Structures of Authority before the fall

Many Christians incorrectly believe that man and woman were equal before the fall.

Cane Caldo‘s argument on that which man names is in his authority is correct. Let me first summarize that argument, and then expand on it.

Sorry Cane I don’t remember which post it was in, so I can’t link it directly.

God gives dominion over the earth to humans

Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [ak]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [al]sky and over every living thing that [am]moves on the earth.” 29 Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the [an]surface of all the earth, and every tree [ao]which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; 30 and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the [ap]sky and to every thing that [aq]moves on the earth [ar]which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. 31 God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

This is a pretty clear cut passage.

God gives man the dominion over living creatures and his wife

Genesis 2:19 Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the [p]sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. 20 The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the [q]sky, and to every beast of the field, but for [r]Adam there was not found a helper [s]suitable for him. 21 So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The Lord God [t]fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; [u]She shall be called [v]Woman, Because [w]she was taken out of [x]Man.”

Notice the exact similarities — even between the Hebrew words — of the two passages.

  • God creates
  • Brings to the man
  • The man names

That which was created, and brought to the man, and that which he names is his. The woman is man’s. The man has authority over woman. The husband has authority over his wife.

Therefore, prior to the fall we can see that the authority structure is put in place where the husband has authority over the wife.

The fall and Cain and Abel

If you study the Hebrew, the same two words — desire and rule over/mastery —  are used in Genesis 4 talking about sin in relationship to the curse placed upon woman and Cain’s attitude toward Abel:

Gen 3:16c Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you.”

Gen 4:7 If you do well, [e]will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

In both of these passages, Hebrew word for rule and master is the same.

The curse from Genesis 3 onto the woman is that the woman will desire for her husband. This means she will desire to usurp authority from her husband.

However, the he will rule over you, and the you must master it are reaffirmations of the authority that was there before the fall. Before the fall, humans were perfect in their relationship with God. If there is perfection in mastery there is no opportunity to sin. Likewise, there is already perfection in authority of the husband over the wife.

As you can see, the Adam naming passages as well as the fall and Cain parallel passages show us what creation was like before the fall: that perfect authority was already in place.

What is perfect authority?

The reason why many Christians believe that man and woman were equal is based on an incorrect understanding of what authority is all about. This is how far the rot of modern christo-feminist thinking has pervaded the church. Authority is always seen as something bad, especially in context of husbands to wives.

As I previously discussed in Structures of Authority Summarized, authority is good because it is instituted by God for the context of order. God commands us to obey authorities of all kinds.

If we were to look at perfect examples of what authority looks like in action we have two easy examples to point to from the previous post:

  • God’s authority over Jesus and Jesus’ submission to God’s authority. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.
  • Jesus’ authority over the Church, and the Church’s submission to Jesus’ authority. That is Jesus laid His life down for the Church. Eph 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26 so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that He might present to Himself the church [q]in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

Indeed, authority is a good thing because that means a perfect authority means a perfect love.

  1. God is love, and His love for us is Jesus whom He sent to die for us.
  2. Jesus is love, and His love for us is while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

GodandJesus christandchurch

Perfect authority is love. So yes, husbands had perfect authority over wives before the fall. Perfect authority is the ability to love as God loves. Before the fall husbands had the ability to love their wives as God loves.

How amazing is that?

Yet, Christians would delude themselves into thinking that before the fall man and woman were equal. This is a laughable concept and a failure to understand the nature of God. They only know of God but they do not know God. They do not know love because perfect love casts out fear. But God is love, and in His perfect creation before the fall there is His love.

1 John 4 (NASB)

7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is [a]born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested [b]in us, that God has sent His [c]only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13 By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14 We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has [d]for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear [e]involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.


A husband’s authority over the wife was there before the fall, and it was very good.

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16 Responses to Structures of Authority before the fall

  1. femininebutnotfeminist says:

    This is by far one of the best posts you’ve done so far (or at least, it’s one of my favorites). The concept is very, VERY important for people to understand. Great job!

  2. donalgraeme says:

    Excellent post DS. I’m working on a post of my own that touches on authority, and will use this post as reference.

  3. Elspeth says:

    This is well done, and I don’t have any argument with it really. However what I find is that a cursory reading (not even an in-depth study is required) of the NT verses on marriage make clear that the husband is the head of the wife.

    The verse on how Christians are to submit in love for the sake of peace within the church in no way negates the hierarchy of the home anymore that the verse on mutual submission gives the layman the authority over the leadership in his church simply because he doesn’t agree.

    Empath examines a post today where the female author describes how and why they chose mutual submission in their marriage.

    Ostensibly removing hierarchy creates peace. I have long concluded that this is highly unlikely. Where a husband’s headship is not accepted, the wife fills in the void, graciously allowing her husband to have input in the decision making.

  4. @ Elspeth,

    Correct. I have a post on that too — Is there mutual submission or not [in marriage]

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