Back to the Garden – Men and Women in Creation and Sin (Post 6)

]We have been exploring the ministry world of the early church over several posts. This is the 6th post overall and the third relating to 1 Timothy.]

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” 1 Timothy 2:13-14

What is the point that Paul is making by including this example in the context of what’s happening in Ephesus at that time?

For some, the point is that men should have authority and a women’s role is under that authority. For at least some of these folks, the idea that men lead and women follow is part of the very ‘creation order.’ Or perhaps women are somehow always more easily deceived and that’s why they shouldn’t teach?

In this post, we will take a look at Genesis 1-3 and see if a reading this reading of the situation fits with what we learn there.

Let’s start with the creation of humans in Genesis 1:

Then God said, “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, 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.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Genesis 1:26-28

In this text, we are told that God creates male and female in his image and that they are together given the directive to ‘fill the earth and subdue it’ Men and women have shared rule over every other living thing on the earth, and in chapter one there is no difference between the responsibility of man and women. In this text, their task is shared without distinction.

Chapter two spends more time on the description of the creation of man and woman. Let’s take a look:

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17

1 Timothy states what Genesis 2 here communicates: that Adam was formed first. There is not – at least not yet – any particular significance attributed to his being created first (in Genesis 1 humans are created last and often throughout the Torah God chooses the younger sibling to lead – Joseph as one example.)

What is worth our attention here is the command of Genesis 2:16. Who was this command given to and who would it ultimately apply to? The command is given to the man alone before the woman is formed. Yet it applies to her as well and would have applied to their children if they hadn’t been exiled from the Garden.

How would she have been able to learn about God’s instruction? Since we are nowhere told that God gave her the same instruction directly, Adam would have to teach her. Her responsibility regarding God’s word at that time would be to take on the posture of a learner until she grasped God’s truth.

The next thing that happens in Genesis 2 is the creation of women from man.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18

We tend to consistently view a ‘helper’ as a subordinate role. Usually the person ‘in charge’ receives assistance from helpers. So we might easily read this passage and think that men are the ones who lead and are in charge and women assist them as they lead. (and teach?)

The problem with that reading of this text is that the other instances of this word often translated ‘helper’ (ezer in Hebrew) make that interpretation almost impossible.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1–2)

We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our shield.” (Psalm. 33:20)

Throughout the Old Testament, the overwhelming majority of the use of the word for helper (ezer) is used of God himself! If anything, I’d think that the choice of this word in Genesis 2 highlights the man’s need of women to come alongside him so that they can rule the rest of creation side by side, as Genesis 1 explicitly says.

“The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called woman,
for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24

I believe that the stories of Genesis 1 and 2 fit together quite well. Men and women are intended to stand side by side and steward the earth. Being fruitful and multiplying and teaching their children to love and follow God.

But there is something that needs to happen after the woman is created: The command of God was given to the man before the woman was formed in Genesis 2. So Adam had the responsibility to share it with her accurately so that she would understand and follow it – and eventually they could teach it to others.

But things did not go well. Either he did not teach well and she she did not learn well – or both!

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ When 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. Genesis 3:1-6

Some may say that women are more gullible or easily deceived than men. The question there is whether that comes from the text or, in my estimation, you may be bringing that prior assumption to your reading of this text. The reality is that the person who did receive the command directly from God – the man – was also right there ‘with her’ and he also ate the fruit, breaking the one prohibition that God gave him.

Let’s tie this back to the situation in 1 Timothy for a moment:

‘A woman should learn… For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived…’

Eve, like some of the women in Ephesus at that time, had not taken the time to learn well. Eve added to God’s command – ‘and you must not touch it.’ and was quickly talked out of obedience to God’s word. Not because she was a woman, but because she hadn’t learned well.

This, I believe, makes the best sense of Paul’s use of this example in 1 Timothy. Women in Ephesus are to posture themselves as learners rather than those who think they know when they don’t and fall into error and sin.

Next time, we will take a look at authority in 1 Timothy 2, in Genesis 3 and in Jesus’ teaching.

*Note: I have tried to make a case in these posts from the text of scripture itself rather than heavy reliance on cultural context and possibilities. We should keep in mind that this is a personal letter written from one person to another. Both Paul and Timothy knew what was going on in Ephesus and in that particular situation so they didn’t need to spell it out the way we might wish they would.

Given the known existence of the Artemis cult in Ephesus and the clues we have from 1:4 regarding ‘endless myths and genealogies’, scholars have suggested that it’s likely that there were alternate teachings about the creation of men and women, likely exalting women over men and removing women from culpability. If that’s the case, Paul is also correcting a false teaching that may have circulated amongst some of the women of Ephesus by reminding them of aspects of the Genesis story.

The reading I am suggesting does not depend on this possibility but if it is possible or even likely, as I believe is the case, it further supports it.

Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

2 thoughts on “Back to the Garden – Men and Women in Creation and Sin (Post 6)”

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