Biblical understandings of human gender: Part Four: Grudem on Adam and Eve

Adam and Eve, from Genesis. Catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter (via Wikimedia)

Many people, including those with whom I am in conversation here,1 cite Wayne Grudem’s work (and especially his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth) to argue for an understanding of Gen 1-3 (or perhaps more accurately Gen 2-3 since Grudem himself seems to read Gen 1 in a fully egalitarian sense)2 in a way very different from how I have understood those chapters in previous posts. A key to Grudem’s arguments here are his “Ten arguments showing male headship in marriage before the Fall”. Here I will address only his first three:

  1. The order: Adam was created first, then Eve
  2. The representation: Adam, not Eve, had a special role in representing the human race
  3. The naming of woman

On the order and naming I think it is significant to notice that the human being ‘adam is only spoken of as a “man”3 when he recognises the woman as “bone of his bone” etc. (i.e. “corresponding to him” to use God’s language from 2:18)4 and it is at this same moment that recognising himself as “man” he recognises her as “woman”. Far from suggesting “male headship in marriage before the fall” this to me suggests gender reciprocity.5

I want to deal at greater length with Grudem’s second point. He claims, in brief summary that Adam (understood as the husband of Eve, not as humanity) acts in a representative way while Eve does not. Before we start to look at Grudem’s argument I would like to point out a complication. In Gen 1-2 the word ‘adam is used in two different ways (it would be convenient if one were signalled by affixing the article ha’adam “the human being” but that usage is not clear).6 Sometimes as in Gen 1:26-27; 2:5 ‘adam clearly (in 1:27 also explicitely) means a human or humanity. Whereas in 3:21 the term acts as a name. Our difficulty stems from the other usages where it might be a name, Adam, or it might be a description “the human”.7

1 Cor 15:22 is a key text for Grudem:

21 For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;  22 for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 )

In verse 21 the Greek word used is anthropos roughly an equivalent of the Hebrew ‘adam since it means a human being or humanity in general rahter than (usually) a “man”. In v.22 Paul uses adam, which is not a Greek term to indicate that he is talking about the opening chapters of Genesis. Although Grudem claims that here:

The New Testament does not say, “as in Eve all die,” but rather, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

I am not convinced that here Paul is saying “as in Adam, but not Eve, all die”. It seems to me rather that his use of anthropos in the verse before suggests that here adam represents the Hebrew ‘adam rather than a gendered name.

Grudem concludes this section saying:

Adam alone represented the human race, because he had a particular leadership role that God had given him, a role Eve did not share.

How odd, that in Gen 1-3 this “particular leadership role” given by God is not mentioned in the text, but must be inferred back into the text after thousands of years of fallen existance in a gendered and unequal world.

  1. Previous posts in the series are:


  2. I am trying in this series of posts to use Egalitarian and Complementarian spelt, with capital letters, to speak of the “party-line” positions often identified in that way, and spelt in lowercase, egalitarian and complementarian, when speaking of emphases or positions that seem to fit those labels, but which I am not identifying with some “party-line”. Thus, here, I am saying that on pp.25-28 where he deals with the claim that “Men and women are equal in value and dignity” Grudem is presenting a position, that is probably not that of a party-line Egalitarian, but is “egalitarian” in that it affirms the equal dignity and value of women and men. []
  3. = male human []
  4. kenegdo is translated variously but always with something like this sense NIV is the weakest of the translations I consulted.  The LXX went further still to accomodate this verse to traditional views of gender by omitting the term altogether! []
  5. An egalitarian view, with a small E. []
  6. In fact it almost seems the opposite of what one might expect, with “the human” meaning Adam. []
  7. As I said the presence or absence of the article does NOT neatly distinguish these usages for us. []

2 comments on “Biblical understandings of human gender: Part Four: Grudem on Adam and Eve

  1. Doug Chaplin

    Is this guy any relation to Wayne Grudem? ;)

  2. tim

    AAGH! Thank you, I’ll correct it now. I blame the marking season ;) That and having been looked after by a woman called Gudrun when I was a child. I hope he and you will forgive the mistake.