By Richard M. DavidsonGenesis 1-2 constitutes the foundational biblical passage both for those who support and those who oppose women’s ordination. Does this passage uphold God’s ideal of the full equality of men and women, both in value before God and in egalitarian (non-hierarchical) male-female interrelationships, as those who support women’s ordination claim? Or does this passage present a creation order of ontological equality (in value before God) but of functional hierarchy (different roles involving female submission to male headship), as opponents of women’s ordination insist? In this blog, distilling some 30 years of personal research on this passage, I argue that Genesis 1-2 presents Adam and Eve not only as equal in worth before God (ontologically), but as equal partners without hierarchy (functionally).
A. Genesis 1 teaches us that male and female participate equally in the image of God, both ontologically and functionally. “So God created man [Heb. ha’adam ‘humankind’] in His own image, in the image of God created he Him; male and female created He them” (Gen 1:27).
This foundational passage (and its surrounding context) gives no hint of a divine creation hierarchical order in the relation of man and woman. Here man and woman are fully equal, with no subordination of one to the other. Both man and woman together are blessed and given the mandate to be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth; both together are given dominion over the earth, not the man dominion over the woman (Gen 1:28).