Every month in 2022, I will be writing a blog post about anthropology, humanity, and sexuality. This series of blog posts will foster discussion and drive the reader back to Holy Scripture to learn about God’s grand design for men and women. I pray that these blog posts will offer greater clarity about God’s design for men and women. Furthermore, I also pray that learning about God’s design for men and women will result in worship. This blog post builds off three other blog posts entitled Anthropology 101, Anthropology 201, and Anthropology 301.
Some day I will address what Paul is saying about head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11. Perhaps I will end up rankling a few feathers with that blog post. Until then, it is worth noting the logic of Paul’s argument for women to wear head coverings. We read in Holy Scripture,
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
Here is a breakdown of the logic.
- The head (κεφαλή) of man is Christ.
- The head (κεφαλή) of a wife is her husband.
- The head (κεφαλή) of Christ is God.
When you lay out the logic in bullet points, it is easy to see Paul’s argument. (As a side note, some egalitarians take head to be something like cornerstone. This interpretation of head completely misses the point and does the text a disservice.) Moreover, what is the basis that the husband is the head of his wife? The answer has to do with the order of creation. It says in 1 Timothy 2:13 the following.
For Adam was formed first, then Eve.– 1 Timothy 2:13
The rationale for Paul’s statement will be picked up in a later blog. For this blog, I want to begin to tease out the dynamic between our first parents. The dynamic begins with an order. I have written in general about the importance of order to God. You can find that blog here. There are theological and practical reasons why Adam (man) was formed before Eve (woman). In relation to Christ, it says in 1 Corinthians 15:45
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.– 1 Corinthians 15:45
Again, Adam is called the first man, implying Eve was created second. So why does order matter? In Genesis 2:7, we read that God created Adam from the dust. The narrative of Genesis 2 continues to say that God cultivates the Garden of Eden for Adam. Two important trees and trees that provide food were placed in the garden (Genesis 2:8). In verse 15, God gives Adam a command. It is an essential command because God makes a covenant with Adam with the command. Here is the covenant,
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”– Genesis 2:16–17
Adam can choose to eat anything in the garden except from one tree. Just one. You should note that the command given by God is conditional. So if you do this, then this will happen to you. In Covenant Theology, God’s conditional covenant with Adam is called the covenant of works. But notice who has not been created yet. Eve. Is this a design flaw on the part of God, or is God’s design coming to fruition with reason and purpose? Indeed, there is no design flaw, but God is working his plan to perfection.
The second important aspect of Adam before the creation of Eve is the responsibility laid upon him. Adam is to name all the animals. This responsibility might appear silly, but notice what is going on. God is granting Adam authority. God could have taken on the responsibility for Himself. The part of the narrative could not have been mentioned. God could have deferred this responsibility until after Eve’s creation. But none of this is the case. The order of creation is connected to responsibilities. Eve will have responsibilities, but there is a precedence in Adam’s role in life. The precedence has nothing to do with equality but distinction because of function.
The first half of Genesis 2 is pivotal in anthropology. God created Adam before Eve. Furthermore, before Eve was created, God was dolling out responsibilities to Adam. The assigning of names by Adam is a display of dominion over God’s creation. God also entrusted Adam with the first earthly covenant. Adam is supposed to be responsible for upholding his end of the covenant. As we end up seeing, Adam is to ensure all humanity keeps God’s covenant, but he failed.
Knowing the weight of responsibility for Adam, God creates a helper. God creates a helper from the same kind and likeness, yet distinct in so many ways (Genesis 2:18). Here is a description of the creation of Eve by K.A. Mathews.
[The] dignity of the woman is heightened by the monologue of God’s creative contemplation. This stands in opposition to the creation of the man and the animals, which are described in the third person. Particularly, the creation of woman gives rise to God’s creation of animals in the garden as a pedagogical device for the man’s observation. The woman is deemed by the divine mind “a helper suitable for him.” “Suitable” (kěnegdô, lit., “like what is in front of him”) indicates a correspondence between the man and the woman. The focus is on the equality of the two in terms of their essential constitution. Man and woman share in the “human” sameness that cannot be found elsewhere in creation among the beasts. In every way the woman shares in the same features of personhood as does the man. In 1:26–28 this equality of the man and woman as image bearers has priority over their differences in sexual roles, although both were crucial to realizing the intended blessing.– K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 213.
And God knows that the only helper fit for Adam is Eve. We read in verses 21-22,
So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22 And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.– Genesis 2:21–22
Eve is the same as Adam in distinction from everything else God created. However, Eve and Adam are different, and in their differences, they can procreate and complement one another in marriage. A way that Eve complements Adam is that she helps him.
If two biblical words are confused and mishandled more than others, they might be helper and submission. For now, I want to discuss the term helper. Once again, here is Mathews,
The garden narrative moves beyond that initial assessment by specifying a functional difference that exists between the man and woman. She is called Adam’s “helper” (ʿēzer), which defines the role that the woman will play. In what way would Eve become a “helper” to the man? The term means “help” in the sense of aid and support and is used of the Lord’s aiding his people in the face of enemies (Pss 20:2 ; 121:1–2; 124:8).– K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 214.
The Hebrew word for helper (עֵ֫זֶר) is…helper. The aim of Eve is to assist Adam in stewarding the garden. They share dominion (Genesis 1:28) with Adam as the head of Eve.
Not Two, But One
It is taken for granted that Eve is bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23). Eve’s place in history is monumental. She is Adam’s wife and his helper. Adam is her husband and head. Genesis 2 ends with some of the most essential words in anthropology. There is more to the beauty of Adam and Eve’s marriage.
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.– Genisis 2:24–25
When Adam, who has an X and Y chromosome, comes together with Eve, who has two X chromosomes, they become one flesh. The New Testament calls the union a mystery. The math does not work, yet here we are, wondering how 1+1=1. Nevertheless, the mystery is not undiscoverable as you consider the purpose of Adam and Eve. After God created Eve, he displayed something more profound than the chromosomes of a man and woman. The creation of Adam and then Eve reveals a glorious mystery.
Here is a summary of the key points that lead to the revealing of the mystery.
- God created with an order.
- God created with a purpose
- God first created Adam with specific responsibilities.
- God knew that Adam needed a helper.
- The creation of Eve is not a reaction to deficiencies in Adam but to highlight the beauty and mystery of marriage.
How has the mystery of marriage been made known? The Epistle to the Ephesians hits the proverbial nail on the head.
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.– Ephesians 5:31–32
Genesis 2 advances the football down the field after Genesis 1 takes the kickoff and helps us to see the ontological purposes of God’s design. Genesis 2 now shows us a distinction between Adam and Eve and man and woman, more general. The differences are grounded in order and Christ. These differences are to be celebrated, especially as they are united in the mystery of marriage.
Questions for Further Discussion
- What is the importance of order in God’s creation? Other than the creation of man and woman, are there other aspects of God’s creation where we see an order? What about an order in the family and church?
- What does Romans 1:18-30 tell us when God’s order for sexuality is disregarded?
- What does “helping” look like in marriage? Why is it uncomfortable for many Christians to view a wife as a helper to the husband?
Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM.