“Adam was formed first, then Eve”: the gender creation order and women in ministry

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“Adam was formed first, then Eve.” Surely you’ve heard this statement before. If you have, congratulations. Chances are, you’ve read it from the pages of Scripture, particularly the words of 1 Timothy 2:

11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:11-15, NKJV)

Some have used this to claim that, “since male was created before female, then males are to lead in the church and females are not.” This is a surface reading, and this is one way to read the text. And yet, this is problematic because of context. Those who arrive at this surface reading of the text overlook context in 1 Timothy 2 in two ways: first, 1 Timothy 1 and second, 1 Timothy 3.  In 1 Timothy 1, we see that the issue is false doctrine. Where does the text say “men lead and women follow in ministry”? I ask this question because complementarians assume the text is saying that women are created second and therefore, are “inferior” in ministry. Where does the text say it? Ask any complementarian, and you’ll put an end to their interpretation.

1 Timothy 3 also shows Paul adding women as deacons (1 Timothy 3:11). Are women deacons not in authority in the church? Every leadership office comes with authority, and the same can be said for women deacons. Women deacons are over men in the church who aren’t deacons because, as female Deacons, they’re in church leadership.

But what are we to do with the interpretation that the created order of male before female doesn’t have implications for church leadership? What will shock complementarians (and possibly egalitarians as well) is that Paul himself gives the answer in another epistle to believers — the Book of 1 Corinthians:

For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God. (1 Corinthians 11:7-12)

In 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 above, Paul discusses “woman from man” and “woman for the man.” But then we read the word “nevertheless” (Greek πλήν or plein), we see that this word contrasts the beginning of the discussion with the end of it. The word plein can mean “nevertheless,” “besides,” or “moreover,” implying that there’s something greater than genealogy in discussion here. Apart from the discussion of how creation originally began, we see today that the man is born of a woman (as opposed to Eve, who was first created by Adam’s rib), 1 Corinthians 11:12. Therefore, if creation order determines who leads in the church, women would be the leaders today and men would be the followers. But what Paul says above all is that “all things are from God,” which reveals that creation order doesn’t matter because God is first and foremost, above all.

“Neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord” (v.11); what does this mean? It means that men and women are dependent on each other in Christ, so men and women are to work together in their homes to lead their children and keep the home running — and men and women are to work together in the church in order to preach and teach the gospel. Men and women are necessary to the work of the church and the home, and society. 

Those who argue that male comes before female, and thus, is the chosen gender to lead in the church, are those who must grapple with 1 Corinthians 11 and Paul’s words that nullify male leadership in the created order. Whereas the woman was originally created through the man, today’s men are born through the woman. The current biological birth process is reversed, with the female birthing the male instead of the male (Adam) “birthing” the female (Eve) in Genesis.

When men act as though women are unfit to lead in the church because “Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13), we can see that those who derive such a conclusion from Paul’s words are reading the text erroneously — and 1 Corinthians 11 proves it. I sometimes wonder if the complementarian view isn’t a way of men claiming they’re independent of women in the Lord, when 1 Corinthians 11:11-12 argues to the contrary.