An interaction with Jewett, Scanzoni and Hardesty, and the Bible

The role relationship of women and men is one of the most discussed topics of our day, in evangelical circles as well as elsewhere. Two books claiming to be written from the evangelical perspective have aroused considerable interest: All We’re Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women’s Liberation by Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty (Word) and Man as Male and Female: A Study in Sexual Relationships From a Theological Point of View by Paul K. Jewett (Eerdmans). Attention has been focused on the necessity for justice and equality in the male-female relationship. Man is made male and female in God’s image. This equality is basic to the discussion. It is one of the bases upon which the husband is urged by the Apostle Peter to honor his wife as a joint heir of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:1–7), while the wife is asked to submit to her husband. This emphasis on equality and unity reiterated in the great redemptive passage of Galatians 3:28 has brought these authors to disavow any role of submission by women to men in the marriage relationship or in the ruling/teaching functions in the church.

I disagree. I believe that equality and difference of role are not mutually exclusive but are indeed the two sides to the teaching of the Word of God about the subject.

It is significant that the two notes of equality and difference of role are joined in the marriage relationship in the treatment presented by the Apostle Peter (1 Pet. 3:1–7). The equality is appealed to when Peter instructs the husband to honor his wife as a “joint-heir” at the same time that he urges her to submit to him and urges him to recognize her femininity (the “weaker vessel”). Likewise, the Apostle Paul, who writes of man and woman as one in Christ (Gal. 3:28), also writes of the wife’s submission to the headship of her husband (Eph. 5:22 ff.; Col. 2:18, 19).

But why is it that the husband is the head of the wife and why must the wife submit to him? The Apostle Paul speaks of the headship concept in First Corinthians 11. In verse 3 he says that “the head of the woman is man.” As he develops this concept of headship, he grounds it in the creation order and in the relationship of Genesis 2:18 ff., which he explains as establishing the relationship between man and woman (1 Cor. 11:8, 9). This same passage and principle is appealed to in First Timothy 2:11–15 and First Corinthians 14:34–37, where the Apostle Paul does not permit women to teach or have authority over men or over the church. In First Timothy 2:13 he cites that same order of creation, “For Adam was first formed, then Eve,” and in First Corinthians 14:34 he refers to this same passage with the words “as also says the law.” The relationship of men and women in marriage and their relationship in the church are founded on exactly the same passage and on the same principles; the teachings on the two points must stand or fall together.

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Not unexpectedly, certain objections have been brought against this uniform New Testament and apostolic position. Full, free, and frank discussion of the matter is desirable; it will enable Christians to come to a clearer and more balanced understanding of the total biblical teaching on this subject. But I am distressed that some who have written on the subject seem to be abandoning the inerrancy of Scripture and the authority of its teaching. Even some who claim to be evangelical Christians, to submit to the authority of God and his Word, seem willing to appeal to the passages in Scripture that support their position and to minimize other passages or declare them to be either wrong or only culturally relative and not normative, even when these passages themselves claim to be normative and not culturally relative.

First, it is said that the statement of Paul in First Timothy 2:13, “For it was Adam who was first created, then Eve,” is not significant for the role-relation of man and woman, as Paul claims it is. Scanzoni and Hardesty say, “If beings created first are to have precedence, then the animals are clearly our betters” (p. 28; cf. also Jewett, p. 126 f.). However, the point of Paul’s statement is not mere chronology but also the question of derivation and relationship, as his fuller handling of the Old Testament episode in First Corinthians 11:8 and 9 shows. And the recognition of this point removes the objection of Scanzoni and Hardesty, because mankind in general, or man or woman in particular, is not made from the animals. Nor is man derived from the dust of the ground as from a living entity from which he is shaped or fashioned (contra Jewett’s appeal to this aspect). The Old Testament narrative says, “The Lord God fashioned [built] into a woman the rib which he had taken from the man” (Gen. 2:22). We see that Paul is concerned with source of origin, and not mere chronology, when we read his exegetical language of First Corinthians 11:8 and 9, “For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

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This matter of the way in which woman is made out of man is highly significant for the relationship of man and woman, not only in the eyes of Paul but also from the time of its occurrence, as seen in the text of Genesis itself: “And the man said, this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman because she was taken out of man” (Gen. 2:23). In addition, the next verse says, “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Not only for Paul but also for Adam and Moses, as well as for God, who created woman in such a way and evoked the responses and principial applications, the creation order and relationship is a most important factor in how man regards woman and how woman regards man, and how they both regard their relationship to one another.

The co-humanity comes through eloquently, as does the relationship expressed by the play on words, “she is called woman because she was taken out of man.” Further, this action of God provides the basis for marriage and sex: “For this cause a man … shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (vs. 24). It is prejudicial to assert that this activity should not provide a basis for Paul to indicate the relationship of men and women, when the very episode and text itself have already shown that at the very time when it occurred, and also when it is first written about, under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, its theological significance was vigorously affirmed. What Paul says in First Corinthians 11:8 and 9 is quite evidently the fact of the matter. Verse 8 affirms that man was not created out of or from woman, but woman out of or from man. Similarly, Paul affirms in verse 9, to intertwine the language of First Corinthians and Genesis, that man was not created for (to be a helper for) woman, but woman for man. With this affirmation Paul has given the scriptural basis why he has affirmed in verse 3 that the man is the head of a woman. He is saying in effect that it is simply the proper application of concepts and of reality to affirm that if one human being is created to be the helper for another human being, the one who receives such a helper has a certain authority over that one who is his helper.

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It is said that because the Hebrew word for “helper” is applied to God, this argument cannot be valid. However, cannot a word when applied to God have a different nuance than the same word applied to mankind?

Second, Jewett insists that Paul’s exegesis of Genesis 2:18 ff. is not what that passage means or implies at all but is rather the remnant of his rabbinical thinking (cf. especially p. 119 in the context of pages 111–19). Contrary to that assumption of Jewett is this fact: the order as Paul says is evidenced by the Genesis 2 account is presumed immediately in Genesis 3 as lying behind the judgment of God on man’s sin. The Genesis 3 account presumes the reality of childbearing (Gen. 1:28) as that in which the woman will now experience the effects of the fall and sin. (3:16). It presumes the reality of work (Gen. 1:28 and 2:15) as that in which the man will now experience the effects of the fall and sin (3:17 ff.). And it presumes the reality of the role relationship between wife and husband established by God’s creation order in Genesis 2:18 ff. as that in which woman and man will now experience the effects of the fall and sin (3:16). “He shall rule over you” expresses the effects of sin corrupting the relationship of man’s headship over his wife. Just as the other realities are seen to be established before the fall and corrupted by the fall and sin, so this relationship was understood to be in existence and to be corrupted by it. In none of the three realities—childbearing, work, and relationship of wife and husband—is a new reality or concept introduced, but only the effects of the fall and sin on the already existing reality.

If Genesis 3 can so readily presume that what has gone before in Genesis 1 and 2 provides the data for the reader to understand God’s decision, surely it is erroneous to say that Genesis 2 does not and and cannot teach what Paul says it does. That understanding is already seen to be held in the first post-fall treatment of the relation of man and woman.

It is often said that the biblical view of the relation of man and woman in marriage and in the Church is based solely upon the effects of sin and the fall. Furthermore, it is said that just as we try to alleviate the effects of sin with anesthesia for childbirth and air-conditioned tractors for work, so we should try to eliminate the headship of men based solely on the fall and sin.

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I have two points in response. First, I agree that we should seek to relieve the effects of the fall and sin in all three of those areas. But we do so not by removing the realities altogether—childbirth, work, and the role relationship of men and women—but by alleviating that which corrupts the realities. For the apostles and the New Testament, that means urging husbands to love, honor, and not be bitter to their wives; it does not mean urging them to cease being the head of the household. The removal of an oppressive rule of a husband over a wife is not the removal of headship and the role relationship but the replacement of the effects of sin in the role relationship by love.

My other point of response is this: we should carefully recognize that the Bible never builds its case for the role relationship of men and women in marriage or in the home upon the effects of sin manifested in Genesis 3:16. The Apostle Paul appeals to the pre-fall creation order as normative—as he does in Ephesians 5, First Corinthians 11 and 14, First Timothy 2. (The closest he comes to the other is in First Timothy 2, and there not as the grounds for the relationship but to show the dire consequences of what happened when the relationship was reversed.) It is God’s creation order for the man-woman relation as evidenced in Genesis 2 (and also Genesis 1) that is normative for the New Testament, not the effects of sin as evidenced in Genesis 2 (and also Genesis 1) that is normative for the New Testament, not the effects of sin as evidenced in Genesis 3. Genesis 3 does function, as we have seen, in highlighting the areas of reality, in reflecting the already existing role relationship, and in showing the need for love and compassion—but not as the basis for the structure of the relationship between man and woman.

Third, it is often argued that since Paul gives directions about slaves in the context in which he deals with husbands and wives, and parents and children, that therefore if one follows his views on the latter two groups, one must be in favor of slavery and seek to implement slavery, and that if one is opposed to slavery, one should equally oppose the related cultural expressions in regard to marriage and the family (cf. Jewett, pp. 137 ff.; Scanzoni and Hardesty, pp. 91, 107, 202–5). Admittedly, Paul and Peter deal with slaves in close juxtaposition to husbands and wives as part of what is called the household table, that is, the section dealing with the relationships in the household. They do so, of course, because slaves were part of the household, and so slaves should certainly be discussed when the household and its relationships are under consideration. This must not cause us to assert, either naively or with an apologetic thrust, that they are all based on and guided by the same principles or controlling considerations.

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Paul and the New Testament are giving slaves and masters who are already related in that way directions about how they should live as Christians within those relationships (cf. Eph. 6:5–9; Col. 3:22–4:1; 1 Pet. 3:18 ff.). The New Testament is not seeking either to establish or to maintain that relationship as one ordained of God. (I think that Paul sows the seed for the abolishment of the slave relationship in his remarks to Philemon concerning Onesimus—verses 10; 12; 14; 15; 16; 17, and especially 21.) We may therefore say that the directions Paul gives concerning slaves in Ephesians and Colossians are like those God had Moses give about divorce: they are to regulate an existing situation that is a result of the hardness of men’s hearts (cf. Matt. 19:8). As in the case of divorce, so also in the case of slavery, God directs the writers of Scripture to give directions to regulate them while they are being practiced. Not once does Paul appeal to either God’s creation order or God’s moral law as the grounds for the institution of slavery. This radically distinguishes the treatment of slavery from that of marriage and the family.

In the New Testament handling of the role relations of husbands and wives and that of parents and children, there is an appeal to the foundational norm of God’s creative activity and creation order and also to his moral law that enshrines God’s ethical code for these relations he has established. Therefore, we find Paul appealing to the one-body motif and to the headship-helper motif, or the subordination-headship motif, as the basis upon which we may determine God’s will as to the order and attitudes that should obtain in marriage. It is evident that the Genesis 2 account and its theological significance permeate his account in Ephesians 5, and that is made plain when it is finally quoted in verse 31.

The significance of this appeal is twofold. On the one hand, it sets this relationship off from slavery and the basis upon which slavery existed and was ordered. On the other hand, the apostolic handling of marriage ties in tightly with Paul’s handling of the question of women in the ruling-teaching relationship in the Church, and at the same time with Jesus’ handling of marriage and divorce. Jesus himself appeals to Genesis 2 and the very same verse in Matthew 19:4 and 5. This interlocking of appeal to the authority of Genesis 2 and the understanding Paul has of that passage makes both Jewett and Scanzoni/Hardesty overthrow Paul’s view of marriage (and that of the Apostle Peter as well). Once one opposes the understanding Paul has and gives in regard to the ruling-teaching functions in the Church, one has already overthrown the use of the same passages and the same understanding in the realm of marriage.

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But we notice that those passages on marriage claim to give God’s order. The apostles say that the teaching on marriage is grounded in God’s creation order and activity and also appropriately in the male-female images of the analogy of Christ and the Church. Is it not equally logical and consistent for those who oppose the apostles to overthrow that which is sandwiched in between, namely, the demand that children honor and obey their parents? Could not one go on to argue that such a strict form of submission and subordination is only a reflection of the patriarchical culture of the Jewish society?

Fourth, Jewett (p. 131) and other writers insist that subordination and/or submission that rests on the fact of woman’s femininity is intrinsically antithetical to equality and necessarily implies inferiority. This claim of inferiority is that of these writers, not of the New Testament. The New Testament insists, in opposition to Jewett, that subordination does not imply inferiority or make any one inferior, even if the aspect of “ontology,” namely, femininity, is brought into the picture (cf. 1 Cor. 11). Paul in his appeal to the relation of God and his Son, Jesus Christ, does not regard the fact of Christ’s sonship and therefore resultant incarnation as implying inferiority for the Son, Jesus Christ. Although Christ the Son’s submission is expressed in the area of action and as incarnate (the area of service and the accomplishing of salvation; cf. also First Corinthians 15:24–28), it is also an expression of the ontological relationship of preincarnate and submissive Sonship (the so-called ontological area) (cf. John 5:18–23, 30, and elsewhere in John).

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The analogous ontological relationship to masculinity and femininity, man and woman, cited by Paul is that of God and Christ. That Christ submits as Son and as incarnate, i.e., because of certain ontological aspects, does not mean therefore that he is inferior to God, nor does it cast any doubt about his deity. Likewise, that the woman submits as woman does not mean therefore she is inferior or that her humanity as an image-bearer is in doubt or threatened. In both cases, it is equals in relationship to one another. In both cases, one, because of the “ontological” and ordained role in relation to the other, acknowledges headship and submits. Just as no inferiority may be asserted or assumed for Christ in his submission, so also no inferiority may be asserted or assumed for woman, and also no objection may be justly made because her submission rests on her co-created identity as woman in relation to man.

Fifth and finally, Jewett says, in a most striking and vigorous way, that Paul’s teaching is simply a reflection of an erroneous rabbinical view, that his exegesis of Genesis 2 is wrong, and therefore that this teaching is simply a human statement that should not be followed (cf. pp. 134 ff., p. 139 [bottom], and p. 145). The full impact of this evaluation must be reckoned with. It is saying that this portion of Scripture, the Word of God, is wrong in what it professes to teach as God’s Word. It is saying that not only the Apostle Paul but also the Apostle Peter is wrong. In fact, it is saying that all the instruction we get on the subject of marriage relative to this point, and on women in authority in the Church in the whole New Testament, even in the whole Bible, is wrong. Let that carefully come into focus. God has allowed his Church, both in Old Testament and in New Testament days, and his apostles and writers to communicate on these subjects that which is in error and out of accord with his revealed will. And not only that: we must say also that Jesus also made no attempt to correct this misunderstanding in the area of marriage and the Church. In fact, by selecting twelve men, Jesus perpetrated this supposedly horrendous male-chauvinistic approach and direction.

This position of apostolic error is maintained over against the assertion of the apostles that what they teach is God’s will and is founded on God’s order. Paul asserts in First Timothy 2 that the question of women in the ruling/teaching function of the church is based on the creation order and is evidenced in the fall, the two most basic factors that touch all men everywhere. Paul in First Corinthians 11 appeals to the authority relationships that God has established of God—Christ—man—woman (vs. 3); this is the most comprehensive appeal to interpersonal relationships, involving even the relationship of Christ and God. And in verse 16 of First Corinthians 11, he affirms that this is a uniform view of the churches of God. In First Corinthians 14 he emphatically says that what he teaches the Law also says (vs. 34). And finally, in reference to his teaching in First Corinthians 14, including that teaching under discussion, he says in vs. 37, “the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandments”! The Apostle Paul and also the Apostle Peter insist the exact opposite of Jewett, and they are saying, “Thus says the Lord.”

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Notice finally that both the apostles and the Church have realized that equality and differences of roles do indeed fit together, just as they have recognized that people are both equally image-bearers as men and women and also different as men and as women. Must we make view these two factors of equality and differences in roles as contradictory when they exist in God’s creative reality in harmony together?

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