Ministry (21): The alleged law
The man “shall” rule over the woman. A few words from Genesis are cited by some to oppose the ordination of women. However, God does not formulate a creative will here nor a commandment, but rather predicts the consequences of the fall into sin. This is shown by a careful look at the Bible.
Man and woman were created together and equally in the image of God. This is reported in both the short version and the long version of the account of creation in Genesis 1 and 2. They have the same value, the same dignity, and the same mandate to shape the world in which they live.
But then this perfect relationship is destroyed.
Rupture in the relationship
Human beings transgressed God’s commandment, and the fall into sin changed everything. Instead of just plucking and gathering fruit in the Garden of Eden, hard work awaited them. Sweat and pain marked their life. This is what God told the first human beings in Genesis 3.
And it is precisely at this point that the Bible for the first time seems to establish a difference between man and woman: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (verse 16). This rulership of the man finds its first direct expression in that Adam gives the woman the name Eve—just as he has already given names to the animals in the previous chapter.
A divine commandment?
Some Bible scholars detect an argument here against the ordination of women to a spiritual ministry. For they see in Genesis a divine judgement following the fall into sin. And this would result in an order of sin that would replace the order of creation for the time being.
These exegetes make the connection to the subject of ministry through the passage in 1 Corinthians 14: 34. According to this passage, women are to keep silent in the congregational assembly and are to be submissive “as the law also says”. This commandment, which is not further specified in the New Testament, takes this perspective from the passage “he shall rule over you” in Genesis.
Will instead of shall
Is this really a commandment of God? No, say many other Bible scholars. This becomes clear from the context of many similar words addressed to woman and man: “in pain you shall bring forth children” or “in the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”. These are all things that a human being cannot consciously decide on.
Not to mention the passage: “both thorns and thistles it [the ground] shall bring forth for you”. This is why other translations of the Bible, also English language Bibles, do not use the word “shall” here, as in the Ten Commandments. Instead, they use “will”: “you will give birth” or “you will eat”.
Predicting rather than prescribing
Is this how God establishes a new order? No, say these exegetes. Indeed, if the rulership of the man over the woman were a precondition, then the difficulty of cultivating the land would also have to be a requirement. But in that case, any easing of agricultural labour by means of fertilisers and tools would be a violation of the divine order. If one is absurd, so is the other.
What remains is the observation: by saying “he shall rule over you” God does not create a new order or commandment, but predicts the negative consequences of the fall into sin.
Permitted rather than intended
And what does the New Apostolic Church think? The Catechism makes it clear: through the fall into sin the “untroubled relationship between God and man was destroyed” (CNAC 220.127.116.11). “The relationship of human beings toward one another also suffered as did their relationship with the creation.”
But “God did not create evil as such. It is thus not among the things that were expressly created, but has rather been permitted” (CNAC 4.1) Even the fallen creation attests to the activity of the Creator, who found everything He had made to be good (CNAC 1.1.1).
This means: not the negative consequences of the fall into sin are decisive, but the order that God created in a positive way. This also applies to the relationship between man and woman: the goal is not the difference resulting from the fall into sin, but the equivalence resulting from God’s creative will to create man in His image.
The goal: to be perfect again
This goal also becomes clear in the New Apostolic Church’s doctrine of future things: according to this, the participants in the first resurrection will be called to serve and reign with Jesus Christ in the kingdom of peace (CNAC 10.6).
“Both men and women are equally called to be firstfruits and thus to the royal priesthood,” the teaching documenton the ordination of women emphasises, featured in a special edition of the Divine Service Guide, 3/2022: “This eschatological vocation, which applies to the future, suggests that both men and women can already today serve for the salvation of their neighbour by way of ministerial authority.”
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ministry, Doctrinal statements