One of the positions that complementarians commonly hold is that male and female were created with distinct roles so that one (the male) is said to have been given the authority over the other (the female) and the fact that Adam names Eve is used as proof of the man’s authority. CMBW (The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) records it this way:
Male and female were created by God as equal in dignity, value, essence and human nature, but also distinct in role whereby the male was given the responsibility of loving authority over the female, and the female was to offer willing, glad-hearted and submissive assistance to the man. Gen. 1:26-27 makes clear that male and female are equally created as God’s image, and so are, by God’s created design, equally and fully human. But, as Gen. 2 bears out (as seen in its own context and as understood by Paul in 1 Cor. 11 and 1 Tim. 2), their humanity would find expression differently, in a relationship of complementarity, with the female functioning in a submissive role under the leadership and authority of the male.
CBMW’s statement of their position says that Genesis 2 as viewed in its own context will show Adam’s authority over Eve as God’s original design and this is borne out in the act of Adam naming Eve. Let’s have a close look at the context of Genesis 1-3 to see where Adam could have been given authority over Eve.
In my post on February 17th on Common Objections to Women in Ministry: God’s Design in Genesis we saw that Adam and Eve were given equal authority over all of God’s creation in the land, air and the sea. If God had wanted to add to Adam’s authority the responsibility to a rule over the woman, Genesis 1 would have been a perfect place to list that authority, but God never gives Adam an authority over his wife in the original design. The authority of rulership for Adam is clearly over animals and the earth, not people. So if God did not give authority for Adam to rule Eve in the original creation, when is God supposed to have given him that authority? Let’s look to Genesis chapter 2 for any evidence of an added authority given to Adam.
Genesis 2:22 (NASB) The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.
Adam’s exclamation of joy in verse 23 when he first set eyes on the woman is a declaration that she is from him as flesh of his flesh, but where are there any words from God determining a “role” of authority for the man that would set him up as her ruler? We do see Adam calling her “woman” but is this taking authority over her? It can’t be. For one thing, Adam was not the origin of the term woman. God called her woman before Adam did. Adam merely accepted her and affirmed her origin as being from him. God did not give Adam authority over her and we cannot assign an authority without God first giving that authority. To assume such an authority without God’s permission is a very dangerous thing to do.
Genesis 2:23 (NASB) The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.”
Notice again that God never said that He gave the man an authority to rule the woman nor did God direct the man to “name” her as a way to take his authority over her. The fact that God had already called her woman in verse 22 also reveals that God did not give any directive for Adam to exercise his own authority over her. She simply was identified as a woman already by God and she was accepted as such by Adam himself.
But what about after sin entered the world? Did God give the man the authority to rule the woman then? What did God say to the man after Adam admitted that he ate the fruit?
Genesis 3:17 (NASB) Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life.
Notice that God doesn’t say that “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, I am giving you authority over her”. Adam did not take authority over the serpent in the garden when the serpent was deceiving his wife and God certainly did not give an additional authority to Adam in his sinful state. But Adam does name his wife “Eve” in verse 20. Is this proof that Adam had an authority given him by God that is never directly listed in the Scripture?
Genesis 3:20 (NASB) Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.
Isaiah 8:3–4 (NASB)3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz;4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”
Genesis 17:5 (NASB95) “No longer shall your name be called Abram, But your name shall be Abraham; For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations.
4) Adam’s naming of Eve indicates, in an OT cultural context, Adam’s right of authority over the one whom he named. And interestingly, Adam named his wife twice, first when she was formed from his flesh (2:23), and second after they had both sinned (3:20), indicating that his rightful authority over her continued after sin had come.
No, this is not true. Naming someone does not prove the “rightful” authority over them. Let complementarians prove Adam’s “rightful” authority over Eve in the words of God in Genesis. Where did God give Adam this right? Where is this authority determined by God as a design that He placed within man at his creation?
The fact is that this revision of the historical account is once again necessary to bolster the complementarians claim that only men are allowed to use their spiritual gifts in the church for the common good. Once they can claim a non-existent authority in the beginning, they can claim anything they want because of that “authority”.
Are we going to accept another historical revision or are we going to challenge complementarians to prove their claim that Adam received authority to rule the woman? Where is this authority given to Adam anywhere in the text? If this claim cannot be pointed out in the text, then it is time to challenge complementarians to get back to the beginning and rethink their doctrine.