Tidbits on Women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and History in Churches of Christ (No. 1)

These are brief: one tidbit each from the Hebrew Bible, the writings of the New Testament, and from the history of Churches of Christ.

Hebrew Bible

In Genesis 4:1, Eve explodes on the scene East of Eden as one who is already subverting the “man will rule over the woman” script of Genesis 3:16. She names a man!

Eve produced (qanah) a man (ish) with the help of Yahweh. Cain (qayin) is the noun form of qanah, and he is called an ish rather than a child, or a human, or a boy. Eve gave birth to a man, and named the man. Just as Adam named the woman (ishah) “Eve” after God questioned them in the Garden, now Eve names a man (ish) whom she has brought into the world with the help of Yahweh.

This anticipates Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 where he recognizes the mutual reciprocity between male and female rather than the domination of male over female: “in the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor man independent of woman for just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.”

New Testament

In Christ, Paul writes, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and there is neither slave nor free. Then he also adds a third pair: there is neither male and female. There is no “nor” as in the first two pairs but the conjunction “and.” Why the difference?

Paul writes “male and female” (arsen kai thēlu), which is the precise language that appears in the ancient Greek translation of Genesis 1:27. This is not typical language for Paul who only uses “female” in Romans 1 and nowhere else. He drew it directly from the Genesis 1 creation account. In other words, Paul recalls the creation of humanity as male and female.

This appeal to creation is important because what Paul describes as “in Christ” is part of the “new creation” (Galatians 6:15). This new world renews the partnership of the original creation when “God blessed them” and told “them” to co-create and co-shepherd God’s good creation. In other words, the equality and partnership envisioned in Genesis 1:26-28 is renewed in the new creation.


In the nineteenth century, many leading teachers among the churches of Christ believed that 1 Timothy 2:12 had universal application. It was not limited to the assemblies of the church but applied to the whole of society. Consequently, 1 Timothy 2:12 was used to deny women the vote, oppose public speaking by women in any social situation, and reject any kind of public leadership on the part of women.

If the traditional interpretation is correct, they had a point. If the prohibition of 1 Timothy 2:12 is rooted in some kind of “order of creation” (a kind of primogeniture), then it applies universally—whether in the assemblies of the church or in political assemblies. Whatever is rooted in creation applies to every aspect of human life.

It would seem a consistent application of 1 Timothy 2:12—if one thinks this contains a timeless prohibition—excludes women from any public leadership or authority, whether in the church or in society. That is how our “forefathers” read it until women were given the right to vote, hold political office, sit on juries, and become Presidents of universities. Then, we no longer believed that, adjusted our interpretation, and decided that the text only applied to assemblies of the church while continuing to ground the prohibition in some kind of “creation order.”

9 Responses to “Tidbits on Women from the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, and History in Churches of Christ (No. 1)”

  1.   Lynn Nore Says:

    Dr Hicks,
    I sincerely hope you will continue this series on women and Gods pulse and plan for them. This is a much needed series

  2.   Jim Oliver Says:

    I’m a little unclear what you mean by Eve explodes on the scene in chapter 4 when she is clearly involved with their life in chapter 3. And as for ” subverting the “man will rule over the woman” script of Genesis 3:16″, I don’t understand how giving birth and naming him is a subversion of Adam’s rule. But even if I accept this as you say, does this not follow along with God’s curse of Eve in chapter 3 where God tells her, “yet your desire shall be for your husband”? This curse of chapter 3 continues to show itself even in 2019, and not only in the church but in our society at large, sowing its seeds of destruction in the foundation of our society which is the family.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    My point is something like this: Adam named Eve (Mother of Living) after God’s encounter with the couple. In giving birth, Eve names Cain–she names a man (the Hebrew is specific; it is a man–not a boy, child). Just as Adam named Eve in the post-fall situation as, so Eve names Cain. She exercises this prerogative over a man (ish).

    The struggle against the “curse of chapter 3” is a redemptive one. We seek to overcome the curse through redemption, healing, medicine, agriculture, etc. I think Eve’s naming of Cain was an expression of this redemptive move as she testified to the mutuality of creation (though woman came from man, now man comes through woman).

    •   Jim Oliver Says:

      I must not be very smart as I still am not clear on what you are saying. Am I understanding you believe that Genesis 4:1, “Now the man knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have produced[a] a man with the help of the Lord” says Adam had sexual relations with Eve, Eve became pregnant then gave birth to a full grown man? Then, because Cain was born a full grown man and his mother, Eve gave him his name, this was exercising “prerogative over a man (ish)” meaning Cain should have been able to name himself or it was Adam’s prerogative?

      As to Eve’s curse specifically in 3:16, it uses the same wording regarding sins desire for Cain in 4:7. As sin’s desire is towards mankind, so would be the woman’s desire towards her husband. Seems to me these are battles that must be fought until Jesus returns.

      •   John Mark Hicks Says:

        Perhaps I am not communicating clearly. Let try it this way.

        Woman (ishah) came from man (ish), and now a man (ish) comes through a woman (ishah). This is God’s intended mutuality. And this is what Paul affirms in 1 Cor. 11:11-12. I think Eve is making the same claim as Paul through her praise of Yahweh for the birth of Cain.

        This is not about giving birth to a full grown male. Ish (man) is unusual here as typically this statement is about a child, infant, or boy (those specific terms for infancy and childhood). The deliberate use of ish (man) is not to claim that she gave birth to a full grown male but that she gave birth to a male (ish), and the language reminds us of Adam’s words in Genesis 2 (how an ishah came out of an ish).

        This does not mean conflict between the sexes no longer exists. But recognizing this mutuality is a push back against that conflict and a return to divine intent in creation. The conflict will remain with us, but we are called to redeem it and heal it.

      •   Jim Oliver Says:

        I appreciate the clarity in your response. With the other comments going on I was thinking perhaps you thought I was a crank. While I do not believe women are to be dominated by men I do recognize we have different strengths, because of our gender, and these strengths complement each other. This does require us to recognize these complimentary traits and each side must work together rather than giving into the desire to rule over the other. The tenor today seems to say you should allow women to do this and that or you are not a Biblical church. I also don’t see all the complexities that are read into the scripture as I think God’s word is simple to understand. For example the passage you use from Galatians 3, I read this that in Christ Jesus we are all equals as God’s children. There is no preferred religious affiliation, political affiliation, race, or gender.

        Anyway, this is an interesting discussion. Found this blog through one of your former students that was recently hired as the minister for our church. We will see where God leads us.

  4.   Darryl Says:

    John Mark,

    Would you please unpack “neither male and female” a bit more? I’ve noticed this difference in the text. But since we are created (before the fall) “male and female”, what is the “neither” about? I could see there IS “male and female” as Imago Dei–co-equal: together the image of God. But if there is “neither” exactly how does that play out exegetically?

    I am not arguing against the point–I’m just curious. Thanks! (You can email me if you prefer).


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Perhaps we might hear the “neither” as a negation of what the “Fall” generated, that is, male domination of the female. It is not a negation of male or female, or that distinction, but a negation of the social, economic, and ethnic (and sexist) brokenness in the world after the “Fall.” Consequently, I see Paul affirming the access of salvation and gifts to both male and female in light of the creation story of Genesis 1.

  5.   Jerry Jone Says:

    Creation must be the lens through which 11:11-12 must be read and I believe it will hold true for 11:3. In many ways Rev 22:1-5 looks like a restored garden of Eden and it shares in the mutuality of 11:11-12. How one reads Gen 1-2 determines how many texts in the NT are understood. There is common thread from Gen 1-2 and Rev 22 in the relationship of men and women. Thanks for your insights concerning the role of Eve after the fall.

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