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Women Serving God: Wednesday Evening Study Series
LaJuana Gill, John Mark Hicks, and Mark Manassee
February 4, 2004

Fallen Perspectives and a Counter-Model

I. Fallenness.

A. Greek

1. Plato, Timaeus, 90e: “It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation."

2. Aristotle, On Politics, 1254, 1259, 1260: “Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind…For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature…Early, then, moral virtue belongs to all of them; but the temperance of a man and of a woman, or the courage and justice of a man and of a woman are not, as Socrates maintained, the same; the courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying.”

B. Hinduism

Tulsidas in his Ramayana expressed his contempt for women when he wrote that if women become independent, this would lead to evil. Therefore he prescribed that "The drum, the village fool, the Shudras (lower classes), animals, women, all these are fit to be beaten."

C. Traditional African Proverbs (Traditional African Religion)

Woman, the source of all evil. (Benin Senegal)

A woman and an invalid man are the same. (Gikuyu, ¬Kenya)

A woman’s intelligence is that of a child (West Africa -Benin, Senegal)

If a man is not obeyed by his wife, he must beat her thwack! (KiSwahili, East Africa.)

D. Jewish

1. Ecclesiasticus 25:19, 24: "No wickedness comes anywhere near the wickedness of a woman.....Sin began with a woman and thanks to her we all must die."

2. Philo of Alexandria, Special Laws, 3.178.28: “There is in the soul a male and female element just as there is in families, the male corresponding to the men, the female to the women. The male soul assigns itself to God alone as the Father and Maker of the Universe and the Cause of all things. The female clings to all that is born and perishes; it stretches out its faculties like a hand to catch blindly at what comes in its way, and gives the clasp of friendship to the world of created things with all its numberless changes and transmutations, instead of to the divine order, the immutable, the blessed.”

3. Josephus, Against Apion, 2.25: a woman
is "inferior to her husband in all things Let her, therefore, be obedient to him; not so that he should abuse her, but that she may acknowledge her duty to her husband; for God hath given the authority to the husband " (Against Apion, 2.25).

4. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15: “But let not a single witness be credited, but three, or two at the least, and those such whose testimony is confirmed by their good lives. But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex.”

5. "Blessed are you, Lord, our God, ruler the universe who has not created me a Gentile, a slave or a woman.” From the Talmud, and originally attributed to second-century Rabbi Judah bar Ilai.

6. Medieval Cairo synagogue (Genizah) text: blessed is God “who has created me a human and not beast, a man and not a woman, an Israelite and not a gentile, circumcised and not uncircumcised, free and not slave." Read the history of this saying.

E. Christian

1. Gospel of Thomas (mid-2nd century C.E.), 114: Simon Peter said to them: “Let Mary go forth from among us, for women are not worthy of the life.” Jesus said: “Behold, I shall lead her, that I may make her male, in order that she also may become a living spirit like you males. For every woman who makes herself male shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

2. Origen (d. 258), Fragments on First Corinthians, 74: "’For it is improper for a woman to speak in an assembly,’ no matter what she says, even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they come from the mouth of a woman.”

3. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 1.92: “It was necessary for woman to be made, as the Scripture says, as a ‘helper’ to man; not, indeed, as a helpmate in other works, as some say, since man can be more efficiently helped by another man in other works; but as a helper in the work of generation.”

4. Friar Cherubino, Rules of Marriage (early 1400s): “When you see your wife commit an offense, don't rush at her with insults and violent blows. Scold her sharply, bully and terrify her. And if this still doesn't work...take up a stick and beat her soundly, for it is better to punish the body and correct the soul than to damage the soul and spare the body...Then readily beat her, not in rage but out of charity and concern for her soul, so that the beating will redound to your merit and her good.”

5. Martin Luther, Table Talk (1531): “Men have broad shoulders and narrow hips, and accordingly they possess intelligence. Women have narrow shoulders and broad hips. Women ought to stay at home; the way they were created indicates this, for they have broad hips and a wide fundament to sit upon.”

6. Martin Luther, letter to nuns in 1524: “A woman does not have complete mastery of herself. God created her body that she should be with a man and bear and raise children. The words of Genesis, Chapter 1, clearly state this, and the members of her body sufficiently that God himself formed her for this purpose."

7. Menno Simons (1496-1561), Writings, 376: “Remain in your houses and gates unless you have something of importance to regulate, such as to make purchases, to provide in temporal needs, to hear the Word of the Lord, or to receive the holy sacraments, etc. Attend faithfully to your charge, to your children, house, and family.”

F. Islam

Koran, 4.34: “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.”

II. Historical Models of Leadership. (Prepared and Taught by LaJuana Gill).

A. A Servant Leadership Model:

1. Taught by Jesus.
2. Demonstrated by Jesus
3. Demonstrated on the Cross
4. Demonstrated in the New Testament Church
5. Demonstrated in Covenant Relationship with Israel
6. Demonstrated in Creation

B. Platonic Hierarchical Subordinationism in the History of the Church

1. Arianism – Arius of Alexandria taught that Jesus Christ was not co-eternal and of one substance with God the Father, but had been created by Him as his Instrument for the salvation of the world. Thus, although a perfect man, the Son was subordinate to the Father, his nature being human rather than divine. They used “head as authority” definition of kephale to prove that Christ is inferior to the Father! Constantine established a universal Church Council in Nicaea 325.

2. Nestorianism – Nestorius, appointed Bishop of Constantinople in 427. Refusing to attribute the frailties of humanity to a member of the Trinity, he preached that Christ was not, as the Nicaeans believed, a single person but that he possessed two distinct persons, one human and the other divine.

3. Hierarchical Model

a. Plato - In his hierarchical chain of being, women are ranked third on a scale from God, to man, to woman, to animal—their very being is derivative from the male and therefore inferior.

b. Augustine – “The woman herself alone is not the image of God, whereas the man alone is the image of God as fully and completely as when the woman is joined with him.”

c. Tertullian – “God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway, you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: man! Because of the death you merited, the Son of God had to die.”

d. Aquinas – “As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex, while the production of women comes from a defect in the active force or from some material disposition, or even from some external influence, such as that of a south wind.”

C. Role Model taught by Martin Luther

1. Women only have value in relationship to men, particularly in marriage and childbearing. Woman was given to man in the one and only work in which he really needed her help – procreation. Under his way of thinking, the question, “What does it mean to be made in the image of God as male and female?” merges with the question, “What is the understanding of the roles which the male and female have to fulfill in the ordinance of marriage?” (In other words, the church was teaching that being made as female is not essential to humanity; but, to marriage.)

2. Luther sees men and women as equals at Creation and sees subordination as a result of the Fall: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-8 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1958), 203, 138, 202, 200.

• “If Eve had persisted in the truth, she would not only not have been subjected to the rule of her husband, but she herself would also have been a partner in the rule which is now entirely the concern of males.”

• “The wife was made subject to the man by the Law which was given after sin.”

• “Eve was placed under the power of her husband, she who previously was very free, and as the sharer of all the gifts of God, was in no respect inferior to her husband. This punishment, too springs from original sin.”

• “The female sex has been greatly humbled and afflicted, and it bears a far severer and harsher punishment than the men.”

D. Relational Model in the New Creation: God distributes the power and witness of the Holy Spirit to all.

Questions for Reflection:

1. Why is “subordinationism” so dominant in culture, both in the Judeo-Christian heritage and outside of it? How does it contrast with the actions and teachings of Jesus?

2. What is the difference between Luther’s understanding and the hierarchical Platonic understanding of the relationship between male and female?

3. Have you experienced or seen this “subordinationism” practiced in the contemporary world? Describe, critique and offer an alternative way of understanding male/female relations.

Resources for Further Study

Complementarian: concerning a redemptive understanding of headship, see Jack Cottrell, Headship, Submission and the Bible.

Egalitarian: the most thorough discussion is Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), pp. 139-224.

A helpful discussion of Ephesians 5, mutual submission and Triune relationships in the context of John Paul II is available.


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