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Back on Oct. 30th, I reviewed this book: Men and Women in Christ, Fresh Light From the Biblical Texts by Andrew Bartlett, Inter-Varsity Press, 2019. Review HERE.

I stated that I’d have another post or two where I highlight some content from the book. Yesterday, I highlighted content about Priscilla. Today will focus on Genesis.

Genesis 2:18 refers to Eve as a helper (ezer) to Adam, and unfortunately helper has certain connotations in the English language that create misunderstanding. The woman is perceived as the helper or assistant to the man, who is the leader or boss. Yet in Hebrew ezer does not have this meaning or implication. I’ve touched on this in past blog posts. I loved the phrase Bartlett used for the meaning of ezer: powerful ally! Powerful ally comes across rather differently than helper, does it not? Here is an excerpt from the book:

“In English we commonly think of a helper as a subordinate or junior assistant. This connotation is lacking from the Hebrew word ezer, which carries the idea of strength and is here [Genesis 2:18] translated as helper. It refers to a military protector in Isaiah 30:5…It refers to God as strength and help in numerous texts. For example, Deuteronomy 33:26 refers to God riding across the heavens to help, and…in Deuteronomy 33:29 God is Israel’s shield and help and glorious sword; in Psalms 121 and 124 Israel’s help comes from the Maker of heaven and earth. In these Scriptures God is depicted as a powerfully ally for needy Israel; in none of them is there any sense of God adopting a subordinate role, such that Israel is God’s leader. The natural reading of Genesis 2 in Hebrew is therefore that woman is made to be man’s powerful ally. There is no implication that she is his junior assistant.” (page 76, bold added)

It would be rather silly to think that because God is a helper to Israel that Israel is the boss of God or that God falls under the authority of Israel! Neither should we apply that to the male/female relationship.

Some go to great lengths to find gender hierarchy (evidence that the man is the leader) in Genesis 1 and 2. But it is not there! It is forced upon the text. I’ve blogged on this before. See this post: It all begins in Genesis…the absence of male rule and gender hierarchy in Genesis 1 and 2.  I have 9 bullet points refuting the idea of male rule in Genesis 1 and 2.

Bartlett carefully looks at the arguments that some complementarians offer for male headship in Genesis 1 and 2. As he does this, he ends up repeating things like:
But this is mere assertion, with no basis in the text.
The text does not say this.
But this again lacks a basis in the text.

One must begin with the idea that men are leaders and then force it upon the text, seeing things that are not there, making false or unprovable assumptions. AND THIS IS WHAT I ACTUALLY wanted to get to from Bartlett, that I thought was so very creative:

“Let us suppose someone were wanting to establish that women are ordained by God to be the leaders of men. They could easily use the same kinds of arguments from implications that complementarians use, proceeding as follows:

  • In Genesis 2 the woman is described as the man’s ezer.
  • Even some complementarian scholars accept that to be an ezer (strength or helper) does not imply subordination. God is Israel’s ezer. The usual implication is that the ezer is more powerful than the needy one who receives the help.
  • We see in the narrative that the woman is made for the man because of his inadequacy and need, that is, he is alone and needs help.
  • Genesis 2 is adding further detail to the order of creation presented in Genesis 1 in which mankind is created last; it presents the woman as formed last of all, the pinnacle of God’s beautiful creation.
  • Therefore it is implied that the woman was originally intended to be the strong leader of the man.
  • This understanding also sheds light on Genesis 3:16; in the Fall, woman misuses her leadership; therefore it is taken away from her and given to the man instead.

But no-one would be convinced. The argument would not persuade anyone who did not have a prior commitment to women’s leadership of men.”
(pages 83-84, bold added)

Wow. Brilliant. And funny too! It really brought the point home. And to clarify, the above bullet points are NOT to be taken seriously!! Rather, Bartlett is demonstrating how baseless the complementarian arguments are by using their same approach but in order to see female rule in Genesis 1 and 2.

God did not intend for there to be either patriarchy (male rule) or matriarchy (female rule) but that man and woman together would have dominion over the earth. There was to be joint or shared authority as they co-ruled the earth as God’s representatives. Of course, then Genesis 3 happened, but we should not be modeling our male and female relationships on the curse! The theme of Scripture is the redemption of humankind and the reversal of the effects of the Fall through the work of Jesus Christ. The church and Christian marriage should be a model of the new order of things in Christ, as men and women live and serve in partnership – as it was meant to be in Genesis 1 and 2.

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