7 reasons to be Egalitarian

If you follow x44 videos at all it is no secret to you that we are [strong] Biblical egalitarians (careful not to insert the Biblical Definition of an Egalitarian, not the world’s definition). Here is a playlist. I am going to ATTEMPT to make this more of a brief and concise overview of our beliefs with plenty of links to dive deeper.

We firmly believe in striving for God’s ideals. In the Bible we get clear mosaics of what God desired for His relationship to be with us walking in Eden as a partnership with humankind before the fall. We also get a similar ideal picture of His ideal for us in the renewed or re-creation state of heavens and earth when all is reclaimed in a very similar Edenic state of equality before the Lord. That is what God says is good and complete. What happens in the middle of the story is nothing short of the worlds contamination of what was given as pure & holy. Personally, we don’t need any other reasons to consider the office, vocations, and calling of humanity as equal and undivided unto the Lord. But there are some other reasons in the middle that we think also speak to one accord, let’s start at the beginning and walk through this.

Since the fall, it has always been part of human nature to dominate and oppress other humans. This is one of the distortions of humanity’s original purpose in the garden of Eden, which was to flourish and cultivate peace bearing the image of God. Although Adam and Eve were created to equally rule & reign over the earth (to keep and cultivate), sin entered, and we have ever since been trying to rule over each other. Might does not make right, love does. Together, as a team, all men and women are to govern the earth in love, humility, and peace. Hierarchy and power struggles are and always have been a result of sin. Equality is the created order. (Excerpt slightly re-edited from Joy through Christ)

1. Creation teaches mutuality

IMAGE OF GOD -The Hebrew word for “image”, tselem (tseh’-lem) is sometimes translated “idol.” Humanity was created “…in our likeness, so that they may rule…” The NIV catches the chiastic structure (an A-B-A’ pattern) that centers the image of God “poem” around ruling. A chiasm is a common Hebrew structural device, like having a thesis sentence in English literature, it is designed to draw the reader’s attention to the center and interpret everything in light of that key point. In other words, it’s pretty clear that the image of God is deeply connected to humanity’s role to rule over creation.

This is further verified because we know that the image of God was a phrase used by kings in the ancient near east to describe themselves. God has made the radical claim, then and now, that all of humanity is royal. The image of God is the royal task of ruling the earth as God’s physical representatives. We are supposed to rule and subdue like God does, in partnership with Him creating goodness and order and beauty, subduing chaos, so that all things can flourish. The image of what this looks like in Genesis 2 is gardening. The image of gardening as the ideal of rulership and subduing is something you should deeply ponder. Make a cup of tea, go for walk and become a gardener/shepherd.

The image of God is something related to our inherent ontology, in some way, endowing all of humanity with equal value. But, it is also a task and authority that we live into. That’s the foundation in which Jesus was described as the true image of God (ex. 2 Cor. 4:4), the new Adam (adam in Hebrew means “human”) (ex. 1 Cor 15), and the Son of Man, which just means “a human” (ex. Dan. 7, pretty much every time Jesus refers to himself). He was the only one who really lived the human role perfectly. He was the human we all ought to be but fail to be.

RIB/SIDE Genesis 2:21-23 tsela is the Hebrew word that is often translated as rib, you don’t need to be a Hebrew scholar to recognize the connection to tselem. When we take a look at other instances of this word, we find that it’s a word that’s most often connected to construction, like buildings or things like the ark of the covenant. The next time we see this word come up after Genesis 2, it’s in Exodus 25. And it is used several times from then onward in Exodus as part of the instructions for setting up the ark and tabernacle. In those instances, and most of the one’s after that too, it’s referring to a side, like a half. For example:

And he cast for it [the ark] four rings of gold for its four feet, two rings on its one side and two rings on its other side.

Exodus 37:3

In the second episode of the Bible Project’s podcast series on the Family of God, Dr. Tim Mackie says what God is doing in Genesis is taking one half of the human and making another one. Man and woman are cut from the same cloth; two halves of the same coin. This is truly kenegdo, neged, (neh’-ghed) a suitable helper. This is presenting a “same, but different” picture of man and woman. But I find that complementarians seem to assume one of the differences is our inherent leadership roles. That continues to be absent from the text, and this image of being each other’s “half” resonates much better with egalitarianism. We are so alike that could be considered to have the same “skin” as the Hebrew suggests.

HELPER/HELPMATE -The word for “helper” is ezer (ay’-zer). If you search for every instance of that word in the Bible, you’ll find that Genesis 2 is the only time the word is used, as you’d soon find out, to be describing a female human, as well as the only time it’s used remotely close to a marital context. Furthermore, the vast majority of the time, the term is used to describe God, mostly in military contexts. “Deliverer” is probably a more helpful translation. This is someone coming with a reinforcing army, delivering those they help from the clutches of death. In many of my circles, we’ve chosen to talk about an ezer as a “strong rescuer”. That captures the oomf of the word better, I think.

This conversation also ties into the head, kephalē (kef-al-ay’) appears some 75 times in the Greek New Testament. It is a borrowed word, in Greek it is known as a military term and shares a similar meaning to the more popular word phalanx which was a military formation, usually composed of heavy infantry armed with spears, pikes, or similar pole weapons. An important aspect was that it marched forward as one entity. The head referred to the first part of the formation, guarding or revering those behind in a place of honor.

The head took the brunt of the attack. If you think of a Vietnam style formation and somebody tells you to take the lead or be the head, it’s the place of great servitude. It is also the place where there was a very good chance that you might be asked to give the ultimate sacrifice of your life itself. Yet how many times in history have we seen the person who supposed to be the greatest, the commander or the general take the lead and urge the troops on towards battle from the head. This is the mosaic of serving from the head.

When you take this mindset & apply it to Christ as the head of the church and the husband as the head of the wife, it takes on a different meaning than what you might consider it traditionally. It’s a position of extreme servitude, not just to the ones you love the most, but to everyone. It’s the greatest measure of honor towards equality within the church. It is the place that not just pastors should lead from, but the place all of us should lead from. It is a calling to the complete priesthood of believers, male and female, children and adults. (This is an excerpt from Dr. Ryan’s follow up Book in the This is the Way series to be released in late 2022 by Crosslink Publishing.)

This makes sense in the Genesis 2:18 usage, too. We are prone to choosing the way of death and destruction. So, we need a strong rescue to save us from death. The strong rescuer that the human needs is one that is “suitable for him,” as the NIV puts it. The ESV renders it “fit for him”. The NLT renders it “just right for him”. The NRSV renders it “as his partner”.

Ezer has nothing to do with women’s roles in marriage or otherwise. Ezer simply does not define women’s roles. It’s about saving each other from death. It is never again used to specifically refer to women and never again used in a marriage context (if you want to argue that Genesis 2 is primarily a marital context; moreover, in the rare occasions after this that ezer is not referring to God, it never has any hierarchical connotations.) If you try to interpret a hierarchical relationship between men and women, it would imply matriarchy. Women would be strong rescue from the top down, like God is. Kenegdo is an inherently egalitarian image. It presents the ezer as one that is the same (image) as the human, his mirror image.

2. Men ruling over women is a result of the fall and desecration of the world

If Jesus’ death and resurrection reverses the effects of the “fall” it disproves complementarian roles. In Gen 3, God is not assigning “roles” of men ruling over the women, but God is explaining the results and the consequences of sinful behavior that “will happen” due to separation. This is quoted in the context of crushing of the serpent. The indication is that all the proceeding consequences (labor, sweat, subjugation, pain, etc) will be abolished when the “seed” has crushed the head of the serpent. We are there! Jesus has put us on this trajectory so we should live as if it is so. Romans 8 says that creation is waiting for the sons of God to be revealed. This is talking about us living our calling as in Eden as it will result in the renewing of creation.

3. The idea of gender “roles” is not biblical. “Giftings” is a more Biblical approach.

The Spirit always gives gifts indiscriminately. Throughout the Bible we see giftings taking precedent over “roles”. The concept of “role” is a very modern point of view that only worked its way into theology in recent years after the enlightenment, it isn’t Biblically in the text. Rather than “biblical manhood and womanhood” we should recognize the giftings of each person and what that adds to the church and a marriage covenant. Body metaphors in the Bible have men and women combined- there’s not a “body” of women and a “body” of men, or even certain parts/gifts that are just for men or women.  There is 1 body comprised of believers and gifts. This is equality and oneness of the body in Christ. If you get this wrong, you get the core of nearly all of Pauline teachings wrong. God doesn’t show partiality. To prohibit the living and functioning in Christ based on gender would make Christ divided (as Paul speaks against in 1 Cor 1). It would also make God partial, which is testified against in both testaments.

4. Authority (rulership) and hierarchy are antithetical to the Kingdom of God.

Throughout the Bible we see many instances of God’s ideal that no person have rulership over another, but rather that we rule mutually. We see this in Mark 10 with Jesus saying of James and John, that they are acting like gentile rulers and not kingdom servants. We also get this narrative in Matthew 23 with Jesus and the Pharisees and Peter and shepherds in 1 Peter 1:5. We obey God alone, we submit to each other out of reverence for Christ, our King. When Paul used head in Col. 3 and Eph. 5 it’s talking about the thing on top of your shoulders and not authority. Preeminence. This fits the earlier discussion of Kephale as well. If Paul meant authority, he had other words to use and doesn’t use them. Kephele came to mean authority many years after Paul’s martyrdom. Also, considering marriage in 1 Cor. 7 everything is applied mutually.

5. 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 were dealing with specific issues, in a specific church, at a specific time. These passages do not prohibit women from speaking, teaching, or leading today.

These passages are descriptive and not prescriptive. The command in 1 Tim. 2 is for the woman to learn which if anything should be exciting for the women, especially in the Greco-Roman context where they were treated as property. The issue in Ephesus was people teaching falsely because they didn’t know what they were talking about. There is a lot of cultural background to this situation as well. (Artemis female cult, myths, etc…) The women here were being like Eve, being deceived, and causing others to fall. Furthermore, Paul has issues with both men and women in the passage- men being angry and causing dissention, and the women being unlearned before teaching and assuming authority violently (authentein).  

Not allowing a woman to teach or have authority is a present active indicative in Greek which communicates something for a period of time. He could have used an imperative perfect to make an ongoing law about this but he doesn’t. The Greek structure is important here.

Women being commanded to be silent in 1 Cor 14 must be reconciled with all the other instances of women praying and prophesying in 1 Cor 11, 12, and 14 in the same letter. We’ve talked about how 1 Cor 14:34-35 may not be original to the text, but you’ll need to watch the video series for more on that. We’ve also talked about how women were not as far ahead in education at this time as the men. Paul is wanting the women to learn and not disrupt the service. The entire context of 1 Cor. 12-14 is about using gifts in an orderly fashion. None of these gifts are gendered, they are just commanded to be used in order for the edification of the body of Christ.

6. The Bible teaches a priesthood of all believers (not just men)

Adam and Eve were the original priesthood, Israel was supposed to be a kingdom of priests and they both failed. Now we take on that New Covenant role, are we seeing a current day picture of a third similar failure? In the NT we are called this priesthood of believers in 1 Peter and Revelation (and alluded to all over the NT letters.) 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 2 use neuter (masc/fem) pronouns when referring to the giftings and character of the elders and deacons.

“One woman man” is the only possible argument against mutuality. This is used in 3:2 of elders and 3:12 of deacons. We’ve argued this is an idiom about sexual faithfulness to one spouse and not about gender. All we need to do is find 1 Female elder or deacon in the Bible to prove that this idiom is not gendered… hello Phoebe! How could she be a “one woman man”? She is called a deacon (not a deaconess) in Romans 16:1. Every characteristic for behavior listed in these verses Paul commands of women elsewhere in 1 Tim and Titus. There’s lots of evidence of women leading and exercising their mutual priesthood in the Bible… Here’s a few:

  • Mariam (led Israel with Moses)
  • Deborah (Led as a judge)
  • Huldah (Prophet who explained the law)
  • Mary Magdalene (first to preach the resurrection)
  • Percilla (discipler/teacher)
  • Phoebe (deacon, house church leader, Roman’s letter carrier/reader)
  • Junia (apostle/church planter)

Unity and mutuality … All are one in Christ!

7. Biblical Theology and the entire lens of scripture point to God’s ideal of mutuality

We need to view the bible not as a flat text but as a narrative. We can see God’s ideals in the beginning and how they work out in the end. Unfortunately, systematic theology ignores this in a lot of instances which is one of the reasons we aren’t big fans and consider ourselves Biblical Theologians.

God works as a heavenly missionary to bring his creation forward to his ideals and wants to use us as His vocational missional representatives (ambassadors) to do the same. Our favorite line is, the Bible begins and ends with a picture that looks like Eden. If we can’t find gender hierarchy and gender roles in the creation narrative and we do see it in the Fall, why do we think it’s part of God’s ideals for His Kingdom?

Upside-down and backwards kingdom– We should take on the ideals of Jesus, yet today the church looks like the world in this area… and for some, the world is modeling the Kingdom ethic in this area better than some churches (though feminism gets off the rails at times when it flips the tables of power), but we as the church and body can do better to present a Jesus Kingdom perspective.


In the backwards Kingdom we all need to consider a position of better humility towards everyone. Jesus submitted to the Father. Children are to submit to parents. But this isn’t a gender issue anywhere in the Bible. Genesis 1-3 sets the ideal stage by advocating an ideal of men and women having equal value, dignity, and power, and only differing roles (gifts) that are either biologically necessary. Men and women are the same, but different. But there is no difference in inherent leadership roles or authority. In fact, men taking the rulership over women is explicitly stated as a part of our world’s suffering in Ephesians 51 Timothy 2, and in his qualifications for elders and deacons.

Much of this article was rewritten from Aaron at ponderingpeniel. (I apologize for the unscholarly messy quoting.) As I don’t agree with all of His views, I love so much of what he does. Thank you!

  • Will Ryan Th.D. and Matt Mouzakis

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