Paul’s words have been the central cause behind why women have been forbidden to hold leadership positions within the Body. It seemed fitting that the first deep studies would begin there, in order to replace our contemporary interpretations of an ancient text with the proper intent of the ancient text. This was a crucial step in our journey toward seeing the true and biblical role of women, because what we’re about to delve into is the highest authority of all Scripture: what Jesus Christ thought about women!
However, before we delve into those whom He sent, we should first consider those whom He knew in order to understand how He came to view women as a whole. This includes the women He interacted with personally, as well as some of the names He would have studied from Old Testament Scripture (New Testament wasn’t written yet), as those women would have been the natural basis of His theology at the time.
Many today have an inadequate perception of what took place in the Garden of Eden. In spite of what Scripture says, we still tend to rely on the “cartoon” depiction of the Fall: Adam is off somewhere else taking a nap; Eve is surprised when a green snake coils up the trunk of the forbidden fruit tree; after the snake convinces her to eat the fruit, Eve goes looking for Adam and deceives him into believing that eating it would be a good idea (in some versions, Adam doesn’t even know it’s the forbidden fruit he’s taking a bite of); later, when the voiceover actor for God calls out to the couple, Eve acts guilty and Adam acts surprised. The book Paradise Lost by poet John Milton in the seventeenth century played a key role in establishing these, and other, inaccurate portrayals.
Likewise, some members of the Church cling to the misconception that God made only Adam in His image, whereas Eve was simply “plucked” from the man’s chest—a kind of warped, Eve-made-in-the-image-of-Adam theology.
For generations, these ideas have been the “truth” taught to children of the Church, and it concerns me, because it’s one step lower than the at-times contextually dismissive “the Bible tells me so” interpretation method; it becomes that terribly misleading “the cartoon tells me so” reality. Then, when teachers of the Word come along with a deeper understanding, they are written off either as extremists or scatterbrained fruitcakes by the legions of now-grown men and women who skim over the true facts; if those teachers are women… Oh boy. I see the patriarchal cynics waving their “feminist” and “women’s lib” warning flags even now.
Nevertheless, Jesus Christ was present during, and actively involved in, the formation of the world (John 1:1–4). He would have known who was made in whose image, and He would have known what went down on the day of the Fall. Since the Fall account is paramount to how women are viewed today—and since Christ’s treatment of women would have been in part due to His understanding of that event—it’s crucial that we dig a little deeper.
Is it possible that the “Eve” we know is not the Eve Christ perceived?
First things first: Throughout this area, I will be referring to the serpent in the garden by the English word “serpent,” but it must be stated here and now that the Hebrew nachash (what spoke to Eve the day of the Fall) does not appropriately translate as the kind of snake we see today when we go on a tour through the jungle. I don’t have the space or time in this book to do full justice to the study here, but a plethora of exegetically and hermeneutically rich studies have been brought to the table in the last two hundred years focusing on what this nachash really was. (Spoiler alert: It wasn’t a green snake telling Eve, “Ssssssssssssurely you will not die.”) The word used as a noun can be translated “serpent” or “snake.” The verb use, however, means “deceiver,” “diviner with divine knowledge,” or “to practice divination,” and the adjective use translates “shining one.” Angels and divine beings are often described as shining or luminescent in the Bible, and the name “Lucifer” (Hebrew Helel ben-Shachar) literally translates “Shining One, son of the Dawn.” Many of the studies I have read therefore consider this entity to be a shining, serpentine deceiver associated with the Divine Council mentioned in the Old Testament that God pronounces judgment upon (Psalm 82:1; 1 Kings 22:19; all of Job).
Genesis 3:14 (“upon thy belly shalt thou [now] go”) has many times been the choice proof-text among the Body for why all snakes today don’t have arms and legs, and the assumption is that all the animals in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall were able to speak, and Satan simply possessed one of them or appeared to Eve as one of them. (The cartoons almost all show the snake, with no arms and legs, slithering up a tree, which, interestingly, opposes this mainstream idea, because if this traditional view were true, then the snake in the cartoons would have walked straight up to Eve and its limbs would have been zapped off after the curse. And whereas this might seem like an irrelevant observation to this study, it’s actually quite important: Our Church doesn’t even know what we believe about ancient Scripture, and even when we think we do, we produce teaching materials that don’t reflect that same belief. This is a symptom of a major theology dysfunction sickness inflicted upon the Church today.) Nowhere does Scripture suggest that talking animals were the norm in the Garden of Eden, or anywhere else, before or after the Fall. (Balaam’s donkey is, of course, an isolated instance that cannot be taken to represent a “normative” or “absolute” scriptural reality.) And if the curse upon the serpent was merely to render all snakes armless and legless, this punishment doesn’t appear to have accomplished anything, since these creatures still thrive in that form—and yes, they can still climb trees. Also, if the curse in Genesis 3:15 says that there will be “enmity…between thy seed [the serpent’s offspring] and her seed [human beings],” why isn’t there enmity between snakes and humans today? Sure, snakes are territorial, but so is an enormous chunk of the animal kingdom. For the most part, unless they feel provoked or threatened, snakes usually mind their own business—and not every human hates or fears snakes. This doesn’t sound like “enmity.” Likewise, we all know that snakes don’t survive on eating dirt, even though the curse said, “and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.”
From Derek Gilbert’s The Great Inception articles, we read:
Was it a talking snake?
In a word, no.
So who or what was the serpent? Most of us assume it was Satan, but maybe not. The serpent isn’t named in the book of Genesis. In fact, Satan wasn’t even a personal name in the Old Testament.
Satan means “accuser,” written ha-shaitan in the OT. It’s a title, the satan, so it really means “the accuser.” Think of it as a job title, like prosecuting attorney.
The adversary in the Garden is the nachash, which is the word translated into English as “serpent.” It’s based on an adjective that means bright or brazen, like shiny brass. The noun nachash can mean snake, but it also means “one who practices divination.”
In Hebrew, it’s not uncommon for an adjective to be converted into a noun—the term is “substantivized.” If that’s the case here, nachash could mean “shining one.” And that’s consistent with other descriptions of the satan figure in the Old Testament.…
The bottom line is this: What Adam and Eve saw in the Garden wasn’t a talking snake, but a nachash—a radiant, divine entity, very likely of serpentine appearance.…
For centuries, well-meaning Christians have pointed to Genesis 3:14 as the moment in history when snakes lost their legs. That misses the mark entirely by desupernaturalizing the story. God didn’t amputate the legs of snakes; He was describing the punishment the nachash would suffer in figurative language. Even casual observers of the animal kingdom know that snakes don’t eat dust.…
The main takeaway of this article is this: Eden was a lush, well-watered garden “on the holy mountain of God,” which was where Yahweh presided over His divine council. The council included the first humans. They walked and talked with the supernatural “sons of God” who, based on clues scattered throughout the Bible, were beautiful, radiant beings. At least some of them were serpentine in appearance.[i]
THEOLOGIAN: JESUS HIMSELF STARTED THE FIRST WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT
The discussion of this topic is so lengthy that the last book I added to my personal library on it was nearly six hundred pages long. Suffice it to say that this entity most likely was not a walking or talking snake, but a bright (perhaps luminescent), intelligent master of deception with arms and legs intact. I will not set out to prove that it was or was not Lucifer possessing the body of a snake, as that’s not my theological area of expertise, and it’s not crucial to the purpose of this book. However, as we take a closer look at the Eve whom Christ would have known as the rabbi He was, we need to see past this idea that she was just wandering around talking to animals all day and instantly believed the first one that lied to her. This creature was a being of extreme power and persuasion, most likely a “professional” accuser within the Divine Council, and he had a major agenda: to reverse the beauty of what God had created—the subject to which we will now return.
To begin, Genesis 1:26 is clear in its stipulation that men and women are to rule together: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth’” (emphasis added). Let them rule, it says…together, one alongside the other, in full equality as one working unit. Two verses later, the stipulation is repeated: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth’” (emphasis added).
Sure, Genesis 1:26–27 does state that God “created man in his own image,” but within the very same verse, it says, “male and female created he them” (emphasis added). The “man” in the first half of the verse is in reference to mankind, not as a male person. After a lengthy dive into scholarly translations, interpretations, and commentaries, the most popular consensus among scholars (but lost in lay teaching) is that God: a) created both men and women equally in His image; and b) that because God is spirit and not flesh, the “image” we have in common with God is in reference to the spirit of humanity—such as superior dominion, creativity, consciousness, and the draw toward interactive companionship of Homo sapiens as a species—not as it relates to the physical anatomy of a man over a woman.
And what did God—including all three members of the Trinity who were present—think of this arrangement? He saw that “it was very good” (1:31). Christ—Himself—saw that this creation composition was “very good.” Christ—Himself—saw that this was how the ruling order of men and women was supposed to be. Note that in the back of your mind as we continue.
In Genesis 2:18 we read, “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.’” Most modern translations choose instead the words “a helper suitable [or “fit”] for him.” In our current world, “helper” is commonly associated with the toddler in Sunday school who earns a gold star for picking up all the crayons. It’s really no wonder that some women cringe when this verse is referenced from the pulpit, as our culture treats it as a marginal or subordinate position in a relationship: man as the delegator, woman as the delegated. Yet, to the original Old Testament Hebrew audience, it held a far greater importance as it pointed to the woman as a wise counselor, a person of power and strength.
The Hebrew word here is ezer, and it never refers to a subordinate or inferior anywhere in the Old Testament that Christ would have known. Not once. In fact, it can at times refer to a superior. Though it does translate to “one who helps,” it’s interesting to note that its prevailing use—seventeen out of twenty-one times!—is as a reference to God, Himself. David wrote in Psalm 121:1: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my ezer” (see also: Psalm 10:14, 30:10, 54:4, 70:5, 72:12, 121:2). Clearly, God is not subordinate or inferior in any way. In the context of Psalm 121, David is saying that he needs God and depends upon Him. When the Lord said, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” and then followed it by creating an ezer for Adam, it was because man needed the power and strength of a woman who would “rule” or “have dominion” together with him—not rule or have dominion over him, but with him. (Note that one popular interpretation of the Fall narrative states the serpent specifically targeted Eve because she was the ezer, the “stronger” of the two. The logic follows the idea that if the serpent could convince the “stronger” sex, Eve, he knew the “weaker” sex, Adam, would follow. I don’t buy this at all, as Scripture throughout this area is clear the two were created equal, and no evidence suggests that either was more powerful in spirit than the other…but the fact that such an interpretation is considered to be valid by so many scholars lends support for the actual power and weight of the word ezer.)
Need further proof of gender equality in the Creation order? “Fit” and “suitable” are translated from the Hebrew preposition kenegdo, which means “equal” and “corresponding to.”[ii] As such, Genesis documents that woman was made to be “an equal person of power and strength, corresponding to Adam.” It is saddening that so many women are led to believe that they were made to be little more than cookie bakers or vacuumers in the Church because of the generations of men that have told them so after misinterpreting these texts to mean “cute little helper.” Adam, himself, acknowledged equality when he said, “This [woman] is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).
And as stated in the previous chapter, the order of Creation (Adam first, then Eve) is not what establishes authority, or else the animals would have had authority over Adam. He would have had to bow to the whims of an insect or consider his own needs less than a tomato plant. Throughout the Bible we see that the Israelites gave special privileges, rights, and inheritances to first-born sons, and one comment I saw this past week on Facebook asserted that this was proof enough that “God’s way” was to honor whichever male presence is first established within the household. But let’s not forget that the Bible also proves that God deliberately reversed this several times, despite the familial tradition of the Hebrews, some of which were in major narratives: Jacob as father of Israel instead of Esau; David as king of Israel instead of all his older brothers; Moses as recipient of the Ten Commandments and deliverer of the Israelite slaves in Egypt instead of Aaron; and so on. The rule of authority and/or dominion should never be based on “who got there first.”
As far as who was more at fault the day of the Fall, Paul makes it clear that Adam holds the greater share of responsibility (1 Timothy 2:14). But was the woman alone at the time of the serpent’s temptation, as “the cartoons tell me so”?
Genesis 3:6 states that Adam was “with her”: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (emphasis added). Some interpret this to mean that he was “with her” only when she offered the fruit, and others say that he was “with her” through the entire conversation with the serpent.
The former of these approaches depends upon the argument, “If Adam was with her the whole time, why didn’t he intervene? Therefore, he could not have been ‘with her’ while she spoke with the serpent, because Adam knew better and would have said something. Clearly he followed her lead innocently.” Although this argument makes a great deal of sense, it is an assumption—one that presumes Adam would have: a) done the right thing if he’d been within hearing distance of their conversation (which Paul’s words debunked); and b) not recognized the fruit in her hand—that which he had walked by every day and noted as the food that would make him “die” if he partook of it. Likewise, Eve is referred to in Paul’s epistles as the one who was “deceived,” but if Adam had no clue as to what fruit he was about to bite into because his beautiful wife simply showed up with pretty food, then he, too, was “deceived” (tricked, duped) by Eve, as Eve had been by the serpent. The role of the “sinner” Adam is distinct from the role of the “deceived” Adam, thanks to Paul’s assessment. The bottom line here is that Adam wasn’t deceived at all. He sinned knowingly, which further supports the idea that he had been standing there the entire time.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW VIDEO:
WAIT… A WOMAN PREACHING IN A CHRISTIAN CHURCH… WHAT DOES GOD THINK ABOUT THAT?!
Additionally, we must answer why the “with her” specification was mentioned by Moses (the author of Genesis) in the first place. If Adam was only “with her” while she “gave also unto her husband”—handing Adam something with her hand in person—then Adam’s presence during that exchange is already apparent, and there is no need for Moses to go out of his way to stipulate Adam’s attendance in that part of the narrative. The sheer obviousness behind such an apparent calculation cancels out the necessity of mentioning it specifically. No, Moses would have had a reason to write that Adam was with her in this whole ordeal.
Lastly, the biblical account offers no conversation between Adam and Eve. So, if Adam was not “with her” while Eve spoke with the serpent, we either have to assume that Moses for some reason omitted what Eve said to tempt Adam when they met up later on, or that she walked up silently to Adam and held her hand out toward him, and that he then ate without asking questions (which, again, presumes that Adam would not have recognized the fruit and that he would have been duped).
The latter of these two interpretations (that Adam was “with her” during the whole conversation between Eve and the serpent) is the most logical and consistent with other biblical passages, and the Jews living at the time of Christ agreed. Some classical commentaries even document this as fact. From Gill’s Exposition, we read; “The Jews infer from hence, that Adam was with her all the while, and heard the discourse between the serpent and her, yet did not interpose nor dissuade his wife from eating the fruit.”[iii] From Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, we read: “She eats, therefore, and gives to her husband—so called here for the first time—and he eats with her. The demeanour of Adam throughout is extraordinary. It is the woman who is tempted—not as though Adam was not present, as [John] Milton supposes, for she has not to seek him—but he shares with her at once the gathered fruit. Rather, she is pictured to us as more quick and observant, more open to impressions, more curious and full of longings than the man, whose passive behaviour is as striking as the woman’s eagerness and excitability.”[iv]
The Hebrew text, in its original form, also harmonizes with this interpretation. The word “you” spoken by the serpent to Eve is in plural form: “Though many translations lack the statement, the Hebrew literally says, ‘She gave to her husband, who was with her.’ Furthermore, the Hebrew text indicates that the serpent is speaking to both the man and the woman, for the plural form of the second person is used. The account infers that Adam and Eve were equally responsible.”[v] From yet another source considering the Hebrew: “Something often overlooked is their [Adam and Eve’s] apparent unity at the moment of their sin. When the serpent spoke to the woman, he asked, ‘Did God really say, You must not…?’ In English, you can refer to one or more than one. But Hebrew has two different words; the ‘you’ used here is plural. Eve also responded in plural, saying, ‘We may….’ The serpent’s next words again used the plural you when he said, ‘You will not surely die.’ Even though we only hear the words of the serpent and Eve, the text suggests that Adam was standing there, too, a silent accomplice in the crime.”[vi]
As for the Septuagint translation (the Word at the time of Christ), the message is clear: “And the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes to look upon and beautiful to contemplate, and having taken of its fruit she ate, and she gave to her husband also with her, and they ate” (emphasis added). If the Jews believed that Adam was standing with Eve during the serpent’s temptation, and if Jesus was Himself a Jew, then in all likeliness He also believed Adam was “with her” while the serpent spoke with her.
A rather unflattering moment in Adam’s life occurs once he’s been discovered. He blames Eve (and ultimately God) for his transgression instead of owning up to what he had done (Genesis 3:12). In the next verse, Eve also passes the blame, but her target was upon the serpent, not God or Adam.
Both Adam and Eve were guilty of the transgression in the garden. They lived together, walked together, sinned together, hid together, and played the blame game together. Neither of them were ever subordinate or superior to the other. There was full gender equality in the creation order.
And Jesus knew it.
This brings us to Genesis 3:16: “Unto the woman he [God] said, ‘…thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’” Boy oh boy does the battle rage on with this one. Where do I start…?
First of all, man and woman, by order of God’s ideal design, ruled together as one. He built even their physical bodies to intertwine and come together as one. Everything about the creation of humans as we know it from Genesis is formed around an optimum aim—a divine order—that man and woman would be as one, if we are to embrace God’s original plan and not the accursed state that Adam and Eve generated in the Garden of Eden. Either of the genders “ruling over” the other wasn’t even an issue until after the curse of sin, and it certainly wasn’t what God wanted for them. It is here that we must ask the question: “Was God setting a new ‘absolute and normative regulation’ for all women in all times to be ruled over by their husbands, or was Genesis 3:16 a ‘relative’ circumstance pertaining to Adam and Eve only?” Let’s assume for a moment that God, when He pronounced the curses their sin brought upon them in this vicinity of Scripture, was setting “absolute regulations” that must always be obeyed. Proximate to this “husbands ruling over wives” whammy are the following two accursed realities:
- Pain for the woman during childbirth (3:16)
- Pain and struggle for the man in working the soil of the field (3:17–18)
If “husbands ruling over wives” is, in this precise context, an “absolute regulation that must be obeyed at all times,” then so, too, are these others within the same context, including the second item that now becomes an “absolute” for all men in all times. A woman is in sin if she opts for an epidural or any painkillers to lessen the pain her body is in while she’s delivering a baby. A man is in sin if he doesn’t a) work the field, and b) find it painful and exerting. Today, nobody has a problem considering the childbirth and field references as “circumstantial to Adam and Eve” when a woman is getting an injection on the delivery bed or a man wants to pursue a pleasant career in business—but when the same question comes up for husbands ruling over wives, there is a nearly unanimous and resounding oh-no-you-don’t reaction when anyone suggests that it’s circumstantial. Why is this?
Let’s stop and think about what just happened here in Eden…
This marital relationship is now marred for Adam and Eve. There is nothing praiseworthy or admirable about ruining what God made when His original plan was so pure. This is a product of the curse of sin. Is it not completely clear here that man’s dominance over woman was the result of sin, and therefore not God’s original intention for how men and women are supposed to interact?
Should such a superior/inferior relationship status be continuously adhered to as a law given by the same Creator who desired the opposite? Or should such a relationship status be avoided in the interest of returning to what the Creator desired? Which should we be striving toward today? Should we follow God’s ideal, divine design? Or should we follow the product of the curse of sin?
Which of these would Christ choose?
Actually, we already know the answer to that…
When Jesus taught on the subject of marriage in Matthew 19:4–6, He chose to focus on the relationship that was established prior to the Fall when He quoted Genesis 2:24. He could have chosen instead to quote from the post-Fall relationship order (Genesis 3:16), but by realigning His listeners to the pre-Fall relationship, He was placing His own approval on the perfect design established before sin corrupted it. If we are allowing Christ to have the last word on this, then the conclusion is that we should strive to avoid the inferior/superior status.
Furthermore, if these childbirth and field curses were introduced to humanity in general as a result of sin’s entrance into the world (meaning they didn’t exist prior and now they’re a reality, which is what I, and most Christians, believe)—yet the Christian Church at large believes in the humane act of alleviating these torments whenever possible—then it’s a double standard to alleviate childbirth and field torments and not a marital relationship torment. The way our modern Church sees it, of these three curses, two are viewed as afflictions to be avoided when possible (taking painkillers, buying better field equipment, getting a different job, etc.), while the third curse on the list (husbands ruling over wives) is viewed as an “absolute” command that should be strictly adhered to.
Why on earth would living under the penalty of a curse be viewed as pleasing God?
Should a woman submit to her husband? Absolutely! The Bible is clear about that in several passages. But the submission is not to be demonstrated by her alone. The divine order is to be mutual submission, each to the other in a peaceful and efficient union. Should a man submit to his wife? Again, absolutely! Even Paul instructed this (1 Corinthians 7:3–5; Ephesians 5:21).
Should either the man or the woman “rule over” the other? Never! It’s not what God designed!
God’s words to Eve in Genesis should be read as, “Because you did this, you’ve introduced this issue into the world, and all women will suffer from this day forward because of what you’ve done; that is shameful.” It should not be read as, “Because you, Eve, will be ruled over by Adam, all women throughout time should be ruled over by their husbands; I endorse this.”
As for why a woman desiring her husband is seen as a curse, this one is simple: The Hebrew text depicts this kind of desire as a longing. A woman should long for her Lord more than anything. When sin entered the world, a layer of separation rose like a thick fog between God and humanity, and afterward, both men and women would depend more upon the provision of fellow humans than upon God…and that is most definitely a curse if there ever was one.
As Jesus Christ was reading Scripture in His youth, He would have known as He took in the Messianic promise of Genesis 3:15 (Eve’s seed) that He was the answer to this problem. The fog can now be lifted on an individual basis through the New Covenant; men and women can once again long for and be fulfilled in a personal relationship with God—and Jesus knew it would happen just as Scripture says. Through such a relationship, men and women together can have dominion over the things of this earth. We should strive for a return to the original blessed relationship God made.
Women, you are not cute little “helpers” who bake cookies for the men at your church. Rise up as ezers! Be the wise, strong, and powerful kenegdo “equals” God created you to be!
Beyond Eve, Christ would have been familiar with the other women who populated the narratives of the Old Testament. We will not look at every one of them, but two that the Lord placed in substantially powerful positions were Deborah and Huldah.
UP NEXT: Jesus Knew of Deborah
[i] Derek Gilbert, “NEW ONLINE SERIES: The Great Inception Part 1: The Mountain of Eden,” January 28, 2017, SkyWatch Television Online, last accessed December 5, 2017, https://www.skywatchtv.com/2017/01/28/new-online-series-great-inception-part-1-mountain-eden/.
[ii] Dr. Deborah M. Gill and Dr. Barbara L. Cavaness Parks, The Biblical Role of Women, 39.
[iii] “Genesis 3,” Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, last accessed August 1, 2017, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/genesis/3.htm; emphasis added.
[iv] “Genesis 3,” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, last accessed August 1, 2017, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/genesis/3.htm; emphasis added.
[v] Richard and Catherine Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman, 20.
[vi] Loren Cunningham and David J. Hamilton, Why Not Women? (Kindle edition, Seattle, WA: YWAM Publishing, 2000), locations 1488–1492.