Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Historical Background of the New Testament (Part 3): to the 1st Century AD

The Roman Period 

Rome was founded ca. 753 BC, although the Romans marked years according to AUC (Ab urbe condita or Anno urbis condit√¶), i.e., from the founding of the city. The Roman Kingdom, consisting of the city and its territories, was ruled by kings until the expulsion of the last king around 509 BC (ca. AUC 244) and the establishment of the Roman Republic.

During this next period Rome’s dominance gradually extended throughout the Mediterranean world. The Republic was initially ruled by affluent families (patricians), led by two elected consuls advised by a senate. Due to political upheaval and civil war, Julius Caesar was appointed lone dictator until his assassination in 44 BC. Power was then shared among his adopted son Octavian and two of his generals, Lepidus (expelled in 36 BC) and Mark Antony (charged with treason and defeated in 31 BC). The senate appointed Octavian (Augustus) as emperor in 27 BC, officially ending the Republic and inaugurating the Empire.

The expanding empire of Rome set its sights on two Grecian strongholds: Syria and Egypt, with Judea sandwiched in between. General Pompey, while establishing Syria as a Roman province, was compelled to intervene in the Judean civil war in 63 BC, from which time Judea was regarded as a Roman protectorate and eventually placed under Roman administration. Antipater, a Judaized Idumean loyal to Rome, was set up as Judea’s governor, and in 37 BC his son Herod the Great was appointed by the Roman Senate as Judea’s king. After gaining control of the region by force of arms, he reigned as a friend of Rome for over three decades. Near the end of Herod’s authoritarian regime an empire-wide census was ordered by Caesar Augustus (Luke 2:1-2). This marks the beginning of the New Testament era.

The Roman Empire surrounded the Mediterranean Sea, extending eastward from the far western frontier of Spain all the way to North Africa, Judea, and Syria. Provinces regarded as peaceful and loyal to Rome were classified as senatorial provinces, under the senate’s control and locally overseen by a proconsul. These included Achaia, Asia, Bithynia, Pontus, Crete, Cyprus, and Macedonia. Provinces whose commitment was weak or questionable, typically on the frontiers, were classified as imperial provinces, controlled directly by the emperor and governed by a legate or military prefect or procurator. These included Armenia, Britannia, Cilicia, Galatia, Germania, Hispania, Judea, and Syria. At times client kings were permitted administrative power.

During the Lord’s earthly ministry, his influence and teachings impacted lives as far north as Syria, as far east as the Decapolis and Perea, as far south as Idumea, and all in between.When the historical narrative of the book of Acts closes, the gospel has spread much farther in all directions, even to Rome. In most cases it appears that the initial spread of Christianity was in major cities, followed by expansion into surrounding rural areas (cf. Acts 17:1; 1 Thess. 1:8). Throughout his letters Paul makes particular reference to the Roman provinces of Macedonia, Achaia, Asia, and Galatia, in which he had focused a great deal of missionary attention;2 also Cilicia, Syria, Judea, Hispania/Spain, and Rome itself.3

The entire New Testament is situated in the context of the Roman Empire. The earthly life of Jesus, the history of the early church, each New Testament author and targeted audience, and every New Testament document presuppose the overshadowing presence of Roman dominion. 

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     Matt. 4:24-25; Mark 3:7-8.
     Macedonia (Rom. 15:26; 1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 1:16; 2:13; 7:5; 8:1; 9:2, 4; 11:9; Phil. 4:15; 1 Thess. 1:7, 8; 4:10; 1 Tim. 1:3; cf. Acts 16:10; 19:21; 20:1, 3); Achaia (Rom. 15:26; 16:5 [KJV]; 1 Cor. 16:15; 2 Cor. 1:1; 9:2; 11:10; 1 Thess. 1:7, 8; cf. Acts 18:12, 27; 19:21); Asia (Rom. 16:5 [ESV]; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Cor. 1:8; cf. Acts 19:10, 22, 26; 20:4, 16, 18); Galatia (1 Cor. 16:1; Gal. 1:2; 2 Tim. 4:10; cf. Acts 16:6; 18:23).
     Cilicia and Syria (Gal. 1:21; cf. Acts 15:41; 18:18; 21:3, 39; 22:3; 23:34), Judea (Rom. 15:31; 2 Cor. 1:16; Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14; cf. Acts 26:20), Spain (Rom. 15:24, 28), and Rome (Rom. 1:7; cf. Acts 19:21; 28:16; 2 Tim. 1:17).


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Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Historical Background of the New Testament (Part 2): to the 2nd Century BC

The Greek Incursion 

By 338 BC Philip II of Macedon had successfully unified the city-states of mainland Greece, and his son Alexander III (a.k.a. “the Great”) succeeded him as ruler in 336 BC. Most of Alexander’s reign involved a military campaign eastward, absorbing the entire Persian Empire as he conquered territories from Greece to India, including Syria, Judea, and Egypt. He established one of the largest empires of the ancient world, resulting in Greek language, culture, literature, philosophy, and science saturating the conquered lands.

After Alexander’s death in 323 BC, the Empire was ultimately divided into four smaller Hellenistic kingdoms (cf. Dan. 8:21-22; 11:3-4): (1) the Macedonian kingdom of Greece was controlled by the dynasty of General Antigonus I; (2) the Pergamon kingdom of Asia Minor was founded by General Lysimachus and his lieutenant Philetaerus; (3) the Seleucid kingdom of Syria and other near-eastern territories was founded by Seleucus I Nicator (“conqueror”); and (4) the Ptolemaic kingdom of Egypt was founded by Ptolemy I Soter (“savior”).The latter two are most relevant to the background of the New Testament (cf. Dan. 11:5-28).

Judea – the home base of nationalistic Judaism, having surrendered to Alexander’s forces in 332 BC – was subjected to the rule of the Ptolemies to the south until 198 BC; then the Seleucids to the north gained control and dominated the Jews for another half century. During these Hellenistic regimes the Jews were generally allowed to maintain their customs and practice their religion. Judea was regarded as a temple-state, with the Jewish high priest of the family of Zadokserving as the local authority answerable to the ruling power. But in 175 BC Onias III was deposed from the high-priesthood and replaced by his brother Jason,who had offered Seleucid king Antiochus IVa bribe and promised to intensify the Hellenization of Judea. Then in 171 BC Jason was supplanted by Menelaus (not of the Zadok family),who had offered a larger bribe to Antiochus with assurance of an even greater push for Hellenization. Meanwhile to the west the power of Rome was increasing and expanding. 

The more orthodox Jews, called Hasidim (“pious ones”), resisted the Hellenizing advances. An attempt was made to remove Menelaus from the high-priesthood and reinstate Jason, which the Seleucids regarded as insurrection. Antiochus led his troops against Jerusalem around 167 BC, reportedly pillaging the city and the temple, slaughtering 40,000 women, children, and men (including Jason), and selling another 40,000 into slavery. He banned the practice of the Jewish religion and set up an image of Zeus in his own likeness, to whom he dedicated the temple. He outlawed the scriptures and circumcision and ordered that pigs be sacrificed on the temple’s altar (Josephus, War 1.1.1-2; 2 Macc. 5:11-14). This fulfilled the prophecy of Dan. 8:9-13; 11:21-39 involving “the abomination of desolation,” which would be repeated by the Romans a couple of centuries later (Dan. 9:24-27; 12:11; cf. Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). Antiochus held control of the temple for about three years (167-164 BC). This sparked the Maccabean revolt, although some historians characterize it as a civil war between conservative Jews and Hellenizing Jews, with Antiochus siding with the latter.

The Maccabean Revolt

Armed resistance against the Seleucid oppressors was instigated by Mattathias, a priest of the Hasmonean family,with his five sons: Johanan [John], Simeon [Simon], Eleazar, Jonathan, and Judah [Judas]. When Mattathias died about 166 BC, Judas took his place as leader and became known as Judas Maccabeus (the “Hammer”). He proved to be a formidable leader in guerrila warfare and gained victories in successive clashes with Seleucid troops. Antiochus was preoccupied elsewhere, so he decided to appease the Judeans and lift the ban on Jewish religion. The temple was then restored and reconsecrated in 164 BC, the commemoration of which has been celebrated annually as the feast of Hanukkah, the Hebrew word for “dedication” (cf. John 10:22), a.k.a. “Festival of Lights” (see Josephus, Ant. 12.7.7; 1 Macc. 4:36-59; 2 Macc. 1:18-36; 10:1-8). The fight for independence was seemingly bolstered by a treaty formed with the Romans in 161 BC (secured by Judas’ brother Jonathan), but the stage was set for future oppression and subjugation.

The Hasmoneans were not satisfied with Antiochus’ limited concession and continued the fight for more than two decades until Seleucid control was completely broken and Jewish sovereignty restored in 142 BC under the leadership of Simon, the last surviving son of Mattathias. For the first time in over four centuries the Jews now enjoyed political independence. With no suitable candidate of the Zadok family available,Simon was appointed high priest “until a trustworthy prophet should arise” (1 Macc. 13:14; 14:41), and his descendants occupied this position for over a hundred years.

Despite this victory, however, Judaism was divided into three disputing factions: (1) the Hasmoneans (later known as Sadduceees, Matt. 22:23; Acts 4:1), who controlled the high-priesthood and temple and held the power in Jerusalem; (2) the Hasidim (later known as Pharisees, Matt. 5:20; 9:11), who campaigned for religious purity; and (3) the Hellenized Jews (later known as Hellenists, Acts 6:1; 9:29), who embraced Greek culture. 

The Hasmonean dynasty continued to increase in power, wealth, and territory. Judas Maccabeus had conquered Idumea to the south in 163 BC, and it was reclaimed in 125 BC by Simon’s son John Hyrcanus (high priest from 134 to 104 BC), who forced the Idumeans to convert to Judaism. John Hyrcanus’ son Judah Aristobulus was the first to be recognized as “king” (Josephus, Ant. 13.11.1; War 1.3.1). Also secured and subjugated were Greek cities like Damascus to the northeast and other Decapolis communities to the east.8

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     Cleopatra VII Philopator (ca. 69-30 BC) was a descendent of Ptolomy I and the last monarch of the Ptolemaic kingdom. After her death, Egypt became a province of Rome.
     1 Kings 1:34-45; 2:35; 1 Chron. 6:8; 16:39; 24:3, 6; 27:17; 29:22; 2 Chron. 31:10; Neh. 11:11; Ezek. 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11.
     Before adopting the Greek name Jason, he was known by the Jewish name Yeshua (Josephus, Ant. 12.5).
     Mathradates assumed the name Antiochus, after his father Antiochus III the Great, when he became ruler of the Seleucid kingdom; one of the titles he adopted was Epiphanes, i.e., the√≤s epiphanies, meaning “god manifest.” Antiochus IV Epiphanes ruled the Seleucids from 175 BC until his death in 164 BC.
    According to 2 Maccabees Menelaus was of the tribe of Benjamin, but Josephus gives conflicting information.
    A descendent of Asamoneus through Joiarib, Simeon, and John (Josephus, Ant. 6.6.1); possibly traced back to Phinehas, Israel’s third high priest (1 Macc. 2:26; cf. Num. 25:7-13; Judg. 20:28; Ezra 7:1-5)?
     After Onias III was deposed from the high-priesthood (and later murdered on the order of Antiochus-appointee Menelaus), his son Onias IV moved to Egypt and founded a new temple at Leontopolis, which functioned until Vespasian forced its discontinuance in AD 70 in conjunction with the Jerusalem temple’s destruction.
     The Decapolis (League of Ten Cities) was comprised of Scythopolis, Gadara, Hippos, Dion, Pella, Raphana, Canatha, Damascus, Philadelphia, and Galasa (Pliny, Natural History 5.16). On the ministry of Jesus in this region, see Matt. 4:25; 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20; 7:31-37; Luke 8:26-39. Jews from Arabia (the Nabataean Kingdom), which at times incorporated some or all of the Decapolis, were present on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Later Saul of Tarsus was converted in Damascus and then spent three years in the general vicinity (Acts 9:1-25; Gal. 1:17-18).


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Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Historical Background of the New Testament (Part 1): to the 4th Century BC

Every culture has been shaped by historical influences. The initial reading audience of each New Testament document would have been familiar with its own history, as well as current events. Assumptions and subtle allusions did not have to be explained to them. Because modern readers are otherwise groping in the dark, knowledge of the New Testament’s historical context is indispensable. 

Our focused investigation begins in the 4th century BC with the Hellenistic Age. From Alexander the Great (336 BC) to the Roman emperor Augustus (27 BC), Grecian influence was the predominant political and cultural force. This leads into the New Testament era, during and after which Rome is the controlling world power. The immediate foreground of the New Testament would extend at least to the second Jewish war with Rome in AD 132-135,and even further into the 4th century to the time of Constantine, reportedly the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.2

While the entirety of Hebrew scripture provides much of the New Testament’s historical background, there is a gap of over three centuries separating the respective eras of the Old and New Testaments. At the end of Old Testament history the Persian Empire is dominating the world scene,whereas New Testament history opens (and closes) with the dominion of the Roman Empire. In between these two periods – the Intertestamental Period– the immediate background of the New Testament develops, “an understanding of which is essential to a correct interpretation of the situation of the Jews in the time of Jesus. Religiously, Judaism was transformed into a set of beliefs and practices often quite different from Old Testament religion…. numerous events occurred that prepared the way for the first-century world to be more receptive to the message of the gospel than in many other periods in history” (C. L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels 10). 

Brief Historical Synopsis

“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, having been born of woman, having been born under [the] law” (Gal. 4:4, author’s own translation). When New Testament history opens, the world scene in general and Judaism in particular are considerably different than where the Old Testament record leaves off. The nation of Israel had reached the height of its glory when David ruled as king (1010-970 BC) and on into the reign of his son Solomon (970-931 BC). Israel’s downfall ensued as the nation divided (931 BC), the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians (722 BC), the southern kingdom was conquered by the Babylonians (597 BC), followed by seven decades of exile.5

The Persian Period

Also known as the Post-Exilic Period, concurrent with the end of Daniel’s lifeand the lives of Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah, this segment of history covers about two centuries, from 539 to 331 BC. The dating in later Jewish writings coincides with the reigns of Persian kings (e.g. Dan. 1:21; Hag. 1:1; Zech. 1:1; Ezra 1:1; Neh. 2:1). 

Having conquered the Babylonians in 539 BC, Cyrus the Great permitted the Jews to return to their homeland (2 Chron. 36:20-23). Darius I came to the throne around 521 BC, and in his sixth year the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple was completed (Ezra 6:15). His son Xerxes I (ca. 486-465 BC) is believed to have been the Ahasuerus [Persian title] in the book of Esther (cf. Ezra 4:6; Dan. 11:2). After the failed attempt of his father to conquer Greece in 492-490 BC (ending at the Battle of Marathon), Xerxes I ordered the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC, during which the famous Battle of Thermopylae occurred where King Leonidas’ 300 Spartan soldiers fought to the death. The following year Grecian troops forced the retreat of the Persians. 

Artaxerxes I, the son of Xerxes I, ruled ca. 465-425 BC, and in his seventh year Ezra and other Jews moved from Babylon to Jerusalem to reform the Jewish state (Ezra 7:7). Nehemiah followed in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes’ reign to oversee the rebuilding of the city’s walls, and after a brief return to Babylon twelve years later, he moved back to Jerusalem to live out the rest of his days (Neh. 13:6). The last Persian king mentioned by name in the Hebrew scriptures is “Darius the Persian” (Neh. 12:22), which may refer to Artaxerxes’ successor Darius II (ca. 424-405 BC) or perhaps his great-grandson Darius III (ca. 336-330 BC),the last king of Persia, defeated by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, inaugurating a new age.

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     This was the third Jewish-Roman war if the revolt of 115-117 (Kitos War) is counted. Following the last rebellion, the Romans banned the Jews from Jerusalem.
    Galerius (305-311) continued his predecessors’ persecution of Christians for a time, but came to realize it accomplished no useful purpose and he issued the Edict of Toleration in 311. Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus Augustus (a.k.a. Constantine I) was recognized as emperor of the western regions as early as 306 and reigned over the entire Empire from 324 to 337. He issued the Edict of Milan in 313, granting toleration to all religions and allowing Christianity the right to exist with provisions for restitution. “In the first twenty years of the fourth century the whole situation changed, as the Emperor Constantine (274-337) progressively showed himself favourable to the new religion, accepted it as the religion of the state, and as the last act of his life accepted Christian baptism at the hands of his friend Eusebius of Nicomedia” (S. Neill, History of Christian Missions 39). It has been estimated that the number of Christians in the Roman Empire at least quadrupled in the century following Constantine.
     See 2 Chron. 36:20-23; Neh. 12:22. Cyrus the Great established the Persian Empire in 550 BC and it continued until Alexander the Great defeated Darius III around 331 BC.
     The description “Intertestamental” is a Christian designation based on the understanding of the New Testament as a collection of divinely inspired writings corresponding to the ancient Hebrew scriptures. Also called the Second Temple era – the period beginning with the rebuilding of the Jewish temple in the late 6th century BC and ending with its destruction in AD 70.
     There were three major deportations into Babylonian exile: 597, 587, and 582 BC.
     While Daniel’s prophetic career spanned the entire Babylonian exile (ca. 605-536 BC), he outlived the Babylonian Empire (Dan. 1:21; 10:1).
     His original name appears to have been Artashata, but the Greeks called him Codomannus. He was the son of Arsames, son of Ostanes, son of Darius II.


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Wednesday, 6 March 2019

The Bible’s Radical View on Women

From her earliest days a girl in contemporary western society is bombarded with images, characterizations, advice, and expectations about how she’s supposed to look, think, and act. Of course we should all be aiming for mutual respect, fairness, and recognition of intrinsic value. But the ideology of gender equality, while reacting to woeful abuses, can veer to an unhealthy extreme. Fundamental differences between the sexes are now being blurred or denied. Masculinity is demonized, as militant feminism dictates popular opinion. 

In such an atmosphere the biblical model of gender roles is dismissed outright or modified to conform to modern sensibilities. Conservative Christian ideals are attacked and ridiculed as archaic and misogynistic. But may I suggest a more reasonable approach? What if we read the Bible in context? What if we consider the intended message of scripture? How would biblical directives have been received and understood by those to whom they were originally addressed? By removing our tainted 21st-century westernized spectacles and viewing scripture as the good news it was meant to be, we will have a much clearer perspective. 

The Context of the Bible 

The Bible emerged in an ancient Mediterranean environment. While its message is timeless, each inspired author through whom the divine will has been conveyed (and targeted audience) lived in a particular historical-sociocultural-real-life setting. To better appreciate the true state of affairs, we need to examine these teachings in view of the general plight of women in antiquity. 

The Greek Context

Among the Greeks, females were considered by nature inferior to males and hardly afforded any rights (see Aristotle, Politics 1.1259b). Since at least the early Classical period (5th century BC), boys attended school but girls did not. The “education” of females was pretty much limited to the home, where only domestic duties were learned.Violence was endemic in Greek society, so men were valued as fighters. Women were valued for reproduction and as a means of demonstrating male control through physical abuse.2

The Roman Context

Since the early Roman Republic, a female was under the authority and control of her father or husband and deemed incapable of acting for herself. An educated woman was the exception rather than the rule.The choice of whether or not to have children was not hers to make, and the husband decided whether to keep or discard a newborn. Many baby girls were exposed to the elements simply because they couldn’t carry on the family name.A culture of violence against women was not uncommon in Rome, especially among those outside the socially elite.5

The Jewish Context

A very different scenario emerges in ancient Judaism, although we need to distinguish between what was taught in their sacred writings and what was sometimes practiced.Jewish law elevated women to a unique status. Any injustice, contempt, or maltreatment was contrary to and in violation of the divine will. Israelite women were not second-class citizens to be suppressed and victimized. Wives, mothers, and widows were to be honored, protected, and treated with dignity and respect (Ex. 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Deut. 5:16; 10:18; 27:16; Psa. 146:9; Prov. 18:22; 19:14; 31:10-31; et al.). 

Sons and daughters alike were educated in their respective households (Deut. 6:6-7; 11:19). During and after the Babylonian exile, synagogues functioned as schools, where both boys and girls attended from age 5 or 6; girls continued until marriage at a relatively young age.7 Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a good example of an educated Jewish young lady. In her song recorded in Luke 1:46-55, she quotes and alludes to copious passages from all three sections of the Hebrew Bible. Thanks to the biblical knowledge and faith of a Jewish mother and grandmother, Timothy learned the holy scriptures from childhood (1 Tim. 3:15; 2 Tim. 1:5). 

The Christian Context

Although the pivotal value of honor vs. shame was firmly embedded in the male-dominated Greco-Roman world,the NT consistently challenges society’s status quo and reconfigures the boundaries of honor and shame. All who might be dishonored because of ethnicity, social standing, or gender can now be unashamed in Christ, where no one is considered inferior to anyone else (1 Cor. 12:12-27; Gal. 3:26-29; Col. 3:9-11). In this regard NT writers are seen as deviants and radicals, swimming against the current of popular culture. 

The “Controversial” Passages

Bible students and most Bible critics are familiar with the apostle Paul’s directives to the mid-1st-century church at Corinth: “the women are to keep silence in the assemblies, for it is not allowed for them to publicly speak but to be in submission … but if they desire to learn anything …” (1 Cor. 14:34-35a).A similar prohibition is included in Paul’s letter to the young evangelist in mid-1st-century Ephesus: “Let a woman learn in quietness, in all submissiveness. But I do not permit a woman to teach, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in quietness” (1 Tim. 2:11-12).

Historically these passages have been interpreted in at least four different ways. (1) Paul is a confirmed chauvinistic woman-hater (John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism 100-101). (2) A pseudepigrapher is responsible for these non-Pauline texts (James Veitch, Faith for a New Age 165-66). (3) The directives are culturally limited and no longer relevant to modern times (Glenn Rogers, The Bible Culturally Speaking 196-214). (4) Distinct gender roles are divinely enjoined with ongoing applicability (F. LaGard Smith, Male Spiritual Leadership 252-64)

A Contextual Approach

What would instructions like this have communicated to a Christian woman in mid-1st-century Corinth or Ephesus? Seeing that she would have heard the document read aloud in the corporate assembly, this in itself is quite remarkable. In the pagan world women were isolated from most public gatherings.10 In the fellowship of Jesus Christ they are welcomed into the church where social, ethnic, and gender differences remain, yet barriers are removed (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2-11; 12:12-13; 14:23a; 15:1-2; 1 Tim. 5:1-2).

Modern readers, perhaps with embarrassment or consternation, tend to hone in on words like “silence,” “submission,” and “do not permit.” But in the 1st-century Greco-Roman environment of the early church, the same words would have seemed rather innocuous in relation to the radical appeal, “if they desire to learn anything …. let a woman learn …”11 Talk about revolutionary! In their culture a woman wasn’t supposed to learn. Her intellectual capacity was questioned, educational prospects were rare, and she certainly wasn’t encouraged to pursue knowledge.12 Contrary to the societal arena into which it entered, Christianity afforded women opportunities to learn and to be accepted (Acts 1:14; 2:41; 5:14; 8:12; 16:13-18; 17:4, 11-12, 34).

The Biblical Perspective

The Bible has consistently clashed with the secular world’s entrenched standards – past and present. The cultural pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, whereas the biblical model of male-female complementarity goes all the way back to creation and remains unchanged (Gen. 1:27; 2:18-23; 1 Cor. 11:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:13).

According to God’s design, men and women are not the same. There are about 100 gender differences in the human brain,13 not to mention anatomical, emotional, and a host of other distinctions any married couple can verify. Neither gender is superior to the other (Gal. 3:28; 1 Pet. 3:7). Both are equally valued and mutually dependent (1 Cor. 11:11; 12:18-25). And the Creator has assigned each a specific role (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:22-33). 

The “silence” enjoined on women in the church assembly is no more demeaning than the silence enjoined on male tongue-speakers and prophets in the same assembly (1 Cor. 14:27-35). The “submission” of women is no more oppressive or devaluing than Christ’s submission to the Father (Phil. 2:5-8; 1 Cor. 15:28), the church’s submission to Christ (Eph. 5:23-24), the submission of church members to local leaders (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:1-5), or our mutual submission to one another (Gal. 5:13; Eph. 5:21; Phil. 2:3). 

The oft-cited examples of women serving the Lord (e.g. Luke 2:36-38; John 4:28-29; 20:1-2; Acts 2:17-18; 21:9; Rom. 16:1-3; Phil. 4:2-3) are a far anachronistic cry from the modern concept of female authority figures. Christian activity is by no means limited to public leadership, and women are among the finest examples of faith, generosity, and service recorded in scripture.14 Men are not exempt from fulfilling their God-given role or from treating women with anything less than dignity, respect, and gratitude.

Conclusion

Suffice it to say that the true intent of any biblical text is rarely if ever discovered by agenda-driven hermeneutics. To claim the Bible is misogynistic and degrading toward women is to demonstrate ignorance of what it actually says in the context in which it is said. If scriptural teachings result in a woman experiencing shame, low self-esteem, or prideful envy, the Bible is not to blame. It is the ravenous influence of our sinful world that produces such a distorted perception. A godly woman with the Christ-like spirit of humility does not decry her gender assignment at birth or bemoan the special role God himself has allocated. Rather, she embraces her honored status and meekly devotes her unique qualities to HIS glory. 

--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     Aleksander Wolicki, “The Education of Women in Ancient Greece,” in A Companion to Ancient Education, ed. W. Martin Bloomer (W. Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2015): 305-320.
     Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, “Domestic Abuse and Violence Against Women in Ancient Greece,” in Sociable Man: Essays on Ancient Greek Social Behaviour in Honour of Nick Fisher, ed. S. Lambert (Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2011): 231-66.
     William Smith, William Wayte, and G. E. Marindin, eds. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1890); E. A. Hemelrijk, “The Education of Women in Ancient Rome,” in A Companion to Ancient Education, ed. W. Martin Bloomer (W. Sussex, UK: John Wiley & Sons, 2015): 292-304.
     Jo-Ann Shelton, As the Romans Did (New York: Oxford, 1988)27-28.
     Serena S. Witzke, “Violence Against Women in Ancient Rome: Ideology versus Reality,” in Topographies of Ancient Greek and Roman Violence, eds. Garrett G. Fagan and Werner Riess (University of Michigan Press, 2015): 248-74.
     When divorce became prevalent among the Israelites (Deut. 22:19, 29; Lev. 21:7, 13, 14), it was permitted only because of “hardness of heart” (Matt. 19:8), serving to protect women from unscrupulous husbands and the precarious charge of adultery (Deut. 24:1-4; cf. Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). In the Jewish Talmud, a written record of oral tradition, men offered the daily prayer: “Thank you God for not making me a Gentile, a woman, or a slave” (Menachot 43b-44a). But this is not biblical.
     Note the Mishnah: Judah ben TemaAvot 5.21.
     Literature on this is plethoric. See, e.g., B. J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology 3rd ed. (Louiville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001): xii, 27-57; B. J. Malina and J. H. Neyrey, “Honor and Shame in Luke-Acts,” in The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation, ed. J. H. Neyrey (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991): 25-66; H. Moxnes, “The Quest for Honor and the Unity of the Community,” in Paul in His Hellenistic Contexted. T. Engberg-Pedersen (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995): 203-230W. Mischke, “Honor-Status Reversal,” Orality Journal 4:1 (2015): 11-36.
     Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation. For a more thorough discussion of 1 Cor. 14:34-35, see Let the Women Keep Silent. For a more thorough discussion of 1 Tim. 2:11-12, see Jesus Couldn't Be a Priest.
     10 A. Wolicki, op. cit. 310.
     11 Thanks to Derek McNamara for this insight at Freed-Hardeman University’s Scholars Day, 26 Oct. 2018. Craig L. Blomberg calls our attention to “what would have stood out to the initial readers as unique and therefore distinctively Christian. One thinks, for example, of the conventional commands to slaves, children, and women to submit to those in authority over them as compared with the highly countercultural calls to masters, fathers, and husbands to love and serve those under them and to use their authority in a sacrificial, self-giving way” (Handbook of NT Exegesis 104).
     12 See also Gary K. Clabaugh, “A History of Male Attitudes toward Educating Women,” Educational Horizons (Spring 2010): 166-69, <Link>; Mark Cartwright, “Women in Ancient Greece,” Ancient History Encyclopedia (27 July 2016), <Link>; Craig Keener, “Women’s Education and Public Speech in Antiquity,” JETS 50/4 (Dec. 2007): 747-50 <Link>. Keener observes, “men normally being more educated than women should be clear to anyone who reads through ancient literature and not just collections of exceptions” (748 n. 4).
     13 Gregory L. Jantz, “Brain Differences Between Genders,” in Psychology Today (27 Feb. 2014), <Link>. See also Leonard Sax, "A New Study," in Psychology Today (27 March 2019), <Link>.
     14 In the NT alone, see, e.g., Matt. 9:20-22; 15:22-28; 27:55-56; 28:1-10; Mark 12:41-44; 14:8-9; Luke 1:28-30; John 4:28-30, 39-42; Acts 1:14; 2:17-18; 5:14; 8:3, 12; 9:2, 36; 17:4, 12, 34; 17:11-12; 16:13-18, 40; 21:9; 22:4; Rom. 16:1-4, 6, 12; 1 Cor. 7:34; 11:5; Phil. 4:2-3; 1 Tim. 5:5, 10; 2 Tim. 1:5; Tit. 2:3; Heb. 11:11, 23, 31; 1 Pet. 3:3-5; 2 John 1. 


Related articles: Hans Fiene’s Toxic Masculinity; Wes McAdams’ People Demeaning Women; Helen Hennig's A high school student speaks out on feminism; Kyle Butt's Biblical View of Women; Tyler Boyd's Do Paul's Instructions Apply? 

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