Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Primogeniture Revisited

I’ve been reading Stanley Grenz’s book “Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry.” Tonight, I noticed a statement Grenz combated, and this sent a light bulb off in my head, reminding me of something I’d read in Andreas Kostenberger’s book called “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.”

Regarding the concept of primogeniture, Kostenberger writes:

“In referring to primogeniture, complementarian scholars are scarcely suggesting that the cultural practice of primogeniture should be enforced today, nor do they think that Paul is endorsing primogeniture per se. Nor would they deny the many examples from the Old Testament…they appeal to primogeniture to explain that the notion of the firstborn having authority would be easily understood by Paul’s readers. The readers of 1 Timothy would not have scratched their heads with perplexity and amazement when Paul says that women should not teach because Adam was created first. The priority of Adam in creation would have NATURALLY SUGGESTED his authority over Eve to the original readers” (Kostenberger, “Women in the Church,” pg. 107).

The problem with Kostenberger’s view here is that primogeniture was not instituted in Genesis 1 and 2. Primogeniture came at later chapters in Genesis—so to use primogeniture here with reference to Adam and Eve would be place a LATER CONCEPT back into an EARLIER text. As I’ve stated time and time again with reference to 1 Timothy 2, Paul did not comment or explain the creation account; he merely states the facts as Scripture records them.

Stanley Grenz comments on complementarians in his section “Women in the Writings of Paul”:

“Certain complementarians offer an ingenious response to this counterexample. They note that Paul is not appealing to first creation, but to the ancient understanding of the right of the firstborn, that is, to the status of the eldest as carrying particular responsibilities and authority in the family. The formation of Adam prior to Eve meant that he would carry the responsibilities and authority of the firstborn. However, THE IDEA OF THE RESPONSIBILITY AND PREROGATIVES OF THE FIRSTBORN IS NOT PRESENT IN THE SECOND CREATION NARRATIVE. Even Hurley, one of the architects of the complementarian rebuttal, is forced to admit, ‘The actual text of Genesis makes clear the prior formation of Adam, BUT DOES NOT DISCUSS ITS IMPLICATIONS AS SUCH’” (Stanley Grenz, “Women in the Church,” pg. 135).

Grenz tells us, using a very persuasive quote above, that the writer of Genesis fails to comment on Adam’s primary place in creation. If the writer of Genesis doesn’t do this, then why would Paul do this? The writer of Genesis does show us, however, the implications of man having dominion over the earth. For instance, looking at Genesis 1, we read of God’s blessings upon mankind:

26Then God said,(O) "Let us make man[h] in our image,(P) after our likeness. And(Q) let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."

The idea of man having dominion over the earth is displayed in Adam’s ability to name the animals and his wife (Gen. 2:19, 20), as well as man’s responsibility for sin when the ground is cursed because of Adam (Gen. 3:17).

But what about the creation order? NOTHING ELSE is mentioned about it after the formation of the man and woman in Genesis 2. Therefore, to confirm Hurley, the writer fails to show the implications of the creation order, what does it mean that Adam was formed before Eve. The account stated in Genesis set the tone for Paul’s response to the church at Ephesus in 1Timothy 2. Paul, then, at the very least, is simply recounting events that are told—not giving us an interpretation of those events. If the context is false teaching, which it is (as indicated in 1Timothy 1), then Paul’s prohibition would have something to do with the false teaching (as numerous references to it abound in the entire book of 1 Timothy, as well as 2 Timothy and Titus).

Hurley’s statement gives complementarians something to think about. If complementarians start to add qualifiers to the message of 1 Timothy 2, doesn’t this look like they’re “adding” to the Bible? And if they’re adding words, what does this show us? If you ask me, it shows us that, even when their belief isn’t scriptural, they’ll MAKE it work.


  1. Primogeniture was established in Genesis 1-2 when God gave The Law to Adam.

  2. Did you even read my post at all??? My entire post was devoted to showing that primogeniture isn't even mentioned in the text, but comes after in other chapters of Genesis.

    Secondly, primogeniture wouldn't have been a concept here because Adam and Eve were husband and wife, NOT son and daughter. IF (and this is totally hypothetical) primogeniture was used here, it would have referred to Adam being the head of creation, not the head of the home. As I've mentioned on other posts on the blog, complementarians often confuse headship of creation and headship of the home. Until Adam was given headship of the marriage in Genesis 3, he was head of creation.

    What you have got to prove, however, is that this idea relates to ministry in church. That is a stretch that Scripture fails to speak on. If you read the account of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25, you'll notice that Esau, the eldest, sells his birthright to Jacob (the youngest). Jacob not only inherits the birthright, but also Isaac's blessing. Notice that it is through Jacob that Isaac comes forth, and from Isaac (Israel) that the twelve tribes (the nation of Israel) descends. God is called in Exodus when Moses is on Mount Sinai as the God of ABRAHAM, ISSAC, and JACOB.
    Esau is allowed to sell his birthright, which means that primogeniture as a concept was more of a family tradition than law.

    In addition, Scripture presents us with numerous people who, although not the eldest of their families, go on to receive the blessings of God. Because these instances abound, we can assume that God's distribution of gifts is not based on whether or not one is the eldest or youngest in any family.

    While your idea sounds good, you need to check it with passages such as 1 Corinthians 12 where the gifts are given by the Spirit as the Spirit sees fit.

    Last but not least, prove to me that the giving of the Law was based on primogeniture. God gave Adam a command, and he didn't INHERIT IT-- God was giving instructions to he and Eve (who was formed after Adam).

    To be brief, you have to show me primogeniture in the text of Genesis. What's worse is that, even in the case of Cain and Abel, there is no set "favor" guaranteed for Cain (Abel is the one who is favored by God because of his heart and his offering in Genesis 4).
    Thanks, though, for your response-- and keep reading...

  3. If we really look into primogeniture we will notice, that it's all about first Adam and second Adam. Is all about inheritance, the bible states that flesh and blood can not inherit the kingdom of God. We were born in the likeness of Adam which is flesh, but when we become born again, it's in the likeness of Jesus. The first can not because it was in flesh and blood, but the second can that one is in spirit. As far as God is concerned the second will always rule over the first, if you want to be joint heirs with Christ.


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