The Genesis texts offer an exquisite challenge to the historic devaluation of women. In fact, both egalitarians and complementarians agree that the early chapters of Genesis establish the equal value and worth of females and males.
For egalitarians, however, the shared authority of males and females is also an integral part of the Genesis story. Notice that Adam cannot care for Eden without the strong rescue of woman (Genesis 2:18–21). Adam’s aloneness is the sole failing in a perfect world. What is more, his rescue is found not in the creation of the animals but in one who shares his spiritual origins—Eve. For this reason, God calls woman a “strong helper” or ezer in Hebrew.
Completing the purposes for which humanity was created requires both male and female. In Genesis, both share the same identity and purpose: together they bear God’s image and are thus given governance, side by side, in caring for the world (Genesis 1:26–28). They are the first faith community and the first married couple, and in both relationships they share authority. In contrast to the patriarchy of ancient culture, Adam and Eve’s union as husband and wife is not ordered by patriarchy (or matriarchy), but is a holy alliance that reflects the intimacy and oneness of their Creator.
When sin distorts their mutuality, we see clearly how male-rule is a ruthless invader, wreaking havoc on God’s good creation. Sin corrupts the harmony of oneness between man and woman, obscuring their identity and purpose as image-bearers. Because of sin, man rules not alongside woman but over her, thus betraying his ally. Woman is left craving the holy alliance they once had, now shattered by sin. The glories of paradise are warped, and the partnership of male and female degenerates into human domination. Chaos, oppression, and suffering are unleashed. The contrast between a perfect world and one distorted by sin could not be clearer.
Yet, God’s love and mercy triumph. God makes a path from ruin to redemption because, as Genesis teaches, the woman—God’s strong rescue—will bear a Savior. Christ will crush evil and bring newness of life to male and female. In Christ, male domination encounters the ultimate foe.
Strikingly, Jesus ignores the cultural devaluation and subjugation of females by welcoming them as disciples and as integral leaders in his new covenant community. Christ disciples women, and they witness every miracle that identifies Jesus as Savior. Women inside and outside Israel quickly grasp Christ’s identity as Messiah—a truth that often eludes the Twelve. In all his dealings, Christ challenges patriarchal assumptions and practices. After his resurrection, Jesus commissions his disciples, male and female, giving them spiritual authority for leadership and service (John 20:17–23), just as God gave Adam and Eve authority to care for Eden.
The gift we receive in Christ is not like the curse, Paul says in Romans 5:15. Though Adam and Eve brought sin and death into the world, the perfect human—Christ—extends forgiveness, righteousness, and life (Romans 5:18-21). Though sin enslaved humanity and while male domination distorted human relationships, God’s grace abounds in Christ even more. In Jesus, the bonds of human dominance of male over female are exposed as an evil distortion of God’s intention for humanity. In Christ, we receive forgiveness, deliverance, and restoration.
As we unite with family and friends this Christmas, may the sacrifice of Christ and the newness of life inaugurated by Calvary be restored in our lives in new ways. May Christ’s reconciliation of humanity become not only part of our joy this Christmas season, but also a priority in our work as the church. From all of us at Christians for Biblical Equality, we wish you and your families a Christmas and New Year filled with the peace and joy that comes from knowing Christ and power of the Holy Spirit.