Was Adam “head” of Eve before the fall or only after the fall?
Headship is not a consequence of the fall, but is part of God’s order in creation. Adam was Eve’s head before the fall. Our weakness, seen in both males and females in carrying out Scriptural headship, is the result of the fall.
The theme of headship can be seen clearly in Ephesians 1, Ephesians 5, Colossians 1, Colossians 2, and 1 Corinthians 11. These passages teach us that headship conveys multiple responsibilities for the head, including the need for him to rule, to guide, and to provide sustenance and nourishment. There is no thought of the man being preeminent in value over the woman. Equality is not the issue here; distinction in functional roles is. In First Corinthians 11;3, the same verse that tells us “the head of the woman is the man” (not “wife” and “husband” in the context, as in the ESV) also says “the head of Christ is God.” Other Scriptures teach us clearly that Christ is equal to God (e.g., Rom 9:5). So the doctrine of headship is not opposing equality of worth or importance. However, the word “head” does imply authority, and therefore there is to be submission to that head, though the authority is never to be practiced in a tyrannical manner.
It should be noted that headship is distinct from lordship. While headship conveys authority, it emphasizes a submission that is voluntary, not enforced. In contrast, lordship emphasizes the lord’s rights over his servant.
First Corinthians 11, in the context of a local church, shows us that headship is based on God’s order in creation, and is not a consequence of a male-dominated 1st century society. Indeed, nature itself teaches us concerning the woman’s submissiveness by a creatorial covering of long hair (1Cor 11:14-15). First Timothy 2:8-15 also speaks of the different roles assigned to males and females. Verse 13 gives one of the reasons for male leadership in the church: Adam was formed before Eve. Again, it is a function of God’s order in creation. Adam was head over creation in Genesis 1, another aspect of headship that predates the fall.
Ephesians 5:23 says, “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church.” This has always been God’s order for a happy home. The fall (Gen 3:1-6) reveals that both the man and the woman failed to acknowledge the roles ordained by God. The curse, subsequently pronounced (Gen 3:16), is not instituting headship in the home; it is introducing an ongoing struggle due to competing, selfish natures. Sin-damaged women desire to assert themselves as leaders; sin-damaged men fail to guide and care for their wives, and abuse their role and their strength. If God’s Word is obeyed, and the husband/wife relationship is modeled after Christ and the Church, the effects of sin and the fall are mitigated, and God’s order is restored. The husband’s headship is not the result of the fall; it is God’s original design for harmony in the home.