David R. Booth from Balcatta, Western Australia, asked for help in assessing what he has been taught about “Adam’s Federal Headship” in Romans 5. He wrote:
“The main thorn in my ability to fully embrace a more ‘egalitarian’, rather than ‘complementarian’ view is the whole ‘in Christ’ and ‘in Adam’ view espoused by Paul. It seems to suggest some notion of headship where Adam’s actions has ramification for all humanity in a way that Eve’s disobedience does not seem to in Paul’s understanding. The notion of ‘federal’ headship seems to still imply some notion of headship as understood by CBMW. I would very much appreciate any insight you can offer with regard to resolving what I see as a point of tension at this point.”
“The reason I raise the ‘in Adam’ and ‘in Christ’ analogy as a difficulty is due to the understanding common in Reformed circles regarding humanity’s incorporation under Adam’s federal headship. That is, Adam’s fall as the head of humanity, not Eve’s, is used by Paul as the theological analogy for humanity’s salvation ‘in Christ’ our head. Perhaps I am still overly influenced by the reformed federal theology of my youth, but I cannot seem to easily dismiss the analogy between Adam’s fall and Christ’s righteousness (and by inference not Eve’s fall) as having no bearing on the discussion on headship in this context. Is there something here which needs further clarification from your perspective? I would be very grateful if you could help me disentangle myself from this issue. Could you perhaps kindly clarify this for me?”
Does Romans 5 Teach Adam’s Federal Headship Implying the Authority of a Husband Over his Wife?
Philip B. Payne
© 2010 Payne Loving Trust. All rights reserved.
Concerning the Christ: Adam analogy, like any analogy, one must ask, “What is the point that Paul is making by the analogy?” To read more into the analogy than Paul makes explicit is to risk substituting a private inference for the direct teaching of God’s Word. Cranfield’s ICC commentary on Romans, vol. 1 pp. 269-70 notes, “Paul begins to draw his parallel between Christ and Adam in v. 12, but breaks off at the end of the verse without having stated the apodosis of his sentence, because, realizing the danger of his comparison’s being very seriously misunderstood, he prefers to indicate as emphatically as possible the vast dissimilarity between Christ and Adam before formally completing it.” On p. 281 Cranfield highlights the point of the analogy: “Adam is only mentioned in order to bring out more clearly the nature of the work of Christ. The purpose of the comparison is to make clear the universal range of what Christ has done.”
Does Paul by this analogy intend to teach that Eve was not equally involved in precipitating the Fall as Adam? Paul writes in 2 Cor 11:3, “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” In 1 Tim 2:14-15 he writes, “the woman being thoroughly deceived and fell into transgression [lit: ‘has become in transgression’], but she will be saved through the Childbirth if they remain in faith and love and holiness with propriety [to counteract socially unacceptable behavior here just as in 1 Tim 2:9 (cf. Cor 11:3–16)].” The association of Eve with her descendents, as the equation of “she” with “they” requires, shows that her transgression affects them, and that her seed (Gen 3:15) crushes the serpent, Satan, and brings salvation to them through “the Childbirth.” Thus, not only does Paul teach that Jesus is the second Adam, Paul also implies that Jesus is the seed of the woman predicted in Gen 3:15, who overcomes the Fall precipitated by the sin of both Eve and Adam.
Since in Hebrew “Adam” identifies both the man in isolation and the man and the woman together in Gen 1:26-27, “let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule…,” and since it was the sin of both the woman and the man that led to the fall in Gen 3, and since God addresses both woman and man (in that order) stating the consequences of the fall, and since there is a corresponding plural contrasting God as “us” and man as “them,” it seems inescapable that Eve did participate in the fall and in its ultimate reversal through her seed.
It should be clear from Paul’s other statements about Eve’s participation in the fall and its account in Genesis that Paul in saying “just as sin entered the world through one man (ἄνθρωπος, not ἀνήρ, ‘male human being’),” did not intend to exclude Eve from the entry of sin into the world. One possibility is that Paul intended “one man” to refer to the Adam (singular) identified as “them” in Gen 1:26-27, as possibly indicated by Paul’s use of ἄνθρωπος rather than ἀνήρ. Paul may have chosen to use the word “Adam” because it is a singular name, even when used to designate the original couple, and so makes a more direct counterpart for the singular name, the one man (ἄνθρωπος, focusing on his humanity, not his being male), Jesus Christ in 5:15, who brings the opposite, salvation from that fall. It should be clear that Paul did not intend this analogy to deny what is obvious from these other texts by Paul and the event he is citing from Genesis, namely the participation of Eve in the Fall.
It is not Adam or Christ as male that is highlighted here, but Christ as human, hence the use of ἄνθρωπος in “though one human being” rather than ἀνήρ, which Paul could have used if he had intended to specify man as male.
Similarly, the results of the transgression leading to the death of all people (ἄνθρωποι) is not intended to refer only to males but also to females, namely to the entirety of humanity. Similarly, as 5:18 states, “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all people (ἄνθρωποι), so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all people (ἄνθρωποι).”
Paul says nothing in Romans 5 about “Adam, not Eve” or “male, not female.” Indeed, the words he chose were deliberately gender inclusive, whereas if he had intended to be gender specific he could have used ἀνήρ to identify the male gender, as he does in Rom 7:2-3. Consequently, Romans 5 does not justify that Paul is here referring to “Adam’s fall as the head of humanity, not Eve’s.”
Finally, beware of extrapolations that are not clearly taught in Romans 5. “Adam’s federal headship” is not a biblical expression. Neither “federal” nor “headship” are words that occur in the Bible. Although you wrote about “the discussion on headship in this context,” in fact, Romans 5 mentions nothing about the authority of Adam or of husbands, nor does it mention “head,” or “headship.” It is about the universal implications (especially death) of Adam’s sin and the universal implications of Christ’s sacrificial death that satisfies the penalty for the sins of all and offers life to all who will accept Him. It is inappropriate to draw conclusions regarding a hierarchy of authority in marriage from a passage that is not about a hierarchy of authority or about marriage. This passage stresses the universality of the consequences of Adam’s sin for all people, women as well as men. It says nothing about the authority of men over women, whether in society, the church, or the home.