The following is written by Jon Zens, a prolific Reformed writer and authority on New Covenant Theology:
First, 1 Cor.7:1-5 is the only place in the NT where the word “authority” (Greek, exousia) is used with reference to marriage. But it is not the authority of the husband over the wife, or vice versa, that is in view, but rather a mutual authority over each other’s body. 1 Corinthians 7:4 states that the wife has authority over her husband’s body. One would think that this would be a hard pill to swallow for those who see “authority” as resting only in the husband’s headship.
Second, Paul states that a couple cannot separate from one another physically unless there is mutual consent (Greek, symphonou). Both parties must agree to the separation or it doesn’t happen. The husband cannot override the wife’s differing viewpoint.
John Piper suggests that “mature masculinity accepts the burden of the final say in disagreements between husband and wife, but does not presume to use it in every instance” (p.32). The problem with a dogmatic statement like this is that it will allow for no exceptions. But 1 Corinthians 7:5 contradicts Piper’s maxim. If the wife disagrees with a physical separation, the husband cannot overrule his wife with the “final choice” (p.33). Such separation can occur only if both husband and wife are in “symphony” (unity) about such an action.
Now if mutual consent applies in an important issue like physical separation from one another for a period of time, wouldn’t it seem proper that coming to one-mindedness would be the broad model for decision-making in a healthy marriage? Piper feels that “in a good marriage decision-making is focused on the husband, but is not unilateral” (p.32). In light of 1 Corinthians 7:1-5 I would suggest that decision-making should focus on finding the Lord’s mind together. Over the years the good ideas, solutions to problems and answers to dilemmas will flow from both husband and the wife as they seek the Lord as a couple for “symphony.”
1 Corinthians 7:5 throws a wrench into the works for those who would include the husband’s “final say” in male headship. Paul teaches that unless the couple can agree on a course of action, it cannot be executed. I suggest that this revelation invites us to re-examine what the husband’s headship really entails (cf. Gordon D. Fee, “1 Corinthians 7:1-7 Revisited,” Paul & the Corinthians: Studies On A Community in Conflict, Trevor J. Burke/J. Keith Elliott, eds., Brill, 2003, pp.197-213).
Most evangelicals have come to recognize that it is perfectly acceptable and often desirable to translate adelphoi in the plural into English as “brothers and sisters” in contexts in the New Testament where it is unambiguous that men and women alike are being addressed. But James 3:1 is more ambiguous. The NET Bible renders it, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.” The NLT, TNIV and NRSV likewise all employ “brothers and sisters.”
Some argue, however, along the following lines. (1) We know that the first Christian generation did not have female teachers. (2) Including “sisters” as part of the translation of James 3:1 suggests that they did. Therefore, (3) translations such as the four mentioned above are seriously in error at this point and should be shunned.
There are so many holes in the “logic” of this “argument” that one barely knows where to start. But let’s take the three points in order.
Concerning (1), (a) we in fact do not know nearly as much as some complementarians and egalitarians alike confidently affirm about the first generation of Christian history. Some egalitarians believe that there were no “official” first-century women teachers in the church but that because of changed culture, it is acceptable to have women in that role today. Others, however, point to Priscilla (teaching Apollos) or Junia (as an apostle) or Philip’s daughters who prophesied and infer a prominent teaching role from them. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that complementarians have successfully refuted all such claims, there is still (b) the question of how “teacher” is being used here. In Ephesians 4:12 “pastors and teachers” are closely linked but not (necessarily) equated, and a case can be made from Acts 20 and Titus 1 that Paul often uses “pastor,” “overseer” and “elder” interchangeably. A case can also be made that he limited this office to men, but that still stops short of demonstrating that he equated “teacher” with this office. Even if he did, (c) nothing requires James to be using the term in the same way. Luke and Paul, for example, differ in how they use the term “apostle,”—Luke in all but one instance reserving it for one of “the Twelve,” and Paul often using it as a spiritual gift. Finally, (d) Paul clearly uses “teaching” as a spiritual gift in his various lists of gifts which the Spirit gives without reference to gender, and James could be using it that way.
Concerning (2), (a) James regularly uses adelphoi throughout his letter to address his entire congregation, and in no other instance is there any contextual reason for thinking he has only men in view. Even if he had only men in whatever role he was calling “teachers,” (b) he could still be addressing the entire listening congregation. If all New Testament authors were as uniformly conservative as some complementarians suggest, James could be wanting to forestall any women trying to become teachers as apparently had happened in Ephesus, thereby necessitating 1 Timothy 2:12. After all, his comments are cautions against too many wanting to become teachers. In a traditional society he could be gently saying, in essence, “there are already too many men aspiring to this office that we need to cut back on “applicants,” and the women could easily have heard, “so women, don’t even think about it.” Or (c) James might simply have continued his standard form of address to the whole congregation without being nearly so subtle, because he knew both genders would be listening to the letter being read and women would quickly recognize from the standard practice of the day that he was focusing on men at this point.
Concerning (3), even if none of the previous options should turn out to have been the true situation, the number of ways in which James could indeed have meant “brothers and sisters” that we have surveyed suggests that, if he did not mean this, (a) the inclusive translation can scarcely be called a “serious” error. It would be a fairly minor one. Finally, (b) even if someone remained unconvinced and still deemed it serious, every Bible translation ever created has equally if not more “serious” errors in various places and we can’t shun all of them!
What, then, of a final but quite different counterargument? Shouldn’t we still err on the side of a conservative translation if there is any reasonable doubt that James had both genders in mind. Isn’t that part of where translations differ from commentaries because of our high view of the inspired text of Scripture itself? This may be one of the most widespread and dangerous fallacies afflicting certain wings of evangelical scholarship and the conservative church in general in the U.S. today. Every translation, in fact, has to balance some measure of literal rendering (formally equivalent translation) with understandability (dynamically equivalent translation). The only completely literal translations are interlinear Bibles that are consistently unintelligible if one were to read them solely in English! So one always must ask (and balance the answers to the two questions) both what is at stake if someone misunderstands a translation because it is too literal and what is involved if someone misunderstands a translation because it is too free.
In this case, the answer to the first question, in an absolute “worst-case scenario” would be that someone would think there were women teachers in James’ church(es) in some unspecified role when in fact there were not. But no one could fairly derive from the text that James himself approved (or disapproved) of this fact, since the only prescription (rather than description) in the text involves reducing those who would be teachers (from either gender). And all the other passages in other parts of Scripture used by complementarians to ban women from certain roles or offices would remain unchanged in their translation (and all four translations noted above preserve sufficiently traditional translations of those passages for such interpretations to remain completely plausible).
On the other hand, if James did have women teachers and was not discouraging anyone from the role based on gender, merely on overeagerness, and someone misunderstood a more “traditional” translation as gender-exclusive, and if egalitarian interpretations or applications of the other texts in Scripture appearing to limit women’s roles in church leadership turned out to be true, then the translators preserving the more “traditional” translation would have the guilt on their hands of unwittingly stifling a woman’s gifts and/or calling, and perhaps even quenching the work of God’s Spirit in the world.
I don’t ever want consciously to risk that. I’ll stick with “brothers and sisters” in James 3:1. But then I don’t think he was talking about what Paul called elders or overseers anyway!
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
There is a whole industry set up to violate these words of Jesus – it’s called pornography. We know it hurts the relationship between the genders by encouraging men to treat women and girls as sex objects, rather than as persons created in the image of God. Yet what effect does pornography have on the self image of women and girls and how they value themselves? It’s not something I have heard Christians talk about much.
Here is an example of what I am talking about. In his book “Out of the Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction” (Page 88 and 89) Patrick Carnes says the following:
“A girl reads the sexually explicit magazines in her father’s pornography collection and becomes convinced about how to get a man’s attention. As an adult, she acts like the women in those magazines to attract the attention of the opposite sex.”
When I was growing up, a couple of my female friends showed me their fathers’ pornography. At age fourteen, one of them acted out some of the things that were described in her father’s magazines. Later on, at age eighteen she married an extremely unstable man. I think if she had known a better experience in her family when learning what it means to be female, she would not have married him. Another girl who showed me her father’s pornography had the attitude that taking off as much clothing as possible was the ultimate thrill in being female. Even as an adult, she considers women with larger breasts to be of more intrinsic value than women with smaller breasts, and that’s what she has indirectly conveyed to her daughters.
When we talk about the cost of pornography, we cannot limit it to the way it causes men to treat women. We also have to take into account what it teaches women and girls about their value as human beings. It teaches them that their primary worth in this life is the sexual pleasure their body gives to men. It glamorizes being a sex object, and many women and girls, including Christians, accept this lesson without ever questioning it. In addition, many women come to accept the idea that their husbands’ using of pornography is normal. Again they accept this lesson without ever questioning it.
This is the legacy of pornography in our culture. It not only causes men to view women and girls as sex objects, it causes women and girls to look at themselves as sex objects. What can we as Christians do to undo the lessons pornography teaches women and girls, and to show them how Jesus wants them to be viewed ?
H/T CBE International
If Patriarchy was a Pre-Fall reality, then it would be at least implicit within the biblical text. I previously demonstrated that the 2ndcreation account (in Genesis 2) does not support such a reading, but I said nothing at the time regarding the 1st creation account in Genesis 1.
Genesis 1:26-28 describes the creation of humanity “in the image of God” and after his “likeness.” There are a number of hermeneutical and theological difficulties related to these phrases - particularly what exactly it means to be created in God’s image and how that relates to the phrase about “according to our likeness.” Couple those things also with the use of plural pronouns and you’ve got a longstanding theological and exegetical argument.
What I want to demonstrate in this post is that the *structure* of the pericope provides us insight into the author’s intention –that is, the way he formulates the narrative gives us insight into what he means by the mysterious phrases. More to the point, though, when we see what he means, we are also given insight into the Pre-Fall relationship between the man and the woman - one which, as I will demonstrate, is one of equality, not patriarchy. This argument will, in effect,support my reading of Genesis 2 and 3 which says that Patriarchy is a result of the Fall, not prior to it.
The Hebrew text in 1:27 reads something like this….(the word order is important – often skewed by our English translations)
“Created God humanity in His image. In the image of God He created him. Male and female He created them.”
Structurally, the text is a Chiasm (an inverted parallelism) followed by a straight forward Parallelism. Notice the Chiasm 1st…
- Created humanity
C In His image
C’ In the image
B’ of God
A’ He created him
Surrounding the whole things is the Creative purposes of God. Central to the chiasm, and thus the emphasis of the writer, is the Image of God. Unfortunately, besides the fact that it is the creative act of God, no other exegetical clue is provided for us to help us discern the substance of the Image of God…..that is, until the parallelism which begins with the 2nd half of the chiasm:
- In the Image of God B. He created C. Him
A. Male and Female B. He created C. Them
What the structuring of this narrative suggests, then, is that whatever it means to be in the image of God, it must be fully understood in the context of BOTH male and femaleness. Man is not the image of God without woman and woman is not the image of God without the man. They are both, together the image of God. In other words – what the chiastic structure gives emphasis to (the image of God), the parallelism gives substance to (male and female).
Now notice that there is no implied subordination within this structuring. Rather, there is implied equality. Nothing within this text points to male headship. The Biblical Complementarian argument fails to account for the fact that this first creation account doesn’t even have a creation order for the genders. This narrative suggests that male and female are equal before God – for they both, together, stand before Him and are equally created in His image – so much for the old discussions about whether women were really created in God’s image or not.