Monday, December 06, 2010

What Osiek said

Here is a quote from an interview with Carolyn Osiek, which was cited the other day on the long thread on the Better Bibles Blog,

[Christianity] was part of a wider movement that was moving with glacial speed toward a more humane patriarchy, in Christian terms, perhaps, something like Troeltsch’s “love patriarchy.”

I originally received the impression from this quote that Osiek might be speaking approvingly of "love patriarchy." However, the larger context suggests she is not. I think that readers here might be interested in knowing what the next words were in Osiek's original discussion. This is the quote in context,
Did Christianity move away from patriarchy? I think it was part of a wider movement that was moving with glacial speed toward a more humane patriarchy, in Christian terms, perhaps, something like Troeltsch's "love patriarchy." Patriarchy is no less patriarchy if enacted with love, it seems to me.

Ultimately though, our biblical hermeneutic here is not historical but theological. We want to know what it all means for us today. Where I come from, we do not have to prove that what we are doing is the same as what they did, only that it is in some kind of organic continuity. To this, I can readily assent: that we are doing today what they would do if they were here. Equal regard, let's do it.
I get the impression that Osiek is not condoning patriarchy in her discussion of it. She is suggesting that if the biblical authors were here today they would support relationships of equal regard.


Ms. Jack said...

Osiek's take on patriarchy and equality in early Christianity pretty much mirrors my own. I would not describe the early Christians as "feminists" or "egalitarians" any more than I would describe them as "abolitionists." Clearly they tolerated and accommodated both patriarchy and slavery.

However, I think their treatment of women and slaves was progressive for their time, and I believe that when the church was an underground, persecuted, unstructured movement, it gave women a great deal of autonomy and was moving towards equality. When the church became a public institution, it regressed on this and adopted the patriarchal system of the world around it.

There is not a doubt in my mind that if the early Christians could time travel into the 19th century, they would have been abolitionists. Likewise, there is not a doubt in my mind that if they could live in our era, they would be egalitarians.

Donald Johnson said...

I do see Jesus and Paul as egals.

God always accomodates to where individuals and where people groups are at, but that does not mean God endorses such, God moves us step by step into the Kingdom, as we let God.

J. K. Gayle said...

I do see Jesus and Paul as egals.

It'd be fair to say that Osiek (in her writings and in this interview) believes that abolition and egalitarianism "were not directly inspired by Jesus." She acknowledges abolitionists and women-equal-to-men in households and in marriages and in religious ministry and such in various times and places before and around the years of Jesus and Paul. Don't think we can find her writing that Jesus and Paul explicitly taught or promoted or believed in a compromised "patriarchy of love."

Rod said...

Jesus and Paul are equals? Wait wait wait? Jesus is the Son of God, pre-existent, and the second member of the trinity in traditional Christianity, and now Paul is equal to him? Don, that's heresy, plain and simple.

As for Osiek, as one of her former students, I can say she does not support "love patriarchy" but I do believe her findings to be historically accurate, in terms of Christianity moving into a more "humane" sexual hierarchy, much like the premise that Christianity was for a more "humane" position on slavery and the treatment of children.

Donald Johnson said...

Egal is short for egalitarian, not equal. Jesus and Paul are not equal, but I see both as egalitarian.

bonnie said...

I love this perspective. I like to put the letter writers in this century and imagine what they'd write. Even in the OT, I like to consider the different types of law God would give. I think culture is so important when it comes to interpreting the scriptures.

Donald Johnson said...

I think knowing the culture is essential and go so far as to claim that ignorance of the culture is the most common way to misunderstand text, the most common way text is taken out of context.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

If anyone reads this post coming from John's blog, let me explain that John blocks me from his blog. I do not approve of his tendency to cite Osiek out of context.