Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Invitation to Mike Heiser and John Hobbins

Mike Heiser and I have been carrying on a friendly email conversation, and I have no intention of having anything more than a lively exchange with him online. John Hobbins expresses his opinion of me and this is my response to him and Mike.

A topic has come up which is of intense intellectual interest to me. In spite of what had been said, I am going to ask them both to extend the following discussion.

For background, John and Mike believe that kephale in 1 Cor. 11:3 expresses a relation of hierarchy. I do not, simply because I believe that the submission of Christ to God was for the purpose of Christ taking on human mortality (Phil 2:8), and I do not think that this sentiment finds a parallel in male/female relations. I do not think that man sends woman to die on the cross in an ethical religion.

I believe that kephale refers to sharing sameness of nature with another entity - that as God shares his divine nature with Christ, so man shares his human nature with woman, and Christ shares his new nature with man.

Another way of expressing relations in the godhead, is that God the son is to God the father, as light is to the sun. But once again, woman does not proceed from man, as the son proceeds from the father - the parallel does not hold.

However, Mike introduces the binitarian view of the godhead in the Old Testament and appears to relate it to 1 Cor. 11:3. Mike writes,
In my dissertation, I argued that there was a godhead in Israelite religion. The Old testament is the place from which the later (orthodox until the second century AD) Jewish doctrine of two powers in heaven springs. The binitarian godhead figure in the Old Testament was clearly subordinate to the invisible Yahweh (the “Father” in NT parlance).
Now, I have no argument with this. But Mike continues,
I don’t expect you to follow this; it is merely to say that I think of the whole godhead issue in a way different from any standard articulatuon. I think of it in Old Testament terms. As a result, I do think the Son was subordinate, because the second power motifs of the Old Testament are deliberately applied to him.
I studied this issue for several years, and interacted with quite a few scholars in trying to relate the binitarian view of the Hebrew godhead to 1 Cor 11:3, but without success. I invite John Hobbins and Mike Heiser to provide me with a bibliography and links to elaborate on this discussion.

One further point - Mike Heiser does not expect me to "follow' this discussion. But the facts are as follows. I read Boyarin's paper several years ago, and since then I have read the relevant passages in Plato and Philo, as well as the book of Wisdom and the Sefer Yetsirah, all in the original languages. I spent considerable time researching this topic, so I am genuinely interested in his response. I read through the Psalms in Hebrew and through the neoplatonic philosophers, all in the interests of relating the logos to later views on the power of the alphabet.

There is no topic which is closer to my heart. I await Mike's response on how 1 Cor. 11:3 can be interpreted in the light of Boyarin's binitarian theology.


Anonymous said...

John Hobbins.
John Piper.
John MacArthur.


Suzanne McCarthy said...

I would have to disagree with this comment, but I had to respond to John somehow or other.

Mike Heiser said...

your readers can get the basics of ONE facet of this - the two powers issue - at www.twopowersinheaven.com. I can also mail you a copy of my dissertation. Your readers can order a copy via my website. If they can't find it, they can email me. I'm not hard to find.

For the record:

(1) I'm not going to rehash my dissertation on a blog. While I have the interest, I don't have the time. With a normal FT job, two adjunct teaching positions, three blogs, and two book manuscripts in process, it ain't going to happen.

(2) You have read Boyarin's article (which one - you didn't specify), which puts you ahead of most people, but my dissertation (as they are supposed to be) was an original contribution to the issues involved with divine plurality and monotheism. The point: it's beyond Boyarin; there is no 1:1 correlation to it. My work related to the co-regent structure of the Israelite divine council, something no one had ever explored. Last SBL meeting Larry Hurtado plugged it a lot during his paper in the Jewish binitarian section. Larry and I have our points of disagreement, but he was gracious, telling the audience it was must reading since it reframes the issue of Jewish binitarian monotheism.

(3) I in no way had the egalitarian / complementarian issue in mind with the dissertation. I didn't really care about that issue then, either. I don't fight people over positions of conscience, and don't impose my own conscience on anyone.

(4) My position is simple: "I don't endorse egalitarianism because I'm not sure about it -- but if you are egalitarian, Lord bless you in your ministry." I'm sorry that my honest uncertainty isn't acceptable, but it is what it is, and it's not going to change. Just being forthright.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I linked to the article by Boyarin that I was referring to. I don't know how to make this clearer to you.

And if this has nothing to do with the complementarianism/ egalitarian debate, then why did you bring it up?

What am I missing?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am not suggesting that your dissertation is not an original contribution to theology. I am asking an honest question. How does binitarianism relate to kephale in 1 Cor. 11:3? And if it doesn't, why did you bring it up?

Jay said...

I am a complementarian. That means I believe that men and women are not alike in every way and those differences may be complementary in work and marriage. I am a egalitarian. That means women and men are equal, submitting to each other with no concern about one being in authority over the other. What is a hierarchy? According to the online Cambridge dictionary it seems a common understanding is: “a system in which people or things are arranged according to their importance” and “ the people in the upper levels of an organization who control it” I cannot see how it is possible to hold that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father and still maintain Christ is equal to the Father. I cannot see how it is logically possible for one to say that men are in a hierarchy over women and still call oneself an egalitarian or to say that men and women are equal. It also seems that if Paul had any intention to emphasis male authority over women, he could have been so much clearer by using exousia rather than kephale to make this point. That Paul did not equate kephale with authority seems even more clear in 1Cor. where when both words are used, Paul is emphasizing that a woman ought to have authority on (her own) head. It also makes no sense to me that Paul in Eph would first emphasize mutual submission, but then use kephale in a sense of a man’s authority over a woman.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what Jay wrote.

It seems that kephale is a metaphor in 1 Cor 11 and SOME want to insist on the metaphor being one of authority in a hierarchy. WHY go there if one does not need to go there? There is NO requirement in the text that kephale be seen as implying authority, so it is an interpreter's choice, and says more about the interpreter than the text, IMO.

I simple decline to read Scripture in ways that advantage groups I may belong to and I wish everyone did that. It certainly has bad historical precendents with kings and slave owners.
Don Johnson