About Philip B. Payne Man and Woman, One in Christ Philip B. Payne, and the cover of his latest book, Man and Woman, One in Christ
February 3rd
written by phil

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 Eveâ’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 (ἄνθρωπους) 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 (ἄνθρωπους), so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all people (ἄνθρωπους).”

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.


  1. Randy

    Pastor Randy has kindly offered comments on a variety of issues. So that the context of my responses will be clear I have taken the liberty of interspersing them in the midst of Randy message. So that it will be clear who is saying what, I have put “RANDY:” in from all his comments and “PBP” in front of all the comments of Philip Barton Payne.

    RANDY: Regarding whether or not Romans 5 teaches male headship. I think the first question is, “Does the Bible as a whole teach federal headship.” After all Bible interprets Bible. One should not interpret passages in the Bible as if they stand alone apart from the rest of Scripture. If you do you will end up with some unique theology.

    PBP: “The Bible as a whole” gives the impression of a teaching that is taught throughout the Bible as a whole. Does the Bible as a whole teach snake handling? Two passages, Mark 16:18 (generally regarded as not in the original text) and Acts 28:3-6 mention this, but surely it is a gross exaggeration to say that the Bible as a whole teaches snake handling. The Bible never uses either the word “federal” or the word “headship.” None of the seven meanings or any of the submeanings of “federal” in Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language makes sense when applied to “Adam’s federal headship.” Reference to Adam as representing humanity are rare in the Bible. Consequently, to say, “the Bible as a whole teaches the Federal Headship of Adam,” is an exaggeration. It is not even clear from your message what you mean by “Federal” or “Federal Headship.”

    RANDY: Consider the following:

    1 Cor 15:22 “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive”

    Is the word “Adam” here referring to humanity or to both the individual male person Adam AND the individual female person, Eve? Of course it is not saying that in all humanity all humanity dies, and it would take some major twisting the make it refer to both Adam and Eve. This is obviously referring to the individual male person, Adam. In him all humanity dies. He, the individual male person Adam, represents all humanity. He is not all humanity, he represents it.

    PBP: It is a matter of disputed interpretation exactly what Paul meant to entail through the statement “in Adam all die.” There are many interpretations of just how “Adam represents all humanity.” It is sometimes asserted that every human being is guilty for what Adam did. One ought to think twice before drawing this conclusion, however, since Rom 5:12 states “death spread to all men because all have sinned,” [NASB] repeating exactly the same spelling of the subject (“all” πάντες) and verb (“have sinned” ἥμαρτον) sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The earlier identical words speak of the sins that all commit in their lives, as required by Rom 3:10-20. Consequently, prior usage of the same words in near context argues that this is also the most natural reading of the same words in Rom 5:12. Furthermore, Scripture repeatedly teaches that each one is responsible for one’s own acts, not the acts of others:
    Deut 24:16 “Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their father; each is to die for his on sin” [NIV].
    Isaiah 3:11 “They will be paid back for what their hands have done.”
    Jer 31:30 “But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.” [NASB].
    Ezekiel 18:4 “For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son–both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.”
    Ezekiel 18:19-20 “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.
    Ezekiel 18:30, “Therefore, O house of Israel, I will judge you, each on according to his ways, declares the Sovereign Lord.”

    Just as Paul makes statements that suggest that Adam is representative of the human race, he also makes statements that suggest that Eve is representative of the human race. The substitution of “they” for “she” makes this clear in 1 Tim 2:14-15, literally, “the woman being deceived fell into transgression. Nevertheless she shall be saved through the childbirth if they continue in faith and love and holiness with propriety.” Furthermore, this statement makes it clear that Paul regards Eve as falling because of her own transgression. Paul makes it clear in 2 Cor 11:3 that he regarded the tendency to deception to apply to all people, not just women, “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.” Consequently, one should not draw the unnecessary inference from any of Paul’s statements that the first woman’s transgression was not instrumental in the fall of humanity. Indeed, in Gen 3:13 the Lord addresses the woman directly, “What is this you have done?” and the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” This specifically identifies her sin as transgression of God’s commandment. Appropriately, God speaks directly to the woman in 3:16 identifying the consequences of her sin first. Only then does God identify the effects of the Adam’s the transgression of the same command (3:17-19).

    RANDY: Just as the husband’s headship in marriage displays the headship of Christ in the church so Adam’s headship to humanity’s sinfulness displays Christ’s headship in giving life to humanity.

    PBP: I do not know what “Adam’s headship to humanity’s sinfulness” means or what you intend it to mean. Furthermore, The basis of your argument, “Just as the husband’s headship in marriage displays the headship of Christ in the church” assumes the key issue in question. It assumes that the sense in which a husband is “head” of his wife is that he is in a position of authority over her. If you had read my book, pages 115-139 and 271-290, you would realize that there is a great deal of evidence against this assumption. For starters, you should know that the Greek use of “head” is very different than the English use of “head.”

    Although the most exhaustive Greek lexicon, LSJ, lists forty-eight figurative translations for κεφαλή, neither it nor its supplement by Renehan, nor the lexicons by Moulton and Milligan, Friedrich Preisigke, Pierre Chantraine, S. C. Woodhouse, or any of the thirteen additional lexicons cited by Richard Cervin’s “Does Keφαλή mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A Rebuttal,” TJ 10 NS (1989): 86-87, give even one example of κεφαλή that implies authority. Schlier concludes in TDNT 3:674 that in secular usage this word “is not employed for the head of a society. This is first found in the sphere of the Gk. OT.” Four prominent specialists in early Greek literature, David Armstrong and Tom Palaima of the University of Texas at Austin and Michael Wigodsky and Mark Edwards of Stanford University, confirmed to this author that authority, leader, or any related meaning was not a standard meaning of κεφαλή. Apart from a few NT lexicons, the vast majority of Greek lexicons list no meaning for the Greek word “head” that implies authority or leader.

    The Greek OT (LXX) shows that most of its translators did not regard “head” (κεφαλή) as an appropriate word to convey “leader.” In order to translate the Hebrew metaphorical use of “head” where it means “leader,” this diverse group of OT translators naturally would want to choose a word that means “head” and can also be used metaphorically to mean “leader.” The standard LXX text overwhelmingly (in 226 of 239 instances) chose κεφαλή to translate literal instances of “head.” Yet in only 6 of 171 instances where “head” may convey “leader} did the standard LXX text translate it with the metaphor κεφαλή in a way that clearly means leader. These translators even though they desired to give as literal a translation as possible almost always chose a different word than “head” to translate the Hebrew word for “head” when it meant “leader.” This proves that most of them recognized that “head” in Greek (κεφαλή) was not an appropriate word to translate “head” when it meant “leader.”

    RANDY: (Side note: Heb. 7:8-10 speaks to the idea that one person can represent the whole.)

    We can debate Adam’s federal headship, but the NT clearly teaches Christ’s federal headship. Therefore, there must be a type or shadow of it in the Old Testament. (Rom 1:2, 3:21; Eph 2:20; 1 Pet 1:10 & 11; 2 Pet 1:19)

    PBP: There is a huge difference between “foreshadowing,” which may be limited to a particlar point of similarlity, and assuming detailed logical equivalence. Analogical language about God is suggestive, not definitive. You appear to assume that whatever the NT teaches about Christ must have had a type or shadow of it in the OT. Where does the NT or OT teach this? To say that for everything about Christ there must a type or shadow in the OT is to unnecessarily limit the character and reality of Christ. Since Christ is God, it is also to unnecessarily limit the character of God as well.

    RANDY: This gives me the opportunity to address your statement that the word “headship” is not in the Bible. The word “trinity is not in the Bible either. That does not mean that the theological construct is not taught in Scripture.

    PBP: In the case of the Trinity, there is a wealth of statements in the Bible that require or point to the idea that Christ is God and that the Spirit is God. In the case of “headship” there are only a few passages that use “head” in a way that, in English, imply headship, namely leadership. Man and Woman, One in Christ, pages 119-123, however, lays out a wealth of data demonstrating that this usage was not common to Greek. Pages 123-137 demonstrates that “source” is a well established meaning of “head” in Greek.

    RANDY: One may not find the word “headship” in Scripture but we do find the concept of headship. Eph 5 uses the word head in reference to both the husband (an individual male) as head of the wife and of Christ as head of the church, His body. Then says in vs 15 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” What reason? If you look in Genesis 2:23 you’ll find that when Adam first sees Eve he says “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh”. Adam saw his body when he looked at Eve. He saw what used to be a part of him. He knew that the two them are one. Gen 2:24 goes on to say the same thing as Eph 5:15 “For this reason-” The reason is that a man will leave and cleave and that the two will become one flesh is because when a man looks at a woman he see himself. That is, he sees what he used to be part of him and he will desire to be one, united with his wife. (Also see Mat 19:3-6). Jesus prays the same thing over His church in Jn 17:20ff “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

    PBP: Amen, brother, preach it! The Scriptures do clearly teach this unity of man and woman. What I do not find in Gen 1-2, however, is anything about “headship,” which in English refers to an authority structure in which the “head” has the authority to command obedience form the other person. Instead, I read of both man and woman together being made “in the image of God” and together “having dominion” over the other creatures. In Eph 5:23 Paul uses apposition to define “Christ head of the church” as “he savior of the body.” Robertson’s Grammar, page 399 identifies this in Eph 5:23 as “emphatic apposition.” J. Armitage Robinson, Ephesians, pages 124–25, clarifies: “This last clause is added to interpret the special sense in which Christ is here called ‘the head of the church’…. ‘Christ is the head of the church, as being Himself the saviour of the body.’ It is the function of the head to plan the safety of the body, to secure it from danger and to provide for its welfare. In the highest sense this function is fulfilled by Christ for the Church: in a lower sense it is fulfilled by the husband for the wife…. The Apostle interpreted the headship of Christ by the insertion of the clause ‘being Himself the saviour of the body.'”

    RANDY: Eph 5:28 even tells husbands to love his wife as his own body. 1 Cor 7 speaks of this idea when it tells us that for those who are married their own bodies do not belong to them but to there spouse. This is for the same “reason”–they are of the same “bone” and “flesh”. Verse 32 makes it clear that marriage is a type or shadow of Christ and his bride the church. “This is a profound mystery–but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

    PBP: In 1 Cor 7, Paul’s longest passage about marriage, he specifies exactly the same conditions, opportunities, rights, and obligations for the woman as for the man regarding twelve distinct issues about marriage (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 10–11, 12–13, 14, 15, 16, 28, 32 and 34a, and 33 and 34b). In each he addresses men and women as equals. His wording is symmetrically balanced to reinforce this equality. The strikingly egalitarian understanding of the dynamics of marital relations expressed in Paul’s symmetry throughout this passage is without parallel in the literature of the ancient world. It is all the more impressive because it is focused on the marriage relationship, a relationship that traditionalists regard as intrinsically hierarchical based on the “created order.” Against a cultural backdrop where men were viewed as possessing their wives, Paul states in 7:2, “let each woman have her own husband.” Against a cultural backdrop where women were viewed as owing sexual duty to their husbands, Paul states in 7:3, “Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife.” It is hard to imagine how revolutionary it was for Paul to write in 7:4, “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does.” Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, page 131 writes, “Paul offers a paradigm-shattering vision of marriage as a relationship in which the partners are bonded together in submission to one another, each committed to meet the other’s needs.”

    RANDY: Marriage was created by God not out a whim but to a picture of God and His church. God looks at us and sees His body. This is why God hates divorce (Mal 2:6) (Matt 19:3-6). This is why homosexuality is an abomination (Lev 18:22). They repaint the picture of God and His Church. To remake God and His church into an image mankind desires is idolatry. To say that the male is not the head of the wife is to repaint the picture God Himself created–it is idolatry.

    PBP: Paul depicts marriage in both 1 Cor 7 and in Eph 5 as one of the mutual submission of husband and wife. In Eph 5 Paul defines “head” using apposition in a way that points to the head nurturing and protecting the body. God created man and woman to enjoy fellowship, fellowship that reflects the interpersonal relations of the Trinity. John Jefferson Davis in Incarnation, Trinity, and the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood” pages 10-20 in The Deception of Eve and the Ontology of Women (CBE, 2010) gives ample documentation that “The historic, orthodox understanding of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is that, in eternity, in the ‘immanent’ Trinity (the theologia), the Son is in all things equal to the Father. In time, during his incarnate, earthly ministry (the oikonomia, or ‘economic’ Trinity), the Son was voluntarily subordinate (in function, not essence) to the Father.” The orthodox understanding of the eternal trinity is not a hierarchy of authority of the Father over the Son, but a fellowship of equals. Christ is the model for all believers, not just males or husbands Paul repeatedly calls all believers to be imitators of christ or God in these very contexts: 1 Cor 11:1; Eph 5:1; cf. 1 Thess 1:6.

    RANDY: In conclusion, Federal Headship is taught in Scripture. It is foreshadowed in both Adam’s sin and in the marriage relationship thereby linking the two – headship in the marriage and headship in original sin.

    PBP: Gen 3 teaches the mutual responsibility of the woman (later named Eve after the fall) and the man for the fall. It teaches nothing about the “headship” of the man. It is especially precarious to speak of “Adam” as responsible to the exclusion of “Eve” since Eve was not named until after the fall and since the Hebrew word “adam” is applied in Gen 1 to both the man and the woman together. Paul, too, identifies the first woman falling into transgression (1 Tim 2:14). Eph 5 teaches mutual submission. In fact, the word “submit” does not even occur in Eph 5:22, but is dependent on “submitting to one another” in Eph 5:21. It is, therefore, misleading to speak of “headship” in either case as exclusively male. Both transgressed causing the fall, both are given dominion, and both are to submit to one another.

    RANDY: Thank you for this forum where good Godly people can have intelligent dialog regarding God and His marvelous word.

    PBP: And thank you for joining the discussion, where our desire is not to win an argument, but to understand the truth of God’s Word and to live by it. May the Lord bless your ministry and each member of your family.

  2. Marg

    I very much enjoyed reading your explanantion in the article above. I have previously noticed the gender neutrality in Romans 5, which is lost in most English translations.

    I have also noticed that throughout the New Testament Jesus is most often referred to as an anthrōpos (human being) and rarely as an aner (male human being.)

    Jesus became our Saviour and Mediator primarily because he became (and is) human, not because he became a male human.

  3. Lamar Wadsworth

    Superb exegesis of the Romans 5 passage. Complementarianism cannot withstand this kind of sound Biblical interpretation.

  4. Retha Faurie

    My take, not being a scholar, is simpler:
    I am willing to accept the contention that Adam may be in some way responsible for the fall, a way in which Eve is not. That is a simple reading of Romans 5.
    But, here is the problem: Federal headship proponents are making an argument that has as premise:
    “Because of Adam, we are in the greatest mess ever.”
    And ends with the conclusion:
    “…so, those not like Adam should follow those like Adam.”
    That is about as logical as: “The leadership of the Zanu-PF political party is responsible for hyperinflation and hunger in this country … so we should listen to Zanu-PF.”
    Taking the Romans passage on face value, Adam was in some way the source of our huge sin problem. Head, when using the term “federal head” for Adam, means source. Adam being the source of our sin problem doesn’t make him someone to obey (head as in leader) by sinning like him, but someone whose influence we should fight!

    But (good news for honest males, bad news for those who attempt the huge spin to get CBMW style complementarianism out of it) the Bible never teaches: “Adam being regarded as the cause of sin carries over to all males in a way it does not to women.”

    If Adam’s source-ship of sin carried over to all men, if male behavior thus had a larger potentially negative influence on everyone else (women, children, other men) then men should not be the ones who alone are in charge, but under authority of the whole group that could potentially be influenced by their behavior.

  5. Janene

    This is exactly what I had been looking for, many thanks

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