Monday, May 11, 2009

Justifications for a Patriarchal Hermeneutic-- Part Two

I just started a series here at the blog on Margaret Kostenberger’s book called “Jesus and the Feminists: Who Do They Say That He Is?”. What I’ve been looking at are the reasons why she insists that a patriarchal hermeneutic is necessary. Last time, I looked at the idea of Adam being created first—that, although he was created first, he was not created ALONE. When God made Adam, the NEXT thing God did was look and see that, like the rest of creation, Adam needed someone LIKE HIMSELF.

The next reason of Kostenberger’s I will respond to is the following:
“Scripture in its entirety is pervaded by the principle of men bearing the ultimate responsibility and authority for marriage and the family as well as for the church, ‘the household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15). THIS PRINCIPLE OF MALE HEADSHIP reaches from God’s creation of the man first (Gen. 2:7), TO HIS HOLDING THE FIRST MAN ACCOUNTABLE FOR HUMANITY’S SIN (Gen. 3:9-12)...” (Margaret E. Kostenberger, “Jesus and the Feminists,” pp. 33-34).

I’ve dealt with the first reason—that God created the man first; now, I’m gonna deal with Adam’s responsibility for humanity’s sin (Gen. 3:9-12). Kostenberger quotes the mentioned text from Genesis 3 as testimony to God’s holding Adam responsible for humanity’s sin. Why would God look for Adam, the complementarian would say, UNLESS God had made Adam the one responsible for sin in the first place? But there is a fundamental problem with this conclusion: it overlooks the fact that God gave Adam instructions regarding the eating of the fruit:

15The LORD God took the man(O) and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil(P) you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat[d] of it you(Q) shall surely die." (Gen. 2:15-17, ESV).

What this text tells us is that Adam was given the commandment from God—and Adam was supposed to communicate that to the rest of God’s human creation (in this case, Eve). Adam was given God’s words regarding eating the fruit so he could prevent the human race from falling into sin. But, while Adam does communicate what God said (as Eve demonstrates through her conversation with the serpent in Genesis 3), he also gives in to the very thing God warned him against. Let’s look at why God punishes Adam:

17And to Adam he said,
"Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
(R) of which I commanded you,
'You shall not eat of it,'
(S) cursed is the ground because of you; (Gen. 3:17, ESV)

The reason why Adam gets punished for eating the fruit is because he LISTENED TO THE VOICE OF HIS WIFE! Eve wasn’t the authority—for she was created second to Adam. Adam wasn’t even the authority; GOD was the authority. Adam should have remained firm in what God said; but he didn’t. The text doesn’t say here that Adam gets punished because he was the first human; instead, he gets punished because he received a command from God and yet, he still chose to sin. God doesn’t say that the ground is cursed because “you were created first...” No, God curses the ground and humanity as a result of Adam’s failure to obey orders.

As I’ve stated in so many other blog posts, Adam does not get only himself punished: he also gets ALL of creation punished as a result—which is why God says “cursed is the ground because of you...” (Gen. 3:17) Adam, then, at the moment he sees Eve, labels her “woman.” Why does Adam get to name Eve? Because in the context of Genesis 3, Adam is naming all the creatures God creates:

19(S) Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed[f] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and(T) brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam[g] there was not found a helper fit for him. (Gen. 2:19-20, ESV)

When God creates Eve and brings her to Adam to name her, he acts as the head of CREATION, not the head of the home. Eve, although being human, is just as much a member of creation as the rest of the animal life that existed in the Garden.
So, when God punishes Adam in Genesis 3 (as well as creation), He does so because Adam is the head of God’s creation. Man was placed on top in the creation chain and was given dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:26).

Complementarians respond, “Well, why was Adam the head of humanity? BECAUSE HE WAS CREATED FIRST.” But the problem with the complementarian’s emphasis on Adam’s place in creation is that Scripture doesn’t comment on Adam’s being created first. However, there is a passage in Scripture that may give us insight into Adam and his place in creation. Let’s look at Romans 5:

12Therefore, just as(T) sin came into the world through one man, and(U) death through sin, and(V) so death spread to all men because(W) all sinned— 13for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but(X) sin is not counted where there is no law. 14Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not(Y) like the transgression of Adam,(Z) who was a type of(AA) the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14, ESV)

The complementarian looks at Romans 5 and says, “see what it says—“sin came into the world THROUGH ONE MAN.” And that’s what it says: but the word “man” is not the same word as what the complementarian has in mind when he reads this passage. The word in the Greek is “anthropou,” which is the possessive case of the word “anthropos,” referring to “human.” Adam is referred to as a “human” in Scripture, not in terms of a gender. Looking at verse 14 above, we see that Adam is “a type of the one who was to come.” So if Adam is called a “human,” an “anthropos,” what about Christ? To find this answer, let’s go to 1 Timothy 2:5—

5For(H) there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man[a] Christ Jesus… (1 Tim. 2:5, ESV)

What is the word for “man” here? If you ask the complementarian, he’ll automatically assume that the word is “aner,” which refers to a “male.” But, would you know it, the word for “man” here is “anthropos” as well!!

So the emphasis here is not on Adam being male—although he was male! Adam wasn’t a gender-neutral creature when God made him—and neither was Christ in the Incarnation. However, while “maleness” was a part of their identities, it was not prioritized in the manner in which complementarians attempt to elevate it to.

Therefore, when we see Paul’s writing of the created order in 1 Timothy 2, something else is being hinted at other than “women can’t be in leadership positions.” Wanna know what I think it is? Paul is simply stating what Genesis tells us—that in the human chain, Adam was born before Eve. But today, as 1 Corinthians 11 tells us, the woman comes before the man—for, without the woman, there would be no man.

Margaret Kostenberger’s reasons so far all seem to be interesting inferences; but without conclusive evidence, Kostenberger is simply taking a blind leap into the dark—which comes with its own set of consequences...

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