Friday, April 29, 2011

Biblical Patriarchy: New Testament





←←←← If this is your idea of Biblical submission, you are missing the point!
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Whew, now we are to the New Testament and no doubt patriarchy and male headship will be washed away here. Patriarchy is soooooo Old Testament. Paul and Peter, with NOW membership cards in their togas, will set things straight!

Um, actually no. The doctrine of patriarchy is mentioned more and more specifically by Paul and Peter under the New Covenant than it is under the Old. Let me say that again. Under the New Covenant that Paul and Peter understood and wrote about, the patriarchal relationship between the genders are reinforced and expanded.

As a quick aside re: gender and men & women in the church. Men all too often, pointing at myself first and foremost, fail their wives in two key ways: we don’t love them as Christ loved the church and we don’t lead in the church and the home as we are called to. One of the greatest weaknesses in the church are men who are either mainly passive, willing to defer leadership and servanthood to the women in a local body or worse yet men who are completely absent. Visit a sampling of local church gathering this Sunday and you will see a preponderance of women. Many of those women will be serving while many men are watching, at least the men that bothered to meet with the church. I understand why men are disinterested in passively watching a performance but that is not an excuse to abdicate our calling. We should be calling men to man up and function as they are called to as men, not encouraging women to fill in the gaps that men have left.

It is my goal in this series and in this post in particular to call Christian men to account, starting with my own doorstep, for our abdication of the great calling God has placed on us. I don’t place the blame for passive men in the church at the feet of feminism or the culture or on overbearing women. There is some of that to be sure but the greatest blame needs to be laid squarely at the feet of men, the regular guy Christian who is content to let someone else do the work of ministry in the local church and is likewise quite happy to let women lead in the basic functions of service in the local church. Generations of men in the church have turned the church gathering into a spectator sport, both on Sunday morning and during the rest of the week. The first step in curing this is a proper understanding of gender and patriarchy in the Bible and then teaching, admonishing and if needed rebuking men for failing to be the servant leaders we are called to be.

When it comes to gender and patriarchy in the New Testament, there are several pretty obvious places to go. Those verses, taken in context, are the strongest arguments for my position and as such are the most assailed by those who disagree. It is worth noting that much of the argument between complementarians and egalitarians consists of debates over the explicit passages regarding gender roles in the church, with egalitarians attempting to argue that these passages cannot possibly mean what they say. It is my contention and I plan to demonstrate that these verses, coupled with some less obvious but supportive Scriptures, solidify without a doubt Biblical patriarchy as I have laid it out. We might as well start with the most obvious section, found in the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus….


Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Wives relate to husbands as the church relates to Christ. He is the Bridegroom, we are the Bride. The use of male and female terminology here is not accidental because Paul compares the way that Christ-church and husbands-wives relate. The church of course should submit to Christ as the single Head of the entire Body. If Christ is the head of the church and Paul likens the relationship between husbands and wives to that the way that Christ and the Church relate, does it not follow that husbands are the head of the family which includes their wives? It does and that is precisely what Paul is saying. If you are seeking to dismiss that as a primitive cultural anachronism that we have outgrown, would you likewise argue that we have “outgrown” our need to submit to Christ as the church in all things? I should hope not but we need to be very careful when we pick and choose which doctrines we discard as culturally irrelevant, especially when they are integral to and intertwined with other doctrines that are related and that we assume are timeless. To reiterate, Christ relates to the church as husbands are to relate to their wives and the converse is true that wives relate to their husbands as the church relates to Christ.

This is something important to point out. Paul is not placing conditions on these commands. Paul is not saying nor implying that wives should submit to their husbands only if their husbands love them sufficiently nor is Paul saying or implying that husbands should love their wives as long as their wife submits to them. In other words, you can’t get out of this command by placing conditions on it that don’t exist in the text. Christ loved the church before the church even knew His name and husbands are to love their wives and wives are to submit to their husbands without qualification. I will come back to this again a little later because it is so important to understanding the relationship between men and women.

Moving on, Paul writes a similar admonition to the church in Colossae regarding the husband-wife relationship…


Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Slaves, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has done, and there is no partiality. (Colossians 3:18-25)
Paul is reiterating much of what we see in Ephesians 5. I included much of the rest of the chapter because what we see here is interesting. The commands are one-sided. Husbands love your wives. Period. Not love them when they submit, just love them as Christ loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Likewise wives are to submit to their husbands in obedience to Christ. We again do not see a command here for husbands to make their wives submit. That makes sense. Coerced obedience of your wife is not submission and it is not Biblical. You might able to control your wife through domination and intimidation but a wife can only submit willingly as an act of obedience to Christ. What does that mean? Wives should willingly submit to their husbands because of their love for Christ. When a wife submits to her husband she is serving the Lord Christ. I would argue that when a wife refuses to submit she is not serving Christ but instead serving herself and her own desires. Likewise, when a husband fails to love his wife, he is selfishly serving his own desires and not honoring and obeying Christ.

Another place Paul speaks of this issue is in his letter to the church in Corinth (if you are keeping score at home, that is three different churches where he has addressed this issue in his writings in a uniform, patriarchal manner). The first half of 1 Corinthians 11 speaks of male headship in the marriage relationship followed by the most extensive treatment of the Lord’s Supper outside of the Gospels. It strikes me as odd that many people are dismissive of one half of this chapter but not the other half. In the first half of 1 Corinthians 11, Paul is speaking of headcoverings, a topic I have addressed many times but my point here goes deeper than the external act of obedience, as important as that as. I want to look instead at the underlying doctrine. In other words why does Paul tell women to cover their heads? Is it a cultural issue? Not at all although that is how it is often dismissed. Paul appeals instead to the marriage relationship which parallels his teachings in Ephesians 5:22-33 and Colossians 3:18-25. Here is the text….


Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him, but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:2-16)
Christ is the head of man. Husbands are the head of the wife. God is the head of Christ. I don’t see much ambiguity in that relationship. Paul appeals again here back to Genesis, so apparently Paul doesn’t see Genesis 1-11 as mere allegory but rather he sees the creation account and the fall as pivotal to understanding gender roles and relationships. Paul says that man is the glory of God and that woman is the glory of man because of the manner and order of Creation (referencing back to my prior post on Genesis and the creation order). Woman was created from man, not the other way around and that was intentional and foundational to any understanding of the genders.

So to recap. Wives submit to your husbands. Husbands love your wives. Husbands don’t demonstrate love for their wives by abdicating their calling as men and leaving everything up to their wives.

There are more specific verses regarding male headship in the church and family. In the midst of 1 Corinthians 14, Paul’s most comprehensive admonishment of how the church should meet, comes three very strongly worded verses, verses that get sort of short shrift among those who embrace the rest of this chapter as our guidepost for how the church should meet. I like to think that in this respect I am more consistent that many of my brothers and sisters. 1 Corinthians 14 is applicable for the church for all time. That means that when the church gathers, all of the brothers should be welcome and expected to participate. Likewise when the church gathers, there are certain differences in how men and women function in that gathering. After speaking about all of the brothers in the church coming to the gathering with something to share, Paul writes….


For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
Hmmmm. Perhaps Paul was mistaken here? Perhaps not. Women are to be in submission, which as we have seen means that a wife willingly submits to her husband, not that a husband should make his wife submit (because that by definition is not submission!). You can dance around this all you like but when you look at what Paul is saying, in context and without trying to make excuses, it is pretty clear. When the church gathers, women are to remain silent, i.e. they are not permitted to speak. In fact, if they want to learn anything they should ask their husbands. At home. You can reject that as cultural or specific to Corinth if you choose but consistency demands that you drop your arguments in favor of a participatory church meeting that are derived from this passage. There is far more explicit instruction regarding women in the church than there is about participatory meetings. Likewise for my complementarian brothers. If you are going to use 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 to prevent women from teaching, you have to take the rest of the chapter as universal and timeless as well and open up your church gatherings for all of the brothers to participate as led by the Spirit. Consistent interpretation please!

Paul is not done. His admonishment in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 is not a random, unsupported text. Paul clarifies and reinforces this teaching in a different letter, this one to Timothy….


I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:12-15)
Again we see the same teaching here that we saw in 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. This parallel passage to 1 Corinthians 14 appeals again to the creation order and the fall. 1 Tim 2: 12-15 fits with 1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 which likewise links to 1 Corinthians 14:33-35. Paul is eminently consistent in his teaching, if only we would be as consistent in our interpretation and application!

Some have tried to undermine what Paul is saying by appealing to 1 Timothy 2:15? I will admit that verse 15 is confusing. Does that change what Paul is saying? Not at all. The fact that because verse 15 is hard to understand doesn’t at all change the very clear and unambiguous teaching of Paul in the preceding verses. We don’t reject other passages because of confusing or difficult interpretations around them. Again the consistent hermeneutical principle here is that the explicit passages should be used to help interpret the less explicit. Paul links a woman’s holiness and self-control with her not exercising authority over men or teaching them. I am not sure enough about the child bearing part to speak dogmatically about it, but I am certain about the not teaching or having authority over men portion.

Peter has an interesting take on this whole subject. It again reinforces what Paul has written but he gives us an interesting expansion of the idea of patriarchy….


Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Peter 3:1-7)
Women influence and lead through their conduct and their submission. The measure of a godly woman is not how fashionable she dresses or her education level, it is her conduct, her holiness and her submission to her husband.

This is sounding like a broken record. Wives be subject to your husbands, husbands be understanding, honoring and loving toward your wives. Ephesus, Corinth, Colossae. Letters to the church, letters to Timothy. Paul and Peter. On and on. This doctrine is one of the most frequent and consistent in the entire Bible. Men and women are equal positionally in Christ but are called and equipped to function differently in both the home and the church.

So what are women supposed to do? Women have a precious and vitally important calling, at least as important as the calling of men, and one that is neglected and maligned. Paul speaks of it when he wrote to Titus….


Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3-5)
Women need to teach and disciple other women and care for the home which includes raising children. When it comes to women discipling other women, there is a reason why this is so important. For all sorts of reasons, men and women should not be in overly intimate relationships outside of marriage. Ever. Without that sort of open and intimate relationship, it is impossible for Christians to grow. So older and more mature women are called to disciple younger/less mature women just as older men should disciple younger men (Titus 2: 2; 6-8). Disciple to what end? To overthrow the male dominated patriarchal system of the church!? No. They are to “teach what is good”, which Paul defines as: to love their husbands and children, be self-controlled and pure, not drinking too much wine, to care for the home, be kind to others and submit to their husbands. Why should they do all of this? Because by not being these sorts of wives, they revile the Word of God. Let me repeat. A woman who does not submit to her husband reviles the Word of God. Not my words, these are the words of Paul. That is a serious charge but one that is supported by this text and others. Likewise a husband who doesn’t love and honor his wife also reviles the Word of God. This is serious stuff and something we dismiss at our own peril. Again, at the risk of being repetitious this obedience of submission/love is not conditional on being submitted to or being loved. We do what we are called to do to be faithful to the One who is always faithful, not as a tit for tat exchange with our spouse.

So hang on a second. There is a lot here that quotes Paul and some that quotes Peter. What about Jesus? Didn’t Jesus respect women? What about Mary Magdelene, or the woman at the well, or the woman who anointed His feet? What about them? Nothing I have written is undone by that. Jesus loved women. Paul loved women. Peter loved women. I love women as sisters in Christ and want nothing more for them than to be blessed by carrying out what God has intended for them. Nothing that Jesus did or taught in any way undermines what Paul or Peter taught and I believe what I am claiming in this series is both in harmony with the teachings of Christ, Paul and Peter and faithful to their intent. Peter followed Christ throughout His earthly ministry. Paul was a specially appointed apostle and eyewitness of Christ. God entrusted so much of what we know about Christ, about the Gospel, about the church, to the hands of these men. Paul and Peter are not contradicting Christ in anything they say and are speaking on His behalf when they wrote 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and Titus 2.

Can I be blunt? What is commonly called egalitarianism, i.e. that men and women are the same not only positionally but functionally, at its core is an attempt to discount what the Scriptures say. Paul couldn’t have meant that. Peter couldn’t have meant that. There must be a different interpretation, one that I find more palatable. It is a classic example of our culture and the Scriptures clashing.

Now having said all of that, a word or three of caution is in order. Men are given many examples to follow in the New Testament and none of them are men who abuse power.

Patriarchy in the New Testament is not about control

It is not about power

It is not about authority over women


It is about calling and responsibility and submitting to the authority of Christ and the calling He has called men and women to. Note that in Ephesians 5, we don’t read that men are to make their wives submit to them nor are they called to exercise authority or control over them. Wives are to submit to their husbands as an act of obedience to God, not as an act of obedience to their husbands just as husbands are to love their wives as an emulation of Christ loving the church. If your view of Biblical patriarchy focuses on control, authority and power you are far more misguided than the most staunch egalitarian.

Next up (not until next week probably), a short post looking at some of the most common and most compelling objections to patriarchy and my response to them.

12 comments:

Aussie John said...

Arthur,

Fifty years ago I began my marriage believing what the common, and true, understanding of "patriarchy" was.

It is only by the grace of God that I leaned what it does not mean for those who are under new ownership, as disciples of Christ.

You said, "Patriarchy in the New Testament is not about control

It is not about power

It is not about authority over women".

It seems to me that you are speaking of Biblical family leadership rather than patriarchy, which DOES imply "control", "power" and "authority over" others.

The Oxford Dictionary says

"patriarchy

Pronunciation:/ˈpeɪtrɪɑːki/
noun (plural patriarchies)
[mass noun]

a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line.
a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.
[count noun] a society or community organized on patriarchal lines.

Merriam-Webster says:

PATRIARCHY
1 : social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power

2: a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy

The Macmillan Dictionary similarly describes patriarchy:

a society, system, or organization in which men have all or most of the power and influence

"Power" or "control" are the common denominator.

May I suggest your definition of leadership of the family be slightly altered to read:

Christ-like servant-leadership in the New Testament is not about control

It is not about power

It is not about authority over women.

John Mureiko said...

Wow brother! What an excellent treatment of some really difficult stuff. I love your forthrightness and willingness to speak exactly what the Bible says. All I can pray is that with my wife, I will become a more Christlike loving man. That kind of man is at least a little easier to submit to. ;)

Arthur Sido said...

Aussie John

As I mentioned in the initial posts, I don't think the modern dictionary definition of patrirachy is terribly useful because it is based on our cultural use of the word. What I am trying to get at is that patriarchy is not a "bad" word and attempting to define it in the proper context from Scripture. I think what I am describing, what you astutley describe as "Christ-like servant-leadership in the New Testament" in the church and home IS patriarchy.

Arthur Sido said...

John M

I pray the same thing for myself! I am not an easy man to submit to, it is a credit to my wife's obedience to Christ and her faith that she does so in spite of my failings.

Eric Holcombe said...

Arthur,

John is expressing the same thing I was trying to get across at Alan's. The word "Patriarchy" simply does not occur in the scriptures (neither do egalitarian or complimentarian or John the Baptist). Because that term doesn't mean the same thing to different people, it isn't actually used in the scriptures, and therefore you have to expend effort to show (2 or 3 posts later) that you don't mean what they heard, I wouldn't have used it so as not to offend. Plus, you are then in the position of competing doctrines with all those other "patriarchy" teachings you don't agree with.

I've asked you in the past about which "law" Paul is referring to in 1 Cor. 14.

You were all over it in the Old Testament post. It's the book of the Law (not a specific command), including Genesis. I believe that 1 Timothy 2 reinforces that. I've only met one other person that holds to the women must be silent teaching that could explain that.

Arthur Sido said...

Eric

In fairness, while the word "patriarchy" doesn't appear in the Bible, two men are referred to as "patriarchs" (Acts 2:29 and Hebrews 7:4) in the ESV, NIV, NASB and KJV as well as several other places where it is used the in the plural. So it is a perfectly acceptable word.

In part I chose to use that word because it has been hijacked by some on the extremes of the "patriarchy" movement as well as those who use it as a pejorative. Just as "homeschool" doesn't appear in the Scriptures but the principle does, I feel comfortable using the word, I likewise feel comfortable using the word "patriarchy" to describe male servant headship in the family and the home.

rhonda said...

Arthur, if men would be the kind of men you describe here, I would only have a SMALL problem with this article. You don't address in this patriarchy business what we (women)are supposed to do when our (former) husbands are unfaithful and don't have our best interests at heart. Also, about that scripture in Timothy, "women will be saved with childbearing," do you really think that all women who have not given birth are going to hell? Seriously? I think not. Patriarchy is NONSENSE. These are minor, petty doctrines that had more meaning when they were written than they do today. Your article seems to give the attitude that you are proud of yourself for being male and being superior to all women, in your own opinion. Women are gifted people, too, not just brood mares. You assume here that all husbands are the same, all relationships are the same and that everything should be uniform. I disagree. I could go on and on, but will stop at this. You get my point.

Arthur Sido said...

Actually Rhonda I don't get your point. I am not sure you made one. You said I was wrong but very little else. If you can tell me where I am wrong (or perhaps where the Scriptures are wrong in your opinion) it would be helpful.

The issue of submission is about submitting to yoru husband out as a sign of submission to Christ. If you submit to your husband and he mistreats you, the unfaithfulness is his, not yours. I don't see that we are given permission to rewrite the Scriptures based on our situation. I am truly sorry for the hurt caused you by your ex-husband. I am also truly sorry that your experience has caused you to question or reject the Scriptures. I would ask you to take a deep breath, reread what I wrote and tell me where I have misinterpreted the Word.

Arlan said...

I feel you have not fully addressed the difference between "woman" and "wife." I agree that a wife should submit (defer) to her husband AS witness of the relationship between Christ and the Church and ALSO as an example of Christ, and this CAN involve suffering. And on the other side of the fence, Hosea was called to keep loving a whore, who is an example of the church -- that is, you and me. We are whores that Christ keeps loving.

Men and women fall short of the sacrificial, service-love that Christ shows us, so I don't chase anyone down to make them feel guilty about a damaging relationship they left. Perhaps if I know the person God will give me something to say; but perhaps not. They are his servants, not mine. But principally, I agree with the main line you are stating about wives.

But your head covering passage itself shows that women are expected to speak in the assembly. Head covering can't even come up as an issue if women are only speaking at home.

The fact that men are mostly mentioned teaching and leading cannot obliterate the times when women are mentioned: Deborah, Priscilla, Lydia, probably Junia.

Men (mankind generally) are told to submit to their masters even if the masters are not fair. So the question of the fairness of the husband doesn't put me out much; unfairness is par for the Christian. But Paul's instruction on headcovering assumes women both pray and prophesy in the church.

If we do not have positional leadership - that is, if we are not following a man just because he got elected Big Chief - what are we following? The Voice of the Shepherd, Jesus. So you must either say that Jesus does not speak through women (contradicted by OT and NT prophetesses) or say that we should not follow them when they speak of Christ.

In short, I don't see the rules-based approach coming out ahead any way you play it. Making a rule against women leadership or for it either way misses the point: THIS is my beloved Son, hear HIM. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a woman!

I tend to think that a healthy gathering of believers will recognize (or appreciate) men as its leaders because it is natural (a la your remark about child bearing); but this is not the same as a blanket rule to shut women up. Anyone's teaching, male or female, can be evaluated in light of Christ, and need not be evaluated by the gender of the speaker.

I think we have Biblical ground to say that a wife is not to argue with (question) her husband in public. She defers to him as any person would to their boss--not because he is a better person, but, as you say, positionally. But where she is not contesting with her own husband there is nothing to keep her silent.

Arlan said...

Please also reconsider your willingness to exegete half a thought from Paul's letter to Timothy. I agree that a confusing passage in Haggai shouldn't stop us from talking about Luke's Gospel (to randomly make an example), but if you can't explain the immediate context of a verse, you probably don't understand that verse. There's no shame in saying "This I don't understand." It's far less respectable to say "I don't know what's going on here but I know I'm right!"

Paul's statement about a woman learning "in silence" can be equally well translated "in quietness," that is, without being argumentative. It's a very parallel thought to "without wrath or doubting" for men in v. 8 and fits the overall context. The gist is not that it is okay for a woman to be wrathful as long as she is quiet, and okay for a man to be disruptive or domineering as long as he is not angry; it's the same thought of peace in the church given a modulated expression based on gender norms but not absolutes; Paul is illustrating his thought, not exhaustively defining it.

Likewise Paul does not mean "saved through childbearing" in the sense of eternal salvation. Having brought to mind the curses in Eden, he also mentions grace -- to physically survive childbirth. Again, I don't see Paul making an absolute guarantee, but a general remark on the grace of God toward those (he says "they," man and wife, not "she," the woman) who trust God for freedom from the curse.

I don't think any solid exegesis can avoid the fact that Paul uses the sequence of events in Genesis to make a point, and following from that, he is making a point about headship. But his whole argument must be considered; that is, when he mentions Eve being deceived, he has indicated his concern with women teaching. As a consequence, we should not superstitiously forbid women speaking lest they magically trick us into sinning, but rather be mindful that if the men collectively are passively choosing not to test the teaching (of any teacher), but follow a woman uncritically, they will find themselves astray.

The distinction I am trying to draw is between disallowing a woman ever to speak or every to do something which we have carefully and legalistically defined as teaching is not Paul's point. Adam's sin was not listening to Eve per se; it is not as though eating the fruit would have been okay if only Eve hadn't told him to do it. His sin was abdicating what he knew to be true because he liked Eve and didn't want to argue with her.

Arthur Sido said...

Arlan

But your head covering passage itself shows that women are expected to speak in the assembly. Head covering can't even come up as an issue if women are only speaking at home.

I reject the idea that head covering is something restricted to the gathered assembly. Women clearly pray outside of “church” and Paul makes a transition in 1 Cor 11: 17 “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse.” I don’t think there is any evidence that Paul is talking about the gathered church when we speaks of headcovering and therefore there is no inherent contradiction in Paul calling on women to cover their heads when praying or prophesying and him calling on women to be silent in the gathered church.

The fact that men are mostly mentioned teaching and leading cannot obliterate the times when women are mentioned: Deborah, Priscilla, Lydia, probably Junia.

Again, I would say you are making an assumption here that the women listed were teaching (not counting Deborah who is from the Old Testament) and leading. That is not at all apparent from the text. Even Priscilla who speaks with Apollos does so with her husband, so we don’t really know much about the conversation.

If we do not have positional leadership - that is, if we are not following a man just because he got elected Big Chief - what are we following? The Voice of the Shepherd, Jesus. So you must either say that Jesus does not speak through women (contradicted by OT and NT prophetesses) or say that we should not follow them when they speak of Christ.

In short, I don't see the rules-based approach coming out ahead any way you play it. Making a rule against women leadership or for it either way misses the point: THIS is my beloved Son, hear HIM. If God can speak through a donkey he can certainly speak through a woman!


I am not saying that at all and the either-or is not warranted. God certainly speaks through women, in the way of His choosing. Women are specifically called to mentor younger women. It is not an inferior form of God working, it is just a different form. He also speaks through the Scriptures. If someone claims that God is speaking in a way that contradicts the Scripture, I have to question the veracity of their claim.

I tend to think that a healthy gathering of believers will recognize (or appreciate) men as its leaders because it is natural (a la your remark about child bearing); but this is not the same as a blanket rule to shut women up. Anyone's teaching, male or female, can be evaluated in light of Christ, and need not be evaluated by the gender of the speaker.

If it were true that we would just naturally function as we should, most of what Paul wrote is irrelevant. Obviously there were issues that Paul was addressing and many of those very same issues are applicable today. I have no interest in “making” a woman submit to her husband or be silent in church or cover her head. If a sister chooses to not cover her head, the shame is hers not the church. If a wife does not submit to her husband, it is Christ she is disobeying, not her husband and not the elders.

Arthur Sido said...

Cont.

Please also reconsider your willingness to exegete half a thought from Paul's letter to Timothy. I agree that a confusing passage in Haggai shouldn't stop us from talking about Luke's Gospel (to randomly make an example), but if you can't explain the immediate context of a verse, you probably don't understand that verse. There's no shame in saying "This I don't understand." It's far less respectable to say "I don't know what's going on here but I know I'm right!"

I don’t find that a fair or helpful statement at all. I am not guessing what Paul meant here but showing the consistency of his thoughts and how they tie together from his letter to Timothy to his first letter to the Cornthians and the church in Ephesus. Far from selectively picking a verse and misapplying it, my intent is to show that in multiple places Paul has the same message.

Paul's statement about a woman learning "in silence" can be equally well translated "in quietness," that is, without being argumentative. It's a very parallel thought to "without wrath or doubting" for men in v. 8 and fits the overall context. The gist is not that it is okay for a woman to be wrathful as long as she is quiet, and okay for a man to be disruptive or domineering as long as he is not angry; it's the same thought of peace in the church given a modulated expression based on gender norms but not absolutes; Paul is illustrating his thought, not exhaustively defining it.

Again, if all Paul said was “learning in silence” that might be valid but when you look at the whole context of what Paul is saying, the interpretation becomes far clearer: quietly, with all submissiveness, silent, not permitted to speak to the point that Paul calls it shameful. It isn’t as if Paul is being subtle or evasive here.

As a consequence, we should not superstitiously forbid women speaking lest they magically trick us into sinning, but rather be mindful that if the men collectively are passively choosing not to test the teaching (of any teacher), but follow a woman uncritically, they will find themselves astray.

Paul’s concern and mine has nothing to do with a woman “tricking us” but rather that because of the relationship between men and women, specifically husbands and wives, from the Fall until the culmination of time, women should submit to their husbands and not lead or teach in the church or the home.