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Gender Roles: Part Two: Jesus and Moses


4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one."  -Jesus, Matthew 19


Jesus is rebuking some chauvinist men who are leaving their ageing wives to chase after hot younger women.  Their argument was that under Moses there had been a provision for divorce.  Jesus replied that they had been misapplying Moses and used Moses own words to prove it.  In fact he used Moses' foundational teaching of the early chapters of Genesis to make his point.  So what does the opening of Genesis to which Jesus' points have to show us about God's intention for gender?


In the beginning God made a colourful world.  He could have had a grey one, but he made distinctions and thus variety and excitement.  He separated night from day, sky from water, water from land, etc.  Then at the climax of creation God reaches down and makes man... but not just man.  He puts a fundamental divide into humanity when he didn't have to.  As Jesus quotes Moses, God "made them male and female".  Why did he do that?  In keeping with how he made the rest of creation he made variety.  Wouldn't it be boring if we were all just generically human?  Like if the sky ad the water just murkily merged into one another?  Yuck!


Moses gets more specific.  He writes that man was created first and then given a job.  Afterwards he sought to create a perfect companion and helper for the man and he created woman.  This role of  being man's "helper" may sound denegrating to our modern, unhelpful culture, but is actually a divine title as this word in Scripture is most frequently used for God.  He is "man's helper".  God brings her to the man and he sings a love song over her, names her and makes love with her.


Moses' history continues.  He writes that in marriage these two creatures which are distinct in gender become "one flesh".  Obviously this is directly about sex, BUT Christian commentators have always seen so much more in this than JUST sex.  It is a unity of two things which are distinct.  (This word "one" is later used to describe the distinct yet unified relationship of the Trinity, a relationship of equality yet difference Deut 6.4)  Jesus quotes Moses here, "the two will become one flesh".  Jesus says that in sex and in marriage as a whole, these two distinct creatures, one masculine and one feminine perfectly fit together like two differently shaped yet perfectly fitting parts of a puzzle.


As you know the opening chapters of Genesis do not end well.  Adam sins with his wife and the two receive curses.  Adam is held chiefly responsible (and thus his curse is exactly twice as long in the Hebrew).  Eve is also held accountable for her sin.  They do, however, receive different curses according to their differences in creation.  Eve is cursed in the area of domestic relationships.  Adam is cursed in the area of his work.


This is the story to which Jesus specifically referred and thus validated in his teaching.   I believe it shows that gender uniquenesses are a wonderful, exciting thing which God put into the world at creation and which should be celebrated rather than the current trend which down plays or ignores them.

Comments

  1. "As you know the opening chapters of Genesis do not end well. Adam sins with his wife and the two receive curses. Adam is held chiefly responsible (and thus his curse is exactly twice as long in the Hebrew). Eve is also held accountable for her sin. They do, however, receive different curses according to their differences in creation. Eve is cursed in the area of domestic relationships. Adam is cursed in the area of his work."

    Interesting and an argument which I had never considered before. I don't really agree with this though :
    "In the beginning God made a colourful world. He could have had a grey one, but he made distinctions and thus variety and excitement. He separated night from day, sky from water, water from land, etc. Then at the climax of creation God reaches down and makes man... but not just man. He puts a fundamental divide into humanity when he didn't have to. As Jesus quotes Moses, God "made them male and female". Why did he do that? In keeping with how he made the rest of creation he made variety. Wouldn't it be boring if we were all just generically human? Like if the sky ad the water just murkily merged into one another? Yuck!"
    Personally I think it was more than just variety, I think "The Shack" a great novel puts it quite well (I'll paraphrase) that God made man and woman equal but different, because he wanted us to be in relationship with both, both loving God and others. I don't know if that really came across right... I'm not great at writing down what I mean.

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  2. I have a problem with the assumption that colourful & diverse should end up meaning hierarchical, separate, not equal, rigid & controlling in the way that Male Headship is.

    You jump between the two different (and in order quite different) creation accounts in Genesis with no acknowledgement that you are doing so. I have a problem with this approach to Scripture.

    If both Jesus and Moses affirm that a couple become one flesh then please explain how there can be a hierarchy within one flesh?

    What does the life, death & resurrection of Jesus mean in this narrative? What does it mean for us to have been born again of the Spirit? The old life has passed away, we have died to sin yet you seem to want to keep this curse from the old life because it supports your views of male headship. Why?

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  3. Happy Halloween Dave,

    1. Yes, I "jumped between the two accounts". So did Jesus in Matthew 19. I offered as much and as little acknowledgement of their differences as he did.

    2. I have never used the term "hierarchy" in reference to marriage. That is a view you are imposing upon me. Just because I affirm that Scripture paints a different picture of what masculinity and femininity are doesn't make me a hierarchalist.

    3. Thank you for your last paragraph where you poise an intelligent question. I would answer that the death and resurrection of Jesus means that sin, which ruins all relationships, has lost its ultimate power. It's effects are still felt to a degree (sweat of the brow, pain in child birth... still here!)Yet final victory over sin and all it's effects have been won. I can now love my wife as Christ loved the church. She can now submit to me as the church does to Christ. Our marriage is a sacrament which reflects the gospel. It's based on grace, not on law which means we will not leave each other for not measuring up in the myriad of ways sinful people tend to compare themselves.

    To answer your last question, my understanding of leadership does not necessitate it being rooted in sin. I understand leadership in government, church, family etc to be God ordained rather than the fruit of sin. I assume as a minister you serve your church by providing leadership for it. That does not mean you superior to them, it simply means that leadership is a gift and calling which you are to use to serve the body.

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  4. Joshua,

    "I have never used the term "hierarchy" in reference to marriage. That is a view you are imposing upon me. Just because I affirm that Scripture paints a different picture of what masculinity and femininity are doesn't make me a hierarchalist."

    I agree that I have not heard you use the term. However, that does not mean I agree that your views don't make you a hierarchalist.

    If you believe in different roles based on gender which include submission for some and leadership for others then whether you like it or not this is hierarchical. Unsurprisingly Men who hold these views frequently try to convince themselves and others that this is not the case.

    The comparison to leadership in the Church is interesting. Leadership roles in the Methodist Church come from a response to God's call and gifts that are tested by the whole Church before they are sent by the Church.

    When we compare this to your view of marriage we see the significant difference that for you leadership in marriage it not about God's call & gifting but simply decided by gender.

    When we look at the variety of people created by, loved by, redeemed by God and the way that God calls them and gifts them then we can start to see how this hierarchical view limits the way people can respond to God's call and gifts.

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