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Lesson Two: The Cosmic Crisis

Women Serving God: Wednesday Evening Study Series
John Mark Hicks and Mark Manassee
January 28, 2004

The Cosmic Crisis

I. Texts

1. Genesis 3:1-7

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman: “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

2. Genesis 3:16-19

To the woman he [God] said,
“I will greatly increase your pangs in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children,
yet your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”
To the man he [God] said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife,
and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,”
cursed is the ground because of you;
in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust;
and to dust you shall return.

II. Interpretative Questions

1. Who’s Responsible?

a. Adam and Eve both sin. They both assert their autonomy—they will choose how to live their own lives and decide what is right and what is wrong for themselves. They are co-participants and jointly suffer the consequences.

b. Adam as Responsible?

Romans 5:12-14, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death cam through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned….the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.”

1 Corinthians 15:21-22, “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

c. Eve as Responsible?

1 Timothy 2:14, “and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

(1) Traditional Interpretation:

Tertullian (died in 220) On the Apparel of Women, 1.1.1-2, North-African teacher in Carthage (modern Libya): “And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert----that is, death----even the Son of God had to die.”

John Chrysostom (347-407), popular preacher and Bishop of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Homilies on Timothy, 9: “The woman taught once and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach…for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274), medieval theologian, Summa Theologica, 1.92: “The human group would have lacked the benefit of order had some of its members not been governed by others who were wiser. Such is the subjection in which woman is by nature subordinate to man, because the power of rational discernment is by nature stronger in man.”

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism, New Testament with Explanatory Notes, cv. 1 Timothy 2:14: “This verse shows why she ought not ‘to teach.’ She is more easily deceived, and more easily deceives.”

(2) Alternative Interpretation: The serpent subverted male headship by tempting Eve rather than Adam, and Eve sinned not only in eating but by eating first. She is a negative model because she acts autonomously rather than submissively.

(3) Alternative Interpretation: Paul’s statement assumes a cultural context where women were more susceptible to deceit because they lacked education, married early (husbands were generally older) and were socially constrained (limited exposure within the culture). In Paul’s cultural setting women were more easily deceived than men. Paul uses Eve as an analogy.

2. What’s the Result?

Genesis 3:16 is not the basis of headship, but the consequences of sin invading the gender relationship. Genesis 3:16 is the beginning of the “battle of the sexes.” It is not prescriptive, but descriptive. In consequence of sin, wives will seek to dominate (a desire for control) their husbands and husbands will oppress (master) their wives. Dysfunction is a consequence of the Fall.

There is some disagreement about what the “desire” is that a woman will have for her husband. Some believe it is sexual desire; others believe it is a desire for intimacy (healthy relationship); and yet others believe it is a desire for control.

The chart below shows the parallel between Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. The verbs are identical. It indicates the hostile nature of the relationships involved.

Genesis 3:16: you-rule-he-and-desire-to-your-husband-and (Hebrew)

NRSV: “yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you."
NIV: "Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you."

Genesis 4:7: it-rule-you-and-desire-to-you-and (Hebrew)

NRSV: "its desire is for you, but you must master it."
NIV: "it desires to have you, but you must master it."

(1) Distorted Marriage Relationships: the loss of mutuality and transparency.
(2) Distorted Social/Economic Justice: the rise of discrimination.
(3) Distorted "Headship” such as Master/Slave or Sergeant/Private.

Key Question: Was Genesis 3:16 the beginning of “headship” in the gender relationship or was it the distortion of that relationship?

3. An Alternative Reading of Women in the Hebrew Bible

In Reading the Women of the Bible, Tikva Frymer-Kensky writes (p. xv): “Contrary to all assumptions...the Hebrew Bible, unlike other ancient literature, does not present any ideas about women as the 'Other.' The role of women is clearly subordinate, but the Hebrew bible does not 'explain' or justify this subordination by portraying women as different or inferior." The Old Testament's notion of women as subordinate but not inferior became a paradigm for Israel's understanding of it's own subjugation by other nations. In the Hebrew Bible women are:

a. The Victors

b. The Victims

c. The Virgins

d. The Voice

Questions for Reflection:

1. Who is responsible for the fall of humanity into sin? What kind of responsibility do each bear? What is our responsibility in this connection?

2. Is the rule of man over woman prescriptive or descriptive in this text? Why do you think so? In what way or sense is this a divine judgment against humanity? Or, is it simply a consequence of sin’s entrance into the world?

3. What is the “desire” that the woman will have for her husband?

4. What is the significance of categorizing the portrayal of women with the four-Vs? Can you identify women in the Hebrew Bible who would fall into these categories? Identify women or types of women that this is equally true of today?

Resources for Further Study:

Egalitarian: see Lance Pape, “Man and Woman in Genesis 1-3: Six Common Misconceptions Challenged." See also, William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001), pp. 110-122, 224-235, 263-269

Complementarian: see Mary Kassian, Women, Creation and the Fall, pp. 21-30. See also Jack Cottrell, Gender Roles & the Bible: Creation, the Fall, & Redemption, pp. 107-133.


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