The Bible and Women Pt 5

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“A fundamental assumption about the nature of the Bible discussed in this chapter is its ‘incarnational’ nature, in analogy to the incarnate reality of the Word made flesh (Jn 1:14).  This means that the Word of God, his ‘lamp to (our) feet and a light to (our) path’ (Ps 119:105), comes to us within the confines of human language and with the context of human history, and it participates in various cultural realities and addresses individuals and peoples in diverse situations.  In that sense, the entirety of Scripture is historically and culturally embedded and conditioned.  This reality of Scripture does not lessen its overarching authoritative character, just as the ‘enfleshed’ nature of the living Word of God in Jesus does not lessen his authoritative presence.  What it does mean is that our hearing, interpreting and application of Scripture must not take place without careful attention to this contextualisation, this ‘human location’ of Scripture” (Brauch, M. T., 2009, Abusing Scripture: The Consequence of Misreading the Bible, IVP, Downers Grove, Ill., p.202).

The above quote is vitally important in our understanding who it is that is behind Scripture and how His very being, His work and His Person must be taken into consideration in all parts of the Bible.  Jesus is the Arche  of all the ways and works of God.  What He has said as recorded in Scripture helps us to interpret it in the right context.  The life of Jesus Christ is the ultimate human activist who lived to serve in the best interest of every single human being that ever existed.  Once we understand the enfleshed Word of God is from the heart of the Trinity, we begin to understand the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit in a whole new way.  Male and female were created in their image.  The female was created as a saviour to man’s loneliness and were created to exist face-to-face with each other.  Though this was lost in the Fall we must remind ourselves that they both suffered as a result of the disobedience of both of them.  The Resurrection brings about the restoration of both men and women bringing them not only to face-to-face relationship with the Father but also face-to-face relationship with each other.  This is a relationship that has no authority over the other but is circular just as the term perichoresis describes for God and is the pattern that has been inserted into our beings.

Though we are exploring the relationship between men and women, particularly in marriage, it is worthwhile exploring the setting in which the New Testament was written and the women’s place in society at the time.   In Judaism, the attitude towards women was very negative and they were considered the most evil of human beings.  In the inter-testimental writings expressed such views in a highly discriminatory way where the blame for the plight of humanity was squarely pointed at the women.  Sirach 42:14 says the wickedness of a man is judged as better than the goodness of a woman.

It was considered much better to burn the Torah than to place it into the hands of the woman.  Philo of Alexandria, a first century Jewish philosopher has very negative views of the woman that he grounded on her actions that brought about the Fall.  Even in the creation of the woman, he thought the first had more esteem and because she was created second she was therefore not in equal honour as the man.  By and large, Philo made the common mistake of allowing his thesis to begin by what was considered acceptable by conventions of the day influence biblical interpretation.  He believe women were more accustomed to being deceived than the man.

A women’s testimony was not acceptable in court.  They had no right to education.  They were segregated in worship and had a place delegated to just the women.  The Jewish men prayed giving thanks that they were not created as either slaves, Gentiles or women.  However, there were some sections that did not take such a negative view of the women.  4Ezra chapter 3 shows the right context for the Fall which was squarely pointed at Adam.  Even though much was done in the writings of Paul to rectify such views, the pervading world view continued in the church Fathers.

When Paul wrote his instructions regarding women, it was revolutionary highlighting how they were equal in being to the men, especially in light of the Incarnation.  His was a christological approach to Scripture with a sound knowledge of the writings which assessed Adam as the one human being responsible for the Fall.  4Ezra 3 is such an example.  However, the world view pervaded the church well into the patristic era.  From this foundation, the church established the subordination of woman as based on the authority of God.  However, careful exegesis with Jesus Christ as the linchpin upon which this study is grounded, we have no choice but to make the statement Paul made, ‘there is no difference between male or female,’ as the final say on such matters.

It is important that we hear the voice of women in our community as a just cry that comes from the heart of the Trinity.  What Manfred T Brauch has done in his book Abusing Scripture is to bring a context of Scripture that is in unison with the very being of Jesus Christ who is the exact representation of the Father.  Human rights in all areas is the cry of the Spirit of which the church should listen and take heed.  We have a deeply loving, kind and compassionate God who cares for those who are need of care just like the sick who need a doctor and not the healthy.  When we look at the true nature of the gospel, we find there is not prejudice against any human being, no matter their race, social status or religious convictions.