Still thinking about women’s ordination, I’m afraid. Here, again, are those key verses from 1 Timothy 2, in which Paul explains why, in the context of the church gathering, he didn’t permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man (all quotes from the NIV):
13For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
These clearly allude to Genesis 2 and 3, so maybe we should head there for inspiration?
First, what is the significance in Genesis 2 of Adam being formed first, then Eve? Several things happen between God forming the man, and God forming the woman:
- God formed the man (2:7)
- God placed the man in the garden he had planted, ‘to work it and take care of it’ (2:8, 15)
- God spoke to the man: eat freely of any tree, except one (2:16-17)
- God brought ‘all the wild animals and all the birds’ to the man for him to name them (2:19-20a)
- God made the woman from one of the man’s ribs, to be a ‘helper suitable for him’ (2:18, 20b-22)
This is not insignificant. Now, it should certainly not be forgotten that men and women together were made in the image of God (1:27). And the man was clearly pretty helpless and hopeless until the woman was created! But God could have made the man and the woman together in Genesis 2:7. And yet he didn’t. There were some things he wanted the man to experience before the woman was there. God gave to the man on his own the task of working the garden and taking care of it. God gave the commandments about the trees to the man on his own (the woman had to hear them from his mouth). And it was the man on his own who gave names to the animals.
The plot thickens when we realise that the garden was a kind of temple. It was on a high place, from which waters flowed to water the whole earth, like Ezekiel’s vision of the river flowing from the temple (Eze 47). It had an entrance to the east, as did Israel’s tabernacle and temple. The entrance was guarded by cherubim, like those woven into the curtains of the tabernacle (Ex 26:1) and carved into the walls and doors of the temple (1 Kings 6:29-35). And the garden, most clearly, was a sanctuary in which you could meet with God. The garden was therefore not merely the home for the first married couple, but the home for the first church. The ordering of relationships in the garden has relevance for the ordering of relationships in the church.
Even before sin entered the world, in the household of God, there was an order between male and female.
Second, what are we to make of the fact that Eve, rather than Adam, was deceived? I struggled with this in my last post. Do things become any clearer when we look more closely at Genesis 3?
Here are the significant verses:
6When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. …
13Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’
The woman said, ‘The snake deceived me, and I ate.’
Why was Eve deceived? Because the snake deceived her! But why did the snake deceive Eve, and not Adam? Was Eve just an easy target? Would it have simply been much too difficult to deceive Adam? After all, we men never do stupid things, do we? We never act rashly based on ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ (1 Jn 2:16)! We never get things wrong! We always see things as they are! We’re much more perceptive and level-headed!
So why then did the snake go for Eve and not for Adam?
Because he wanted to wreak as much havoc as he could.
The order of things was clearly established in Genesis 2: God first, then the man and the woman, and then the animals. But at the start of Genesis 3 we have an animal leading the woman astray, a man who is strangely silent, and God nowhere to be seen. God then interrogates the man first (who blames the woman), then the woman (who blames the snake), and proceeds to pronounce his judgment on the snake first, then the woman, then the man. In other words, in the fall, we are presented with a reversal of the created order. In that context it makes perfect sense for the snake to seek to deceive the woman. If he had deceived the man, and the man had then led the woman astray, then at least one element of the created order would have remained intact: the order between the man and the woman. But by deceiving the woman, and making it the woman who led the man astray, the snake effected a complete inversion of how things were originally meant to be.
Back to 1 Timothy 2. When the devil wants to make a mess of the ‘household of God’ (3:15), one of the ways he will do that is through male false teachers. But one of the other ways he will do that is by making the church become less of a sign of God’s created order being restored, and more of a sign of God’s created order being reversed. When the church has women teaching and assuming authority over men, it looks like Genesis 3, and not like Genesis 2. The order of creation had the man first, and then the woman. But in the fall it was the woman first, and then the man. 1 Timothy 2:14 is thus the mirror image of verse 13. In verse 13 it is Adam first, and then Eve. But in verse 14 it is the opposite. Genesis 2 is an example of the right ordering of things within the household of God, and Genesis 3 is an example of what it look like when things are turned upside-down.
What exactly this means in practice for us today is not necessarily obvious. (Which forms of speech in today’s church would count as ‘teaching’ in an official sense, and which offices carry with them the kind of authority that a woman should not exercise over a man?) But I’m beginning to think that 1 Timothy 2 is indeed clear on the basic principles. In the church, men and women most certainly belong together, just as Adam and Eve belonged together in the garden. The old divisions have indeed been broken down. In fact, in order for women to be teaching men at all, they must have been meeting together, and Paul was clearly very happy with that. But, in the church gathering, women should not teach or assume authority over men, because in the order of creation in the temple-garden, it was the man first, and then the woman (v. 13), whereas in the order of the fall, it was the woman first, and then the man (v. 14).