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Some Reflections on Genesis 1-3 and a Critique of an Egalitarian Interpretation

Dr. Richard S. Hess, Earl S. Kalland Professor of Old Testament and Semitic Languages at Denver Seminary, contributed a chapter studying Genesis 1-3 in the volume on Discovering Biblical Equality, IVP 2005, edited by Rebecca M. Groothuis and Ronald W. Pierce with Gordon D. Fee as a contributing editor. A critique of this article appeared in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (volume 10, spring 2005). In Dr. Hess’ article, linked below, he provides a detailed evaluation of this critique as well as an overall perspective on the fundamental issues dividing the two contributors. Disputes regarding the use of New Testament texts vs. the use of Old Testament texts, the creation order, and the acts of naming receive special consideration. The reader will also learn about the major differences in the use of Scripture in this important discussion.

  Reflections on Genesis 1-3 (75.6 KiB, 1,745 downloads)



  1. Ian
    Comment #89460 posted June 18, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Many thanks for this article. I’ve also ordered the book.

  2. Comment #89461 posted June 18, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    That’s the best thing I’ve read all week. I read Duncan’s article/review about a year ago paragraph by paragraph with your own chapter. I concluded that Duncan’s article was complete nonsense. Thank you, Dr. Hess.

    (by the way, Discovering Biblical Equality is also edited by Ronald Pierce)

  3. Comment #89462 posted June 18, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I have a dumb question: what’s the difference between a Theologian and a Biblical Scholar? I ask this because the article states that Duncan is a theologian rather than a biblical scholar, and I never knew there a difference.

  4. Larhanya
    Comment #89463 posted June 18, 2009 at 1:03 pm

    @JLP: It’s not a dumb question…at first blush, there should be no distinction. But inside the gates of the seminary/university, there is a perceived difference. Biblical scholars take as their primary study the Scriptures themselves, gaining expertise, as Dr. Hess does, in one or more Biblical languages, and using that knowledge to exegete Scripture. Theologians, on the other hand, may choose to draw not only from Scripture, but also from tradition, culture, extra-Biblical writings (such as those of the Fathers) and philosophy, etc. As Dr. Hess demonstrates in his article, Biblical scholars are by no means constrained from using these sources, but their primary focus is the Scriptures. Much to their shame, some theologians choose not to start with the Scriptures at all, or choose to do so only sloppily, which is what I understand Dr. Hess to be suggesting Mr. Duncan is doing. Hence the accusation that brother Duncan is a theologian not a Biblical scholar. Does that make sense? Maybe someone else could be clearer.

    FWIW, I think that brother Duncan practices sloppy theology by not doing his homework on the exegetical issues. Nevermind that — he does sloppy scholarship by not engaging the chapter he was critiquing on its own ground.

  5. Comment #89464 posted June 18, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    It was difficult to follow without looking at the context: namely Hess’s chapter 4 of “Discovering Biblical Equality” and then Duncan’s response. JFYI Hess’s chapter 4 is available on google books here, and a correct link to Duncan’s critique (at CBMW) is available here

  6. Comment #89465 posted June 18, 2009 at 3:11 pm


    Thanks for your answer! You explained it so clearly that I could easily follow what you said.


    I’ve missed you! Where have you been? I always love your comments.

  7. Comment #89466 posted June 18, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Originally published in Priscilla
    , Royce Gordon Gruenler’s free review of the book, Discovering Biblical
    Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy
    , is

    available online

  8. Comment #89468 posted June 18, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Mike, thanks for pointing out the omission of Ronald Pierce from the list of editors. Just bears out how one can read something a few times and miss the obvious. It is sorted now.

    Charis & Mary, thanks for the extra links which are so valuable and give more of the picture.

    Hope many more read these articles and gain much from Richard’s excellent reasoning and faithfulness to scripture.

  9. Amanda
    Comment #89469 posted June 18, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    To expand on Larhanya’s explanation, biblical scholars seek to exegete the Scriptures themselves, whereas theologians seek to understand the Bible as a unified whole (this would include comparing Scripture with Scripture, as well as seeing what others have had to say over the past 2,000 years of church history). Think of the difference between reading a commentary as opposed to reading a systematic theology. Both, in my opinion, are necessary and an over-emphasis on one is potentially dangerous to one’s understanding of Scripture. Hope that helps.

  10. Comment #89471 posted June 18, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you to all who have contributed so far and also to Charis who provided another helpful link. What struck me as I read all of this material is that egalitarians are often accused of not providing any worthwhile or persuasive arguments that deserve consideration by hierarchists. This is a case in point.

    A thoroughly researched chapter from a highly credentialed and respected biblical scholar is dismissed out of hand simply because it doesn’t line up with the preconceptions and theological persuasion of the person doing the critiquing. As has already been well said, so often the arguments being offered by egalitarians aren’t examined on their own merit. It is just assumed that they cannot be right, or worthy of reflection. Why? Because they aren’t considered to be either true to scripture, or almost 2000 years of church tradition.

    What we tend to either forget or ignore is that a ‘reformation’ and rediscovery of the foundational biblical truth of ‘justification by faith’ was necessary because it was lost to the church for centuries during the darkness and confusion of the middle ages. Not so long ago people like John Wycliffe (who are heroes of the faith today) were burned at the stake for attempting to make the Bible available to the common people in a language they could understand. His greatest antagonists were the religious leaders of the day. Tradition, erroneously applied, failed miserably.

    Isn’t it just possible that we are arguing for a similar and necessary reformation of church and home life with our propagation of biblical equality demonstrated in mutual submission? Contrary to the opinions of those who believe otherwise it is my belief that the depth of egalitarian scholarship, as well as the integrity and humility of its staunchest advocates speaks for itself. Richard Hess is just one such example and I for one am pleased that he has gone to the trouble of responding in this gracious way to his critics.

  11. Jamie
    Comment #89479 posted June 22, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    Thanks for posting the article. ; )

    One thing that struck me in particular is the topic of naming on pgs. 7-10 of the article. Mr. Hess is absolutely correct about naming and authority. Not ALL naming means exerting authority, it could be just recognition.

    And also the Old Testament context is important (actually, all Scripture should be read within its particular context — it’s just not good exegesis to me to do otherwise and is an open gateway to the pick-and-choose method that can lead to a very inaccurate interpretation).

    But let’s assume for the sake of argument that all naming in the Bible (or at least in the creation narrative here) means to exert authority . . .

    When ha-adam (‘adam, ‘the man’) names the animals, it’s not the same way he describes the woman, for instance. It’s only when the verb call is joined with the noun name (sem) is the calling of the name seen as exerting authority. Calling by itself does not denote this by the particular naming formula present here.

    In Gen. 2:19 and in Gen. 3:20 do we see the calling of the name formula, but not in Gen. 2:23. There it is only descriptive.

    But if Gen. 3:20 is exerting authority, can it not also be usurping of authority by the man over the woman by his own initiative (not God’s)?

    When we reach the end of the narrative, Adam is driven out of the Garden, not Eve, who has been diminished so much post-Fall by Adam she is no longer worth mentioning (Gen. 3:22-24).

    Other examples of the calling of the name formula can be seen in Gen. 4:17, 25, 26a, 26b.

    There is a clear difference between calling and naming.

  12. Comment #89483 posted June 25, 2009 at 10:17 am

    Mr. Hess makes a point that has concerned me for some time about the way comps interpret scripture. He shows that Mr. Duncan making the point that we must use 1 Tim 2 to rightly understand Gen 1-2.

    I have heard this same argument from many complimentarians and find it bizarre.

    That would mean that for thousands of years, folks could not rightly understand Gen 1 and 2 until Paul wrote that letter to Timothy.

  13. Comment #89484 posted June 25, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Yes, I’ve observed the same thing.

    I listened to a preacher on a car radio some years back who was preaching on the Proverbs 31 woman.

    And ya know…
    He kept preaching through the Eph 5:22 lens.
    He defined and significantly narrowed the Proverb 31 woman through Eph 5:22 instead of teaching it the other way around, using the Pr31 gal as the foundation or first mention for Ephesians 5:21&22. He kept emphasising the importance of submission over and over (and OVER) to the point that the Proverbs 31 woman’s domain was reduced to housework.

    He disempowered and gutted PR31 until it was unrecognizable.

    Very sad.

  14. Don
    Comment #89485 posted June 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    That CBMW would publish such a shoddy paper shows a few things to me:

    1. They simply cannot conceive that they MAY be wrong.

    2. They write such articles to keep the already-convinced convinced. They cannot really be used to try to convince the searching or egals. But this strategy is only partially viable as long as non-egals are the majority.

  15. JLP
    Comment #89489 posted June 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I know the Bible is a religious book, but it is a history book also. I know of no history book that I have ever read in which anyone ever reinterpreted a historical event in light of something that came afterwards. It’s just not done. Since the Bible is a history book, I don’t think anything in it should be reinterpreted in light of something that happened later.

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