Is there a Genesis-based teaching of a
hierarchy between males and females?
At the time of Jesus’ ministry there was debate between two camps about men’s rights to divorce their wives and for what causes. One camp took Deuteronomy’s text literally. The only reason to justify divorce was finding “some indecency” in one’s bride on the wedding night. If she was not a virgin she therefore had been unfaithful to her marriage promise. The second camp took “some indecency” to mean any of a vast (humanly defined) number of inadequacies that might be found in one’s wife.
As usual the Pharisees sought to test Jesus by attempting to get him to make a public statement on the issue. On which side of the debate would he come down? “Tell us, is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” The Pharisees were testing on their rules, and the “law,” but Jesus ignores the legal question and goes back to God’s intention from the beginning. “Have you not read? He that made them from the beginning made them male and female and said, “For this reason a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two become one flesh.” “So,” Jesus continues (and draws the lesson from Genesis), “they are no longer two but one flesh.” Then Jesus shares the lesson he draws from Genesis for us: “What therefore God has joined together let not man put asunder.”
Consider the meanings of these two words, “joined” and “asunder,” in the Greek. To put asunder here is the Greek word choreo, meaning “a space.” It comes from the Greek word chora, meaning “an empty space, an expanse.” The root word you might be more familiar with: chasma, in English chasm - “an impassable interval or gulf.” The Greek word for joined is suzeugnumi (Strong’s #4801) and means “to conjoin, fasten together in a yoke, to yoke together.” So it means plainly yoked or bound together. But we might ask, in what way?
The Greek word for joined is suzeugnumi (Strong’s #4801) and means “to conjoin, fasten together in a yoke, to yoke together.” So it means plainly yoked or bound together. But we might ask, in what way? Could Jesus be directing us to a deeper understanding of the meaning of joined? If so, it shines a light on God’s original intent. This word join suggest that the true joining was that of the minds; joint thinkers, if you will. Because physically becoming one can not occur (even after repeated attempts) then the joining is understood to speak of some other level. These two minds were designed to contemplate together and consider the world before them. What Jesus may be saying is: You are putting an impassable gulf between men and women. Divorcing your wives is just an observable symptom of the deeper and even more destructive separation. What God has “joined” (suzeugnumi) together, you should not be tearing apart. The two minds God intended to be working together do not function as he intended when one is separated from the other or when one is diminished or silenced.
Genesis 2 indicated that the man needed a helper fit for him. But not one of the animals was such a helper. Why? Because animals cannot achieve any type of oneness with man. Animals do not discuss, debate, investigate jointly, discover together – all the things which human couples were intended to do from the beginning. So God made a woman for the man, so that together they could have dominion over the earth and its beasts. A second lesson from this may well be considered. God does not say anywhere in Genesis that the female is subordinate to the man any such opinion relies on an interpretation. Genesis does state specifically and several times that male and female are to exercise dominion over everything else! Clearly subordinate animals were not fit as the male’s companion, God then created a partner companion not a subordinate companion. The animals were subordinate to mankind (this is stated). But were animals in all their characteristics unsuitable as a companion? It seems a suitable companion required a non subordinate creature one with whom oneness could be achieved a “counterpart!”
Dominance by Joint Authority
God clearly intended the man and woman to be joined together at the mind. And both were perfectly equipped to be together for that purpose. This is how they were to take dominion over creation: by investigating the world together, by thinking, debating, and reasoning, resulting in mutual discovery and understanding of the world under their authority.
One of the realities of the union of these two minds is that God created them so that they think differently. In fact, extremely differently, as most men and women will agree. Just as the male and female bodies are different but must join to procreate, so the male and female minds are different but must be joined to “be fruitful” and to have dominion over the earth and bring it into subjection.
How interesting that God created this difference in paradigm and then made them physically and emotionally dependent as well. God commanded Adam and Eve to “have dominion over the earth.” This joining of two very different minds must then require a deep degree of cooperation and mutual regard and respect to accomplish the goal. That vast difference in approach and sensitivity was to result in a balanced outlook at all things related to the task before them. And over a period of time, it was (when applied without sin) to achieve the actual “one flesh” that God pronounced at their joining.
Not from God but from Man
Through hardness of heart man found ways to justify physically separating himself from his wife (divorce). But Jesus reminds us that man has gone even further than that – a systematic and fleshly diminishment of the value of the female mind. In both Greek and Jewish society fundamental teaching was that the female mind was inferior, incapable of higher thought and reasoning, along with a teaching that her mind was more prone to sinfulness. Men taught to a great degree she was created essentially for breeding. It seems a shame that while God took a lot of time in Genesis to demonstrate to Adam that the relationship with his mate was to be very different than that of the animals, mankind developed a teaching that reverses God’s intent and eventually reduces the woman to level of breeding stock.
Dominance is as wrong as Divorce
I suggest that the concept of dominance of a husband over his wife and the idea of an order of authority between them is not from God but from man. The one flesh concept proclaimed by God “from the beginning,” and taught by Jesus, is violated by the idea of a dominant partner. I ask you to consider that this concept is as deeply seated in human sin as the concept of divorce. Within the framework of what God had in mind from the beginning it is not a biblical concept but a deeply entrenched human reaction.
A human reaction to sin
Eve sinned and Adam sinned. Now when God calls them to account, He calls them as individuals. “Adam, where are you? Adam, have you eaten of the tree I commanded you not to eat?” “The woman you gave to me gave me of this fruit and I did eat.” It would seem Adam had already spent some (all so human) time considering a way to shift the stark reality of sin to someone else. Eve displayed the same poor reasoning when shifting attention to the source of her temptation as well. Poor decisions as the result of a tempting source or tempting person do not change accountability for our sins.
A sad fact!
Man had changed the dynamic between themselves and God when they sinned. Eve had changed the dynamic between herself and the man when she sinned. Eve used her mind alone (apart from her joint investigator) and came to a sinful conclusion. Interestingly the Hebrew of this verse (3;16) reads exactly like God’s words later to Cain. “sin is crouching (like a beast) at the door, its desire is for you, but you must master it”
Chapter 3 verse16, isn’t a commandment from God. It was an admonition to Eve that she had reasoned together with a subordinate creation instead of her counterpart. That the “beasts” desire is to have her and she must master the beast just as she and Adam had been ordained to do by God. The dynamic or choice to dominate one another was a sin, it was the earth and its beasts they were to have dominion over. To start listening to the beasts and not to each other in joint counsel was sin.
So what I have suggested here is that God intended a true joint effort in the beginning. There is no dominant partner or order of authority between the male and female. We have two minds both equipped with the similarities and differences that would make them work beautifully together and poorly if separated. The only order of authority suggested in Genesis is that of Man to God and earth and its beasts to man..
But sinful actions and sinful reactions began to cause the rift between men and women that we still live with today. We teach plainly that divorce is not what God intended for marriage “from the beginning.” I suggest that we have no model (in Genesis) to teach a male authority structure as the original model for married relationships or between men and women. This dominance of men over women is a man-made structure introduced with sin. This false structure has proven itself unfruitful and unkind in every society and culture on earth. “From the beginning it was not so.”
How could this be?
Using principles laid out in Genesis, Jesus tells his listeners the standard for marriage is very high, and deeply profound. The question was, “For what cause can you divorce your wives?” Jesus’ answer is: For no cause! You were never even intended to consider it from the beginning. This truth (lost now in human history) and the ground-breaking nature of this was not lost on his disciples, for they exclaim privately, “If this is the case with a man and his wife, it is better not to marry!” Yes, this ideal (of never divorcing) is true, but not all men can receive this concept. Laws regulating divorce were added because it was in fact a deeply entrenched practice. So eventually God provided rules to regulate it in some way. But it was not God’s plan – it was man’s.
The idea of a non-dominant partner is as ground-breaking and as scandalous a thought today. We might even find ourselves saying, “How can this be true Adam was made first, men were put in charge? The actual answer from Genesis is: “Man” was put in charge and Man means = male / female! God had just proclaimed them one flesh. And this they are: reasoning together in mutual debate, jointly thinking, deliberating, and coming to joint decisions. God didn’t give Adam charge of the earth with Eve as his second in command. He gave THEM charge over the earth. Please note again the only text mentioning authority or dominion is MAN over the earth and by clear implication God over Man.
The only ruler ship or dominion spoken of from the beginning was two people in joint cooperation with two very different minds working together and operating as one. And to take the two minds that God sought to join and make one subordinate to the other is to re-write God’s original plan and truly “put asunder” what God has joined together.
However, it is conceded that the idea of male dominance is so deeply entrenched in human thinking that few men can receive this concept as well. However a higher principle is articulated for those who seek to understand God’s original intent and strive for the oneness, the unity that we ultimately hope to achieve in Christ.
A consistent message.
Paul teaches that in Christ there are to be none of the man made dominant relationships: Jew to Greek, slave to free, male to female. For we are “all one” in Christ. If this doesn’t have some direct bearing on the way these groups were free to serve in Christ, why did Paul mention it? Paul wasn’t teaching that the previously diminished one should take over, clearly he was teaching there was no dominance in Christ ( no social, no political, no domestic). Including women as equals in function and service is not a teaching of female dominance as the Gnostics taught. It is a teaching of the “one body” of Christ. There are no dominant structures among believers in Christ. The only authority structure we see from God is: Mankind to God and then Mankind to Christ, as God had elevated Christ above every name and authority on earth and heaven.
If men and women were intended from the beginning to rule jointly, investigate jointly, two minds working as one, then surely they are qualified to serve jointly in Christ and in the same capacities. Since there is evidence they were doing just that in Paul’s day, I suggest Paul taught this as Christ taught it to him, that in Christ there should not be “neither male nor female,” it is up to us to consider the possibility that it is our current thinking of a “Divine Hierarchy” between males and females needs to be reconsidered.