Women

The Story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis 38

tamarIs also the story about family dynamics and a prerequisite story for understanding the specific Laws of Moses about family life. The story should also include three other key figures. The sons of Judah and Tamar’s rightful husbands; Er the firstborn, Onan the second, and Shelah the third.

The problem begins when the first born dies and leaves Tamar without a husband. The duty of the second son was then to go and provided offspring for Tamar and for the dead brother and the children of Tamar would inherit their rightful portion or blessings of the firstborn son. This displeased Onan and he refused to have proper sexual intercourse with Tamar thus; “emptying his semen on the ground” (v9).

So then comes the death of Onan as it says ‘because of his wickedness’. Judah then sends Tamar back to live with her father until Shelah is of age, he was afraid of Shelah dying and leaving himself without an heir. Next we see that Judah’s wife dies and he wants to go hang out with his good friend. Tamar hears of this, and also hears of Shelah being old enough but not given in marriage. Judah is in a predicament because his wife is now gone, and only has one son left.

Tamar then takes matters into her own hands as she probably does not want to be a widow the rest of her life. She changes from a widows garments to some prostitute garb and goes to hang out somewhere she will be seen by lonely Judah. (For ancient wifeless men a prostitute would be a potential option for producing a son, not just a opportunity for pleasure. However, he was under the impression probably based on where she was hanging out that she was a cult prostitute and not just a women looking for a man.) Anyway, she and Judah do the deed and she convinces him to leave with her some collateral until other means of payment can be made.

Later Judah learns of Tamar’s pregnancy and assumes that she has been immoral and has rebelled against her rightful household and played the whore. Once she proves that it was with Judah himself that she conceived a child he realized that it was actually himself that was immoral and wrong for not given his rightful son to. In Judah’s mind and everyone else she had not acted immoral or whorish but that she actually did what was right. Its just that she had to do it in a sneaky way. In the end because she was cleaver, she pulled it off and revealed that she had done what was within her right. To bear a child within her rightful place in Judah’s family.

The original question on the passage had to do with the “wasting of semen”. Onan in particular acted wickedly because he refused to acknowledge the right of Tamar and his dead older brothers heritage to go on and claim their inheritance. The story acts as a reminder to the later people of God that the family of God is a special thing. That each member has a special part to play in the story of Gods people. That they are to work as a family honoring the place of women within the family dynamic as well as the common tradition of honoring the first born.
The story is a reminder for Israel that women and not only men have the responsibility to be the people of God and take pride in their place in the family of God, not despising it or despising the place of others within it.
The passage therefore is not originally intended to be about ‘birth control’ as we may read it in our 21st century way of thinking. However, birth control is a 21st century social issue. Perhaps the passage in a timeless way reminds us at least that we are not to have selfish motives when it comes to child bearing. We do it out of a recognition that it is Gods divine plan for us to bear and raise children for Gods glory, to occupy his creation, and accomplish his goals. We should do it willingly, and remember that relationships are not about what we can get out of it but about what we can give and what we are passing on. Onan was selfish and wanted blessing for himself. Judah was lonely and may have simply wanted pleasure and company. Tamar wanted a place in the family of God, and to be faithful to her commitment, and to pass on to the next generation another child of God to accomplish his will on the earth. That is why she is the real hero here. Lets follow her example in our own relationships and future families. Lets adopt her selfless attitude and create and nurture life that brings glory to God.

This timeless principle is all throughout the book of Genesis. We are reminded that God created man and women in order to continue to create new life in order to occupy his world and accomplish his goals on the earth. Onan’s is unwilling to do this because he will not get the goods he wants and they will pass to his children receiving the blessing of Er the oldest brother. Onan takes control of new life and wastes it, for that God takes his life. Seems harsh but the lesson is clear. That said, I don’t think it is best to use this as a passage directly dealing with the debate on birth control today but it should at least inform our sense of why we do it and why we don’t. What are our motives? Are we willing to play a part in Gods original design for co-creation?

Categories: Ancient Near East, Bible, Context, CSBS, Culture, Genesis, History, Old Testament, Society/Culture, Theology, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Difficult Passages: Women & Slavery, Freedom & Family

I have begun the launching of our Chronological SBS International collaboration youtube channel. 

I will be doing this with good friends and co-workers in the bible school. Looking forward to all of the fun we will have and all of the good content we can create and bless others with.

The goal is to use youtube as a platform for biblical teaching, worldview, history, that is contextual and helps people learn. Really excited about it. Check out the first videos I have thrown together. More on the way soon.

 

Categories: Ancient Near East, Authority, Bible, Context, CSBS, Culture, Old Testament, Society/Culture, Theology, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of the “Dark Ages” – Discovering Christian Heritage

Introduction

Over the past year I have begun reading a range of historical, sociological, and philosophy books on Christianity. I have read nine books on these topics mostly relating to history. This has lead to placing about twice as many books on my amazon.com wish list that I now wish to continue researching. However, there has been one major issue that has intrigued me in my reading. That is the period from 500-1,500 AD known still by many as the “Dark Ages”. Although most honest and respectable Historians will not use the term any more because its just nonsense, and they know it. Most are unfortunately aware of what is meant by “the dark ages”.

That after the fall of the “glorious” Greek and Roman world Europe was plunged into 1,000 years of “the dark ages” brought about by ignorant Christians until the rediscovery of Classical Literature and learning brought on by the hero’s of the “Enlightenment, and Renaissance”, men such as Voltaire and Gibbons.

However, the 1,000 years stretching from the fall of Rome to the Reformation of the Church was not an era of Christian Ignorance in Europe. It was neither entirely ignorant nor entirely Christian. It was also no shame to see Rome fall, for Europe, though no longer unified under the suffocating grip of the Empire, was free to gain immense wealth through creative innovations, and it was most often the church who lead the way in such endeavors.

A good kind of Asceticism.

The early monastic communities lead a secluded life, reject the pleasures or the consumer world. Often times to extreme lengths to inflict unnecessary pain on themselves, thus proving their devotion to God. This aspect is not what I wish to highlight. If it was all that monastic communities were known for I would not bother mentioning them. But they had a much greater impact on the history of Christianity and the Western World as a whole.

Monastic “asceticism” also lead to a high value on work, or a strong work ethic. For them it was an ethic, it was a value, a discipline. This is where their “asceticism” can not accurately be considered as asceticism at all. It was a unity. An understanding that spiritual maturity could be seen in the work ethic of the monk. This was Saint Benedict’s own words concerning the issue;

“idleness is the enemy of the soul. Therefore brothers should have specified periods for manual labor as well as prayerful reading… when they live by the labor of their hands, as our fathers and apostles did, then they are really monks”.

Out of the early monastic community comes the first record of effective Capitalism. When wealth is not despised, but the consumer attitude and the ‘love of money’ is not prevalent, these early communities reinvested in those with similar notions of labor dignity. There own theological position changed, with prayerful reading and study, to becoming small investment firms that valued hard work over accumulating wealth for worldly pleasures.

Such market freedom was not possible under the Roman Caesars nor the Republic. Roman roads did not lead to Free Markets or creative innovations. Roman roads acted for the empire as an easier way to move about their armies returning with sacked goods from invaded lands benefited only by the elite in Rome. The Fall of Rome benefited everyone in Europe but an elite ruling cast of the Empires most privileged.

Romes Moral Grip 

Something often overlooked are the moral progressions moving away from the fall of Rome, and the dissipating of Greek Philosophy and its grip on cultured Greeks. For one, much of Europe was no longer Greek at all but German. Two, we shall take a look at the nature of what is often Romanticized and not addressed honestly as seriously lacking in ethics modern minds would even agree with. Again, it was no tragedy here to see the culture of Roman and Greek learning moving to the background.

Two issues often overlooked are views concerning women and slavery. There is plenty of praise for Plato, and Aristotle for being some of the greatest philosophers of all time. Yet both were slave owners and their philosophy justified these actions. Slavery has been a universal issue accepted by even the most primitive people groups. However, Christianity rejected human bondage more than once in the “Dark Ages” alone. Possibly the first know elimination of sanctioned slavery was not brought on during the “Enlightenment or Renaissance” but smack in the middle of the “Dark Ages”.

It was clever church leaders who first, extended sacraments to all slaves. Eventually priests began urging Christians to free their slaves if they had become Christians. Eventually the issue of intermarriage came along, and despite this being against most laws there is evidence of mixed unions between slave and free. In 649 Clovis II, King of the Franks, married his British slave Bathilda. Then the King dies Bathilda ruled until her son cam of age. Bathilde used her position to halt the slave trade and buy back the enslaved. Upon her death the Church acknowledge her as a saint. Then in the 8th Century Charlemagne opposed slavery along with the Pope and many other voices of clergy. Bishop Agobard, 9th Century;

“All men are brothers, all invoke one same Father, God: the slave and the master, the poor man and the rich man, the ignorant and the learned, the weak and the strong… none has been raised above the other… there is no… slave or free, but in all things and always there is only Christ.”

Again, in the 11th century St. Wulfstan, and St. Anselm successfully campaigned to bring an end to the last grips of slavery in Christian Lands. The slavery reappears no true Christians doubted that slavery in itself is against divine law. I have chosen these examples out of many throughout Christian history because again the “Dark Ages” is not only a fictional period but the idea that Christianity being the reason for the ‘darkness’ is nonsense.

Not to go in-depth but, slaves and potential slaves were guarded by the innovations and technologies created during this great time of progress. Water mills, wind mills, damns and agricultural innovations revolutionized trade and commerce throughout Europe. The earliest of such innovations were developed out of monastic communities by Christian monks.

In regard to women it’s not actually a stretch for anyone to try to find the prevalent views among Greek philosophy and the nature of the role of women in Greek culture. But what people often don’t know is the many benefits for women among Christian circles. They are astronomical. Truly. Even from infancy; women in Greek and Roman culture were far more likely the those born into Christian families to be discarded altogether. This was common and legal. There were many wealthy women in Greek culture, however they remained subject to laws that kept them out of the political and social arena -they had little to no public influence and were still view as less than men and no greater than slaves. Christian communities from the time of Christ welcomed women, even those who were outcasts, and many influential women in the Gospels and Acts are seen in support of the work of the church and hosting apostles and services in their homes. Paul’s views on women are the subject of a lot of scrutiny but are rarely looked at in light of Greek and Jewish culture. When you take another look it’s not to difficult to see that Paul’s views are progressive though not in the way of leaps and bounds. Women were appointed apostles, and taught in the early church, and in some churches Paul requires that as there are many women in church, that they refrain from asking questions in church but wait until they are home to be further educated. It was not common for Greek women to be educated let alone by their husbands.

One final fact about Christian communities the differed from Greek and Roman customs was the marriageable age. Simply put, in Greek culture and most ancient cultures daughters marriages were arranged often before puberty and young girls would often be subject to the worst atrocities at young ages forever ruining their sex life and possibly their ability to actually bear children. This resulted in very low fertility rates in Greek and Roman times. This was due to the desire to be sure that your bride was a true virgin. Among Christian communities the fertility rates were extremely high in comparison, simply due to older aged brides. Women enjoyed benefited immensely from being Christian for these reasons and more. Life was better for women whose fathers and husbands were Christians and children benefited from Christian parents.

Rome Losses its Mind

Had the great minds of the Greek and Roman world continued to pursue knowledge that would have been one thing. Greek thinking came about as close as it can get to mans discovery of ultimate meaning and truth. The climax of Greek thinking was perhaps their grasping of the idea of the “Logos”. An ultimate power behind everything, sustaining all things, essentially they nailed it on the head. However, Greek philosophers had grown tired of the use of logic, and reason. It had been cheapened by the political system of the day. Politics defended their agendas with the use of greater rhetoric and logical arguments. This giving birth to Skeptic Philosophy regarding the use of logic and reason. How is logic and a better rhetoric intrinsic to reality? And thus the skeptics were able to create this intellectual climate in which rationalism was now suspect to doubt, and dissatisfaction, and allowing the claim that real knowledge comes independent of reason. Again, they were so close they simply lacked the answer only God could reveal, Logos Incarnate.

That said, it was no tragedy to see Rome fall, and Europe was not plunged into an era of ignorance. There was no plunge into the so-called “Dark Ages”.

Enlightenment and Renaissance started in “The Dark Ages”

So the story goes, that once the fall of Popes from political influence held for centuries during the “Dark Ages” Europe was free at last to think again, to express themselves again, and to explore reason and science. That art, Literature, education, music, and science was to finally pick back up following were the Greeks had left off. That’s the story. But its all a lie.

Were Greek thinking climaxed and crashed Christian communities which developed in 5th Century continued to explore reason, logic, literature, education, and yes -Science. For now what I want to lay out is how the “Dark Ages” found freedom of expression to develop new music, art, and architecture.

900 AD saw the publishing of the first known Polyphony; the sounding of two or more musical lines to create harmonies. The 10th Century saw the development of a system of musical notation. Now music could be recorded and reproduced by someone who had never heard the song before, so long as he could learn to read the note and was skilled.

goth

As for art, here is a building from what was a poorly named period called “Romanesque”. An expression in art, sculpture, and architecture that was beyond what most Roman artists would understand, for sure.  During the Enlightenment and Renaissance period, art and architecture was criticized for not conforming to standards of Classical Greece and Rome. However, the middle ages also saw the expressions of Christian aspiration in the Cathedrals build by the Goths. Still standing today they are a reminder that during this era there was a great eagerness to express the thoughts and aspirations of men.

pagan-philosophers

13th Century artist Van Eyck was the first to use Oil Paint and put their work on stretched canvas rather than on wood or plaster. Thus allowing the painter to take his time and use brushes with great detail not worrying about the paint drying to fast.

Finally the church is often rightly criticized for not working to translate the great works of classic antiquities or even the bible itself out of Latin into the common language of the people, and thus educate the masses. However, the monastic communities were open to those who would send their children to such orders, and open for learning. But what of literature? The great writers and proponents of the Enlightenment; Gibbons wrote in English, Voltaire wrote in French, Cervantes in Spanish, and Machiavelli and Da Vinci in Italian. It was possible for these men to eloquently, yet falsely write concerning the “Dark Ages” and woes of Christendom because these languages had been given their form by medieval giants such as Dante, Chaucer, and nameless other monks beginning as early as the 9th Century. So much for the illiteracy and ignorance of the “Dark Ages”.

The monastic communities may not be the best model of education. They were however a formal education that involved prayer, study, and work. The need for a better form arose and Christians were the first to create the University in Europe. It was very much unlike the Chinese Institutions previously in existence. The Universities in Europe were not merely concerned with teaching the received wisdom. There concern and popularity was gained by innovation. The pursuit among university professors known as the ‘Scholastic” was knowledge, and knowledge that is meaningful gives way to remarkable results that make Christian university great. The worlds first two universities were started by Catholic scholars in Paris and Bologna in about 1160. Forty years later, Oxford and Cambridge, and by the end of the 13th Century an other 20 universities. Again, they became popular because of innovation. One of, if not thee greatest achievement of universities was the Scientific Revolution. Or I like to call it a revelation.

Science

Critical Revelation was required for societies to develop actual Science. Not that it was the only factor but there were many other cultures that could have developed science but were lacking a certain element of revelation for the task. China, Greece, and Islam were perhaps the closest of all other cultures to come close. The Chinese could have long before Christians or Greece.

Perhaps the overarching reason that neither China nor Greece reached an actual system of Science is because just as small gods do not create a universe, neither do impersonal essences or principles. Greece had a system of small gods, limited in power that they actually believed were the forces behind the physical world but their gods were an incoherent group that lacked the unity needed to even begin to comprehend the world around us. And the potential of Science falls flat on its face. And so it is with China, their god is an impersonal essence and universal principle. While there is received wisdom the universe has always been and will always be and is without natural laws that we can comprehend in physical terms. And again, Science is dead before it begins.

The truly most interesting case is that of a possible Islamic Science. It never happened. But they came very close as well. It is true that Muslim Intellectuals collected some classical manuscripts. However, their own “enlightenment” reached by the discovery of Classical Philosophy was detrimental to the potential of science rather than what some wrongly consider a tribute to Islamic Science.  The Devout Muslim historian Caesar E. Farah writes;

“The early Muslim thinkers took up Philosophy where the Greeks left off…Thus in Aristotle Muslim thinkers found the great guide; to them he became the “first teacher.”     Having accepted this a priori, Muslim philosophy as it evolved in subsequent centuries merely chose to continue in this vein and to enlarge Aristotle rather than to innovate.”

Here is one mistake. Aristotle was wrong about most of his philosophical theories and was not a scientist. In order to be a scientist you need to do science. Science involves theory and philosophy but is a system and brotherhood of accountability proving or disproving theories that help explain life in physical terms.

And what of their religion. Wouldn’t Islam have the necessary God to underwrite the rise of science? No. Allah is not presented as a lawful creator but has been conceived of as an active God, intruding regularly on the world as he deems it appropriate. Consequently in Islam arose theological problems which condemned scientific efforts to determine natural laws. This may lead to man determining that there are ways in which God is limited. Christianity was only different from Islam in this way because although God has been understood in the same way. The Christians, such as Rene Descartes (1596-1605) justified his attempts to determine natural laws on the interpretation that God is perfect and acts in a manner consistent with his Creation. (This is not to say that God can not perform miracles. But perhaps if he is the one performing them then he can do it in a way consistent with what he has created.)

My favorite example so far is Galileo. He is my favorite because it seems he is a favorite of those who criticize Christianity for its ignorance and holding back progress and innovation. There is a lot of drama in the story of Galileo. He was an arrogant, cocky, Christian Scientist whose views were not so much hated by the church but his way about publishing them. Galileo was friends with Matteo Barberini while he was still Cardinal. Upon becoming Pope Urban VIII (1623-1644) he knew and liked Galileo published his scientific works and enjoyed his attacks on Jesuit scholars. The Pope went on to write a poem about the glories of astronomy.  Then some things went wrong. Remember too, the historical context; a Thirty Year war raged and counter reformations were underway.  The issue of these times was authority. The Pope not the scientist or reformer had authority to overturn the tables. Galileo was warned and assured that his Science could go on but that he needed to be willing to sidestep some of the theological issues and present his science as such without attempting to tamper with theology and thus challenge the authority of the church, forcing the Pope’s hand. Other great scientists works were celebrated pre-Gelileo because of their willingness to present their work without assuming ultimate power to outright condemn Catholic Orthodoxy.

Galileo was anything but tactful  in his next publication. However, he was creative in finding a way to get the work published making a spectacle of the Pope and Catholic Orthodoxy and betraying a powerful friend. Pope Urban VIII attempted to limit the consequences on his friend but the response was a general crack down on intellectual freedom on scholastics. However, these crackdowns came to late to prevent the surge of the scientific revolution developed by Christians including Galileo who was willing like Luther of his day to challenge the official orthodoxy with innovations he believed to be consistent with Gods creation and control.  Galileo;

“The book of nature is a book written by the hand of God in the language of mathematics”

Rodney Stark: “while Pope Urban VIII religious views may have caused Galileo to suffer for his scientific views, Galileo’s Science did not suffer because of his own religious views”

Being Grateful for the Reformation

I have always been grateful for the work of the great reformers and those who prepared the way so that this great movements could take place. However, there is new light cast on the Reformations that I am very grateful for as well. I realize more accurately why I can be grateful for what happened as a result of the reformations.

Bibles finally began appearing In more common languages. However a problem remained that was prominent during the medieval period. That is, people still need to learn to read so they can access the power of scriptures for themselves. Churches before and after the reformation were mostly empty. The catholic church became more concerned with baptizing Kings, thus whole kingdoms into Christendom. No need for personal evangelism, or personal salvation, when you can just baptize a whole kingdom. This was perhaps one of the biggest failures of the time leading up to the reformation and a problem the reformers faced as well. How do you get people interested in learning to read and wanting to read scripture and be in church. A problem Europe faces still today.

These conclusions have led me to believing that it was not simply the reformation or protestant movement that was needed but that the reformations eventually gave way to subsequent reformations that introduced Christianity to a new problem that would turn out to be Christianities best tool for multiplication. Christian Diversity. Though it is sad, the number of denominations within protestantism, it is amazing how the multiple expressions of the same faith creates an atmosphere of healthy competition among groups to out evangelize and win more reach more people with the message of salvation, and the Christian worldview.

Today

Unfortunately this means we need to constantly take efforts to unify our diverse ideas of how the church should look. There is a need to be under a larger banner of sound orthodoxy of the basics of the Christian faith. Social Christian Networks are a thing for the future of the Christian movement. As we have already seen the split and we continue to see new expressions of the faith popping up all the time in new christian communities, the challenge will be to network under some of the basics of a Christian Biblical Convictions.

Our circles will be popular for a number of cultural reasons. But perhaps we can attempt to popularize our networks through innovative action, built upon a sound biblical foundation, for the Glory of God,  seeking first his kingdom. Just as was carried out during the “Dark Ages” a period known for Christian Ignorance but in fact a period in which Christians successfully moved forward new innovations, such as the University one of the original centers for higher education, innovation, evangelism, and biblical foundations. A place where people were unified under the basics; ‘Know God and Make him Known”.

Final Thoughts

What will people say about our era?  Not just our generation but the era we are in? How will what we do affect the way people look at the centuries surrounding our life?

Revelation, Exploration, Reason, Innovation, Multiplication

Bibliography:

I know I didn’t use quotations. But I just want to give reference to some of the authors I have been using. I am very grateful to a friend John Randerson for correcting me on some of my own ignorance about History. He suggested Rodney Stark to me. I’ve since read 5 of his books, and have a couple more on my shelf to read. Vishal Mangalwadi’s book, “The book that made your world” was a huge encouragement to me and a massive faith builder. I have also begun reading the works of Francis Scheaffer and his re-hashing of history particularly history of philosophy and religion and worldview. Bruce L. Shelley’s very readable book on church history was awesome as well. Also thanks to years of biblical study in extra biblical resources such as Alfred Edersheim and the use of some great dictionaries.

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Categories: Church, Enlightenment, History, Modern, Philosophy, Renaissance, Society/Culture, Uncategorized, Women, Worldview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Women in Church

Let me first begin by clarifying the reason for which I am posting on this issue. One) Its not because I am looking to engage in a theological debate on the issue. In fact, though I have had thoughts on this issue for the past 7-8 years of my Christian walk I have not sought to refute any of the teachings I had heard on the topic since committing my life to the service of Christ and building his kingdom. I present these views as humbly as possible. I am not angry over this debate. I recognize good people, family, and friends who hold to an other view.
That said, it is not my desire to simply present the opposing view but to better understand each side and give those seeking to come to the truth on these matters an advantage in doing so. In other words, Im not just presenting a more superior rhetoric.

I do not as well hinge my evidence on personal experience which I recognize is or can be subject-able to those who have not had my experience.

Final I undertake this as an aid to my younger brother Timothy and his wife Christy. I am hoping it helps them to continue to grow closer to God together and remain unified to their ‘small body/church’ and together become men and women of Godly influence for this generation.

Image

I will use a range of scripture. I will seek to drag each passage used through its original cultural and historical context. Also we will observe a few of the words a little closer to better dissect their meaning for us today. As I have already made conclusions of my own on the issue I am not making it up as I go rather I will be explaining how I got to such conclusions. I hope that they are fair to all who engage in this study with me.

To begin with there are two main passages I will be using. Both by Apostle Paul. His first letter to Corinth, and his first letter to Timothy. Some extra biblical context will no doubt be gathered from Acts and Romans.

  • 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 As in all the churches of the saints, women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
  • 1 Timothy 2:12-14  I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

The first inclination that I have been aware of since a young age was to read the bible, accept what it says literally, and apply it to your life. As a student of the bible I have sought to understand scripture ‘literally’, however, in its original context. This is more difficult, it takes more time and research. Which means this should take up no small number of words. Bear with me.

I think number one it is so important to understand the culture of 1 Century Roman/Greek world and even a bit of the Jewish culture regarding the role of women in general, and the value given to women. A third cultural layer to add in that influences Paul’s inspired words to the church is to consider the influence on the Greek world from Oriental Faiths. So Jewish, Greek & Roman, and Eastern thinking influences the literal understanding of Paul’s letters.

  1. Jewish Rabbinical ‘Philosophers’ are known to have valued women about as much as they did slaves, and Gentiles. This in my opinion came from misinterpretation of the OT scriptures and a result of human pride.
  2. Oriental Faiths often deified the women as a goddess, often a goddess granting secret knowledge, higher spirituality, and favor through sexual practices with priests or devotees. Some of the oriental faiths brought new philosophies concerning even the OT creation story, that women was greater then man because she was the one whom knowledge was revealed to in the Garden. She then went and shared it with the man and he too became enlightened.
  3. Greek and Roman times highly overvalued the male role in society even to the point that the image of sexuality was the male image rather then the female as it seems to be in our own day. It was legal for a male Roman citizen to commit infanticide with any new child for having defects or especially for being a girl. Like with many things Paul addresses as cultural problems that influence the church he does not suggest a 180 degree turn; unless on issues of sexual immorality and direct sin, Paul has another approach. Paul is worried that chaos in the church; “women all asking questions because of their ignorance would disrupt the service.” (I say ignorance because it was just that, women were not educated both in Greek culture and Jewish culture.) Women in Greek culture were were viewed as far inferior to men, according Aristotle and women was an incomplete man and was to be treated as such. On par with their views and treatment of slaves. Women and slaves were as they were because of inferior nature. Ok, so all of that to bring us to the first century church. Wild enough women were driven to the church because in Christian sub-culture they enjoyed a much higher status. This is a historical fact. Probably due to the placement of women in key roles in the early church as seen in Romans. (Romans 16:7 Junia=Apostle)  (Romans 16:1 Phoebe = Deacon) Another interesting example is from Acts 18:24-26 the couple Priscilla and Aquila took aside Apollos to better explaining things concerning Jesus to him.

However, my main point is more of a historical one. That sheds needed light on the passages we are all eager to take as literal. That main point being that the greater culture of Greek/Romans, Jewish and the perversions of the Oriental Faiths leave women clinging for dear life to any such sub-culture as the early church was. This is no doubt a major reason so many women joined the Christian Churches. So looking at Paul’s scenario he is addressing has a different feel. Its helpful to notice what he is encouraging, beyond that he may be saying that women are to submit to the man.

  • First, Paul is likely addressing the chaos in the church created by a higher ratio of unlearned women experiencing greater levels of freedom then could possibly have been enjoyed at all in their greater cultures. Paul then is not discouraging what women may add to a service. For instance in 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul mentions women who prophesy in church. It is a practice already encouraged for anyone who has come into the family of God where there is no more walls of separation, no more Jews/Gentile, Male/Female, slave/free…
  • Second, Paul is encouraging the men to see to the education of their wives at home. So that services are not disrupted by the many questions these women would have, now that they are experiencing the freedom to be in the same place as their husbands while in public and to be engaging together with a community of men, women, and children. This as Paul says would be shameful if services were nothing but women asking questions. The issue at hand is the lack of understanding women had in the early church and their need to be taught at home so the experience of a worship service would be a blessing for all in attendance.

Lastly I want to address Paul’s use of the creation story. In the passage quoted from Timothy as well as a more extensive reference from Paul’s letter to Corinth concerning ‘head coverings’ in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. First I will answer what is meant by Paul in calling man “The Head” of the women and that meanings direct connection to Gods given order from creation.

  • First, “Head” can be translated in two ways; Origin & Authority. Man is either the origin of women or the authority of the women. Personally I see that both of these are valid ways of understanding the word “Head” however, both of these need to be grasped to appreciate the roles of both men and women in their relationship to each other. If Origin is the correct understanding then we aught not get up in arms about the whole issue because Paul is not calling man the authority over the women. Rather he is explaining the origin, and even the order of creation. Remember Paul is already addressing the issue of dis-order in the church concerning the freedom and status of women. So in the beginning God made Adam, a man and gave him dominion over all of creation, this was not a license from God to abuse all things under him. No, as Adam was without sin in that moment it was God entrusting him with a great responsibility to care for those things which by nature were less superior to himself being made in the very image of God. But then God saw that Adam/Man was not complete. Therefore unlike Aristotle is was not women who is incomplete it is man who is incomplete without the women. Together they make life. A new kind of ‘man’ is created from the original man. Adam does not have the same kind of superiority to Eve as he does to the rest of creation. But his job is still the same, because he was created first he must care for all of creation. Eve would become his partner in this work. After the fall of man Adam would  maintain his superiority as being in Gods image but he and the women had fallen. Both were perfect before and both were now corrupted by their rebellion to God. Mans role remains, as Paul describes, he came first, he cares for the women.
  • This is what leads me to the possibility of the word “Head” meaning ‘Authority’. If that is so then what does authority mean. Well just like in the order of creation mankind was given a dominant role. This word like authority is corrupted by sinful men abusing that power that comes with the title. Authority as in this same passage is related to being like Christ to the church. The answer then is love, care, commitment, compassion, understanding, patience, trustworthy. When man functions as Christ does for his bride she can rightly humble herself to the guidance/leadership/authority of the man. This of course if hard for non-Christians to try, and it is hard for those Christians who have a hard time walking out a Christlike marriage.

All that to say, I am still working out a conservative christian position that the man aught to lead in a marriage, to have authority. But to outright quench the work of the spirit in women for the glory of the kingdom of God is not right. Its not biblical. Think of two of the earliest and most successful missionaries. The Samaritan women at the well, and Marry Magdalene. The Samaritan brings the good news of the messiah to her entire town who believes. Marry brings the good news of Christ’s resurrection to the unbelieving disciples.

Finally considering the big picture of Paul’s work in writing to Corinth he is advocating for a better way in working through the tough issues of the time. What is the most loving way? I am saddened by two things the suppression of the role of women in the kingdom of God and the Godless approach of over emphasizing feminist agendas in our culture. Again, I’m not so much angry or bent out of shape as I am sad to see that these two extremes are unloving in their approaches to creating better communities. If however, your understanding of the leadership/authority of the man in Christian communities is important then the Love of Christ must be ever stronger in those communities and the practice of men loving their wives as Christ loves the church must always be stressed. Not the other way around, stressing women’s submission over mans love, care, commitment, compassion, understanding, patience, and trustworthiness.

The wrong approach would be to either despise the feminist movement and embrace the error of Christian groups downplaying the role of women in community.

or

To despise the Christian communities way of suppressing women and join arms with the feminist movements who have plenty of their own issues.

Rather we should seek a literal understanding of the text in its original context. I hope this helps just a little. Much more could be done to get into the context or expound on verses.

– Jesse Evans

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