“I found your spanner, Mum!”
“Huh? What are you talking about?” Heck, I don’t own a spanner. And there certainly shouldn’t be one in the kitchen today.
“Look!” My 7 year old son proudly displays the pictured Tupperware salad server. With a touch of amusement, I explain what it is.
“No, it’s a spanner!”
“Spanner! Whoever says it the most times is right – spanner, spanner, spanner, spanner, spanner, spanner, spanner…”
He’s right in a sense. The more times we hear something, the more we tend to believe it is true. Politicians know this (our policies to take away your rights or benefits are for your own good!). Fast food companies know this (the evidence may say otherwise, but our food is so good for you!). Big retailers know this (find the exact same item elsewhere cheaper, and we’ll beat it by 10%…because we know so many of you will be fooled by this that you will assume this is your assurance of our low prices, and we’ll make sure we have exclusive rights to enough products that you won’t find them elsewhere anyway). A small number of people think things through sufficiently to see past these tactics, but the majority don’t. If they did, advertising companies would go out of business.
I wonder what you have heard over and over in church and Bible studies, or read in Christian books so many times that you believe it is true, but actually isn’t? The best answer to these beliefs is holding them up to Scripture. I’m going to look at 4 common beliefs, and see what Scripture has to say.
- In creation, God gave the task of leadership to men.
Genesis 1:28 “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.” The task to rule (lead) the earth, caring for creation, was given to males and females together (“…them…them…”). The only leadership implied in Genesis 1 or 2 is given equally to males and females.
- Adam’s naming of Eve in Genesis 2:23 demonstrates his authority over her, because naming something implies authority over it in the Bible.
Invariably, those who claim this will say that men are given ultimate authority over the family (wife and children) by God. But although the Old Testament records 17 instances of a father naming a child, in 27 other occurrences, it’s the mother who bestows a name on the baby. By this reckoning, women are almost 50% more authoritative over children than men.
More important is Genesis 16:13, “(Hagar) gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Hagar names God. Anyone who wants to declare Hagar to have been in authority over the Lord is far braver than I!
- The serpent approached Eve, knowing she was weaker and easier to deceive.
Genesis 3:6, “…she took some (fruit) and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her…”
Get that? Adam was there the whole time. It’s not evident to us in English when we read what precedes this, but the serpent is addressing both Adam and Eve in this conversation. One of the most frustrating limitations of modern English is the lack of a plural “you” (middle English had “ye” as a plural). I first noticed this when reading Genesis 3 in German – every “you” in this conversation is plural. I checked it out, and found that it is the same in Hebrew. The serpent very clearly spoke to both.
- Eve usurped Adam’s headship in taking the initiative to take the fruit.
When someone says, “Eve usurped Adam’s headship,” what they mean is, “Eve usurped a very particular and special kind of leadership/authority given by God to Adam.”
There are two significant errors in this belief. Firstly, you can’t usurp an authority that hasn’t been given. Read Genesis 1 and 2 thoroughly. In no instance does God give any authority to the man only (two common arguments which claim to support this from Genesis 1 & 2 have already been refuted above). Both the man and woman are given the task to rule together (Gen 1:26, 28). There is no hierarchy at all in Genesis 1 and 2. Hierarchy only comes about in human relationships as a consequence of the Fall.
Secondly, this demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of the use of “head” in Eph 5:23 and 1 Cor 11:3. In English, when we read “head,” we understand it to mean authority, boss or chief. This is the natural way of reading it in English. The problem is, Paul was writing in Greek. If we want to understand this passage, we need to understand what Paul wanted to convey to his readers, not necessarily what is the clear and obvious meaning in English.
“Authority” is not the literal meaning of the word describing that round thing on top of your neck. It is one of a number of figurative meanings of “head.” These figurative usages vary from one language to another – for example, an English nose “runs,” while an Italian one “executes.” The Koine Greek (the Greek of the New Testament era) word kephale (head) does not have “authority” as a possible meaning. This is too complex a matter for this brief post, but an excellent description can be found here or here. The most important thing to understand is that Paul uses “head” both as part of a metaphor for unity and as a correction of false doctrines about the creation of man and woman which were common at that time. God calls husbands and wives to mutual (not unilateral) submission (Eph 5:21, 1 Cor 7:3-7, 1 Peter 3:1-7). The only authority in a Christian marriage is that of God over both partners.
You really don’t want to go mixing up your spanner with your salad server. Neither do we want to be mixing biblical truth with wrong teachings.