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The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the…
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The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became… (edizione 2021)

di Beth Allison Barr (Autore)

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Titolo:The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth
Autori:Beth Allison Barr (Autore)
Info:Brazos Press (2021), 256 pages
Collezioni:La tua biblioteca

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The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth di Beth Allison Barr

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An exploration of history and the author's personal story casting significant aspersions on the construction of "Biblical womanhood" as understood in American (white) Evangelicalism, and denunciation of the patriarchy which established it.

The author intersperses episodes of her and her family's experiences within Evangelicalism within a historical exploration of the questions at hand.

There are many aspects of the work that stand strongly and demand reckoning. She discusses a lot of the Biblical passages and the various ways they have been understood. The work is strongly reliant on history, not surprising since the author's primary discipline is medieval history, and she does demonstrate the presence of women in preaching and ministry throughout Christian history, and even in many of the denominations which presently uphold the "Biblical womanhood" construct.

The author is inarguably correct that patriarchy has been a thing and remains a powerful force in many parts of Christianity. She lands many blows against arguments that would suggest that history speaks consistently against women in ministry. She is not wrong to point out the alignment with Arianism that has taken place with those who make much of the "eternal subordination of the Son," and the willingness to uphold an ancient heresy in order to keep a subcultural construct. The toxic effects of upholding patriarchy and the construct of "Biblical womanhood" is real, although this is all spelled out in far greater detail in Kristin Kobes du Mez's "Jesus and John Wayne" than it is here.

I would like to be sympathetic to a lot of the arguments the author makes. I absolutely sympathize with the vast majority of her critiques, and those who would consider themselves "complementarians" do well to grapple with them. All of Evangelicalism needs to grapple with how much of their belief and practice is rooted in particular cultural constructs vs. truly what must be upheld to serve the Lord Jesus.

But when it comes to the positive argument for egalitarianism, the author seems to think it becomes the natural conclusion of all she has stated. But it is not at all the natural conclusion of what she has stated.

Because the issue of women in Christianity is extremely complicated. Such is why we are at this point at which "complementarians" and "egalitarians" are much better at tearing down each other's arguments than they are to fully uphold their own.

Since the author does not come out and say it in the end, I must imagine that her argument for egalitarianism would be: "while the passages in 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, and 1 Timothy exist, there is also Galatians 3:28, the work of Junia, Phoebe, and Priscilla, and the historical testimony of women doing work of ministry and service, and therefore we can remain within Christian historic orthodoxy while finding space for Christian women to serve and work in any role a Christian man could do."

That is certainly an argument, and for many it might be persuasive. But it gets no closer to finding harmony in the witness of the New Testament than that against which it argues.

The author makes much of Phoebe as the letter-bearer of Romans. She absolutely is a woman, a servant of the Lord, and of great influence. She might well have carried Paul's letter to the Romans to the brethren in Rome. Anything beyond that? Wouldn't we love to know? It's all speculative, and will tell you more about the expositor's posture than anything that took place in the 1st century. As to whether she is a "servant" or "deaconness": either is entirely possible. The vagary in the use of diakonos in the NT is quite frustrating. Yes, there were deaconnesses in the ancient church...but do you hear from this work that their role was in serving and providing for the sisters in Christ? Nope. Because even a cursive glance at the sources in the notes all point to a certain conclusion, and do not seem to be well rounded.

The author makes much of Junia as an apostle. And she is absolutely a woman; any argument to the contrary is not well rooted in what we know of ancient nomenclature. But what does it mean that she is an apostle (granting Paul's purpose is not to suggest she is notable among the apostles)? Like diakonos, apostolos has vagary in use. She's certainly not one of the Twelve; neither is Paul, for that matter. What was the commission with which she was sent, to whom, and to what end? Again, wouldn't we all love to know! Whatever conclusion is brought forth tells you about the expositor more than anything going on in the first century. I did find it interesting how the author was very quick to appeal to Origen and John Chrysostom in their affirmation of Junia as a woman and as some kind of apostle. That is well and good; but did we hear anything about the views of Origen or John Chrysostom about 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, where they would not give any quarter to the author's argument? Or are sources only to be considered when they support one's arguments?

The author's take on 1 Corinthians 14 is interesting - it was the first time I have come into contact with the view that vv. 34-35 might be a quotation. It's an interesting thesis; there's almost certainly some quoting going on in 1 Corinthians (7:1 especially, and in 6:12-13 even if quotations aren't involved, one is compelled to interpret as if they were, also maybe in 10), the exegesis of other passages is not affected whether it's a quote or if it's not, but much more is riding on the line for 14:34-35 as a quote. When I try to put it together thus, to me it makes 14:34-35 sound more like an interpolation than a quote that then generates a response, since what Paul says afterward makes much more sense in terms of what had been said beforehand. Yet one can tell that even the author does not invest everything in understanding 14:34-35 as a quote.

But when it comes to the main texts not a lot else is said. Yes, much is made of how Paul's "household code" puts more of the burden on the head of household than the Greco-Roman moralists, and that he expects all to submit to one another; but none of this changes the text of Ephesians 5:22-23, in which Paul says the wife should submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ. As ought to be emphasized - Paul does not demand for men to get their wives to submit, for the submission is to be a freewill offering, but for Paul there is no contradiction in saying what he does in verse 21 and what he does in verses 22 and 23. What is expected of the husband is not exactly the same as what is expected of the wife, and vice versa. And this is the case every time this relationship is considered in the text. 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy get very little consideration whatsoever.

The author relies a lot on the weight of historical witness. As an Evangelical, that makes sense: she has a commitment to the witness of the entire history, and expects an audience of Evangelicals like her to have to concede the same. As one skeptical of Evangelicalism, and of a Restorationist mindset, I expect history to display a series of people not following what God intended in terms of leadership and hierarchy. Sure, even in my own tradition I can find people who affirmed essentially an egalitarian position. It's one thing to point fingers at a particular view of inerrancy, as the author does, but does this mean that any attempt to take all of what Paul says seriously means that we are beholden to a 19th century construct of inerrancy?

Historical witness is not consistent one way or another, because the...ambivalence? inconsistent witness? various emphases? present even within the New Testament have played themselves out in various ways in Christian history. Yes, the New Testament affirms the full equal value of women as made in God's image and of equal worth in God's sight. The New Testament also says they should not teach men and be in authority over them in the assembly. Yes, the New Testament says there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free, male or female, for all are one in Christ Jesus - and the same New Testament spoke to people in each condition and how they were to live and relate to one another in life. Yes, the New Testament extends the hope of a new way of life in the resurrection, yet it also recognizes that we are still subject to various aspects of the curse until the fullness of redemption arrives in the resurrection, and the same author who made so much of the resurrection also grounded male and female association in the church in terms of the fall. Yes, women learned from Jesus and supported Him and His ministry, as well as the work of the early church; yes, Phoebe was prominent in Cenchreae, and Junia was highly regarded and might well have had a particular commission. Yet the same author will also speak of elders as entirely male, preachers among the people of God as entirely male, and provided no explicit characterization of women in leadership, even when he could have when speaking to Timothy about "women likewise."

The author does a great takedown of complementarianism, "Biblical womanhood," and the patriarchy. But that doesn't mean that egalitarianism is the default option, because there's a lot about the New Testament witness that egalitarianism rewrites or ignores. Should 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy be the only passages we consider? Of course not. But they cannot be so easily ignored or dispensed with, either. And so the disagreements, and the challenge, remain.

**--galley received as part of early review program ( )
  deusvitae | Jul 17, 2021 |
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