Thursday, October 18, 2007

Men and women's roles: Continuing the conversation (Gen. 1-3)

with Alex and Casey. Which is actually me. But not really. Arrrgh! I'll go see my psychiatrist now.

A mono-dialogue


Alex: Don’t worry, that’s not the only argument. Secondly, Adam is allowed to name Eve. Naming, in the context of Genesis and Ancient Near Eastern culture, implies a measure of responsibility for and authority over what is named. So for a king in the Ancient Near East, to name people or things was an act of authority. This is probably why Genesis 1 is written in such a way; anyone who read Genesis 1 would recognise that God, by naming or calling things, is showing he is the ultimate authority over creation. So, the act of Adam naming Eve (Gen. 2:23) would be another point where responsible male headship is demonstrated.

Casey: I see this differently. For example, God named the animals before human beings. Does that mean that animals have priority over humans? Nope. So the order of creation shouldn’t be such a big deal. A few of us would argue too that while the description of the historical-cultural context you argued for is plausible, it developed later. Besides, I think that there is a possibility that man naming woman is simply an act of his own free will (Gen. 2:22), and that you read too much into this. From my own reading, man calling woman "bone of my bones" shows that woman is equal to man. She was made, not from his head or his feet, but from his ribs.

Alex: This is where we part ways, it seems. Again, I fully agree that woman is equal to man in value, dignity, personhood and so on. I suppose you could say we are equal in our essential humanness, so I agree with you on "bone of my bones". But she is also called "woman, for she was taken out of man" which to me indicates some difference being highlighted. Yet man and woman can enjoy each other and be united. I still think this fits better with the text itself as well as the context.

Casey: Shouldn't I get my turn now?

Alex: Alright.

Casey: You argue for equality in personhood but distinction in roles. But when we look at Genesis 1:26-27, we are not just equally made in his image, but both man and woman are given the responsibility to rule over his creation. So I don’t think there’s a case for role differentiation. Instead, I think this is because of the Fall and the entry of sin. I would think that Genesis 3:16 shows this clearly. So previously man and woman were one flesh – great image, isn’t it? – but now her husband will rule over her. As one flesh, they were part of each other; it wasn’t a case of male authoritarianism. Male headship is a result of the Fall.

Alex: Hey, Jesus loves the institution of marriage and hates divorce, so I am all for one flesh too! Just...don't, err, let your imagination run away on the one flesh imagery. But I don’t buy your reading. "One flesh" could just as easily show the complementarity of man and woman. They fit together. And notice what happens after Eve sins. God goes to Adam first for an explanation. When God explains the penalty for sin, it is to Adam he charges it to. I think this is backed up by Romans 5:12-21. It implies headship on Adam’s part.

BK: Ooooh, I find that compelling!

Casey: No fair BK! You’re supposed to be impartial!

BK: *sheepish* Sorry. You are in my mind after all, which is actually a breeding place for eeeeeevil...I mean, it isn’t a neutral ground. But I’m trying my best to accommodate you.
the brain control room
Casey: I’ll be in your brain’s control room to do a little tweaking later...

Alex: With regards to Genesis 3:16, complementarians understand it on the basis of what "desire" means. The same word is used in Genesis 4:7, and in its context, means to conquer, usurp, a desire to usurp authority. So in the Fall, the sense is that woman now has sinful desires to be controlling or manipulative. Similarly, man now sinfully wants to rule over their wife in a way God had not intended. In other words, male headship, which should be marked by love, responsibility, and tenderness, is now replaced by brutishness and oppression.

Casey: I still think that you’re twisting what Gen. 3:16 says. I think I can agree with you when you mention that Adam now sinfully seeks to dominate or oppress his wife, but I would argue that in this verse, the first half about childbearing relates to the effects of sin about woman, whereas the second half is exclusively about man. Isn’t this the first time as well a subordinate relationship is introduced in the text? So, desire here is simply a woman’s right desire for companionship or something similar from her husband.

BK: So Alex’s case builds upon the way the word "desire" is used in Genesis 4:7...

Alex: ...which I would think has force because Genesis 4 is so close to Genesis 3, so there’s no real reason to think the word is used differently. Moreover, the same word and meaning is used in Song of Songs somewhere. And how can this desire be woman’s right desire when the context of chapter 3 is sin?

BK: ...whereas Casey, assuming earlier arguments made for Genesis 1-2, thinks that Genesis 3 reads much better by showing the subservience of woman to man, where there was no hint before, unless you read it into the text.

Casey: Yeah. Don’t forget how I read Genesis 1:26-27!

BK: Whew! That was exhausting! We’ve spent lots of time on Genesis 1-3, and my brain is running low on fuel.

Casey: Yes...*rubs hands* you want me to, er, help you in the brain control room?

Alex: Hey!

Casey: I tried.

BK: So we’ve covered the Creation and Fall story-blocks…so how about we cover the Redemption block? How does Jesus figure in?

[always end on a cliffhanger! How will the cosmic battle between Alex and Casey play out?]

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