Aiming towards a biblical theology of gender: Women-Injustice#6; Justice#17

Aiming towards a biblical theology of gender: Women-Injustice#6; Justice#17 June 2, 2021

Genesis 3 in the New Creation

I argued in the last post on women and injustice that contrary to popular opinion Genesis 3:16 does not establish male headship over women. Genesis 3 simply details the effects of the curse on male and female relations: namely, though women will desire to rule over their husbands, their husbands will instead rule over them in a domineering way (Gen 3:16).

A biblical theology of gender

For those who advocate male headship (i.e., that men are to rule over women: often deemed the “complementarian view) the problem becomes even more difficult when we move to the New Testament.

It is my contention that a biblical theology of gender today must account for the coming of Christ and the advent of the kingdom of God. For if, in the kingdom of God, there is a restoration of the equality between male and female—after all, few would dare to contend that women are subordinate to men in the New Jerusalem—and if that kingdom has already begun in Christ, then male headship has no basis among God’s people today.

This means that with the coming of the Kingdom, Christ aims to eliminate conflict. This is why Paul can affirm that we are all “one in Christ” (Rom 12:5).

This does not mean that with the coming of Christ we become perfected and all sin and conflicts are erased. For that we need the resurrection and the final restoration of all creation.

It does mean, however, that while the people of God (the church) long for the resurrection, we are called to make every effort to implement the New Creation among ourselves in the present.

Reading Colossians 3 in light of the reversal of the curse

Paul’s provisions for the roles of male and female among the people of God in Colossians 3 affirm this very point. The whole of Colossians 3:1-4:6 is set in the context of the presence of the kingdom of God (i.e., the New Creation) in the life of God’s people.

Thus, Paul begins this section with:

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2).

Paul continues by noting that if we have been raised up with Christ (i.e., if the reality of the kingdom is already being experienced by us), then, put aside,

“anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth” (Col 3:8).

In Col 3:18-19, Paul sets forth principles of how wives and husbands are to relate to one another: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them.”

When we read Col 3:18-19 in light of Gen 3:16, we can recognize that Paul affirms that in light of the inauguration of the New Creation the people of God are called to live in such a way that the curse on humanity with regard to human relationships is reversed.

Paul’s qualifying statement, “as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18) affirms that He is expressing how things are supposed to work in accord with the New Creation brought about by Christ.

That is, in the New Creation, wives are now to be subject to their husbands as a reversal of Gen 3:16 where their desire was to rule over them.

When it comes to husbands, Paul says,

love your wives and do not be embittered against them.[1]

This too must be read in light of the reversal of Gen 3:16. That is, in the new creation men are to love their wives and not rule over them as a tyrant anymore!

It is critical to read the NT from the perspective that the New Creation has begun in Christ and the coming of the Spirit.

In summary then:

I have argued that the OT does not establish male headship. Instead, it simply recognizes that conflicts will exist within society and within the family structure: though women will desire to rule over men, it will in fact be men ruling as tyrants over women.

Genesis 3 must not be read as though God were sanctioning men to rule as tyrants over women. The account simply affirms that conflict within human relations is one of the effects of sin.

With the coming of Christ, the people of God are to implement features of the kingdom of God in the present. This includes the reversal of conflict within human relationships. Whereas, as a part of the curse, men ruled as tyrants over women, now among the people of God, they should not be “embittered (“harsh”) against them.”

Paul places the ethical obligations for the husband and the wife in the context of the New Creation (cf Col 3:1-4:5). This is what “seeking the things above” (Col 3:1-2) looks like.

But doesn’t the NT clearly say that men are the head of women? We will address this question over the course of the next several posts.


NB: Because of the length of this discussion this post will upload posts 2x/week for the next few weeks!


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[1] Col 3:19; for “embittered”, cp. do not to “be harsh with them” (NIV; ESV); and “never treat them harshly” (NLT; NRSV).

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