Ever since the early Jewish Christian movement first pushed its way into the Greek-Roman world, the church has built its house on what appeared for many centuries to be the immovable and unshakeable sandstone of theology—that is, theology as post-biblical rational discourse, in its multiplicity of forms. The intellectual storms and floods of the last two hundred years, however, have severely eroded that foundation, and I think that the church would be well advised now to abandon its former habitation and rebuild its worldview on the granite of a narrative-historical hermeneutic.
I am all in favour of a biblical egalitarianism grounded in the conviction that the people of God as new creation does not need to live under the curse of patriarchy. I don’t think that under Christ the man is mandated to rule over the woman or that the woman is relegated to the position of mere helper. I warmly endorse Daniel Kirk’s chapter on the place of women in the story of God in his book Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? I think “headship” in Paul is not a metaphor for the authority of one person over another or others, and that Paul’s requirement that women should learn and not teach is a response to practical contextual problems. I also disagree strongly with John Piper that “God has given Christianity a masculine feel”.
Jonathan Leeman offers an interpretation of Jesus’ enigmatic statement about the keys of the kingdom (Matt. 16:19) on the 9 Marks Blog. It is excerpted from his book The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline. It caught my eye because I have just finished writing a chapter on the kingdom of God for a… well, for whatever….
Continuing a conversation from elsewhere, I want briefly to address the question of whether Paul taught that there would be a resurrection of the faithful, within the historical horizon of the early churches, comparable to the “first resurrection” of the martyrs in Revelation 20:4-6. It has been suggested that there is “no explicit statement of a 1st century resurrection” in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. I beg to differ.
Peter Wilkinson has disputed my argument about the resurrection of the martyrs in Revelation 20:4. I think that John has in mind a more or less literal resurrection of those who were martyred during the course of the early church’s clash with an idolatrous Roman imperialism. Peter thinks that this apocalyptic stuff is all somehow just a metaphor for being a Christian. He argues i) that there are at least three groups in view in Revelation 20:4; ii) that these groups are not raised but simply “live”; and iii) that “resurrection” is to be “taken in its secondary sense as the triumph which believers already share with the risen, ascended Christ”.
There is so much in Tom Wright’s Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters that is good and right. The perfect storm metaphor that runs through the book is overworked, but it gets across very effectively the idea that Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection must be understood at the point where the great forces of Jewish hope, Roman imperial power, and the sovereign intention of Israel’s God converged. But the metaphor does not take us effectively beyond that point: the storm subsides, the politically constructed narrative quickly collapses, and we are left with a flattened landscape of theological abstractions. As I see it.
Paul’s instruction that a woman should “learn quietly with all submissiveness”, that she should not teach, that she should not “exert a damaging influence over” a man but should remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-12), is grounded in the order of their creation in Genesis 2: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.” So even if we accept that the rule of the man over the woman is a consequence of the fall rather than part of the original relational dynamic, it would still seem that in Paul’s mind a created difference requires that men teach and women learn “in all submissiveness”.
I pointed out yesterday that there is no reason to read “he shall rule over you” in Genesis 3:16 as the corruption of an original good andrarchy. In response to this Nigel Dutson asked about the interpretation of Genesis 2:18, where God says, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” He says: “No mention of domineering control to be sure but certainly the idea that woman was created with man’s interest in mind and not vice versa.”
Prompted by reading the chapter in Daniel Kirk’s Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul? on the place of women in the story of God, I recently set out my view i) that andrarchy (in this context, mandated rule by the man) is a consequence of the fall; ii) that it is therefore an aspect of the fallenness of humanity, of our bondage to sin; and iii) that a “new creation” people should not perpetuate this state of affairs unless there is very good reason for doing so—particularly in view of the fact that western culture has mostly thrown off this unjust arrangement over the last hundred years.
A key text for Tom Wright’s “gospel christology” is the account of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Matt. 21:1-9; Mk. 11:1-10; Lk. 19:28-40). In Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters , which is excellent in many ways, this story is the climax towards which his chapter on the “hurricane” of divine kingship is directed. The argument goes something like this. The theme of the return of YHWH to Zion is widely evidenced in the major Old Testament prophets but is also found in Zechariah and Malachi, even though these texts belong to the post-exilic period. It appears, therefore, that at least some Jews at this late stage were of the view that, despite the ending of the exile and the rebuilding of the temple, YHWH himself had not yet returned to fill his house with his glory. So the return from exile had not really happened—and had still not really happened by the time we get to Jesus’ day.