Having recently released “How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy,” I have been waiting for significant engagement from a church that might be helped by my book. Finally it has come—I thank Luke Hulley lead elder of a Josh Gen church for responding to my book in a 7000+ word critique.
Some of my favourite people in the world are in Josh Gen, or are pastors of various Josh Gen churches. According to some of these people, Luke Hulley is arguably its leading theologian.
In my book I claim that, no doubt, a book that is close on 400 pages, has flaws in places. As such, I appreciate the help he gives me in spotting these flaws.
Since he represents a large group of churches around the world, I take the opportunity to respond to his response. His critique is here— https://rb.gy/ub7vvl —however, save yourself the time: in this response I quote Luke Hulley’s ENTIRE TEXT a piece at a time, and make comments in italics after each piece. You will miss nothing of what he says.
For brevity sake, I will refer to Luke Hulley as LH.
The most important features of my response are 1) he has severely misread my reasoning, and therefore severely misrepresents it, 2) he repeats some weak and well-worn arguments in favour of complementarianism, which I used to put forward myself until I studied the Scripture more closely, 3) he fails to engage with my exegesis of the most critical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12 as well as the presence of female leaders and teachers in Scripture, especially the New Testament, 4) as far as I can tell from what he says in the review, he appears to have read only about two fifths of the main body of the book and none of the footnotes or appendices.
Over to Luke Hulley:
Terran Williams shares a similar church background to me. We have both spent a very long time within a partnership of churches that were very closely aligned in culture and theology. Because of this shared background, I suppose I was expecting a certain mode of engaging with theology and Scripture that is typically Evangelical. But his book How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy is very different in its style and approach. The book adopts the style of a new kind of theological methodology, a new kind of ‘Evangelicalism’. It is a sociological critique wrapped in theology.
My biggest critique of How God Sees Women is that the main thrust of the argument for Egalitarianism and against Complementarianism is not founded upon Scripture. His argument is mostly Sociological and not Theological. He aims to make the case using sociological critique that Patriarchy is evil and that, for Christians, there are alternative ways of interpreting Scripture that will allow them to dispense with Patriarchy. But this is very different from formulating doctrine from Scripture using responsible exegesis.
My response: LH radically misreads my book. I start with my personal history and with church history, in order to describe the situation in which the church now finds itself, before turning to Biblical exegesis in later chapters.
Casting my book as some kind of “new” evangelicalism is strange. LH seems to misunderstand evangelicalism. Is there a reputable evangelical theological college in the world that doesn’t include 1) systematic, 2) textual, 3) biblical, 4) historical and 5) practical theology?
Historical theology emphasises the historical contexts within which theology is formulated, and practical theology emphasises the present context in which theology is articulated and applied. This book is not some kind of “new” evangelicalism, at all. What might be new to LH is that this book—though emphatically a study of Scripture—interweaves all of these theological disciplines.
Cynthia Westfall, research professor at McMaster Divinity College in Canada, understands my book accurately: “Terran Williams takes us with him on a journey with a narrative of his theological, exegetical, communal and personal transformation that provides keen observation, insight and caution. His narrative is particularly helpful because it shows the process of his critique and integration of extensive research together with an uncompromising commitment to the authority of Scripture. However, his conversational and engaging approach makes complex research and interpretation accessible.”
In other words, LH’s “biggest critique” of my book is based on his misunderstanding of what I wrote.
Back to Luke Hulley:
The Methodological Approach Used in the Book.
Terran Williams’ central argument is that throughout Church history, the Church has believed the lie that women are inferior to men and therefore they are not competent to lead. After the advent of the Women’s Liberation Movement (feminism), the Church was forced to reconsider its assumptions about the inferiority of women and it discovered that the feminists were right! He argues that because neither God nor the Scriptures teach us to view women as inferior in any way, the original premise for the subordination of women has also been removed. So there is no longer any justifiable reason for the ongoing ‘suppression’ of women, ie. Patriarchy.
The first three chapters of the book are painful to read as he goes through a historical survey of all the abusive, misogynistic opinions of leaders within the Church throughout the ages. It grieves the soul to read story after story of women being devalued and degraded and treated as less-than-human, as though they were in some way the more sinful of the two sexes. His condemnation of these misogynistic attitudes throughout history is 100% valid and we can all utter our hearty – Amen!
There is, however, a ‘straw-man’ argument being made here. Patriarchy and misogyny are not the same thing. We can all condemn misogyny in the strongest terms (and we should!), but that does not spell the end of patriarchy because the Complementarian view of gender relations is not founded upon the lie that women are somehow inferior. The Bible teaches both that women are equal with men and that leadership should be male.
“Patriarchy” has become a dirty word, but we need to redeem it as Christians because it is a Bible word. In fact, the very God whom we love and worship is revealed as our Heavenly Father. That makes God our patriarch because ‘patriarch’ is defined as: the rule of the father.
My response: LH falsely claims that I confuse misogyny with patriarchy—I never do. Because I am aware that some complementarians like LH accuse fellow believers of using “patriarchy” as “a dirty word”, I am careful in chapter 1 to define exactly what I mean by it: “the assumption that in whatever sphere is being referred to – be it home, church, or society – men are mandated to have the highest authority. … I do not mean that men are always oppressors, or that their masculinity is inevitably toxic.” It is unfortunate that LH missed this clear statement.
He also misrepresents my “central argument”—that the church through most of history based its subordination of women on its belief in the essential inferiority of women is not an argument. That’s not my argument; it’s a fact of history.
Rather, my two central arguments are that 1) the Scriptures, properly read, elevate women to equal dignity and contribution with men; 2) complementarianism, since the latter part of the last century, has wrongly devised a way of reading the Bible to hold together the purported equality of women with their permanent subordination to men.
I appreciate LH’s bravery in candidly admitting that complementarianism is patriarchal. Owing to George Knight’s novel phrase “equal but different roles” and John Piper’s selection of the word “complementarianism,” few complementarians even realize they believe in patriarchy.
The Oxford Dictionary defines patriarchy as any social organization that gives predominant power to men. I am very careful to honour the Christian men who believe in benevolent patriarchy—I did for 20 years. This is the working definition in my book—not “rule of the father.”
I am guessing that LH may not have read my Appendix “Is God Male?” else he would be more nuanced in his using the accommodated self-revelation of God as an argument for male leadership.
Back to Luke Hulley:
As you begin reading the book, you stumble across a curious ‘trigger warning’ on page 22 which I think hints at the ‘new kind of Evangelicalism’ I referred to earlier: “By using the terms male and female, I echo Lucy Peppiatt who, in the introduction to her excellent book, says, ‘I am aware that by constantly referring to male and female as made in God’s image… this language excludes those who see themselves as neither male nor female. … [T]his book is dealing with a very specific situation in which expectations of differences in forms of ministry and roles in heterosexual marriage for men and women are rooted in assumptions about differences in sex and gender between male and female. Thus, I will continue to use this language, despite its limitations, to address this particular situation.’” (pg.22)
This kind of language regarding gender is very familiar to the modern world of the Social Sciences. The person reading this book who is not very familiar with the modern Sociological discussion on sex and gender is going to find it a difficult read.
My response: LH, I gratefully receive your correction. It was unwise of me to include this quote without clearer language around it. For the record, I was aware that many non-Christians who take an interest in Christianity’s poor historical treatment of women, would be reading my book, so I hoped to clarify why I mention nowhere at all the current societal idea of umpteen genders—this self-standing paragraph was meant to be my way of saying, “I am not even going there.” I did not want to get into the complexities which arise from the presence of rare intersex conditions in some people. In the book, I provide the strongest biblical arguments for a diphormic vision of the sexes—God made two and only two sexes. However, this paragraph arouses needless suspicion about my understanding of the biblical teaching, so I will remove it in the next edition.
Back to Luke Hulley:
If you are eager to find out how Williams engages with the Scriptures on the question of ‘How does God see women?’, you will need to first get through about 60 pages (the first three chapters of the book) of sociological critique. On page 52 he asks this question regarding Complementarianism: “Still, if it is a flawed position, why has it experienced such ascendency, nonetheless?” Notice the assumption: ‘if it is a flawed position’. The basis of this assumption is not Scripture (he has not gotten to his exegesis yet), the basis of the question is the detailed survey he has given of the misogynistic viewpoints of church leaders throughout the ages.
My response: LH misreads these opening chapters. The phrase “if it is a flawed position”, refers to the conclusion that I reached from my personal re-examination of Scripture (the substance of which comes later in the book).
I explain why I write these opening chapters upfront: “Though we will chiefly study Scripture throughout this book, in this and the next chapter, I want to explore the situation in which we find ourselves. Knowing where we went wrong in church history, long ago and recently, by unwisely embracing patriarchy as “God’s good design,” is both fascinating and frightening. … The reason I must labour this point is to highlight that complementarianism, with its teaching of “equal but different roles” is every bit as much a departure from the historical position of the church as male-female mutualism is. Both positions did not exist just 60 years ago!”
Back to Luke Hulley:
Although the Bible does clearly teach male headship, it gives absolutely no warrant for misogyny. Misogyny is a demonic, sinful attitude that has no place in God’s Kingdom.
It was God’s design to institute leadership within all spheres of society: family, church, work and government, and these were given for our good. Without good leadership, there will be an inevitable decay within all of these spheres. Male leadership is not premised upon the lie that women are inferior to men, it is premised upon God’s choice and God’s design.
My response: LH seems to miss my point that for most of church history women could not lead precisely because they were seen as inferior—by which I mean “unstable, weak, prone to deception, unintelligent.” And no, the Bible does NOT ”clearly teach male headship.” (by which he means “male authority”). I write the book to make this point.
I thank LH for his honesty. Many complementarians strangely limit their belief in male leadership to the church and the home; but LH seems to acknowledge this is inconsistent. If male leadership is as he says “part of God’s design” (by which he seems to mean “part of creation”, as he will soon enough show in his reading of Genesis 2 and 3) then it would follow that it is also wrong for women to lead men in work and government.
Back to Luke Hulley:
Engaging With the Scriptures on the Issue of Women and Leadership.
Before Williams turns to look at the Scriptures he says, “from the mid-1960s to the late 1980s, there had been a healthy and open debate in which both sides argued about the most likely interpretation of the few disputed texts.” (pg. 65)
Ironically, it is the hefty amount of time and deliberation it requires from Williams to systematically reinterpret the avalanche of Scriptural data seeming to say the exact opposite of the argument that he is making which demonstrates how much the Bible actually has to say on this topic.
My response: Outside of Genesis 2–3, I count 7 or 8 passages that can be (mis)read to universalize female subordination. Hardly “an avalanche.” Since I take the Bible so seriously, I deal with them in part 2 of my 4-part book. They are only a fraction of what the Bible teaches about women—something few complementarians who are so rehearsed in their readings of these passages seem to realize. However, I appreciate LH’s admission that the Scriptural data “seems” to say the opposite of what the rest of the Bible teaches. That’s the point—if you read 1 Corinthians 11 or 1 Timothy in Wayne Grudem’s ESV translation, for example, and not in the light of the rest of Scripture on the topic, you can easily misunderstand those passages.
Back to Luke Hulley:
The Analogy for Marriage Drawn from the Trinity.
Williams tells the story of when he was still actively involved in the leadership of a church that held to a Complementarian view of leadership, both he and his wife found the analogy of the trinity to be a compelling model for the marriage dynamic. From the relationship of the three persons within the trinity, we can affirm both their equality in value as persons and the differentiation of their roles within the God-head. This seems to be a rather powerful analogy for the marriage dynamic: As Christ is equal with the Father in every way and yet subordinated to Him in authority, the wife is in no way inferior to her husband but yet is subordinated to his authority.
But Williams then goes on to try to refute this idea with the following words: “the analogy is fatally flawed. Nowhere does Scripture teach us to model our submission to any human (whether to pastor, king, spouse, or parent) on Jesus’ submission to the Father.” (pg. 59)
But this is simply not true. In 1 Corinthians 11, which is dealing specifically with the topic of gender dynamics within marriage and church, Paul says, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)
There is a very clear reference to a chain of authority within God’s Kingdom. Within that chain, a woman’s submission to her husband is synonymous with Christ’s submission to God. And note the use of the present tense, ‘the head of Christ is God’. This was not a temporary arrangement while Christ was on earth, He continues to live out His relationship with the Father in submission to His authority.
My response: LH seems not to have read thoroughly my dealing with this subject—which I revisit in chapters 3, 6 and 8. He takes his lead from Wayne Grudem who through his systematic theology publicized the argument that the Son’s present subordination is the perfect example of a wife’s subordination—equal in worth, but permanently under authority. Yes, the Son is economically distinguished from the Father. Some argue that he is also eternally generated by the Father. But there are less and less complementarian theologians in the US who still believe in the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father, for it so many complementarian scholars have shown it to be a heterodox teaching, contrary to Councils of the early church, too close to Arianism’s treatment of the Son as less than the Father to be accepted. This has left complementarianism in crisis—it has become evident that Grudem and company literally revised the doctrine of the Trinity to support the subordination of women. Even the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and the Gospel Coalition have now distanced themselves from the argument. Here’s a nice intro intreview with scholars on the subject: www.bit.ly/3NAwXiI
If I can be honest, I don’t know if I am more concerned about LH’s subordinating of women, or of Jesus. The latter may be more serious.
LH is wrong to read 1 Corinthians 11:3 as a “very clear” reference to “a chain of authority within God’s kingdom.” In chapter 6 I make the argument that “head” —even if the Greek word “kephale” can plausibly mean authority in other passages—in this passage does not mean “authority over” here. By the way, this is now something of an academic consensus. One only has to read the most trusted and respected commentaries on 1 Corinthians (found on the “best commentaries” website) and find that Grudem’s arguments that it means “authority over” have been rejected. You could also take a look at Andrew Bartlett’s book: Men and Women in Christ: Fresh Light from the Biblical Texts (IVP, 2019). In chapter 7 he lists eight reasons why the hierarchical interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 cannot be correct. Seven of them arise directly from examining Paul’s chain of reasoning in the text of the passage. Or, perhaps watch this video lecture by Cynthia Westfall, a leading biblical scholar on Paul and Gender: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbV4vHu5xSY
Getting “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3 wrong is a very serious error, not only because it misrepresents the Triune relationships. But also because it subordinates all women to all men. How else are we meant to understand (as per LH’s reading): “Man is the head [which LH reads as “the authority”] of woman”? (Remember that almost all scholars say man refers to men in general, and woman to women in general.)
Back to Luke Hulley:
What is clear about Williams’ conception of submission is that he cannot conceive of any kind of ‘equality’ between men and women within marriage or within the church in which women are excluded from leadership. For him, this is the exact opposite of justice and fairness. But if it is true that Christ is fully equal with the Father and yet also subordinate to Him then Williams’ conception of what equality can look like must be wrong.
My response: LH puts words in my mouth—while strangely claiming that this is my “clear” conception. If my book is read more carefully, what I do clearly conceive is that Grudem resurrected the ancient heterodox teaching about the eternal subordination of the Son (notice how emphatically LH repeats his heterodox belief that the Son is presently subordinate to the Father). However, Grudem’s misconception of the Trinity has imploded, and so has the analogy that tries to explain why a wife is permanently subordinate to her husband based on inherent characteristics at birth alone.
LH seems to hold on to this analogy, however, because all other analogies fail: for example, one might say that a church member subordinates to a church pastor who is his equal in Christ. But that’s because the character-filled pastor has been uniquely called and gifted by God—but there is the possibility at least that the pastor may one day step down and the church member, perhaps also gifted and called, could serve as pastor. Outside of LH’s permanent chromosomal subordination of women to men, the two other examples we have of this in the world are the Hindu Caste System and Apartheid, where chromosomes (not competency or character) determined who may and may not lead.
Back to Luke Hulley:
According to William’s thinking, if women are excluded from the highest forms of authority, they will never be able to fulfil their highest potential. He believes that in order for any person to fully realise their potential in society they must have the opportunity to ascend to the highest echelons of power and authority. Therefore, it is those with the highest authority in society that are able to fulfil their highest potential.
My response: LH puts words in my mouth—no where do I concern myself with human potentiality. I don’t believe any of the things he claims in these paragraphs. He misrepresents me, then attacks his own misrepresentation. I do, however concern myself with the church’s potential when I write, “When a church determines that no woman shall lead or preach, it bleeds some of its redemptive potential out. Thankfully God continues to work in it (for he has never had a perfect church). But if a church (or movement of churches) is not to forfeit some of the supply of the Spirit, it must get rid of old wineskins that focus on a hierarchy of governance or that base leadership and teaching on gender.”
Back to Luke Hulley:
The problem with this way of thinking is that Scripture teaches us the exact opposite. The consistent message (and warning) of Scripture is that we must be faithful to glorify God with our good deeds in whatever station God has put us in and to work at it as unto the Lord. The most extreme example of this is perhaps in Ephesians 6:
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear and sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. And do this not only to please them while they are watching, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve with good will, as to the Lord and not to men, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” (Ephesians 6:5-8)
Slaves were often born into their low station in life, but they are taught here that God is a rewarder of the good that we do, regardless of whether we are powerful or powerless. The rich and the powerful in this life receive the most warnings in Scripture because of the grave danger that their power might corrupt them and cause them to forfeit eternal life.
Our calling is to be a light in the world, and that light is shone through our good deeds and our proclamation of the Gospel. There is no limitation put on our potential to shine by our level of authority. God has designed that women would fulfil a role and function in society that does not require them to be the highest authority.
My response: Having chatted to a friend in Josh Gen, I know that this is not the first time the church has used slavery passages to encourage women in the church to accept their “station” of permanent subordination to husbands and male-only elders. Thoughtful complementarians, however, usually create distance between the “slaves, obey” and the “wives, submit” texts. Since the fall of slavery first in Britain then in the US, the Western church has repented of its prior way of mostly misreading these texts as if slavery is a God-ordained institution. In my chapter 9, which somehow invites not a single comment from LH, I show that the “slaves, obey” texts run parallel, in every case, to the “wives, submit” texts, thereby showing their equivalence. This way, Paul and Peter guide the recipients of the letters in Greco-Roman social structures, so different from our own, where slavery and patriarchy were upheld by law and custom. Though these texts do not overtly overthrow these structures, they show God’s and the apostles’ readiness to accommodate to such social structures in a missional context. These passages, however, neither idealise nor universally endorse these social structures.
Paul showed people how to live in a Christlike way in the structures which they were in. But at the same time he also undermined the unjust structures. He instructed slave-owners to serve their slaves wholeheartedly (Eph 6:7-9) and to treat them as brothers (Philem 16). Likewise, he instructed husbands to climb down from the high pedestal on which Greco-Roman society placed them and to serve their wives in lowly self-sacrificial service (Eph 5:25-29). But, as the next paragraph shows, LH wants to maintain a structure which keeps women under men.
Back to Luke Hulley:
Furthermore, the consistent pattern and warning from Scripture is that those who ‘grasp higher’ than the station that God has assigned to them are actually falling victim to a spirit that is completely contrary to the Spirit of Christ. Satan and his angels grasped higher (Jude 1:6) and were judged, Adam and Eve grasped higher because they wanted to ‘become like God’ (Genesis 3:5) and were also judged for it.
My response: LH, unwittingly no doubt, strikes terror into the heart of every godly Christian woman who may wonder why only men lead and why they are permanently subordinate to their husbands. To even interrogate LH’s teaching on this matter is (supposedly) to inch closer to Satan’s ways. This is one of the reasons it is so difficult for a woman to get out of complementarian theology—once one accepts its interpretations, one accepts its inbuilt gaslighting feature—”The reason you even struggle with this teaching is that you’re being tempted by Satan.”
Both biblical examples cited refer to angels/people who seek to become like God as opposed to being under God. It might be pushing it to use this passage to refer to wives, unless of course wives and women are meant to think of their husbands or pastors as a god.
LH’s arguments seem resonant with the larger teachings of his church. I have a friend who had to spend considerable care and time coaching some very discouraged women in a Cape Town township who are on pastoral leadership teams of their churches. They were excited to have been invited to a Four12 conference, and to their shock, one of the main leaders of the movement from the stage rebuked all female pastors for being like Jezebel, rising up to an authority that only men should aspire to. Despite all the welcome talk of “setting people free” in Josh Gen, I know of no other complementarian church that (mis)handles Scripture to so confidently restrain what may be a God-given desire in a woman to lead or teach. If Romans 12:6-8 says that God graces some to lead and teach, then we may expect that a sign of that grace is a desire to do so. It so happens that each of those women had their own spiritual experience, comparable to that of a Josh Gen pastor, in which they say God called them to lay down their lives in the pastoral service of whatever church they are part of. To confidently attribute their desire and calling to Satan’s temptation is something akin to the Pharisees who deemed the work of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry as the work of Satan.
Back to Luke Hulley:
God’s Design for Marriage Revealed in the Genesis Account. A key component in Williams’ Scriptural argument for the eradication of patriarchy is his contention that male headship was not God’s original design, it was a result of the Fall. Therefore, because Jesus has removed the curse of the Fall, male headship has also been done away with. Ironically, I 100% agree with him when he says, “the question is whether we should challenge the complementarian statement that male-female authority-submission is part of pre-fallen creation. If it is, then it should be commended to all people, and especially commanded to God’s people.” (pg 68)
Essentially what he is saying here is that if it can be shown that Adam’s headship in relation to Eve was part of God’s good design pre-fall, then that is the end of the argument. So let us take a look at each argument that is made from Genesis for male headship and evaluate Williams’ rebuttal of these arguments in turn.
1. ADAM WAS MADE FIRST, THEN EVE. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve;” (1 Timothy 2:12-13)
The first argument that is made for male headship is a reference to the fact that Adam was made first. This argument rings hollow in our modern, Western culture because we don’t attribute much weight to the status of the first-born son. In the Biblical context, however, there is immense weight to the authority and responsibility of the first-born son. It is a principle referred to in theology as primogeniture. Although it is a concept that may be foreign to our culture, it is a crucial concept to understand if we are to properly understand the Scriptures. For example, there is immense weight attributed to Christ as “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) When you read this passage you realise the significance of his status as first-born and how that gives him a unique authority.
So in the passage quoted in Timothy, Paul is directly and unequivocally invoking this principle to justify the authority that men carry, ‘For Adam was formed first’. So how does Williams respond to this? He begins by saying, “for now, let me say that it is not entirely clear what point Paul is making [in 1 Tim 2:13]” (pg. 71)
He then goes on to say that this does not demonstrate Adam’s authority over her by virtue of primogeniture. He says that Adam was created first, “to demonstrate to Adam how desperately alone, incomplete and inadequate he is without Eve”. (pg.71)
When I read this rebuttal, I’ll be honest, I was very disappointed. I will let you as the reader evaluate the strength of this response. For my own part, I can’t conceive how it is possible to so easily dismiss Paul’s own rationale that Adam’s ‘first-born’ status somehow endows him with unique authority.
If Williams disagrees with the principle of primogeniture or thinks it is somehow unfair, he is entitled to that opinion, but to disregard that this is what Paul is invoking here seems to me to not take Paul’s words on their own merit.
My response: I find it fascinating that LH immediately goes to his (mis)interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12–13 (based on Grudem’s ESV (mis)translation of verse 12) to interpret the significance of Adam being created first. Since both the translation and the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:12-13 are matters of great dispute, shouldn’t we first analyze Genesis 2 itself?
In chapter 7, I deal thoroughly with 1 Timothy 2:13–14 and evaluate several interpretations of verses 13–14 and show that the complementarian ones are erroneous. LH does not engage any of this, however. Even if verse 13 does say what LH thinks it says (which it doesn’t), Douglas Moo in his study of how prominently the Old Testament featured in the lives and cultural milieu of the New Testament authors, shows how they feel no pressure at all to provide a “correct” interpretation of the Old Testament text, and may use it as an ad hoc argument, a vehicle of expression, to make whatever point they are trying to make.” (Source: D.A. Carson (ed) Hermeneutics, Authority and Canon, p. 188)
I am sorry to “disappoint” LH but the teaching of Genesis 2 is precisely how God provides a complement to Adam with whom he unites as “one flesh.” This is evident, for example, in the punch line of Genesis 2 in which, in verse 24, the author interprets the Genesis 2 narrative for us: “This is why the husband will … be united to his wife.” To be honest, when I realized this, I could not believe I had not seen it before—and I saw my wife in a new way once I realized it.
(Richard Davidson, writes Flame of Yahweh, which may be the most magisterial study of gender and sexuality by a conservative scholar and concludes about Genesis 2 that, “The man’s creation at the beginning of the narrative and the woman’s creation at the end of the narrative counterbalance each other perfectly. The narrator uses the exact same number of words (in Hebrew) for the description of the creation of the man as for the creation of woman. The movement in Genesis 2 is not from superior to inferior, or from leadership to submission, but from incompleteness to completeness. Woman is created as the climax, the culmination of the story, and as Adam’s full equal.”
I also find it fascinating that LH’s entire argument from Genesis 2 is that we need to read it through the lens of his alleged “theology of primogeniture.” But this argument, first conceived, if I recall, by James Hurley in his 1981 book (p. 207) is weak. It’s true that the eldest son in a family would inherit twice the amount of the estate received by his brothers, and would assume leadership of the family. And it’s true that Jesus is “the firstborn”—but, contrary to Jehovah’s Witness teaching, this does not refer to his first creation. Rather it draws an analogy from a family dynasty in which the first son inherits the throne. Adam was not a first born – in the Genesis story, he was made from earth. In Scripture, he is never referred to as first born, even though Christ is so described and Adam and Christ are sometimes compared. Neither Genesis 2 nor 1 Tim 2:13 contains any reference to primogeniture. Primogeniture is NOT the reason the text gives for Eve’s delayed arrival. The reason given is to show the man that it is “not good for (him) to be alone” (v18). Besides, linking the rights of the firstborn to creation order as a means to establish authority is a principle taught nowhere in Scripture. She is his wife, not his sibling—at no time in Scripture was primogeniture applied to the relationship of husbands and wives. And there is no book in the Bible that overturns primogeniture as God’s preferred way as much as the book of Genesis, in which the lastborn is specially chosen by God. None of this is my “opinion”—unlike LH, I am attending very closely to the Genesis 2 text itself.
Back to Luke Hulley:
2. WOMAN WAS MADE ‘FROM MAN’ AND ‘FOR MAN.’ In 1 Corinthians 11, the context again dealing with gender roles within the marriage and church, Paul says, “Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason a woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (1 Corinthians 11:9 -10)
It is earlier in the same passage where Paul says the above-referenced passage, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) Paul is referencing the creation passage once again to justify male leadership. I’m not sure what more to say about this, to me it seems self-evident what point he is trying to make and how he is justifying it. Again, I will let you as the reader be the judge of what point he is making.
Williams’ responds by saying, “he is not arguing for the subordination of men to women [sic]. Rather he argues for the interdependence of the genders” (pg. 72) He references vs 11 as justification, “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” (1 Corinthians 11:11)
I would agree with Williams that in vs 11, Paul is giving a reminder that the genders are interdependent. But this certainly does not undermine the point that he has just made about authority. Paul is bringing a necessary qualification, to say that although the man may carry authority, the genders are interdependent. This is not an either/or, it is a both/and.
Paul is bringing a necessary qualification … although the man may carry authority, the genders are interdependent. This is not an either/or, it is a both/and.
My response: LH’s response continues to fascinate me. He doesn’t deal with the Genesis 2 text. Instead he leans on his misinterpretation of 1 Corinthians 11. He also doesn’t show signs of having read my chapter 6, in which I make the case that 1 Corinthians 11 is not at all about “gender roles within the marriage and church” but about appropriate headgear or hairstyles for women to wear in the worship, prayer and prophecy—activities that men and women do. Unfortunately, LH follows the example of Wayne Grudem who claims the opposite—his ESV translation, claiming to be literal, adds in words to LH’s primary prooftext (which he will use twice more in his review): “For this reason a woman ought to have A SIGN OF authority on her head, because of the angels.”
It suits complementarians to argue that her head covering is a symbol of men’s or perhaps her husband’s “authority” (Greek: exousia) over her. But Paul never said that. Though biblical scholars debate various aspects of this verse, the crucial one we need to ask is who has the “authority” that Paul speaks of here? If she merely has “a symbol of authority,” which Paul does not say, then it means that men in general, or perhaps specific men, have authority over her. But the Greek simply states that the woman herself “ought to have authority.” This is the exact opposite of what the ESV translation says! Bible scholar Philip Payne surveys the 103 uses of the word exousia (authority) in the New Testament, including its nine usages in 1 Corinthians, and deems that in every instance, it refers to the authority one possesses one’s self. (1) In fact, no-one has found any other example, whether in the Bible or in the whole of ancient Greek literature, in which a phrase about a person having authority (exousia) is used in a reversed sense of being in subjection to an authority rather than being the possessor of the authority. Paul’s essential point is that if God in creation has given Eve and her daughters some kind of authority, it is not for any men (or Bible translators) to take it from her. She should herself make the right decision about her hairstyle or head covering.
Herein lies the biggest weakness in the complementarian reading of 1 Corinthians 11: the only place in the passage that actually mentions any kind of authority speaks of the woman’s own authority, not the man’s authority over her. True, her authority has something to do with her head covering, but the point that seems to be stressed is her prerogative to wear it in the first place. If complementarians’ hierarchical reading of 1 Corinthians 11:3 is correct, why is there no mention in vv 4-16 of God’s authority over Christ or of Christ’s authority over man? Their interpretation makes v3 largely irrelevant to Paul’s argument.
Paul provides two reasons why the woman should exercise her authority. The first, signaled by the words at the beginning of verse 10 (“for this reason”), point us back to verses 8 and 9 in which she, the pinnacle of creation, comes alongside Adam as his partner, and so should not shame him. But her status is Paul’s point—surely, the one who is the high point of creation can stand on her own two feet? The second is “because of the angels.” What does that mean? Scholars have offered many suggestions. There are two that are most compelling to me: it is either a reference to the angels who were present in creation (who were there when Eve arrived in all her glory) or, perhaps more plausibly, it relates to Paul’s earlier statement in the same letter pertaining to angels, a section in which he says that the saints will one day judge angels. If we accept the latter suggestion, then it makes perfect sense for women to take charge of their own attire—Eve and her daughters are royals who, alongside men, will one day rule the entire cosmos.
Back to Luke Hulley:
3. YOU SHALL BE CALLED ‘WOMAN’ ‘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.”’ (Genesis 2:23) The third argument from the Genesis account is that, just as God’s naming of creation (e.g. naming the sky – ‘sky’ in 1:8) demonstrated His authority over His creation, and Adam’s naming of the animals demonstrated his authority over them, Adam’s naming of Eve demonstrates his authority over her. Williams’ response to this argument is that “the naming itself is not a function of authority as much as it is a function of the recognition about the thing, person or species itself. In ancient language, names were descriptions of the thing, or person, or species being named.” (pg. 73)
Again, I would agree that names were often descriptive, and sometimes even prophetic regarding the person or thing being named. But this does not in any way take away from the implication of authority that is given to the person doing the naming. Again, Williams has made this an ‘either/or’ issue and seems to neglect what seems quite obviously implied about authority in the narrative.
My response: In Genesis 2, when the man calls her “woman” he is not exercising authority over her. Rather, he is recognising that she, unlike the animals, is someone like himself, a companion fitting for himself. Her equality, not her submission, is emphasized by the similarity in the nouns “is” (Hebrew: אִישׁ) and “issa” (Hebrew: אִשָׁה)
Saying, “You will be called “issa” because you are taken out of “is”,” implies, “You are the one like me and you complete me.” This is hardly the same as saying, “I am in charge of you.” That he calls her something so similar to his own name is not meant to communicate his authority over her. It is a device of the story itself.
It is extremely unlikely that we are meant to notice a chain of command between male and female in this passage, especially at the very point that Adam is rapturous—after going through the long circus parade of animals, he has now finally found the one who is his equal, one like him, one who completes him.
Besides, very few translators even take the word “woman” to be a proper name in the first place. Rather it is a common noun that all ancient readers knew, a simple designation of female gender. It is only in Genesis 3:20 that Adam “named” (Hebrew: vaiyokra) his wife Eve. That this naming happens after the fall means that we cannot conclude anything from it about the ordering of relationships before the fall.
Even if we do take “woman” to be Adam’s naming of her (and I don’t think we should); naming in antiquity was a way of memorialising an event or capturing a distinctive attribute. It was not necessarily an act of control or power. For example, just 13 chapters later, Hagar, a servant girl, gives God a name as she discovers something about him. She certainly is not in authority over God.
The very next verse (v 24) starts with “Therefore” or “That is why”. It is telling the reader what to get from v23: the one-flesh unity of husband and wife. If there is authority here, over the one flesh, it cuts both ways, as Paul seems to have in mind in 1 Corinthians 7:4 (ESV), after having just quoted Genesis 2:24 in 1 Corinthians 6:16: “the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” This is in direct conflict with LH’s patriarchal interpretation.
Back to Luke Hulley:
4. WHY DOES GOD CONFRONT ADAM AFTER THE FALL AND HOLD HIM RESPONSIBLE? “But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
After Adam and Eve disobey God’s command, God comes and confronts them about their sin. Although their disobedience affected all parties through the curses that were spoken thereafter, God calls holds [sic] Adam uniquely responsible for their disobedience.
Williams responds: “The answer might come in appreciating a literary device the narrator masterfully uses throughout the garden narrative: God only talks to Adam, Eve and Satan one at a time.” (pg. 75)
He is explaining that God called Adam out first simply because he speaks to each individual one at a time. He denies that Adam was in any way held more responsible than Eve by virtue of his responsibility as the leader. But this response will simply not do, for several reasons. When God calls Adam out, this is what he says, “But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (Genesis 3:9-11)
God is holding him to account for a commandment that He had previously given him. Let’s read the original encounter, ‘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 2:15-17)
What is significant to take note of is that when God gave the original command, Eve had not been created yet. It was therefore God’s expectation that after Eve was given to Adam as his wife, Adam would faithfully relay to her both what God had commanded and the significance of breaking the command.
So it is no surprise then that when they break the commandment, God calls Adam to account first. It is also significant to note that before God cursed Adam he said this, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’” (Genesis 3:17)
Whereas Adam was supposed to lead his wife and remind her of what God had said, he neglected his responsibility and instead was found guilty of listening to his wife – it was a direct role reversal.
We also learn in Romans that through Adam, as our federal head, all of mankind was affected by sin, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19)
Not only was Adam the head of his immediate family, he was also the father of the whole human race and so his actions affected us all. The good news is that Jesus is the new Adam, and by faith in him “the many will be made righteous”.
My response: LH makes four separate arguments to read hierarchy into the garden. Each of them show the complementarian tendency to read into a narrative text what is not explicitly there.
LH claims that God expected Adam to relay to Eve the commands. But this is pure inference. The text does not say explicitly how Eve learned the command, whether from God or from Adam. Moreover, it does not need to, because the author plays with the ambiguity of ‘Adam’ as an individual and ‘Adam’ as meaning ‘Humanity’. The command was given to humanity (Adam) in 2:16-17. Compare the balancing text at the end of the story in 3:22-24, where only “Adam” is driven out of the garden, but the meaning is that Humanity is driven out.
LH also claims that God says, “Where are you?” to Adam because Adam is the leader. But God, does not say, “What have you done!” but “Where are you?” In the second and third chapters of Genesis, the writer presents God anthropomorphically. God walks in the garden. He makes Adam with his hands. And here he is seemingly curious about why he can’t find them. Of course, theologically we can assert that God is transcendent and knows all things, but in this account, God’s capacity for genuine relationship with us is highlighted, and this requires that he asks questions with the ability to be inquisitive. In fact, upon Adam’s answer, he follows up with another two questions: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” (v11) His fact-finding mission continues as he asks Eve a question (v13). The question remains: why does God speak first to Adam and to Adam alone? The answer might come in appreciating a literary device the narrator masterfully uses throughout the garden narrative: God only talks to Adam, Eve and Satan one at a time. Had he called both Adam and Eve, it would disrupt the pattern. Not only that, there is a specific order to all these interactions in Genesis 3: the snake speaks to and corrupts the woman who speaks to and corrupts the man. In turn God addresses the man who blames the woman, then the woman who blames the snake. Finally, God pronounces judgment on the snake, then on the woman, and, lastly, on the man. Notice the order: snake, woman, man; man, woman, snake; and snake, woman, man. Had God spoken to the woman first, the intended literary flow would have been undermined. Besides, if Adam really was the most responsible because he was in charge, God would surely have meted out his judgment on Adam first and foremost—which he does not.
LH’s third claim is that Adam’s prior sin to the sin of eating the fruit is that instead of teaching and leading his wife, he let his wife lead him—a role reversal. I wonder if LH knows that George Knight, the true founder of what would become complementarianism, invented this reading in 1977? The problem with this view is that nothing in Genesis 3 suggests that the nature of Eve’s deception was in any way connected to her stepping out of rank and undermining “God’s ordained pattern.” Rather, it shows how Eve was deceived into distrusting God’s goodness and thus disobeyed God’s command. Even Wayne Grudem rejects the role reversal interpretation as not justified by the text (Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, pp69-70).
In Genesis 3, the nature of Satan’s temptation was not to subvert Adam’s authority over Eve, but to subvert God’s authority over her. And both Eve and Adam are then punished for the same sin: which is never stated as being about “stepping out from Adam’s authority,” or “abdicating leadership of Eve,” but for “eating the fruit.” Yes, Adam “listened to [his] wife” but the sin was not the act of listening to her (something all husbands should do) but of accepting her sinful suggestion to eat the fruit even though he knew that it was wrong. The only role reversal we find in Genesis 3 is Eve’s attempt to climb upon God’s throne and be her own god.
Fourth, LH implies that Adam’s federal representation of the human race shows that he was more responsible for sin. Why 1 Corinthians 15 and Romans 5 attribute sin only to Adam has long perplexed theologians, who have suggested many theories. I cover several theories in my book, but one that I find compelling is that Adam, not Eve, was the prototype human, who first existed, and thus he carried a special ability to represent all humanity. Whichever theory is accepted, Paul’s emphasis is on Adam not as the authoritative leader of Eve and the rest of humanity, but as the representative front-runner of a fallen humanity. ‘Adam’ means ‘Humanity’. Therefore ‘Adam’ represents ‘Humanity’. But representation has no particular connection with authoritative leadership. An ambassador represents a government or a nation, but that does not mean that the ambassador has authority over the government or over the nation. For example, when David the teenager fought against Goliath, he was not yet the governmental leader of the Israelites, Saul was. Only decades later would he become king. However, the terms of the battle put him in a representative role. He represented Israelites, whose victory over or loss to Goliath would represent their victory or loss. Thankfully, he won a battle on their behalf, however, not as their king but as their representative.
Back to Luke Hulley:
5. I WILL MAKE A HELPER SUITABLE FOR HIM. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Genesis 1:18) The natural question that arises from God’s words here is: To help him do what? And the answer is found in God’s original mandate given to Adam and Eve in Genesis 1, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28)
Eve was given to Adam as a helper to achieve God’s mandate which could only be achieved if they did it together. The word ‘helper’ signifies that although he would be the leader and the covenant representative, she would come alongside him and contribute to the cause with the unique abilities that she would bring as a woman.
Williams responds: “Of course a helper can be an inferior, but they can also be an equal or even a superior.” “In what way, then, does Eve help Adam?… She helps him by rescuing him from his aloneness. She is his companion. Additionally, she partners with him doing what we already know from Genesis 1”. (pg. 76) There that word is again: “inferior”. Williams cannot conceive of a partnership in which the man takes a leadership role without this in some way making Eve his inferior. Of course, a helper can be someone that is equal or even superior! Williams consistently sets up this false dichotomy that either Adam is the leader and Eve is inferior, or neither one is the leader and Eve is his equal.
I think it is a self-evident conclusion that most people come to when they read how Eve was given to Adam as his helper that, yes, she is co-heir with him, and equal in value, but she has been given to come along-side and help Adam fulfil the vision which God has given them to do. He takes a leading role, she brings her skills and talents and joyfully submits them to his leadership. As humans, we do this all the time in secular society. If I have a boss or a manager that I am hired to ‘help’, that doesn’t make me inferior, it is simply describing my role.
My response: LH makes too much of his misunderstanding of the word “inferior” here. The English word Inferior may refer to inferior in capability (which is how the historical church saw women) or inferior, as in subordinate. In this place LH thinks I use it in the first way, when I use it in the second sense. So what is LH’s argument for claiming that Eve as Adam’s helper means she is his subordinate?
LH reads into this passage what is not there. He simply asserts that since she is his helper, he is her leader. Of course a helper can be a subordinate, but they can also be an equal or even a leader. Where would children be without the “help” of their mothers, or pupils without the “help” of their tutors? What is particularly fascinating however is that the word never denotes subordination in the Old Testament. In fact, the word translated “helper” (Hebrew: ezer) is used predominantly in the Bible for God helping his people. Of the 19 occurrences of ezer in the Old Testament outside of Genesis 2, it is used 16 times of God (2) in his relation to Israel as “helper” and three times to denote military support, such as reinforcements, without which a battle would be lost. In 18 of the 19 instances, the one being helped is not the leader of the helper. (3) In eight of these uses, the “helper” is a “saviour,” “protector,” or “rescuer.” In the remaining occurrences, the nature of the help is an offering of strength, often of a military nature. To be an ezer to someone, then, is to make up what is lacking in them by offering one’s strength or intervention.
For this reason, the English word “helper” is hopelessly inadequate for the task of conveying the true meaning of the word ezer. In our day, the idea of “helper” usually suggests a less-qualified subordinate, like an electrician’s apprentice who hands them the proper screwdriver. They could do it on their own, but having someone to help with the smaller tasks is beneficial. No! Ezer should be translated “strong helper,” in order to reflect the usual Biblical meaning and neutralise the usual connotation of juniority in the English word “helper”, or better yet “partner”—as many translations, such as the REB, NAB, NRSV, and CEV, do. EXB says: “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper [C in the sense of a partner or ally; the word does not imply subordinate status; see Ps. 79:9] who ·is right for [is suitable for; corresponds with] him.””
In essence, she is not created primarily to serve him, but to serve alongside him. If there’s any doubt, just consider the word translated “suitable” (Hebrew: kenegdo). She is not merely his ezer, she is his ezer kenegdo. What does this word mean? It turns out the English word “suitable” is just as inadequate a translation of kenegdo, as “helper” is a translation of ezer. Kenegdo is a compound phrase meaning like opposite him. “Male and female are like two pieces of a puzzle that fit together,” says Kathy Keller in Meaning of Marriage, “because they are not exactly alike nor randomly different, but they are differentiated such that together they can create a complete whole.” Even Grudem correctly explains kenegdo as meaning “corresponding to him”, that is, “equal and adequate to himself” (EFBT, p119).
Eve is his perfect match and indispensable partner and ally. What the man lacks, the woman possesses and supplies. She is not a mere afterthought or an optional assistant to an independent, self-sufficient man. She is his companion, complement, counterpart and collaborator, one who can do for him and with him what he cannot do for himself.
Back to Luke Hulley:
The Curse of the Fall. So if Adam’s leadership of Eve was something that God established as a part of His good design in creation, what happened after the curse?
‘To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you shall deliver children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”’ (Genesis 3:16)
Piper says that both the language and the context of Genesis suggests that Eve “will be corrupted by an unnatural inclination to usurp the God-appointed place of a man as her leader.”  We see this interpretation supported in several translations of this text, for example, in the English Standard Version (ESV) – “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” It is put even more explicitly in the New Living Translation (NLT) – “And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you.”
It is insightful to note that owing to our fallen, prideful, rebellious nature all people (not just women) do often struggle to submit to leadership, whether it be to God Himself or men whom God sets over us, but this is not because submitting ourselves to authority is intrinsically evil. A part of God’s redemptive work in us is to restore us to humility where we are able to once again celebrate and joyfully submit ourselves to godly leadership.
The implication of the curse in Genesis 3:16 is that this rebellious tendency will especially affect women within the marriage union. Whereas prior to the fall, submission to the godly governance of God and submission to the leadership of her loving husband was an easy, joyful thing, it now turns to become contrary to her sinful nature.
But how does Williams interpret this verse? Well, this verse becomes the lynch-pin for his whole argument, because he is working from the assumption that patriarchy is intrinsically evil, and thus it cannot be a part of the pre-fall order, it must be a consequence of the introduction of sin and the curse: “Once, the man had received the woman with only delight as his counterpart and perfect match. Now, he sees her as inferior. She still yearns for him as she always did. She yearns for real relationship, but he wants to rule over her.” (pg. 80)
For Williams, Patriarchy is indistinguishable from misogyny and therefore his assumption is that the curse introduced hatred into the heart of Adam which then resulted in his desire to rule over her.
I would agree with Williams that the sinful bent that now afflicts all men will doubtless often cause them to abuse their authority. I think we see plenty of evidence of that. But there is a difference between saying that men often abuse their authority and saying that patriarchy is of itself intrinsically abusive because it assumes female inferiority.
My response: I start with LH’s statement: “For Williams, Patriarchy is indistinguishable from misogyny and therefore his assumption is that the curse introduced hatred into the heart of Adam which then resulted in his desire to rule over her.” This is false in every detail. As mentioned above, I make crystal clear in the book the sense in which I use the term “patriarchy”; I never use it to mean “misogyny”. Nor do I make an assumption about the curse introducing hatred into Adam’s heart. This is pure imagination on LH’s part. The word “hatred” or “hate” does not appear even once in my book.
I agree with LH that Genesis 3:16 is a description of fallen social structures. As a result of the breakdown in relationship between humanity and God in the garden, this is one specific distortion that, by God’s dire prediction, will become normative in human relations.
But what is the distortion? LH confidently asserts that “Adam’s leadership of Eve was something that God established as a part of His good design in creation”—but there has been nothing in Genesis 2 to say as much. Despite the lists of arguments that Piper, Ortlund, Grudem and, most recently, Mike Winger create—each is flawed. In each case the interpreter becomes an inserter—pushing meanings into texts that are not there. If they are right, Paul’s understanding of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:4 is inexplicable. Both Chrysostom and (the older) Luther saw full equality in Genesis 2. In perhaps the most magisterial book by a theologically conservative scholar on gender and sexuality in the Old Testament, Richard Davidson takes precisely the same view I have put forward in my chapter, and he cites fifty major scholarly studies on Genesis 2 that arrive at the same conclusion.
The key to Genesis 3:16 is the word “mashal”—”he will “mashal” you.” What is communicated is that Adam, as a result of the fall, will now assume leadership over Eve (and, by extrapolation, men will assume leadership over women). The previous use of mashal in Genesis (in 1:26-28) showed that it is God’s ideal that the man rules alongside the woman. How dark then that, in fallen creation, the man rules over the woman. The Hebrew word mashal does not mean oppress. Rather it means reign, rule, govern, master, or lead. Of its 81 occurrences in the Old Testament, it simply means leadership or rule, starting with the sun “governing” the night and day, and Adam and Eve “ruling” creation. Both of the major biblical Hebrew dictionaries that analyse every Old Testament instance of the word list not a single negative meaning for it. Its core semantic concept does not include oppression or tyranny. The sheer fact that the relationship between men and women has, as a result of the fall, become unequal and power-based is the result of the fall.
And what does it mean that her “desire” (Hebrew: teshuqah) will be for her husband? One possibility is “exaggerated desire.” Since Song of Songs uses the same word “desire” to describe sexual desire between lovers,(4) this view sees a metaphoric version of sexual desire in a morbid yearning for her husband’s company, closeness and affirmation. Like the Disney princess who waits to be rescued by her heart’s true love, this view suggests that this is why a woman so often socially enmeshes herself to a man, idolatrously finding her primary identity in his rather than God’s acceptance and arms.
Another possibility is “God-given desire.” This view sees Eve’s desire for her man not as sinful, but as natural. The immediate context of judgments in verses 16¬–19 suggest it is a natural desire, albeit a frustrated one: the woman brings children into the world, something natural, but because of the fall she now experiences terrible pain. Similarly, the man desires to draw food from the soil, but it now obstructs him. And finally, the man whose life is sustained by the land, will eventually be swallowed up in death as he returns to its dust. In each of these judgments a God-given desire has been derailed. Along the same lines as the other judgments, then, her desire for her husband as her equal partner is natural, but unfortunately is thwarted by his desire to rule her.
Instead LH leaps beyond the evidence of the text and takes Piper’s view: “an unnatural inclination to usurp the God-appointed place of a man as her leader.” But this is wrong on two counts: First, the word “desire” does not mean “contrary desire” (as in the ESV) or “desire to control” (as in the NLT), but “desire for” (as in most translations). The minority of translators read ideas into the word that go back to a 1975 article What is Woman’s Desire? (5) In it, the author notes that the same rare Hebrew word for desire (teshuqah) in Genesis 3:16 is used again in Genesis 4:7 when Cain is told that sin, like a wild animal is crouching at the door and desires him. The article wrongly concludes that the word in Genesis 3:16 must mean, “desire to control.” The contexts of the two passages are quite different, (6) and it is not correct to use context to read a meaning into a word in one passage and then transport that same meaning across to another passage with a different context. (7) But even more to the point, it does not mean “desire to control” in Genesis 4:7, because it is natural not rebellious or contrary for a wild animal to desire its prey.(8)
Second, translating Eve’s desire as a rebellious one has implications are subtly pernicious. It suggests that the reason poor Adam has to exert leadership over Eve is because she keeps picking a fight with him. Although his rule may be tyrannical, by this view, it is at least understandable. What else should one do with an insubordinate subordinate? This is precisely the wrong way to interpret this verse. In fact, the only “contrariness” in the text exists in the man towards the woman. In the same way that birth pains are contrary to her devotion to bring her beloved children into the world, so the man’s self-asserting role as her master is contrary to her desire for him as her lover and equal partner. The pain in the latter case results not from her birth pangs, but his imposed domination.
By the straightforward reading of “teshukah” and “mashal,” patriarchy IS the result of the fall. Even the Roman Catholic Church, historically so inflexible in its doctrinal articulations, now teaches the “essential” and “fundamental” equality of the sexes, attributing the subordination of women to men entirely to the fall. Pope John Paul II rightly says, “The overcoming of this evil inheritance,” spoken of in Genesis 3:16, “is the task of every Christian.”
Back to Luke Hulley:
Jesus and Paul. When it comes to dealing with how Jesus and Paul envisioned women’s role in ministry, Williams says this about Jesus, “One of the most staggering aspects to his earthly ministry is the way he overturned gender hierarchies and subverted sexism” (pg. 86) As evidence of this he reasons, “women are among Jesus’ closest friends and followers” (pg. 87)
Williams once again sets up the false dichotomy that either Jesus treated women as inferior (in keeping with the cultural chauvinism of the time) or he treated them as equals and overturned ‘gender hierarchies’. But Jesus did one but not the other. Jesus did value women and give them a wonderful sense of dignity and honour, but He did not overturn gender hierarchies. Jesus did value women and give them a wonderful sense of dignity and honour, but He did not overturn gender hierarchies. When Jesus came to appoint the Apostles who would constitute the leadership of the early church, He appoints twelve men. In doing so He upholds God’s pattern of male leadership which has been the norm in the Kingdom of God from the very beginning.
Williams comments on this decision on Jesus’ part by saying the following, “According to Jesus’ explicit explanation, they symbolize the new Israel, or the twelve tribes of Israel, and, specifically, the twelve sons of Jacob from whom the entire nation descends.” (pg. 222) His point is that there is no significance to Jesus choosing 12 males, they could just as easily have been women, except for the symbolic parallel that He was making by appointing 12 leaders in the New Covenant to replace the 12 sons of Israel in the Old Covenant.
Ok, sure, I agree. There is symbolic significance in the parallel between the 12 Patriarchs and the 12 Apostles. But Williams seems to be overlooking a rather conspicuous fact: There were 12 men leading the tribes of Israel in the Old Testament (the Patriarchs) and we now have 12 men leading the church in the New Testament. So what has changed? In what way has Jesus overturned gender hierarchies? He has not overturned them, He has upheld them.
My response: I am glad LH agrees that one reason the Bible does give for Jesus’ selection of 12 Jewish free males is that, for the sake of the first Jewish mission field, they symbolically reconstitute the people of God—previously thought of as 12 tribes—under his leadership. We might prefer it if Jesus had mixed up his team a little more, but we have to accept that the symbolic significance was not so much for the sake of Gentiles (like most of us who would later be reached in the rest of the world), but for Jesus’ original mission field—the Jews whose worldview was utterly shaped by the Hebrew Bible. We may have preferred Jesus called six Jews and six Gentiles, or six old and six young, or six slaves and six free (I personally would add “six men and six women”) but the symbolism would have been lost entirely on the ones for whom it was intended.
Can we really say that Jesus’ pattern for apostles should determine each local church’s pattern for the kinds of pastors or elders it selects? Jesus chose twelve. Should all churches have twelve? He chose Jews not Gentiles. Should all churches follow suit? Jesus chose free men not slaves—should we refuse leadership roles to the poor? They were young. What should churches do about this, because here we hit a snag: the word “elder” means old person? The issue these questions raise is that if we take Jesus’ choice of twelve Jewish men as a literal template for all subsequent choices of pastors or elders, then we have to also conclude that Jesus is biased ethnically (Jews not Gentiles) and by class (free not slaves). More likely, his selection of twelve people served a specific purpose and moment in redemptive history—one that LH agrees with, and for good reason: perhaps the greatest clue that Jesus was concerned with symbolism and not only with raising future leaders is the fact that most of the Twelve fade out from high ministry profile after just a few years. Sure, Peter, John and James continue to be high-profile leaders in the book of Acts, but the rest of the apostles are never mentioned again by name. Another proof of the symbolic priority is that Peter is so eager to find a replacement for Judas in Acts 1. Not because he thinks that 11 people can’t do the job that 12 can do. Rather it’s because he knows that it’s important that Twelve men will stand before Jerusalem to summon them to their Messiah. That’s why, in the church’s opening sermon to the city, we’re told that “Peter stood up with the Eleven”(9) as he proclaimed the gospel. If it was “Peter stood up with the Ten” the symbolic message—so important to Jesus—would have been lost.
I do conclude that Jesus overturned gender hierarchies—not in his selection of the Twelve, obviously, but in the way that he, in a world that always put women last and kept them in their “sphere,” so often put them first and released them into roles that would have been reserved for men in his patriarchal culture: A woman was the first to hear about his incarnation and preach the gospel;(10) the first Samaritan convert and public evangelist;(11) the first Gentile convert;(12) the first to get a revelation of Jesus as “the Resurrection and the Life;” (13) the first to grasp the centrality of the cross in the mission of Jesus; (14) and the first to witness Jesus’ resurrection.(15) LH chooses to overlook all of this, because it does not fit his thesis that Jesus upholds gender hierarchies. Complementarian scholars make much of “Adam being formed first then Eve” by wrongly conflating coming first with being the rightful leader—yet I wonder what they make of all these firsts.
Jesus’ choice of 12 men on its own cannot be taken to support female leadership, but when one discovers the reason for his choice of 12 Jewish men, and also the way Jesus released women into ministry with no regard to the gender-specific limitations present in first century Palestine, neither can it be used as an argument against female leadership—especially when we remember that the wider circle of apostles that came about as the gospel spread beyond Palestine included a woman, Junia.
Back to Luke Hulley:
When Williams turns to look at Paul he makes much of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”(Galatians 3:28)
This passage is hailed as the Magna Carta of the New Covenant. He says of it, “His key point [in Gal 3:28] is that the gospel abolishes hierarchical systems of worth and privilege rooted in ethnicity, social status, and gender.” (pg. 94) Again he is inferring a lot from a passage that seems to have nothing to say about hierarchical systems. To his credit, he does concede this point, “though Paul in Galatians does not extrapolate what this all means for women and slaves as he does for Gentiles, Paul is evidently dismantling barriers which privilege some and unfairly penalize others.” (pg. 96)
It is true that the New Covenant does dismantle certain barriers, but the context of the verse itself identifies what those barriers were, “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:23-29)
Faith has released us from the limitations imposed by the law. This faith comes to light through the Gospel and it empowers all people (regardless of gender) to inherit the promises made to Abraham.
Although Paul does not at this point extrapolate what this means for God’s pattern for marriage or gender roles in the Church, we are not left guessing. The rest of the New Testament is replete with instructions and insights into what this looked like in the early church. In fact, Paul explicitly states elsewhere that leadership in both the home and the church is a male responsibility (1 Timothy 2:12 and Titus 1:5-6).
My response: Of course the gospel fulfils the law of Moses in such a way that it removes a barrier between Jews and Gentiles. LH seems to miss the idea of the entire second half of chapter 5, in which I show how Galatians 3:28 articulates what is found in the New Testament: as the Spirit comes upon the church, hierarchical divisions that were predominant in the Old Testament and in first century society come down: it is not just free people but also slaves, not just Jews but also Gentiles, not just men but also women, who are thrust to the frontlines of ministry to the world. The Jewish Temple complex at the time of Jesus’ death comprised concentric areas, permitting, from innermost to outermost, only Jewish men into the Inner Court, Gentiles into the Court of Gentiles, and thereafter, women in the Court of the Women. The symbolism is clear enough: the courts represent the closest various kinds of people could possibly get to the presence of God. Only Hebrew men were allowed in the temple proper, and only one Jewish male, once a year, was allowed inside the Most Holy Place. Feel the wonder then that, as blood spilled from Jesus’ side, God’s Spirit overflowed from the Holy of Holies—bursting its banks, ripping the dividing curtain in two, and potentially bringing everyone into the very middle of things! No longer would there be any “male-only” or “Jew-only” domains in the structures of God’s people.
The uniting work of Christ referenced in Galatians 3:28 also has eschatological implications: If new creation is the complete flowering of original creation, even going beyond it because will no longer require human reproduction. If God’s initial design in Genesis 1 and 2 was that Adam and Eve both were custodians of the word of God, that both would rule the earth as a king and queen, and that both would work the garden-temple as priests, then it is no surprise that for all eternity, redeemed men and women will labour side by side in the final realization of the first creation as co-prophets, co-rulers, and co-priests.
Many complementarian scholars read Galatians 3:28 merely as a general statement about one’s status before God, while denying the fact that Paul is concerned especially with the practical and communal outworking of this crucial theology. Yet in Paul’s mind, our status before God will shape our concrete relationships and the form the church takes. The gospel of Christ opens up not only a new way of relating to God but also to one another. The Jewish, highly hierarchical world in which Paul was reared, has been overturned in Christ. This new existence in Christ should lead to a new experience of community, says Galatians 3:28.
Though Paul does not speak about church leadership, F.F. Bruce, in his commentary on Galatians, is surely correct to encourage us to at least think of the implications of this to the question of who can lead, when he states: “No more restriction is implied in Paul’s equalising of the status of male and female in Christ than in his equalising of the status of Jew and Gentile, or of slave and free person. If in ordinary life, existence in Christ is manifested openly in church fellowship, then, if a Gentile may exercise spiritual leadership in church as freely as a Jew, or a slave as freely as a citizen, why not a woman as freely as a man? (16)
At the end of this section, LH without any mention at all of my exegesis of 1 Timothy 2 in chapter 7 and Titus 1 (and 1 Tim 3) in chapter 13, merely asserts that “leadership in both the home and the church is a male responsibility.” But he does not defend these statements, nor does he make any response to the parts of my book that correct those misinterpretations.
Without any defence of this at all, LH prefers the ESV translation of 1 Timothy 2: “I do not permit a woman to … exercise authority over a man” to superior translations such as “I am not permitting a wife/woman to … assume authority/ usurp authority/ domineer/ control/ dictate to a husband/man.” In my book, I conclude that Paul is addressing a situation in which the onslaught of the false teaching in the church has, somehow, caused many (or most, or all) women to treat men poorly. Instead of being “ezer kenegdos” to men, they are dressing seductively or ostentatiously (v9); being disruptive and unteachable (v11, 12c); “lecturing” men rather than being willing to listen or learn from them (v12a); being forceful and antagonistic, or assuming control over, men (v12b); and pushing away men and laying themselves open to further deception (v13–14). Paul’s solution is that these women, like all good disciples of Jesus, revert to the humble posture of a submissive learner (v11). Instead of acting independently from men, they should protect themselves, and the church’s unity and harmony (v12b); by avoiding Eve’s sin, and rather reaffirm the holy interdependence with men that God originally intended (v13–14).
This fits neatly with the evidence I present in chapter 12 for the powerful women in the New Testament churches who exercised the highest kinds of authority. The pastor-teacher Priscilla is one such example—see my article here: www.rb.gy/ttr2do
Back to Luke Hulley:
Does “Head” Mean Authority? He then turns to the passage I quoted earlier in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 which begins, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3) The verse is the foundation for the instructions that he is going to give about head-coverings: “That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.” (vs 10)
The logic goes that she should have a symbol of authority on her head to acknowledge the ‘headship’ of her husband. There is an insightful cross-reference that we can make here to Ephesians 5, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
In this passage, Paul clearly draws the connection between the wife’s submission to the authority of her husband with the headship that he carries in the relationship.
But Williams does not see it this way. He says, “when determined by the context of the verses that follow, “head” in this instance does not mean authority, but something like honoured life-source – the person in which one derives their life or identity. … …”
My response: Had LH read any of the three top-rated commentaries on 1 Corinthians he would know that his reading of the passage is probably incorrect:
• “Paul is not attempting to establish a gender hierarchy that places women in a subordinate role.”(David Garland)
• “The metaphor in 11:3 is often understood to be setting up structures of authority. But nothing in the passages suggests as much, in fact the only reference to the word exousia (authority) refers to the woman’s own authority (v10). Moreover, verses 11–12 explicitly qualify vv 8–9 so they will not be understood this way.” (Gordon Fee)
• “Pace Grudem it does not seem to denote a relation of “subordination” or “authority over.” (Anthony Thiselton)
Instead of doing any real research on this passage, LH resorts again to the same mistranslation of 1 Corinthians 11:10 that suits a hierarchical reading of the passage, one that follows on from the Revised Version of 1881 that first mistranslated it. But the verse does NOT say that the Corinthian women must have a deferential sign of the authority of another—rather Paul argues that she should have exousia over her own head. ¬ female authority is Paul’s point—not male authority or gender-exclusive roles. For example, Luke uses the same wording (exousian . . . epi) in Luke 10:19 for Jesus’ granting his disciples “authority … over [exousian . . . epi] all the power of the enemy.” This God-given exercising of authority is precisely why not just men, but women, too, were able to contribute in prayer and prophecy.
Though the word kephale is used metaphorically in both 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 of man (Greek: aner), the metaphors are different—and, so, even the claim that the meaning of the word in the former should be the same as its meaning in the latter is misguided. Only in Ephesians 5 does Paul employ a head-body metaphor. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul is purposely using metaphoric heads (Christ of every man; man of woman; God of Christ) in parallel with what men and women do with their literal heads. In a culture in which only married women wore veils as a sign of their status, Paul seems to instruct all women—including single women and female slaves who were not allowed to wear veils—to cover up their heads. This passage is not about subordinating women; it is an instruction to both men and women about how to present themselves when praying and prophesying.
Contra LH, the meaning of “honoured life-source” does fit in 1 Corinthians 11:3: the key to understand these three lines correctly lies in the sequence Paul states them in. At first glance, one might think that Paul should have put the last line first so that it read, “God is the head of Christ, is the head of man, is the head of woman.” he does not put the three elements of v3 in a hierarchical sequence but in a chronological sequence. Paul is following a timeline:
Though the meaning of “the kephalē of every man is Christ” is not crucial for our discussion, it likely picks up on Paul’s theology of Christ as the means and source of all creation. In this sense, in Genesis 2, God through Christ created Adam, and in a derivative sense, every subsequent man thereafter.
The next clause, “the kephalē of woman is man” refers to what happened next in the Garden of Eden: from Adam’s side, God made Eve. We know that Paul is referring to Adam and Eve because he uses the singular “woman” not “women,” and “man” not “men,” then returns in verse 8 and in verse 12 to mention that Eve (whom he calls “woman”) was made from Adam (“man”).
The last clause, “the kephalē of Christ is God” most likely refers to Christ’s incarnation. In his earthly ministry, he was “the image of the invisible God,” representing to a watching world the Father as his source. (17)
As we ponder the verses that follow verse 3, we will realize that Paul cannot mean “authority” in verse 3—all the way through the integrating idea is of someone being the source or origin of life, not the authority, of another: for example, following on from saying “man is the kephalē of woman” (v3), Paul then seems to paraphrase the same point as “the woman was made from man” (v8)—a reference to Adam as Eve’s source and not her authority. (18) Also, shifting from talking about Christ as Creator (“the kephalē of every man is Christ”), Paul then talks about God as Creator in verse 12, when he says, “all things [or all persons] come from God.” Here again, Paul refers to God not as the authority but as the source of those he creates. (19) This also helps us make sense of how Christ is said to be the kephalē of “all men” in verse 3—not all men have him as their authority, but they do have him as their Creator-source.
Most crucially however, the language of “God is the kephalē of Christ” has, as a matter of orthodoxy, been taken to mean that the Father is the source not the authority of Christ. As I demonstrate in chapter 3, it has been complementarian theologians who have repeatedly tried to bolt on a supposed hierarchy in the eternal Trinitarian relationships to support their idea of God-ordained hierarchy in male-female relationships. Orthodox descriptions of the Son-Father relationship, even while he was on earth, do not describe the Father asserting his “authority” over the Son as much as they speak of the Son, in self-giving love, submitting to the Father’s will, which in fact is his own. (20)
There is no verse that roots our “assigned roles” in the Trinity, certainly not 1 Corinthians 11:3. This is most evident in the way Paul gives not just two parallel lines, but a third. Though LH compares man as woman’s head with God as Christ’s head, he seem to forget the first line: Christ is man’s head. One might be able to strain out some similarity between God and Christ, and man and woman (“equal in essence but subordinate in function” is the complementarian offering) but if that is what Paul was trying to teach, he would not have also added the first line about Christ and man, for no man is Christ’s equal.
Back to Luke Hulley:
“In fact, in Paul’s time the idea that kephale meant authority would be very rare, if not absent” (pg. 109) It is difficult to overstate how irresponsible and misleading these words are. The evidence he gives for this claim is the following “the Greek-speaking Church Fathers, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Athanasius, and Eusebius all took kephale here to mean source.” (pg. 109)
Most people will probably not take the time to examine this claim, but there is very compelling evidence that demonstrates exactly the opposite of what he is saying…
“Kroeger gave nine patristic references (in addition to the two from Chrysostom) to support her claims that “church fathers argued vehemently that for Paul head had meant ‘source,’” and that they “were quick to recognize the danger” of understanding 1 Corinthians 11:3 to mean that Christ has a “subordinate position relative to the Father.” Two of the citations (1, 2) were not statements of any church father but statements from heretical Arian creeds. Two more (6, 7) did not exist but may have been intended as a reference to Theodore of Mopsuestia in a commentary on 1 Corinthians 11 that relates the headship of the husband to his rulership and the wife’s obedience. Three others (5, 8, 9) assumed that to be “head” of someone else implied having a position of authority or rule and thus supported the meaning “authority over.” Two references from Cyril of Alexandria (3, 4) were ambiguous, due to ambiguity in the meaning of ‘arche’, since the meanings “authority,” “beginning,” or “origin” would all make sense in the contexts. In none of the references did any church father “argue vehemently” that “for Paul head had meant ‘source.’” And none of the references argued against an interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that placed Christ in a “subordinate position relative to the Father”; indeed, some of the references specify that Christ is obedient to the Father and that the Father rules over Him.” (Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem, pg. 170 and 171)
For a comprehensive explanation of how the Greek word ‘head’ (kephale) is used in the New Testament and how it was referenced by the early Greek Fathers, I encourage you to read Chapter 5 of Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood which should put the matter to bed quite convincingly.
But we need only let Scripture interpret Scripture to settle the issue, “with regard to the contextual interpretation of the word kephale in its major New Testament occurrences, it’s hardly necessary to resort to wide-ranging extrabiblical lexical analysis. Much closer at hand, a careful study of the contexts of 1 Cor 11 and Eph 5 in those letters themselves clearly and consistently yields the sense of authority (“head”), while “source” seems strangely foreign to the context. First Corinthians 11:10 explicitly uses the language of authority (Greek exousia), and in Ephesians kephale is used throughout the book to denote authority (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23 [twice]). In Ephesians 1:22 for example, Paul’s message is not that Jesus is the source of demons but that he’s in a position of authority over them and that everything will ultimately be subjected to Jesus’s authority and control.” (God’s Design for Man and Woman, Andreas J. Köstenberger, Margaret Elizabeth Köstenberger, p171 )
My response: Contra LH’s claim, one only needs to read more widely to see that “authority” was indeed a very rare metaphoric meaning for kephale in the first century.
Strangely, LH quotes Grudem’s 2002 rebuttal of a 1993 dictionary article by Kroeger that I have never even read, never mind quoted in my book. However, I have not been “irresponsible” in reaching the conclusion that “authority over” was a rare meaning in the first century—what is irresponsible is to rely only on one extreme position on the matter. Wayne Grudem’s work on kephale is important up to a point, but is seriously flawed. Of course we need to take into account what Grudem says about κεφαλή in “The Meaning of κεφαλή (‘Head’): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged.”
LH implies that he, unlike others, has “taken the time to examine this claim”—yet, as I read his paper, it is evident that he has read so little on the subject. For such a serious matter as the subordination of women, I’d expect him to take much more time on this. Merely finding and quoting two scholars some where (Grudem and Kostenberger) that agrees with your prior view, and then ignoring all the critique that scholar has received for that work, can hardly be called “taking the time to examine the claim.” Take “God’s Design for Man and Woman,” by Köstenberger—does LH know that every argument for female subordination in this 2014 work has been refuted by Kevin Giles’s response to it in “What the Bible actually teaches on women?”
To read Grudem’s partisan analysis, then announce that the matter is thus “convincingly put to bed” is the height of naivete. In fact, to partly base such a large decision as the treatment of half the church on one view, without listening more critically, and taking into account what other scholars say, is irresponsible. So read these too:
• R. S. Cervin, “Does κεφαλή Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature: A Rebuttal,” TJ 10 (1989): 85–112;
• Idem., “On the Significance of Kephalē (‘head’): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word.” Priscilla Papers 30, no. 2 (2016): 8–20.
• D. A. deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006);
• J. Diggle et al., The Cambridge Greek Lexicon, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021).
• Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “Another Look at ΚΕΦΑΛΗ in 1 Corinthians 11:3,” NTS 35 (1989): 503–11;
• idem, “Kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3,” Int 47 (1993): 32–59; 25–65;
• C. C. Kroeger, “Head,” DPL, 375-377; H. G. Liddell and R. Scott , A Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1968);
• J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 2 vols. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1989);
• B. Micklesen and A. Mickelsen, “What Does Kephalē Mean in the New Testament?” in Women, Authority & the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickelson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1986), 97–110;
• P. B. Payne, Man and Woman: One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009);
• idem., “What Does Kephalē Mean in the New Testament? Response,” in Mickelsen, Women, Authority, 118–32;
• C. L. Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016);
• idem. “This Is A Great Metaphor!” Reciprocity in the Ephesians Household Code,” in Christian Origins and Greco-Roman Culture: Social and Literary Context for the New Testament, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Andrew W. Pitts, 561– 98 (Leiden: Brill, 2012).
What does Paul mean when he uses the Greek word kephalē? In modern English, “head” used metaphorically often means authority, as the CEO is the head of the company or the commanding officer is the head of the platoon. Additionally, when we moderns picture a literal head of a literal body, we assume that the head, which contains the brain, is therefore the control center for the body. Through the nervous system, it sends orders to the body. The question we must ask is what Paul meant when he chose the word kephalē and what would his original readers have understood.
As I track the years of back-and-forth debate between scholars on all sides, Grudem argues that the word almost always means authority over, whereas other scholars argue that it seldom if ever meant that by the first century. Having examined the evidence for myself, I land in the place that in Paul’s time and certainly in Paul’s use only on rare occasions did it imply authority. (21) Like all metaphors it can have a different sense in different contexts, and perhaps in some, the idea of authority is included. Nonetheless, allow me to present the arguments for why that would be a very rare meaning.
In Paul’s time, the Greek word for one’s physical head had a different metaphoric meaning than our English word has. In the centuries before Paul’s birth, the head was mainly understood to be the life-source of the body. Aristotle taught that the head was like a spring or source of supply for the whole body,(22) a view that many medical writers shared. Pythagoras, for example, taught that the physical head was the source of male semen, which moved down the spinal cord to the genitalia. Philo, a Greek-speaking Jewish teacher, claimed that the head drew on power from heaven and distributed its life force to the whole body, (23) So when the ancient Greeks spoke of a person as a “head” to another or to a group of people, it was less likely a reference to them as an authority, and more likely a reference to the way they were a life-source or a progenitor.
The Hebrew word for the human head is rosh and, as in English, in Hebrew it meant authority when used metaphorically. What’s fascinating then is that just before Paul’s time, the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into the Greek language (the version called the Septuagint, or LXX). Cynthia Westfall studies the 171 places in the LXX where the word rosh is reliably confirmed to mean authority, and notes that the Greek translators only use the word kephalē a few times and almost always opt for other Greek words that more clearly denote authority. (24)
Think about that. Greek translators read the Hebrew word rosh and if it refers to a physical head they opt for kephalē. But in 97.7% of the cases where rosh refers metaphorically to someone in authority, they instead opt for other Greek words. What this means is that, in the minds of Greeks just before the time of Paul, authority was not a common metaphoric meaning of the word kephalē, else it would have been the most natural word to use. This is widely known. The Liddell, Scott, Jones Ancient Greek Lexicon, the most exhaustive Greek lexicon we have, lists 48 possible metaphoric meanings—and not a single one of them is authority. The recent Cambridge Greek Lexicon follows suit. (25)
When we study Paul’s several metaphoric uses of the word, he evidently knows this. Having grown up as a Diaspora Jew in Asia Minor, he would have been well versed in Greek idiom and thought. He also writes his epistles to Greek-speaking people. As the only New Testament writer to use the word metaphorically, he mostly uses it as part of a head-body analogy, in which Jesus is spoken of as the life-source to which the church, by salvation and by the Spirit, is organically connected. Listen to the way he puts this in Ephesians 4:15–16: “We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body … grows and builds itself up in love,” says Paul. Then in Colossians 2:19, Paul says we have “connection with the head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.” In other words, when Paul unpacks his head-body metaphor, Jesus the head specifically provides growth and connection, love and life, sustenance and strength to his body the church. We modern people, with our understanding of the executive function of the brain, assume that Paul would also make some reference to Jesus’ provision of leadership and direction. However, Paul with his understanding of a head does not.
Grudem, though admitting the head-body metaphor may imply the idea of “source,” (26) pushes back on the idea that kephalē seldom meant authority, and collects an impressive list of examples in literature of military generals and kings being the kephalē of the army or people. But for that, he turns primarily to later literature. Besides, the ancient Greeks likely understood their leader to also be their life-source. Cut the head of a beast or human off, and they die. It is the same with an army or nation: kill the general or king and the people perish. Kings and generals are heads in the sense that their kingdom holds together under them. This is how Paul seems to use a word related to kephalē in Ephesians 1:10 to refer to Jesus where he says that God’s plan is to bring all things (as in Jews and Gentiles) together, summing them up into one head, Jesus Christ. (27) Of course Jesus is the authoritative Lord, but here Paul seems to use the head metaphor to highlight not his authority, but his role as the uniting life-source of his people.(28) Similarly, when Paul in Colossians 1:16–17 says that Jesus is “before all things; holding all things together; the head of the body, the church; the beginning … ,” these descriptors do not home in on his dominion. They describe aspects of Jesus’ ministry different from his reign—however, each supports his ability and worthiness to be in charge, which is Paul’s point when he says, “so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Though Paul here collocates the ideas of Jesus as sustainer, life-source, and originator with the statement of his supremacy, we must not merely conflate the meanings. Jesus as head of the church and things that originated and hold together in him, is not exactly the same thing as Jesus as Lord of his people and things made through and sustained by him.
What about the two places where Paul does seem to conflate the meanings—Ephesians 1:22 and Colossians 2:10? Even in these passages, Paul may not imply authority. It is possible for Paul to closely hold side by side ideas of Jesus as being authoritative with Jesus as kephalē, but he does not necessarily fuse them.(29) Ephesians 1:22 has the phrase “kephalē over all things.” The Greek word for “over” (hyper) usually means for the benefit of, as in, “Christ gave himself for (hyper) us as an offering” (Ephesians 5:2). Here it means above or over but not of—it introduces a spatial image of Jesus on a throne above all things. The real surprise, when we read this verse in the context of 1:18–2:6, is that it is not just Jesus-as-the-head, but Jesus-and-the-church, or the-head-and-the-body seated on a throne. Paul says that Jesus as kephalē above all things is “for the church, which is his body.” All things are “under his feet”—but we are his feet. All that to say, Jesus being kephalē here does not specifically mean he has authority over us, or even all things (which of course he does)—it rather explains how Jesus who is the rightful Lord over all things shares that authority with us, after all, a king’s entire body not just his head is in charge.
Colossians 2:10 refers to Jesus being the kephalē “of” (not, as some translations put it, “over”) every power and authority. This is one of two passages that speak of Jesus being the kephalē of something other than the church. In 1 Corinthians 11:3 he is said to be the kephalē of “every man”—which means that God through Christ created Adam (and, derivatively, his sons). Similarly, Jesus as head of all powers and authorities in Colossians 2:10 follows 1:16, which says that these same powers and authorities were created through Christ and are therefore held together in him. As their head, Jesus is thus the Creator-source of every spiritual power—which is why Paul says the Colossians should look to Jesus not angels for their completion, for surely Christ the Creator can do for us what even angelic creatures cannot.
Each unique passage tends to tease out a nuanced meaning of the word kephalē, specific to its context. Alan Johnson for example does a meta-study of 17 major studies, on all sides, of the word kephalē and concludes, “There seems to be growing agreement that kephalē as a metaphor can have a different sense in a different context.” (30) This brings us to the problem with Grudem’s sample of generals and kings as the kephalē of others: Paul, when applying kephalē to human relationships, does so only to the relationship between a man and a woman, not a king and his subjects, nor a general and his army, nor a parent and their children, nor a master and their slaves. They are completely different registers, and each register will draw out a different shade of meaning. In fact, among all ancient writers until his time, Paul is the only one we know of who applied this metaphor to a man and a woman—in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Adam is said to be the kephalē of Eve, and in Ephesians 5:25, the husband is said to be the kephalē of his wife.
But even in these two cases, Paul does not use the word in precisely the same way. In 1 Corinthians 11:3, he refers to the way Eve was made from Adam’s body, and therefore Adam (and his sons) should honour his own image in Eve, while Eve (and her daughters) should honour Adam as the one in whom she originated. Here it thus seems to mean not authority but honour-worthy source of life. (See chapter 6 of my book for more.)
Against Grudem’s and LH’s claim that church fathers such as Cyril of Alexandria never read the meaning “source” when they interpreted 1 Corinthians 11:3, here’s just one example: Cyril of Alexandria (a native Greek-speaker, died AD 444) says of this passage: “Luke [3:38, ‘Adam from God’] … explains the source of man, the Creator God. Thus we say that ‘the head (kephalē) of every man is Christ,’ for man was made through him and brought into existence … ‘And the head (kephalē) of woman is the man,’ because she was taken out of his flesh and so indeed has him as her “archē” [which means source or beginning here]. (31) Similarly, ‘the head (kephalē) of Christ is God,’ because He is from Him according to nature: for the Word was begotten out of God the Father.”
In Ephesians 5:25, Paul draws a parallel between Jesus as the head or life-source of his body with the husband as the life-source of his wife, and therefore husbands should love and care for their wives with whom they are “one flesh” every bit as much as a head rightly provides and cares for its own body. (Amazingly, even John Piper (unwittingly) admits that kephalē here may also carry this meaning.(v32)) Here it thus seems to mean not authority but vitally and intimately connected source of care and service. (See chapter 8 of my book for more.)
Back to Luke Hulley:
Wives, Submit. In chapter 8 the book deals with the passages in the New Testament which give instructions to wives to submit to their husbands. He uses the passage in Ephesians 5 as representative and encourages us to take his same approach to all the other passages which speak along similar lines. Let us briefly survey these passages and then evaluate his response to them. First the passage in Ephesians:
“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord, 20always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything … This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” (Ephesians 5:19-24 & 32-33) Here is the cross-reference in Colossians: “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18) In 1 Peter: “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct … For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord” (1 Peter 3:1-2, 5-6) In Titus: “Older women, likewise, are to be reverent in their behavior, not slanderers or addicted to much wine, but teachers of good. In this way they can train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, managers of their households, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be discredited.” (Titus 2:3-5)
As you consider the broad-ranging teaching of the New Testament on the topic of leadership and submission within marriage, the teaching is thankfully quite clear and concise and leaves no room for doubt. I say ‘thankfully’ because in the current cultural climate there is a lot of confusion about gender and marriage. We have a great need for clear and concise guidance from the mind of God on these issues.
At the same time, it is obvious that there is a rising mountain of a task facing Williams as he now attempts to harmonise these passages with his egalitarian view of marriage. He begins on what seems to me to be a rather awkward footing: “In this case, Ephesians 5 is a tough passage that is loaded with theology, one I have been chewing on for many years.” (pg. 155)
He goes on to explain why he has “wrestled so much with it”: “the “husband leads and wife submits” implication of this passage cuts against the grain of my own experience and cultural sensibility”. (pg. 155)
I appreciate his honesty here. But before we consider his response any further, I would like to clearly delineate what makes this passage “tough”. It is tough because it flies in the face of the modern “cultural sensibility” not because it is difficult to understand. This is an important point because Williams goes on to say, “Simple as the words may be on first reading, upon more reflection, Ephesians 5 raises more questions than answers.” (pg. 155)
I will summarise the questions that the passage raises for him:
- Why does Paul frame the marriage relationship with the preceding verse about mutual submission?
- What does “head” mean?
- What does “submit” mean?
- What does it mean for wives to submit to their husbands “in everything”?
These questions are interesting because they relate to how we apply this Scriptural injunction in marriage, but we must not be so easily distracted from the more pertinent point being made. We cannot get away from the fact that the passage clearly teaches, “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands”.
My response: I agree with LH: “We have a great need for clear and concise guidance from the mind of God on these issues.” Hence mytaking out a few years to research the matter, and writing a book on what I discovered this guidance to be.
However, LH does not seem to really listen to it. Contra his claim, I do not deal with Ephesians 5 as “representative and encourage[s] us to take his same approach to all the other passages which speak along similar line”—in chapter 8 I deal with Ephesians 5, and in chapter 9 with the other passages. Colossians 3 is a truncated form of Ephesians 5, and should be read in light of it. The passages of 1 Peter 3 and Titus 2 should be read in context of the entire letter in each case. I am left wondering how much of chapters 8 and 9 LH actually read, because of his outlandish claim: “The teaching is thankfully quite clear and concise and leaves no room for doubt.” They may be clear to him in his preferred sense when used as prooftexts—snatched out of their context in the larger flow of thought in the passage, and out of their cultural context. To use passages as prooftexts, and outside of contexts, is not to “handle the word of God correctly.”
Take for example the meaning of the word “submit” in Ephesians 5:22–24. LH does not even acknowledge, never mind respond to, some important observations which I make. Most notably, in Ephesians 5, Paul casts Christian marriage within the matrix of mutual submission. Paul’s joining of the words “submit” (meaning, to place one’s self under another) with the reciprocal phrase “one another” (Greek: allelous) may be one of the most socially revolutionary and linguistically creative teachings of Paul. Most times in the New Testament the word “submit” (Greek: hypotasso) means to comply with the authority of another, but by adjoining it to “one another,” he makes this submission reciprocal, thus shifting its meaning from accepting someone’s authority to placing one’s self in service of each other. This fits perfectly with what Paul has already said to the Ephesian Christians who are to “bear with one another in love” (4:25), to “be kind and compassionate to one another” and to “forgive one another” (4:32). The reason Paul gives is that we submit to each other “out of reverence for Christ” (5:21)—this points back to the beginning of the chapter where Christ is shown to have put himself at our service: “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (5:2)
This is why Wayne Grudem (and Kevin De Young) try to refute the reciprocal implication of a husband’s submission to a wife by arguing that the phrase “one another” can mean “some to others.” For example, Grudem refers to the use of the term in “men will slay one another” (Revelation 6:4) and says that it means that “some men will slay other men.” But if the author of Revelation had simply envisaged some men slaying others, but not being slain themselves, he would not have used the term at all. De Young points to other texts that use the phrase “one another” (33) that he claims are not reciprocal—yet on close examination they most certainly are, as is every use of “one another” in the rest of the letter to the Ephesians, as well as the entire New Testament. Grudem’s and De Young’s attempts to make submission to “one another” flow only one way (from the subordinate to the one in authority) fails. This is why even pioneering complementarian theologians like George Knight and Tom Schreiner disagree with them on this point. (34)
And notice that Paul specifies what kind of wifely submission he is referring to. As I have just said, there are two kinds of submission. There’s compliant submission given by a subordinate to an authority, such as a citizen to their government. (35) Then there is serving submission—as we have seen, this is what Paul means when he speaks of mutual submission. (36) The former is one-directional and can be demanded. The second kind can be reciprocal, and it is always voluntary.
When Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands, which kind is he referring to? Our ability to answer this is affected by our English translation. Flip open any Bible and we will see a full stop at the end of verse 21, then a whole new paragraph begins. Some translations even insert a heading between verse 21 and 22, such as “Wives and husbands” (ESV). But this paragraph break or inserted heading obscures something very important: in the Greek language, there is no full stop between verse 21 and verse 22.
In fact, and this blew my mind, the oldest Greek copies we have do not even have the word “submit” in verse 22. It does not have it because verse 22 borrows the verb from verse 21.(36) The Greek literally says, “submitting to one another in reverence for Christ, wives 1 to your own husbands…” In other words, when Paul tells wives to submit to their husbands here, he refers to precisely the same kind of submitting all believers are to give one another. Paul is not here telling wives to be especially subordinate to their husbands. Rather, he refers to the second kind of submission, in which wives choose to humbly serve and please their husbands. He uses the word submit one final time in the same sentence to then refer to the church’s submission to Christ, which in light of the meaning of the word “submit” in verse 21 and 22, we should then read as, “As the church humbly serves and pleases Christ in everything, so should wives humbly serve and please their husbands in everything” (v24).
Back to Luke Hulley:
After this point, Williams can offer no Scriptural challenge to the plain implication of the text. The only Scriptural challenge he offers is based upon his own (incorrect) interpretation of the curse in Genesis. “I found myself wondering why, according to the complementarian view of marriage, Paul would idealise the very hierarchical arrangement that the fall brought about when God announced its consequence not as a promise but as a dire prediction: “he will rule over you.” (pg. 159)
But the fall was a distortion of male leadership and female submission, not the origin of it. And therefore Paul is only affirming what God ordained in the beginning.
My response: This confirms again how misleading LH’s synopsis of my book is. In fact, I devote pages 153–193 to the four “wives, submit” passages in the New Testament. LH makes a few comments on my work up to page 159, and then says, “After this point, Williams can offer no Scriptural challenge to the plain implication of the text.” In fact, only at page 164 do I START my Scriptural challenge—not to the plain implication of the text, but to the wrong interpretation of the text by complementarians.
Back to Luke Hulley:
The troubling way in which Williams’ goes on to critique the rather obvious interpretation of this passage is to once again turn to Sociology and not Scripture, “Sociologists like Elain Storkey argue that it is not at all helped when female submission is taught as a divinely decreed norm. Despite hearing teachings about their “benevolent” authority, husbands are sometimes encouraged by the very idea of divinely ordained male authority to hold “an overt or subconscious belief in male privilege and entitlement, by which men assume rights to freedom, status and opinions not applicable to their partner.” (pg. 159 and 160)
In Conclusion. The biggest concern that this book raises for me is the issue of submission. Not so much the submission of the wife to her husband but the submission of the Church to the lordship of Christ. The greatest test we will face as a Church in these last days is whether or not we will remain pure, faithful and obedient to the lordship of Christ.
He then reverts back to the straw-man argument he has been making throughout the book: “there is no satisfactory answer, from the way I see it, to the question, “Why should the wife submit?”… for centuries it made perfect sense: culture and church believed that women were inferior to men, and therefore needed to be led for their own good. But since the 1960s those ideas have been abandoned in the culture and the church.” (pg. 160)
Friends, we need to acknowledge what this kind of handling of God’s authoritative Word actually is: it is anecdotal, it is sentimental, it is sociological, but it is shockingly bad hermeneutics. If any humble Christian had to take this as a sample of how to interpret Scripture, they would surely despair of ever interpreting any Scriptural text correctly!
We will face external pressure and seduction to go after the ways of the world, and we will face the danger of deception and corruption from within. Are we going to be able to hold on to the truth of God’s Word in the face of these tests? Most especially those truths that fly in the face of contemporary wisdom? Here is a sample of just a few of the old Evangelical doctrines that are currently under fire:
• The substitutionary atonement of Christ
• The inspiration of the Scriptures
• The exclusivity of Christ
• Issues related to gender and sexuality
Evangelical theologians have historically always had a very high view of Scripture and a very sceptical attitude toward secular philosophies and societal critiques coming from the Social Sciences because of the many warnings in the New Testament regarding the influence of worldly thinking (See: 1 Corinthians 1:20, Colossians 2:8, Romans 12:2). Williams gives far too much authority to the Social Sciences and at times he is even guilty of elevating the wisdom of the Social Sciences above the clear teaching of Scripture.
One thing is for certain, if we embrace the sociology-first approach that Williams adopts in his hermeneutic, we can expect a whole volley of theological revisions in the years to come. My exhortation to all the Evangelicals reading this review is to remember what we stand for: sola scriptura. Scripture is the measure of all things, we dare not allow the social sciences to replace the authority of God’s Word. It is the Word of God alone that is the only sure foundation to build our lives upon.
My response: LH completely mis-portrays my book as “sociology first”—in reality, after my introduction, and a 2-chapter overview of historical theology pertaining to the subject of patriarchal interpretations, I devote 10 chapters (pages 67–261) to straight textual exegesis and biblical theology, I add only a 1 page and a 5 page excursus into what might fit under the heading of “practical theology” (pages 155; 159–163) in one chapter—which LH refers to here as being “anecdotal, sentimental, sociological, … shockingly bad hermeneutics.” So doing he implies that I am using “the social sciences to replace the authority of God’s Word.” But all of this is a bizarre accusation. I do know a thing about hermeneutics—my previous book, itself attested by Derek Morphew who himself has written a book on hermeneutics, is about biblical hermeneutics. I am honestly not sure what to make of all this. But Luke Hulley writes a 7000+ word critique of a book and thus surely has had it in his possession—I do not understand why he would so overtly misrepresent my book, then. I suspect it may be that he has not properly read my book, at all—he only refers to two fifths of the chapters, and I wonder how thoroughly he read them.
Finally, LH implies that I have a low view of Scripture—and lumps this book in with whatever theological debates are underway in the areas of “hell, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the inspiration of the Scriptures, the exclusivity of Christ, and Issues related to gender and sexuality.” To evangelical mutualists, this claim is absurd. It seems to be a tactic of raise the stakes to rally the troops! Much like Grudem did when he dragged the Trinity into the debate in support of his heterodox interpretation of 1 Cor 11:3, that the very nature of God was at stake. He’d said egalitarians were modifying the doctrine of the Trinity in order to maintain their view of marriage! (EFBT 42, 45-48) But now most Reformed theologians have come around to the view that it was Grudem who was modifying the doctrine of the Trinity in order to support a complementarian view of relations between men and women.
It is unfair to suggest that hundreds of lifelong biblical scholars whose calling is to correctly exegete God’s word year after year have a low view of the Bible.
Many of the best conservative biblical scholars in the world—once complementarian and now no longer—owe their new conclusions not to neglecting God’s word but studying it more carefully instead. There’s F.F. Bruce, Leon Morris, N.T. Wright, Gordon Fee, Richard Bauckham, Philip Payne, Walter Kaiser, Ben Witherington, Stanley Gundry, Kenneth Bailey, Aida Spencer, Walter Liefeld, Joel Green, Cynthia Westfall, Miriam Adney, Cornelius Plantinga, John Stackhouse, Michael Bird and many more. (37) In fact, in recent years, no less than seven mutualists have been elected as the president of the Evangelical Theological Society in US, one of the most respected evangelical societies in the world, a society that can only be joined if a declaration of belief in the inerrancy of Scripture is signed annually. (38) Contrary to LH’s inference that I am not a “humble Christian” and that I am undermining “the lordship of Christ,” this book is not about the authority of Scripture, which is a settled matter, but the correct interpretation of it. (39)
It would be interesting to know LH’s answers to some questions which my book might have raised in his mind:
1} If the hierarchical-complementarian view of marriage is correct, why is there no instruction anywhere in Scripture to husbands, saying that they should lead their wives or exercise authority over their wives?
2} If women should not be leaders of God’s people, why are there women prophets and leaders in the Old and New Testaments, such as Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, and Junia?
3} If complementarianism is right, why did Jesus never once give any teaching about men’s and women’s differing “roles”, whether in the family, in the church, or in society? And why did he arrange for a woman to be the first person to witness his resurrection and to give testimony to it?
4} Does LH believe that leadership in the church requires appropriate gifting? If so, and if only men should be leaders in the church, why is every list of spiritual gifts in the New Testament, including those that specifically mention gifts used in leadership, written without any hint of gender distinctions?
5} If in 1 Timothy 2:12 Paul was concerned about the exercise of legitimate authority in the church by men rather than by women, why did he use the word “authentein” instead of the ordinary word for authority?
6} How do complementarians know that authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 should correctly be translated as “have authority” or “exercise authority”, when they are unable to point to a single clear example of that meaning before the time of Paul, at the time of Paul, or until about 300 years later?
Also, since LH did not make and comment on or even critique so much of the book, am I correct to say that he either did not read it, or he could not seem to refute the following:
• God’s accommodation to ancient patriarchal cultures should not be taken as his universal endorsement of them as some kind of moral ideal.
• 1 Timothy 2:11-15, properly understood (and translated) does not constitute a universal ban on females from pastoring or teaching men in churches.
• Deborah exercised spiritual authority over men.
• Jesus was utterly ground-breaking in his releasing of women into ministry functions that in their culture should have been reserved for men.
• The New Testament provides many examples of women who led, pastored or taught men in churches and God’s work.
• 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 should not be read as excluding women from pastoring in all churches everywhere.
• Complementarianism has seriously damaged the redemptive potential of the church and many of its own people.
• God’s self-revelation as Father and Son may not be taken to limit leadership to males.
• A powerful intellectual bias is at work in complementarian leaders to shoot down counterevidence to their views. That they seem incapable of even hearing, never mind properly engaging with, this counterevidence is a sign of the weakness of their position. This is because, before such evidence is even heard, it is perceived as a threat to the power structures of the tribe or to one’s place in that tribe.
• Being guided by one’s God-given gifts—let those with gifts of teaching and leading teach and lead—is the true guidance of Scripture about who should lead and teach.
I welcome Luke Hulley’s further engagement on all these questions and claims—especially if he can demonstrate that he has sought to properly understand them. The churches we lead and in the case of Josh Gen church, the 1000s of women whose lives are in its care, deserve this labour of love—a proper understanding of Scripture.
(1) Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ, ch. 10.
(2) See Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; Psalms 20:2; 33:20; 70:5; 89:19; 115:9, 10, 11; 121:1, 2; 124:8; 146:5; and Hosea 13:9.
(3) The one exception may be Ezekiel 12:14 where it speaks of the king of Chaldea not having anyone around him to help him in battle. Still, what is stressed in that passage is not the king’s authority over these helpers, but his utter lostness without them.
(4) “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is for me.” Song of Songs 7:10
(5) See www.bit.ly/3mHetTi
(6) See www.bit.ly/2YguUMU
(7) Yet Wayne Grudem knows this: about another passage, he writes that “it is a fundamental error in interpretation” to “import the context of a word used in one case into that word’s use in another case.” (Evangelical Feminism, 5.10)
(8) In the third and final usage of the word in the Bible, Song of Songs 7:10, it clearly refers to natural desire—the sexual desire one has for their partner.
(9) Acts 2:14
(10) Luke 1:32–35
(11) John 4:7–42
(13) John 11:23–27
(14) Matthew 26:7–11
(15) John 20:16
(16) F.F. Bruce. The Epistle to the Galatians
(17) Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3. To understand this third line, we must understand that the three lines in verse 3 are “roughly” parallel analogies. They are not precise equivalents. In Genesis 2, God literally created Adam. Adam can be said to “come from” God. Eve also “comes from” Adam, but not in the same way Adam came from God. Finally, the Son “came from” (or “comes from”) the Father. As Paul says earlier in his letter to the Corinthians, “Christ has become for us wisdom from God— … our redemption.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) But this does not refer at all to his being created by the Father—rather it likely refers to the way he draws his life and identity from the Father. Jesus declared, “the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” (John 5:26) Those scholars who believe that Paul’s final line may be a reference to the Son’s eternal relationship with the Father not merely his incarnational one may be correct. But taken either way, the word kephale applied to the Father-Son relationship does not denote authority. To provide an analogy, whether in eternity or in the incarnation, the Father is the kephale of the Son—in the same way that the sun is the kephale of a sunbeam. There has never been a sun without a sunbeam, nor has there been a sunbeam without a sun. Christ (the sunbeam) may be functionally differentiated from God (the sun) but this does not mean he is eternally subordinated to the Father.
(18) Says Cynthia Westfall in “Paul and Gender” (ch. 1): “The references to the creation account in the passage, and particularly as in 11:8, are used by Paul to resume, explain, and expand his theological statement in 11:3. In the near context, the statement that woman came from man and woman was created for the sake of man suggests that the origin of man’s and woman’s life is in view in 11:3.”
(19) Comparing 1 Corinthians 8:6 with 1 Corinthians 11:12 confirms this. “There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came … and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came.” (1 Corinthians 8:6). “For as woman came from man … But everything comes from God.” (1 Corinthians 11:12) In the former, God is the ultimate-Creator and Jesus is the one through whom God creates everything. In the latter, God is the ultimate-Creator and Adam is the one through whom God creates Eve. In this sense, both God and the one through whom God creates may be called a kephale. Both act as a source, though different in kind: God is the ultimate source while Jesus or Adam are a mediate source. Both kinds of source are worthy of honour.
(20) To say that one divine person eternally exercises authority over another divine person, and that this second divine person eternally obeys and submits, is not orthodox teaching. Had Paul been referring to Christ’s so-called “eternal functional subordination” he would have put this statement first. Secondly, and this is far more significant, in no statement of orthodoxy is it stated that Christ is under his Father’s authority. The Church Father, John Chrysostom refuted the subordinationist view of the Trinity in this passage by saying: “The Father begat the Son, not as slave under his command, but as free, yielding obedience. [The Son] is no slave, he has the same honour as the one who begat him.” The Trinity, traditionally understood, emphasises relations of mutual love not relations of authority. The early Eastern theologians talk of the Father as “the fountainhead of deity.” The Father eternally begets the Son and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. Western theologians prefer the language of the Logos whom the Father begets, and the Holy Spirit as the mutual love that proceeds from both Father and Son. This has led to the doctrine of “perichoresis” in which whatever the three persons will, they will as one.
(21) Appendix 3: What Kephalē Means How was the Greek word kephale used before and during the first century in the Greco-Roman world? Almost always, it referred to a literal physical head, though sometimes it was used figuratively. The best scholars divide on the figurative usages of the word, mainly because the metaphoric word seems to be used in many different ways: 1) Most commonly in the first century, it referred to the one who is most prominent and plays a representative role (in the same way a person’s head is the public representative of the whole body). In this sense, it means “most prominent.” 2) More seldom, it referred to one who is in “authority” (in the same way a brain directs a body.) 3) Also seldom, it referred to one who provides nourishment or existence (in the same way a mouth feeds a body, or in the way a head without a body dies). In this sense it means, “source.” But how did Paul use it? Up until the 1970s most biblical scholars assumed Paul meant “authority”—but this can be attributed to 1) the fact that in the Latin, German and English languages (the primary languages in which historical theology has happened) the word for head refers to one in authority, and 2) the fact that the church, like society, up until the 1960s believed in female inferiority, and thus female subordination was assumed without question. Epitomized in Gordon Fee’s leading commentary on 1 Corinthians, there was a major scholarly opinion shift in the last quarter of the last century towards the meaning of “source.” But scholarly opinion has shifted once again toward the meaning of “prominent one”—evidenced by the equally magisterial commentary on 1 Corinthians by Anthony Thiselton. However, though Thiselton is as convinced as Fee that Paul does not mean “authority,” he selects “prominent one” over “source,” but admits that he and his team of co-researchers made this choice by a “bare” margin. As I have studied all the arguments, I agree with Fee and Thiselton that it does not mean “authority,” and I sympathize with Thiselton’s observation that, outside of Paul’s writing, in the first century it was seldom used to mean “source.” However, aided by Cynthia Westfall’s recent work in “Paul and Gender,” I find myself agreeing with Fee that Paul means “source,” as in “one from whom another derives their existence or supply.” Paul’s metaphoric usage of the word was evidently novel especially because, unlike all other ancient Greek writers, he uniquely applied it to the relationship of men and women, and to a husband and his wife. Also, “source” in both 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23 best makes sense of the passages that follow. 1 Corinthians 11:3 may include the nuance of “prominent one” because Paul in the verses that follow emphasizes the honour that is due to one’s literal and figurative heads. In Ephesians 5:25 Paul refers to the ancient Greco-Roman husband as a kephale, and indeed these ancient husbands were in charge of their wives, but we must not confuse the word itself with the person referred to—see “View 4: The Husband as Redeemed Paterfamilas” in chapter 8 for more.
(22) Aristotle, Problems 10 867a
(23) “The virtuous one, will be the kephale of the human race, and all the others like limbs that draw their life from the forces of the head.” (Philo Det. Pol. Ins. 85)
(24) Grudem’s most recent count is 14 places. However, Westfall in communication with me had this to say, “Grudem argues that Paul is influenced by passages in the LXX where rosh was translated by kephalē where it meant authority. Out of 171 instances in which rosh appears to refer to “authority” in the Hebrew Bible, there were only four passages in which it was translated as kephalē that did not have variants (2 Samuel 22:44; Psalms 18:43 [17:44 LXX]; Jeremiah 31:7 [LXX 38:7]; Lamentations 1:5). The occurrences might be poor translation choices by the Septuagint translators (Hebraisms), or some may reflect a symbiotic relationship between an ancient king and his people or territory. These four passages have no intertextual or semantic ties with Paul’s use of kephalē, so Grudem’s argument that LXX passages account for Paul’s use of kephalē is not convincing.” R.S. Cervin’s article supports Westfall’s conclusion: “The LXX has been overrated as evidence for kephalē connoting leader or authority.” See www.bit.ly/3GOWjqB
(25) Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ, p. 121
(26) “It is an elementary fact of life that we receive nourishment through our mouths, and thus in a sense through our heads, and this idea was plain to the ancient world as well; therefore, the idea that a metaphor would occur in which “head” meant “source” is not impossible,” writes Grudem in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (p.567).
(27) Ephesians 1:10
(28) In what theologians call Paul’s teaching about “federal headship,” there are two possible “heads” of humanity: Adam or Jesus. As a first sinner, Adam is not our leader but unfortunately he is our source: we inherit his sin-enslaved position and corrupt nature. Thank goodness, Jesus becomes a new head of the redeemed human race: from him we inherit his elevated position and likeness.
(29) I draw help here from Cynthia Westfall who answered my question anout the meaning of kephalē in Ephesians 1:22 and Colossions 2:10 in her correspondence with me by excerpting an essay she has written for the second edition of “The IVP Dictionary of Paul and his Letters.”
(30) See www.bit.ly/3GJ9Vnc
(31) See www.bit.ly/3GJ9Vnc
(32) In a moment of inconsistency in footnote 15 of chapter one in “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” John Piper tries to provide a biblical basis for his extrabiblical assertion that men mainly are to financially provide for their wives. He quotes the way that God names the man “head” in Ephesians 5:25, and thus he is to provide for her in the same way that Jesus provides for the church. He writes, “The image of head implies that Christ is the provider … ” The irony here is that Piper, unwittingly no doubt, admits that kephale, amongst other things, may also mean source or supplier, after all—even though the complementarianism he speaks for adamantly denies this.
(33) Matthew 24:10; Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 7:5. 11:33
(34) Another way complementarians push back is to say if mutual submission (in Ephesians 5:21) is meant to frame all three of the pairs (husband-wife, parents-children, masters-slaves) then it is evident that Paul cannot possibly be undermining the idea of leadership-submission in marriage, because the second and third pairs are by nature hierarchical. My own understanding of Ephesians 5:21 is that it is not the framing verse for all three pairs, merely the transition verse into the new section in Paul’s letter, which Paul specifically applies to marriage relationships. This is a much better approach than the complementarians like Schreiner and Knight who, accepting the idea of mutual submission applying to both husbands and wives, strangely rephrase it as “the wife submits to her role as submissive wife while the husband submits to his role as sacrificial leader.” Yet Paul is clearly not telling them to submit to roles, but to each other.
(35) Romans 13:1
(36) Cynthia Westfall in “Paul and Gender’ (ch. 1) writes, “Ephesians 5:18–23 forms one sentence in the Greek, and the instructions to wives in v22 are grammatically dependent on the mutual submission in v21 because of the ellipsis (omission) of the verb “submit” in v22.”
(37) Thanks to Kevin Giles, What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women, ch. 2, for this list.
(38) The seven presidents of the Evangelical Theological Society I refer to are Roger Nicole, Kenneth Kantzer, Walter Kaiser, Stanley Gundry, Alan F. Johnson, Millard Erickson, and Craig Keener—all mutualists.
(39) Kevin Giles, What the Bible Actually Teaches on Women, ch. 9.