Re-Interpreting Biblical Narratives

In Genesis 2 we learn that men were created first, and that women were then formed to be men’s helpers. Men, therefore, are in a position of leadership over women who were created to assist them in their tasks. In Genesis 3 we learn that it was a woman who took the fruit that had been forbidden by God, and who gave it to man. The fall, then, was the result of women taking the lead where man should have been. Man’s great sin was yielding his right and responsibility as leader, and the woman’s was seeking it for herself. Here, at the very beginning of the world’s story, we learn that the consequences of men failing to take leadership over women are grave! We must not continue this primal sin today.

I conjured this up this morning and while I haven’t personally heard this argument made before (it in all likelihood has been), I have heard quite a few preachers make the same sort of hermeneutical moves with biblical narratives that is made above.[1]

Whats actually happening in this argument is a re-narrating of the events or a re-telling of the story, partly based on their narration in Genesis, but now told so as to address the issue of male/female leadership. In doing so a message appears to be drawn out of the biblical narrative, but we would be right to question this, because the narratives in Genesis 2 & 3 do no make the connections made in the argument, the story there is not told to address the issue of male/female leadership.

All narratives are susceptible to a great degree of interpretive variety, which I think is because the events that they interpret by narrating them can themselves be interpreted differently. And the way they are narrated can still appear to mean something that the narration was not intended to.

This all raises an interesting question: if in any instance the Bible is narrating a real set of events from the past (as opposed to telling a fictional story), can we plumb these events for implications that the story as it is told in Scripture does not pick up on? Can we re-interpret these events? And what status would these have for our theology?

[1] Just in case the post has not made it clear, I do not think the above is a good argument. I am also not a proponent of male leadership although this could change.

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2 thoughts on “Re-Interpreting Biblical Narratives

  1. “can we plumb these events for implications that the story as it is told in Scripture does not pick up on? Can we re-interpret these events? ”

    Yes, but we shouldn’t!

    Yes because a story (whether true of not) can always be retold differently, Lois once read us the Three Little Pigs wolf friendly version ;)

    We should not because it was these tellings of the events that are Scripture. It is not the events, even as reconstructed by speculative historians that is Scripture – the very name says it, Scripture is WRITTEN writing fixes narrative. Retell the old old stories all you like, but if you change the meanings you have betrayed Scripture.

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  2. All is fine except that Paul does in fact leverage creation 1 Tim 2:13 presenting the fact that woman was made as helpmate to man and not vice-versa ,,while knowing that in God we all are equal 1 Cor 11 ,,nevertheless manly leadership ( not power )is institutional all over the bible ,,

    as for being careful to not extract false conclusions from genesis ( i.e. gender roles form the fall ) this is exactly correct ,, genesis actually gives very little text to the eating itself ,,it concentrates more on the two dialogues ,,with the serpent and with God ,, the author in quite content to not develop the sin act nor its setting .

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