Saturday, January 17, 2009

Does the Bible Teach THIS About Headship?

I was reading today a blog post from Andreas Kostenberger’s blog titled “Biblical Foundations.”(
His blog post titled “What Does the Bible Teach About Headship?” was supposed to show the male leadership in the home and church is not a traditional thought, but one found in the Word of God.

However, there are problems with his argument. First, regarding his five reasons for the male’s headship in the home and church, Kostenberger lists two questionable factors: the first is that of “God’s holding Adam—not Eve responsible for his and Eve’s sin even though Eve had sinned first.”

But did God do this? Did Eve get off scot-free? No. Let’s go to Genesis 3 to see what really happened:

“He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree which I commanded you not to eat?’
The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’
Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’
The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate’” (Genesis 3:11-13, ESV).

Notice here that when Adam is questioned about disobeying God, he blames it on Eve; and when God questions Eve, she blames it on the serpent. It would seem then, that the serpent is at fault—but God punishes all three parties:

“The LORD God said to the serpent…To the woman he said…And to Adam he said…” (Genesis 3: 14, 16, 17).

God punishes the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Eve gets punished for her sin APART from Adam. Adam does not get punished for Eve’s sin, but for his own:

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife…cursed is the ground BECAUSE OF YOU…by the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground…” (Gen. 3:17-19). Adam is not punished for Eve’s sin; if he was, Eve would never have had pain in childbirth (Gen. 3: 16).

The next reason Kostenberger gives for the male’s headship is “the woman’s designation as the man’s suitable helper.” I looked up the word “helper” in the Septuagint (LXX) and the word for “helper” here is “Boeithos.” This same word is used of the LORD God in Hebrews 13:6 and the scripture reference Paul uses from Psalm 118:6. This word in no way labels the woman as just a “help” meet, but someone who comes to the aid of man. In short, the word “helper” is a reflection of the nature of God—for God comes to the aid of His people, not only in the days of Scripture, but even today.

The next statement that puzzled me involves Romans 5 and its implications for 1 Timothy 2:
“In the New Testament, Paul speaks of Adam’ s representative actions on behalf of all of humanity (his ‘federal headship’) and of Christ’s serving as the head of a new humanity (Rom. 5:12-21). Paul also repeatedly affirms God’s creation first of Adam and then of Eve and ON THIS BASIS MAKES PRONOUNCEMENTS WITH REGARD TO THE MAN’S HEADSHIP (1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13).”

Let’s first approach the last sentence in this previous statement. Kostenberger argues that Adam’s being created first makes the male head in the home; but where do we read that Adam’s time of creation before Eve is what made him the head of the home? In Genesis 2, the Lord God formed a woman from Adam’s rib and officiated over the first wedding in Scripture. Adam names her, but isn’t given lordship over her. When is he given headship? In Genesis 3, when Eve sins:

“Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Gen. 3:16b).

The word here for “rule” in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the OT) is “kurieuo,” which means “to be lord over.” Only in Genesis 3 is Adam made lord over his house, which means at that point, he becomes head of the family. While he existed as head over creation in Genesis 1 and 2, he doesn’t become head of the home until Genesis 3, when the Fall occurs.

Now, let’s deal with 1 Corinthians 11:8-9:

“For MAN WAS NOT MADE FROM WOMAN, BUT WOMAN FROM MAN. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.”

Kostenberger cites this as the reason that Paul appeals to male headship; however, in this passage, Paul is not appealing to male headship alone, but how male headship over the wife and home impact women exercising their gift of prophecy and their right to pray during public worship. However, this seems to be the argument of the Corinthian congregation instead of Paul. The reason I believe this is because Paul comes to a different conclusion in verses 11 and 12:

“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.”

Did you read that? Even though the first woman, Eve, was born from man, man is now born from woman, he now comes into the world through a woman giving birth. There is an even plane here in terms of male and female that Paul seems to draw on in verses 11 and 12. Neither man nor woman are INDEPENDENT or without the other, so women wearing head coverings in worship is not a necessity.

If Paul negates male headship here bearing a role in women wearing head coverings (and exercising their gifts during public worship), why would he appeal to creation order in 1Timothy 2 to prevent women from exercising their gifts in the public assembly at Ephesus? Why would Paul contradict himself in two different letters to two different churches? Complementarians who interpret this passage in such a way are the ones who are theologically liberal and fail to hold the hermeneutical principle of Biblical consistency.

Let me add another note to this debate. If the Lord didn’t require women to wear a public sign of their husband’s authority in the church (while they were exercising their gifts), what makes Kostenberger and other complementarians believe that God AUTOMATICALLY gives man the leadership reigns in the church? If man and woman are on equal terms (according to 1 Corinthians 11), then why are they treated UNEQUALLY in 1 Timothy 2?

1 Corinthians 11 is a major passage; but it helps us to understand 1 Timothy 2 in a better light. The passage itself is not referring to the authority of the husband over the wife in the church or the home; instead, it is referring to a false teaching. But I will leave that for another time.


  1. On point 1 see

    On point 2, the evidence is circumastantial at best.

    Serious thoughts here man. I've been wrestling with myself as well.

  2. Dwayne,

    Adam was given headship over humanity in Genesis 1 when he is created, not over the marriage (for he wasn't even married in Genesis 1).

    How is point 2 circumstantial evidence? it seems that the claim complementarians make is quite circumstantial as well. I simply responded to it because it is a point the complementarians spend so much time on. Maybe they should spend their time trying to prove 1 Timothy 2 really says what they "think" it says.

    In case you think my work here isn't quality stuff, please feel free to read through the other few posts I have around the site and respond to them as well. Looking forward to more interaction in the future.


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