will provide an overview and maybe stimulate your desire to learn more. If you feel uncomfortable with any of the points, that’s fine, maybe even to be expected. Stick with it and dig around. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree, but it doesn’t automatically make the material wrong either. 

Major points: 

1. Women and men are given the same status and same roles by God. Middleton insists that part of the implications of the imago dei are functional: “the imago dei refers to human rule, that is, the exercise of power on God’s behalf in creation.” There are no hierarchal levels of being made in God’s image or differing levels of authority or different work given. While they are given dominion over the rest of creation, they are not given dominion over one another. 

2. The ezer kenegdo: I am going to skip reviewing this and instead send you to this article by Carolyn Custis James. No point in doing the work over again. 

3. The narratives points to the similarity of man and woman in comparison to the rest of creation. Jen Wilkin has taught on the importance of recognizing the “sameness” of being part of humanity2 and I wrote a little about it here.

4. The narrative teaches us that Eve was deceived or tricked into sin, but man sins defiantly. It hardly makes sense to craft a story where being tricked into sin is worse; no one would suggest that with their own children. And while the point is brought up in 1 Tim 2, being deceived is not an aspect of womanhood, but rather an aspect of being human. It’s a major theme in the New Testament and Paul specifically warns an entire church against being deceived as Eve was in 2 Corinthians 11:3.

5. One of the major complementarian arguments is that God speaks to Adam first and therefore man is “more responsible,” but since he isn’t held responsible for Eve’s action at all that argument is hard to make sense of. In what way is he “more responsible”? This narrative is also complicated by the fact that Eve faces her own set of consequences for sin, but also Adam’s affect her just as much. 

Upon the arrival of sin, all aspects of relationships break down. The humans are separated from God. The relationships between one another are broken. Participating in life (whether in growing food or people), was supposed to be sustained in relationship with God and becomes more difficult. Their relationship with the earth is complicated. Eventually, they will die.

6. Adam naming Eve is sometimes held up as a sign of his authority over her. This authority was not present before the fall, so if it were to be viewed that way, this authority would be a product of sin. Few are willing to argue that now. However, Conway goes on to say “naming in the Old Testament is an act of discerning a trait or function or ability that already exists in the person being named, not a sign of authority over that person. An example is Hagar’s naming of God.”

7. Conways ends discussing the link between Genesis 3 and 1 Timothy 2, insisting that the point is “not whether someone is a man or a woman, but inadequate teaching.” “Anyone who is inadequately taught and is inappropriately usurping authority over those who have had a better education and possess better understanding should not teach others, at least temporarily until their understanding has improved.” Most often, that was women because men denied education to women. 

More Resources
I have three highlights of material on gender on Instagram, also video on 1 Tim 2
Half the Church by Carolyn Custis James
Icons of Christ by William Witt (he specifically counters Grudem’s point from the creation/fall narrative)

1 I do not quote fringe people without identifying them as such. This was a prominent Southern Baptist leader.
2 I agree with Jen that women and men complement each other in their differences. I do not agree that leads to differing levels of authority or roles for them.

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