The narrative of Genesis 2 leads to the creation of the woman, Eve, from the man, Adam, and up to this point is largely rooted in its immediate, local context.
Like the narrative of Genesis 1, however, there is a trajectory that leads into the far future. Public debate about the creation narrative tends to focus very much on the issue of the ‘six days’. Indeed ‘six-day creationist’ has become a particular kind of theological label (or insult, if you are differently inclined).
However, the rest of the Bible takes almost no interest whatsoever in these six days. Indeed, they are only ever mentioned twice in the rest of Scripture, and then to highlight what does concern the Bible, namely the seventh day on which is based the institution of the Sabbath.
In this regard, the text of Genesis 1:1-2:3 points beyond the local context to the future — from this climax of divine rest will flow the future ‘mini-rests’ of the weekly break from human labour. As Christians, however, we see an even more significant sign, pointing not to a day in the week but to Christ. As Colossians 2:16-17 puts it,
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (NIV)
As with the similar ‘shadows’ of Old Testament priesthood and sacrifice (Heb 8:5), and indeed the Law itself (Heb 10:1), Christ is the substance who provides the reality foreshadowed in the earlier ‘types’.
But as J V Fesko has identified in his Last Things First: Unlocking Genesis 1-3 with the Christ of Eschatology (Ross-shire: Mentor, 2007) this means that Christ is also the hermeneutical key not just to the types in general, but to Genesis in particular. When we are asking ‘what does this mean?’, we must also ask, ‘what meaning does Christ give to this?’
That approach may seem controversial. Indeed some would assert that it will lead us to misread Scripture. But it is actually fundamental to our faith. In the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, Philip asks him, “Do you understand what you are reading?”, and when the eunuch describes his difficulty in deciding to whom Isaiah is referring in speaking about one “led like a sheep to the slaughter”, we are told that, “Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).
Thus, whilst the interpretation of Isaiah may still be a matter of academic debate, it would be perverse for a Christian to do anything other than follow Philip’s example — certainly if confronted with the same question.
When it comes to Genesis 2, therefore, we need to be aware that the text also has a trajectory leading into the future and that its final destination is Christ.
The trajectory begins with 2:24. From the Garden, we suddenly move to every future marriage;
For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. (NIV)
But it does not stop there, for as the Christian reader will probably know, this verse is picked up by the Apostle Paul and applied, once again, to Christ:
... for we are members of his [Christ’s] body.“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. (Eph 5:30-32, NIV)
This is not, however, an application that Paul produces out of nowhere, like a rabbit out of magician’s hat. On the contrary, the link has been implicit throughout the Old Testament, where God’s relationship with Israel is commonly depicted in marital terms. On the one hand, unfaithfulness to God is described as ‘fornication’, ‘prostitution’ or ‘adultery’:
Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices. And when you choose some of their daughters as wives for your sons and those daughters prostitute themselves to their gods, they will lead your sons to do the same. (Ex 34:15-16)
On the other hand, Israel’s own relationship with God is typically described in marital terms:
For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth. (Is 54:5)
Indeed, the life of the prophet Hosea is a ‘worked example’ of the difficulties of this relationship (and a reminder that God’s plan for our lives may include marriage but not necessarily a happy one).
Perhaps the most remarkable depiction of God’s marriage to Israel, however, is found in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, where the nation is depicted as a foundling baby girl whom the Lord first rescues and then, when she reaches sexual maturity, marries:
... you were thrown out into the open field, for on the day you were born you were despised. Then I passed by and saw you kicking about in your blood, and as you lay there in your blood I said to you, “Live!” I made you grow like a plant of the field. You grew up and developed and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw that you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine. (Ezekiel 16:5-8, NIV)
By contrast with the negative denouncements of Israel, therefore, her redemption is depicted as the renewal of the marriage covenant:
“The Lord will call you back as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit— a wife who married young, only to be rejected,” says your God. “For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back. In a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment, but with everlasting kindness I will have compassion on you,” says the LORD your Redeemer. (Is 54:6-8)
In the New Testament, then, this marital imagery is simply picked up and applied to Christ, most dramatically, perhaps, with the wedding scene that comes at the end of Revelation. The end of all things is hailed as “the wedding of the Lamb” (19:7), and then in 21:2 we have this vision:
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (NIV)
At the close of the book, therefore, we see the present-day church longing for this event:
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’”
To the alarm of some, this invocation is followed by an imprecation — a curse:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. (22:18-19)
In a most bizarre piiece of editing, the latest lectionary of the Church of England actually omits the verses telling us not to omit verses! But this is then followed by another invocation:
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (22:20, NIV)
The interesting point comes when we compare this with the words in 1 Cor 16:22. The NIV translates this as “O come, Lord!”, but the Greek text preserves the fact that this is actually an Aramaic phrase: Marana tha!
Being in Aramaic, the dialect Jesus and his disciples spoke, rather than in everyday Greek, we must assume that this phrase came into use in the church from the very earliest times. As with Revelation 22:18-20, however, the invocation is again preceded by an imprecation: “If anyone does not love the Lord — a curse be upon him!” (NIV). Given the parallel between the two texts, we may therefore wonder whether the invocation should be understood the same way in both cases, not just as calling on the Lord, but specifically (as in Revelation) as a longing for the arrival of Bridegroom on the part of his Bride, the church.
Certainly Paul viewed the church in this way. In 2 Corithians 11:2 he writes,
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. (NIV)
But for Paul this is much more than a metaphor. On the contrary, the effectiveness of Christ’s saving work depends on the parallel paul draws between Adam and Eve on the one hand and Christ and the church on the other, centered on the idea of ‘one-flesh union’ expressed in Genesis 2:24.
For Paul, the benefits of Christ to the believer come about through our union with him. Thus he writes in Romans 6:3-5,
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. (NIV)
And the benefit of this union is seen in other areas as well:
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. (Col 2:9-12)
Circumcision is not merely discarded. Rather, it is fulfilled in Christ, so that we who are ‘in him’ are also circumcised with him!
And all this comes from the application of the physical language of Genesis 2:24 to the spiritual life of the believer. Thus paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:16-17,
Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
For Paul, however, the significance of this extends even beyond our own personal salvation. Ephesians 1 presents a a review of God’s plans and purposes from before creation to our full redemption:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (1:3-4, NIV)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession —to the praise of his glory. (1:13-14, NIV)
As vv 20-21 indicate, the those plans and purposes are being worked out through Christ’s resurrection and heavenly ‘session’:
That power [working for us] is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. (1:19-21, NIV)
But though Christ’s rule is ultimately to be established over all things, he does not rule alone, as we read in the next two verses:
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (1:22-23, NIV)
There are those, however, including Ian Paul (Women and Authority: The Key Biblical Texts Cambridge: Grove Books, 2011), who deny that Christ’s ‘headship’ here is a matter of rule:
In Eph 1:22 and Col 2:10 he [Christ] is head ‘over all things’ in most English translations. But the Greek cannot mean this, since word [sic] translated ‘over’ is huper, which everywhere else in the NT is translated ‘more than’ or ‘beyond.’ To express rule or authority ‘over’ something, Greek uses another word epi (as in Luke 19:14 and 27 ‘we will not have this man rule over us’). (16)
There are, however, a number of problems with what Ian Paul says here. First, huper is simply not translated “everywhere else in the NT” by ‘more than’ or ‘beyond’. A key meaning of the word is ‘for’ as in ‘on behalf of’: “pray for [huper] those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). Another is ‘for’ in the sense of ‘on the same side’: “whoever is not against you is for [huper] you” (Lk 9:50).
Moreover, the sense of huper cannot always be conveyed by the two alternatives Ian Paul gives. In Matthew 10:24, for example, the NIV’s “A student is not above [huper] his teacher, nor a servant above [huper] his master” is clearly preferable to saying the student is not ‘more than’ his teacher or the servant ‘beyond’ his master.
‘Above’ is clearly a legitimate translation of huper, particularly in spatial terms. Thus the LXX of Deuteronomy 23:23 refers to “the sky which is above [huper] your head”. It would seem perfectly legitimate, therefore, to translate Ephesians 1:22 as “head above everything”. But in any case, the meaning and implications of this phrase would still have to be derived from more than just the single preposition.
Ian Paul inadvertently illustrates this by his reference to Colossians 2:10, for in fact this does not contain the word huper, even though the NIV reads “Christ, who is the head over every power and authority”. The Greek simply uses the genitive: “Christ, who is the head of every power and authority”.
But the sense is not merely that Christ is the ‘origin’ or ‘source’ of powers and authorities — Ian Paul’s preferred options. In the preceding verse, the Apostle writes that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (2:9). And in v 15 he observes that the powers and authorities have been disarmed, made a public spectacle of and triumphed over. Christ’s ‘headship’ in this regard is surely one of being ‘over and above’ as both the one who embodies the fullness of deity and the one in whom the usurping powers of the universe have been put down.
Regarding Ephesians 1:22, both the language and the biblical background make it clear that ‘rule over’ is indeed in view. First we read that God placed all things “under” Christ’s feet. To pursue the physical metaphor, and speak of Christ as the head and the church as his body, thus naturally puts him ‘above’ all things. The theological perspective is the same as that found in Philipians 2:9-11:
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above [huper] every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NIV)
Furthermore the background to the Apostle’s thought in Ephesians is reflected in Psalm 8, especially v 6:
You made him [ie ‘man’ and the ‘son of man’, v 5] ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. (Ps 8:6-8, NIV)
And this Psalm is itself picking up what we read in Genesis 1:28:
God ... said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (NIV)
The language of ‘filling’ in the LXX of this passage is picked up in Ephesians 1:22, which now uses the same verb (plēroō) to describe Christ as “filling everything” (cf 4:10, “He [Christ] who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe”).
Thus there is a parallel between Genesis 1:28 and Ephesians 1:22-23. In Genesis, mankind is to “fill the earth and subdue it”, ruling over the other creatures of the world. This is picked up in Psalm 8 as a hymn of wonder, but as the writer of Hebrews observes, although we do not see this in human reality we can see it applying to Christ:
Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him [man]. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour ... (Heb 2:8-9)
And the same thought is expressed in Ephesians. It is Christ, filling everything in every way, who fufils the mandate of Genesis 1 to “fill the earth”, and it is Christ, who reigns over all things, who fulfils the mandate to “rule over” the works of God in creation.
But as have said, he does this in combination with the church and he is able to do this because he does it in union with the church. Christ is the head, and all things are under his feet, but between the head and the soles of the feet is his body, the church.
Thus the argument of Ephesians 5, concerning husbands and wives, is not a mere haustafel — a set of household rules setting out an early (and possibly unenlightened) Christian ethic. Rather, it give human expression to the divine principle undergirding not just our salvation, but God’s entire purposes in creation. Christ rules, but not ‘Christ alone’. The plans of God depend on the union between Christ and the Church, and everything that he has done in Christ with regard to the creation is for the church, and finally will be through the church.
No wonder Paul writes as he does in Ephesians 3:20-21,
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Eph 3:20-21, NIV)Please give a full name and location when posting. Comments without this information may be deleted. Recommend: