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From Timothy To Creation: Part 1

On February 08, 2016

In the discussion (or debate) around the roles of women in the church and home, many complementarians run to the notable 1 Timothy 2 to establish their perspective. From this passage, especially by noting verses 13-14, a strong argument is put forth that man’s headship is established in “the original creation order.”[1]

Hence, there’s a movement from Timothy to creation.

But perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse. Complementarians believe they are moving from creation to Timothy, but it seems that their theology is being settled through their particular reading of Timothy and then that theological bent is being read back into the creation story. This is where they construct their understanding of the “original creation order.”

So what would it look like to move from creation to Timothy?

Our questions and perspectives are quite different from the ancient Hebrews, which might lead us to believe that Genesis 1 is simply about the creation and beginning of all things. However, quite a few pointers indicate that this is not the predominant story.

We need to understand the account as an ancient counter-cultural story of the beginnings of God’s particular people. The ancient narratives of Mesopotamia and Babylonia functioned this way, tracing back to the beginning of the gods’ own people. This was done through the use of creation imagery.

What better way to understand a people’s story than to examine their creation story?

Not only that, but within this Genesis 1 narrative, one of multiple refrains and poetic parallelism, we find that the one true God—of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—is constructing a temple. We have the beginnings of God’s people placed within God’s constructed temple (the creation), followed by a kind of “holy of holies” set up in the middle (the garden), and the one true God then takes up residence in his temple following its completion. His residence is taken up through “rest” in this good temple.

John Walton and others have done well to note how the biblical account is counter-cultural and temple-centered.[2]

But here’s where the biblical account shows its most counter-cultural edge. Like the other ancient gods, the God of the Hebrews also sets up images of himself in his temple. Yet, while all the other gods had images erected of stone or wood, we are told that the one true God constructed a unique set of images. Yahweh’s images are living, breathing, flesh and bone humans. Even more, this God sets his eikons (Greek for “image”), man and woman, right within the holy of holies to tend and care for it.

It’s quite stunning how beautiful, and counter-cultural, the Genesis narrative actually is.

But here’s what we need to remember even more on the point at hand: both are stamped as images of the one true God—the living male and the living female. There is something within the woman that images and exhibits the nature of God.  

It cuts both ways.

“…in the image of God he created them” (Gen 1:27).

The ‘adam of Genesis 1 refers to humanity, embracing both male and female.

Also, notice how the directive in verse 28 is given to both.

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

This first “Great Commission” is addressed to both genders. The expectation was not only that fruitfulness and increase would take place through both male and female, but that both were to “rule” together as well.

Both were true eikons of the one true God.

Both were set together in the holy of holies, the garden of Eden.

Both were given the same commission.

Both were equally needed in living out the mandate.

To properly move from creation to Timothy, rather than from Timothy to creation, we must realize that Genesis 1 presents us with a picture of male and female mutuality.

But what of Genesis 2? There, we read of Adam being formed first, then Eve, which parallels the words of 1 Timothy 2. And it’s those words that preface Timothy’s instruction that women should submit to men, not teach, not exercise authority, but rather be quiet.

See Part 2 and Part 3.

Notes

[1] Strauch, Alexander. Biblical Eldership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis and Roth, 1995), 60.
[2] Walton, John. The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. (Downer’s Grove, IL: IVP, 2009).

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