Balancing Paul’s Original-Creation And Pro-Creation Arguments: 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 In Light Of Modern Embryology -- By: William J. Webb

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 66:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Balancing Paul’s Original-Creation And Pro-Creation Arguments: 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 In Light Of Modern Embryology
Author: William J. Webb


Balancing Paul’s Original-Creation And Pro-Creation Arguments:
1 Corinthians 11:11–12 In Light Of Modern Embryology

William J. Webb

[William J. Webb is Professor of New Testament at Heritage Seminary in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.]

Modern understanding of human embryology involves a fascinating story of multiple discoveries that have changed human knowledge no less dramatically than the Copernican revolution. In fact, the history of embryonic and reproductive research reveals so many twists, turns, and new-world surprises that one might aptly describe it as a field that has encountered numerous Copernican-type revolutions.1 It may come as a surprise to suggest that the science of embryology and Paul’s first-century writings intersect at 1 Cor 11:11–12. In these two verses the apostle Paul works with the embryology of his day to talk about how procreation and other “in the Lord” factors ought to moderate or counterbalance his comments in vv. 2–10 concerning original creation. Paul balances his Edenic-creation arguments with an appeal to another component of God’s creation, namely, the creation of human beings within a second garden: the “fertile garden” of the female womb.

I. Ancient Embryology

To enter the world of ancient embryology forces one to leave behind major advances in knowledge that have come through the microscope, genetic engineering, and the study of human anatomy. In the ancient world conclusions about embryology were based primarily on simple comparisons with animals and plants and on the most readily observable features of the human body. Within the ancient Near Eastern and Greco-Roman world several embryology models developed. The one-seed model, in which the male provides everything apart from nutrition to the creation of a newborn, seems to have been a dominant view in most ancient cultures. Yet, this dominant or traditional model was

by no means an exclusive one.2 Aristotle offered a modified one-seed view, and there was a spectrum of two-seed models.

1. The Traditional One-Seed Theory. Among ancient societies the traditional view of a woman’s contribution to her offspring was often quite minimal. The traditional view held that the seed came from the male only, not from the female. As suggested by the agricultural analogy, the male “planted” his child-in-miniature seed within the female “garden” in order for it to grow and mature. This classic model viewed the male as contri...

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