On Man Being Created Before Woman

One of the more hotly debated topics within the church today is that of the role of women. Depending on what church background you come from, there are varying views within the discussion. But the two major views are summed up with the words complementarianism and egalitarianism.

I have summarised these 2 views before, but here they are again:

The Complementarian View

In the structure of the home, this theological viewpoint sees a mutual and complementary role existing between husband and wife, but the man still carries the lead, or ‘headship’, role. Within society in general, it is completely acceptable for women to hold jobs outside the home. In regards to roles within the church, women are normally allowed to function in ministry opportunities and other responsibilities. But, with reference to oversight and leadership, women are to be in submission to men. Thus, in this view, women can be given the freedom to lead such things as children’s ministries, women’s ministries, as well as serving in other ministry areas. But, and this is where we have varying views within a major view, it is possible that complementarians will either a) not allow women to teach men nor be in leadership or b) allow women to preach/teach with men in the context, but they are not to exercise authority in any main leadership role.

The Egalitarian View

Advocates of the egalitarian view do not believe men and women are identical in all matters, for there are definitely some differences between the two sexes (hence, why some might argue that they believe in complementary roles). But egalitarians believe that both sexes are capable of equal standing in both the home and the church. Specifically, within the church, women should be given complete freedom in expressing their gifts and callings in God, and this extends into leadership roles, even if that leadership role includes overseeing men.

As a side note, I use the words ‘capable of’ in the egalitarian explanation because I believe no one should inherently argue for leadership (male or female), as this is a God gifting, calling and anointing for service. One who believes leadership is their right will fail miserably (check out John 13:3-5).

If you haven’t guessed, I fall in line more with the egalitarian view, though, as I mentioned above, I could argue for complementarianism because men and women carry distinguishable differences simply through our physical creation, but also as we realise different people are given different callings, giftings and ministries by God.

One argument I regularly hear with regards to the more traditional view of complementarianism is that the creation order points to the reality that men are called to be leaders of women. Man was created first and, thus, man is given leadership and authority over woman. This comes about from considering passages like Genesis 1 and 2, plus 1 Corinthians 11:3f and 1 Timothy 2:8-15.

But one thing I believe can happen in our study of these passages is that we can easily read such a perspective into 1 Cor 11:3 and 1 Tim 2:8-15, and then turn back around and read those things into Gen 1-2. I don’t want to spend any great deal handling 1 Cor 11:3 or 1 Tim 2:8-15, as I have done that already in these two articles: article 1, article 2. But what I want to do is consider this idea of the ‘creation order’, at least as I understand it presented by complementarians.

Again, what is usually argued is that, because man was created before woman (thus establishing the ‘creation order’), men are inherently called to be the leaders both in the church and in the home. Women function in more of a support role.

But is such a ‘creation order’ established in Scripture?

Well, of course complementarians would argue it is. They would likely head to these two main passages I mentioned above:

3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God…8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. (1 Cor 11:3, 8-11)

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. (1 Tim 2:12-14)

A simple, straightforward reading of these passages must insist a complementarian view, right?

Well, as any crime scene investigator might remind us: Things are not always as they seem.

Oh, I do believe in the perspecuity, or clarity, of Scripture. I do believe that, in general, and especially with understanding the reality of salvation in Christ, the Scripture can be read by each and every person and that good news message comes across clearly (though the Spirit must be at work in drawing us to believe the good news we read and/or hear). But, there are plenty of passages that are not so as clear, but rather call for us to more deeply consider the history, language, culture, theological development, etc, of the day it was written. We must remember that Scripture was written for us, but not to us.

And this is shown true when we come across passages about a few different topics, not to mention those verses on women’s roles.

So, back to the two passages above. I believe what happens is that, we read the two Bible passages and we can, at times, jump to quick conclusions – women cannot teach, women cannot exercise authority, man is the head-authority of woman. Furthermore, without getting too involved in those two passages, again inviting you to read the two articles I have written previously (article 1, article 2), I believe we make wrong conclusions about a ‘creation order’ when making quick conclusions from those texts.

So, let’s go to the creation account(s) of Genesis 1 and 2. Is such a ‘creation order’ of male authority over women established? Remember, what is argued is that man was created first and, thus, this points to male leadership over woman.

I believe this argument fails on a few fronts.

1) Nowhere are we told that, because male was created first, male is therefore inherently in authority over female. Nowhere.

Ok, so someone wants to remind me of 1 Tim 2:12-14. But again, I believe we are reading something into the passage. You cannot read 1, 2 or 3 verses and establish something without digging a bit deeper.

What is going on is that Paul is addressing a specific context within a specific church in Ephesus, a church context that Timothy was overseeing. That specific situation probably has a lot of influence from the Diana-Artemis cult and its teaching that would have been rampant amongst the city. Also worth noting is the city of Ephesus housed a temple to the goddess Diana, this temple being one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.

You can see all the possibilities now opening when considering these things and what Paul would have been addressing. I’ve read a few different opinions from various theologians, but in the ever-debated passage of 1 Tim 2:8-15, I believe Paul is addressing some things with regards to false teaching about men and women, who was created first and some specifics about the entrance of sin into the world. And let’s not forget the somewhat weird words of vs15. Paul is definitely addressing something within that specific context of Ephesus.

I am not going to spend much more time hashing out the specifics. Again, I can only encourage you to read my article on 1 Tim 2:8-15.

But what about 1 Cor 11:3f? Well, let us not forget Paul’s own words within the same context:

11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.

Maybe a ‘creation order’ of inherent male leadership is not being established for the Corinthians. But read more here.

2) If we read Genesis 1 carefully, especially vs26-28, we see that this first account of creation tells us of simultaneous male-female creation.

Now, in vs26, when it says, ‘Let us create man in our image,’ this is not a male thing. Rather the word is the generic word for humanity. Hence how the end of vs27 emphasises this and vs28 speaks of them.

Of course, in the second account, we read of man’s creation first. But I point out the first account of Gen 1, which I believe establishes the record from the beginning. From a ‘God-perspective’, both are created simultaneously, if you will. But in the specific break down of Gen 2, we read of particulars.

So, if a complementarian wants to argue for a creation order from Gen 2, why forget that Gen 1 actually establishes a co-creation of male and female? I deal with other specifics in a few other articles I wrote on Gen 1 and 2 (here, here and here).

3) Finally, if we still want to emphasise the ‘creation order’ that man was created before woman and, thus, man has authority and leadership over women, then what do we do with the Genesis 1 creation account that tells us of things created before man and woman?

Remember, from that account, everything else was created before both male and female? Does that mean the sun and moon, vegetation, the seas, the beasts of the fields, etc, have authority over humans?

Now, I am sure many will be quick to remind me that only male and female are created in the image of God, thus showing their authority over the others. And I am good with that. All I want to do is point out that something being created before another does not inherently establish leadership and authority. I believe we are reading too much into the text.

Therefore, I believe the more complementarian argument of a ‘creation order’ does not establish the inherent leadership and authority of men over women. Of course, I think men are called to leadership, for I am a man. In my family, my wife actually looks to me as the ‘default’ leader. And I also serve as an elder-shepherd within my local congregation. But I do not believe that my maleness establishes either one of those. Rather, it has to do with the measure of calling, gifting and anointing to serve in our God-appointed roles. The creation order of God creating them both male and female in the beginning reminds us of this important foundation.

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4 thoughts on “On Man Being Created Before Woman

  1. I think that the broad idea of a man who is in relationship with a woman and that man therefore being designated as the leader is throughout Paul’s writings. Regardless of the situation he was addressing, he clearly states his view at different times and to different audiences so that it’s clear. Paul isn’t going to change what he believed to be true based on the events of the time.
    As believers, we interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New. As an example we have Peter giving us an explanation of the events of Noah and the flood as a picture of baptism. We are shown the symbolism in the events and it’s the same mechanism Paul is using in defining the role of men and women who are in a relationship, by looking at creation.
    I think it’s a thin argument to say that because the author gives a bullet point view of creation in Gen 1 and then goes back to fill in the details in subsequent chapters that we should rely more on the briefness of Chapter 1. It’s like saying we should ignore all of the details given in the psalms and the prophets of the details of creation because it was not listed in Gen 1. See the dilemma we create here? We hold that all scripture (every jot and tittle) is inspired by God and is profitable for us. Paul was referring to the Old Testament in his letter to Timothy. He clearly saw a deliberate distinction between creations and that it represented proper relationship structure. He said that we are to learn from the breakdown in their relationship as Adam was clearly a passive person and followed her lead in eating the apple. I firmly believe this to be true.
    Looking at order: God had a relationship with Adam but not with Eve. The command went from God to Adam to Eve not to them as a couple. Eve was created as a companion for Adam based on Adam’s needs.

    I’m not trying to pick an argument with you, Scott. It is a divisive view and I believe it is one that invites apathy toward the authority of scripture which is a dangerous precipice.

  2. Hi Brien –

    Thanks for the comment. I will try and respond to various statements within the whole.

    I think that the broad idea of a man who is in relationship with a woman and that man therefore being designated as the leader is throughout Paul’s writings.

    I can specifically think of a few passages in Paul that you might be referring to. But I do try and deal with a few of these passages in my previous articles, i.e., 1 Cor 11, 1 Tim 2. You can see the whole listing of articles on women’s roles.

    As believers, we interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New.

    I agree wholeheartedly. I would argue that, for a proper biblical understanding, we must remember this. But, without consideration of what actual issues Paul might be addressing within a specific context (e.g. 1 Tim 2:8-15 and the situation of Ephesus), we cannot read a couple of verses and say it is enlightening us about a ‘creation order’ in Genesis 1 and 2 that tells us who inherently has leadership. That is my argument. What Paul is addressing in 1 Tim 2 has to do with issues in Ephesus, specifically centering around false teaching with the Diana-Artemis cult and its influence.

    I think it’s a thin argument to say that because the author gives a bullet point view of creation in Gen 1 and then goes back to fill in the details in subsequent chapters that we should rely more on the briefness of Chapter 1.

    This is not what I have argued. The question I ask is – Why emphasise Gen 2 (male created first) and not remember nor emphasise Gen 1 (both created equally at the same time)? We have to consider this question. Why choose one account over the other? Plus, we have to consider whether or not Gen 1 and 2 actually tells us that something being created first makes it have authority over another. That is what I do not see in the actual text. You can read more of my articles on Gen 1 and 2 by clicking the link above in this comment.

    Paul was referring to the Old Testament in his letter to Timothy. He clearly saw a deliberate distinction between creations and that it represented proper relationship structure. He said that we are to learn from the breakdown in their relationship as Adam was clearly a passive person and followed her lead in eating the apple. I firmly believe this to be true.

    As I said above – What is Paul addressing in the Ephesus situation? That is what needs to be asked, which I try and answer in more detail here.

    Looking at order: God had a relationship with Adam but not with Eve. The command went from God to Adam to Eve not to them as a couple. Eve was created as a companion for Adam based on Adam’s needs.

    I’m not a female, but I suppose one might be a bit miffed at this statement, especially that God only had the relationship with Adam. The command went to Adam first, in the Gen 2 account, because Adam was the only living being at the time (though again, be careful of trying to argue this makes him the authority figure if we are not told such in the account). The whole passage of Eve being created out of Adam as a helper suitable for him actually points to equality, as I share here and here.

    I’m not trying to pick an argument with you, Scott. It is a divisive view and I believe it is one that invites apathy toward the authority of scripture which is a dangerous precipice.

    I didn’t feel you are picking a fight. And, by the way, I hold to a more egalitarian view, but do not have apathy towards Scripture and its authority as you argue. So I would encourage you not to equate the two. I can point you to many solid, evangelical theologians who are egalitarians.

    Also, I decided not to bring this up in this article, but what do you do if you realise Gen 1 and 2 (and even through to Gen ch.11) is not actual literal history, but a story (what scholars call a ‘myth’) describing something bigger?

  3. “For a man is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.”
    Corinthians 11:7 (Not according to Scripture!)

    Finally- I thought I was the only one who noticed it! The creation account is the authority that Paul harkens to; therefore, we should examine it to see if it lines up with Paul.

    In all honesty, I’ve concluded this verse to be blasphemous. In my opinion, it is wrong to assign glory to mere man what is only due to God. What justification could there possibly be there taking the glory due God reflected in God and assign it to men? That alone should give great pause.

    First, if man is the image and glory of God, so is the woman according Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

    “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that THEY may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created THEM; male and female he created them. ”

    Second, the only hierarchy established by God was clearly stated: both the male and female were to have dominion over animals, fish and birds. The man was never given dominion over the female.

    The creation order argument is literally turned on its head when you realize that humanity was created LAST but had dominion over what was created FIRST. So much for the-first created ruling over last-created!

  4. Pingback: Is Christianity sexist? – AntWoord

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