Sunday, January 27, 2008

"Champion" and "Defender" in Clement

The preceding post brings up the question of who is the stronger, and who is the weaker and what is the title given to stronger and weaker. Is the man the stronger and the woman the weaker? The answer in Clement is surprising.

First let me explain. Eve was called a "help" an 'ezer in Hebrew, and βοηθος, boethos, in Greek. The early church used the Greek scriptures. That is what they knew.

Phoebe was called a πρστατις, prostatis, for Paul, a "great help" a "benefactor" or "patron." The male form of this word is translated as "leader" or "guardian" but it is the same word.

These two words βοηθος and πρστατης are used as titles for Christ alongside "saviour" and "high priest." Here is how the words were used in 1 Clement 36:1.

    Αυτη η οδος, αγαπητοι, εν η ευρομεν το σωτεριον ημων, Ιησουν Χρστον, τον αρχιερεα των προσφορων ημων, τον προστατην και βοηθον της ασθενειας ημων.

    This is the way, beloved, in which we found our salvation; even Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations, the champion and defender of our weakness. tr. Charles Hoole 1885

    This is the way, dearly beloved, wherein we found our salvation, even Jesus Christ the High priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our weakness. tr. J. B. Lightfoot.
So here, in an old fashioned translation, we find that prostates, the word for Phoebe was translated “champion" and the word for Eve, boethos was “defender.”

Now, if we think back to the previous post, we can see that submission is mutual. However, it looks different for each person. The stronger does not neglect the weak, and the weak respects the strong. So, one might deduce that man is the strong one, and woman is the weak one. The woman is to respect the man, and the man must not neglect the woman.

But, it is perhaps quite the opposite. The woman is guardian and defender, she must not neglect the man, and the man must respect her. However, the titles for Christ include both "salvation" and "high priest; " and "guardian" and "defender." There is no example here of a strong male role and a weak female role, but both male and female roles are applied equally to Christ as an indication of how he is strong for us. The submission then, is to give each other out of whatever our strength is, whatever strength God has given us. We must not neglect the weaker.

If woman has been given greater strength in any area, her submission is to help her partner out of her strength. If she is weaker in some way, then she is to respect her partner in that he submits to her by giving out of his strength. And it is likewise for the man.

At the time that the scriptures were written, it was assumed that women were in a weaker position in several ways. They were physically weaker and still are. But in that era, they had fewer civil, legal and financial rights. Their role was to respect their husband who submitted to them by caring for and providing for them.

However, those women in the scriptures who were strong in resources, showed their submission by helping others out of their resources. There was no sense that they had to just do as they were asked. It was their money, they made the decisions that had to be made. Surely, the man or woman who loves will want to be strong for their partner.

I can only say that the lesson is that we not neglect each other, that we respect each other. This is mutual submission.


J. K. Gayle said...

Women as champions and defense leaders of men?

O come on, this is scandalous :).

But the real scandal, as you show, is that men translate unequally when it comes to women.

(Aristotle, in his "Rhetoric," uses βοηθος in the context of males only helping males only. But he uses πρστατης for males when infamously discussing the female Sappho:

"και Μυτιληναι̂οι Σαπφω̂ καιπερ γυναι̂κα οὐ̂σαν . . . και Θηβησιν ἁμα οἱ προσταται φιλοσοφοι ἐγενοντο καὶ εὐδαιμονησεν ἡ πολις"

"and Mytilenaeans [regarded] Sappho, although a woman . . . and at Thebes, at the time the leaders became philosophers, the city prospered." [Mr. Kennedy translating]

"the Mytilenaeans [have honoured] Sappho, though she was a woman; . . . while at Thebes no sooner did the leading men become philosophers than the country began to prosper." [Mr. Roberts translating]

"the Mytilenaeans, Sappho, though a woman . . . also at Thebes, at the time that the magistrates were men of learning, the state enjoyed prosperity." [Mr. Hobbes & Mr. Buckley translating])

Your readers who would look only to the Bible for authorized statements on women as weaker vessels, would find them there about the man Jesus also.

scott gray said...

this mutual submission, by extrapolation, applies to a faith community of men and women, and the ebb and flow of the gifts of the spirit. one whose gift is needed in the community at a given time or place, be they man or woman, are to be 'submissively' supported, just as they in turn will 'submissively' support the spiritual gifts of others as they in turn are needed in the community.

it is the strength and weakness, the gift of the spirit needed at a given time, and the support to the best behavior and outcome, that is the authentic focus of submission, not the gender of the participants.

folks who focus on the gender of each participant become, in paul's own words, noisy gongs and clanging cymbals. often at the expense of the best behavior or outcome.

you've written an excellent post here.



Patchouli said...

Suzanne, I second scott's statement-an excellent post. And I will add relevant and powerful.

Anonymous said...

Suzanne, thank you for this post. What a refreshment to my spirit.

Anonymous said...

Quadruple ditto!!!

I wish I had something profound to add.
I don't.
But this post blessed me, and I had to say so! :)

Anonymous said...

I noticed on the compegal blog that you had found the website recommended by Marilyn. Did you read this article?

What Does ‘Submit in Everything’ Really Mean? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission

This is an excerpt:

QUOTE:Wives are to do good to their husbands (Prov 31:12), and one of the best ways wives of abusive husbands can do this is by challenging the abusive behavior through fleeing, filing assault charges, contacting church authorities or by otherwise stimulating real accountability and painful consequences for the abusive behavior. Refusing to submit to abuse and instead taking action to not allow it to continue is good for the husband because:

I submit that standing up to the abuse is-in fact- not "refusing to submit" (as Tracy labels it) but a proper exercise of true, godly, powerful biblical submission and wifely "helping" as God intends, and this- from your post- sounds like you can concur:

Suzanne said QUOTE::
If woman has been given greater strength in any area, her submission is to help her partner out of her strength.ENDQUOTE

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you. I think it comes down to the fact that as humans we are all weak, and Christ in becoming human became weak as well. But he is strong for us, and we need to be strong for each other.

Psalmist said...

I think that is a superb summary of the truth on the subject of weakness and strength in Christ, Suzanne.

I want to say also that I admire both your courage and your dignity at the Baylys' blog. You simply presented the truth. I think it's short-sighted and self-indicting for them to have "silenced" you as they did. Anyone with eyes can see how falsely they accused you and, in so doing, how they accuse themselves.

Anonymous said...

I saw Suzanne posting over there, too. I think they are quite taken aback that a mere woman can be so skilled in Greek. No wonder they wanted to silence you. You are a threat to the lies they are trying to peddle.

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