Review and Introduction
The las article sought to demonstrate a direct Genesis connection between the order and purpose of the creation of male and female and the statements of the apostle Paul restricting what functions women have in the church of Christ. We noted that each of the three passages relating to this subject in Paul's writings (1 Corinthians 11:1-16; 14:33-37; 1 Timothy 2:11-14) relates directly to information recorded in Genesis, chapters 1 & 2. Paul connects the submissive and restrictive role of women to: (1) the fact that man was created first; or (2) that the woman was made for man; or (3) the specific fact that the law of Moses states that women are to accept male headship as ordained of God.
This month we will look at the third reason that Paul gave for restricting women's role in the church, namely, that Eve, "being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Timothy 2:11-14; cf. Genesis 3:1-13). Paul implies that the very act of Eve partaking of the forbidden fruit, without consulting first with Adam, was an act of rebellion against Adam's headship in their marriage relationship. Paul plainly says, "Adam was not deceived," and neither would Eve have been if she had first turned to Adam. Eve also took the lead in giving the prohibited fruit to Adam (Genesis 3:6, 12). The fact that Eve did not die immediately upon eating the fruit may have emboldened her to entice Adam to follow her lead in eating of it (cf. Genesis 3:2-4). Eve's decision to act on her own, disregarding her husband's God given authority in their family, introduced sin into the world. What penalties did God place on Eve as the first of Women? We shall see.
History or Myth
While it is popular among liberal theologians and some women's groups to say that the events of Genesis 1, 2, & 3 are simply mythical representations or symbolic legends, the New Testament record treats these three chapters as actual historical events; things that literally happened. Of course, if the events of these chapters were not literally true, then Paul would have no basis in fact to say that God restricted the role of women as to what they may do in Christ's church.
However, the apostle Paul treats the record of Genesis 1-3 as factual historical events upon which one may draw definite conclusions about authority and submission in male/female relationships. Paul claimed that his authority to write as he did, including the passages in first Corinthians 11:1-16 and 14:33-37, came from the Lord Jesus Christ, saying, "the things which I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (14:37). Christ Himself quoted directly from Genesis 1 & 2, placing His stamp of approval on the historical accuracy of those chapters (Matthew 19:4-6). While Jesus did not quote from Genesis 3, He did inspire the apostle Paul to refer to those events more than once. Paul said to the Corinthians that he spoke and wrote with "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). Thus, when Paul wrote what he did on the subject of male headship and female submission in First Corinthians 11 & 14, he was writing what the "mind of Christ" led him to write (cf. Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 13:20). Elsewhere Paul mentions that "the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness" and that "the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14, NKJV), which also implies Paul's belief in Genesis 3 as historical fact!
The inspired apostle concludes that the woman is not "to teach or to have authority over a man" because: (1) "Adam was first formed, then Eve," and (2)"Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression" (1 Timothy 2:11-14, NKJV). It is difficult to see how anyone can escape or ignore this Genesis connection restricting the role of women, unless one denies that Genesis chapters 1-3 are historical events, and likewise denies that Paul wrote by the inspiration and authority of Christ. Paul did not write what he did because of first century culture. He connects what he wrote with Genesis 1-3, referring to matters thousands of years before. This is the order for man and woman in every culture for all time. Neither does Paul write as a cranky old bachelor who had it in for women, unless you are prepared to say that Christ inspired him to write with such an attitude. The exact opposite is true. Paul's epistles breathe a spirit of appreciation and exaltation of women (cf. Romans 16:1-16; Philippians 4:1-3; Ephesians 5:25-33 et al.).
The Sin and the Curse
Because the sin of Eve included her enticing her husband to follow her lead in eating the forbidden fruit, God placed a curse upon the man, woman, and the serpent who acted as Satan's agent (Genesis 3:14-19). Our concern in this article relates to God's comments to Eve. He said, "I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow (pain, NKJV) thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee" (Genesis 3:16). Please note that the woman was not made subject to man because of her fall into sin. We have established that man's priority in being made first and the woman being made for man had already established man's headship over the woman. However, Paul uses the woman's being deceived and falling into sin as an illustrative example as to why this order was to be observed in the first century and for all time, as Eve should have observed it in Eden. What then are elements of the curse on women in Genesis 3:16?
Regarding the first part of this verse, it is useless to speculate, as some have done, whether or not Eve would have had any pain in childbirth before this sin. If she would have had some pain in childbirth before her sin, it was to be "greatly multiplied" now, after the sin. If she would not have experienced pain in giving birth before the fall, the Lord guaranteed that she would have plenty from that point forward.
What did the Lord mean when He said, "thy desire shall be to thy husband?" Two possibilities seem most likely. One thought deals with the sexual nature of man and woman, and is related to the childbirth of the first part of the verse. The Lord may be telling woman that in spite of the fact that childbearing and birth will be associated with great pain, she will "desire" to have that sexual relationship with her husband in order to become a mother. The New American Standard Bible seems to favor this view when it translates this part of Genesis 3:16, "In pain you shall bring forth children; Yet your desire shall be for your husband." The Hebrew word for "desire" here is used in only two other places. One is in Song of Solomon 7:10 where it is used of sexual desire "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." The "desire" of Genesis 3:16 could be sexual, since that would fit nicely with the theme of childbirth in the verse.
However, the matter is not so easily settled. A second view of "thy desire shall be unto thy husband" is that "desire" here means that the woman seeks to have dominion or control over man, when it is God's will that man have authority over the woman. Before you react too adversely to this view, it is important to know that the only other place beside the two aforementioned verses where this Hebrew word for "desire" is found is in Genesis 4:7. When Cain had sinned and had his sacrifice rejected by God (Genesis 4:1-5), God told him to do right and he would be accepted. If Cain did not do well "sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it" (Genesis 4:7, NKJV). God pictures sin "crouching" (ASV) at the door like a wild animal, ready to pounce on Cain to have control over him; but the Lord tells Cain, "but do thou rule over it" (ASV).
The likeness between Genesis 3:16 and 4:7 seem too striking to ignore. Both passages are in the context of sin and judgment. The Hebrew words for "desire" and "rule" are the same in both verses. In 3:16 Eve had disregarded the headship of Adam established by God to "do her own thing." Judgment and punishment followed. In 4:17 Cain ignored God's established order for proper worship and sacrifice to "do his own thing," offering what he wanted rather than offering by faith what God had required, as Abel had done (cf. Hebrews 11:4; Romans 10:17). Judgment and punishment followed. Sin's "desire" was to gain dominion or control of Cain, but he was to "rule" over it. In Genesis 3:16 God may be recognizing the "desire" of woman to have authority or dominion over man, but He does not permit it. Rather, "he (man) shall rule over thee (woman)." This view of this passage may also be reflected in Paul's statement in First Timothy 2:12, "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness" (ASV).
The strong affirmation of man's leadership role and the woman's subjection to that order in Genesis 3:16 is liable to abuse. However, the abuse of any principle does not negate its validity and importance. There is to be a mutual love and respect in male/female relationships, which Paul illustrates with Jesus Christ and His church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The beloved apostle Peter says much the same, showing that the two sexes are "heirs together of the grace of life," indicating that we need to honor each other and help each other go to heaven (1 Peter 3:1-7). A relationship that concentrates on this will not be broken, because the husband will not exercise a harsh autocratic rule, not will the wife seek to domineer over her husband.
While the curse and consequences of sin in Genesis 3:13-19 are not removed in this life, we have the promise of eternal life which forgiveness of sins through Christ will bring. The beloved apostle John, seeing the things yet to come, assures us that in heaven there will be neither pain nor sorrow, no toil nor sweat, no sickness and no death (Revelation 21:3-5).
It is sad, but true, that there are probably more men who have cast off their God given responsibilities of being leaders in the home and church than there are women who want to rule. God will judge both classes for neglecting or perverting His established order. How happy are those who trust His wisdom and enjoy His grace by being what He created us to be.
Current articles in this series:
- The Bible (37)
- The Church (33)
- Holy Spirit (2)
- Bible Authority (11)
- Calvinism (7)
- Nature of God (9)
- Faith (19)
- Family Matters (7)
- Denominationalism (10)
- Attitudes (46)
- Christian Living (57)
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