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Oct 16, 2006

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ScottB

Hmm. I much prefer Yoder's take on these, I think. I'm currently rereading Politics of Jesus and just read his chapter on Radical Submission. Yoder makes two points that are significant in this regard. First, he notes (like Marshall) that for Paul to instruct both parties was a significant turn in and of itself, recognizing that slaves, women, and children are moral agents and responsible for their own obedience to his instructions. But Yoder goes a step further and asks why it is that these instructions were necessary in the first place. If Paul, as Marshall seems to be indicating, was moving from the cultural setting towards an as-yet undeveloped freedom, it seems odd that he would issue instructions that would have been assumed. Why is it that Paul has to instruct wives, slaves, and children in the way that he does? It's unthinkable, unless something has already happened to undercut the societal norms. Yoder maintains that the gospel message that these people had received in and of itself undercut these norms, and that his instructions were actually a move towards more restraint, largely so that the gospel wouldn't be hindered. Voluntary submission is what Yoder sees here, submission that is practiced for the sake of the gospel and not as a result of Paul's being hindered by cultural assumptions. Thoughts?

Michael Kruse

"Yoder maintains that the gospel message that these people had received in and of itself undercut these norms, and that his instructions were actually a move towards more restraint, largely so that the gospel wouldn't be hindered."

I think this is possible but I wonder if it was more complex than this. Here are some comments I made recently in another recent discussion:

…….

Our twenty-first century understanding of ourselves is as autonomous beings who play different roles, much like actors on a stage. We put on and take off roles like garments but the roles do no exhibit our essential character. I think this way of thinking would have been foreign to Paul and early Christians. Out of your very being emanated actions, demeanor, and your station in life. Even your physical traits were indicative of your character and social status. (Physiognomy) To become something different would not have been as easy as dropping one role and assuming another. You would need to be “recreated” as something new to be other than you were. Thus, Galatians 3:28.

“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one [recreated as one?] in Christ Jesus.”

And Paul, reiterating his point at the end of the book.

“For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything!” Galatians 6:15

Like Jesus, the new creatures of the new creation were to incarnate the social structures of the old creation, but as aliens to those structures, free to conform or not conform to those structures based on the tactical advantage it had in revealing Christ to the old creation. Galatians is the earliest epistle of Paul we have (early 50s?), which means he had likely been teaching this theology as he traveled about. Surely some were putting two and two together and concluding they could disregard cultural markers and do as they pleased. It isn’t hard to imagine the depth of struggle by the churches about the practical application of being new creatures in the old creation. On the one hand is the danger of disregarding the customs of the old creation to the point that those of the old creation come to so those of the new creation as an alien threat to the social order (1 Cor 11?). On the other hand, there is the danger of living in such conformity with the old creation that you become enmeshed in it. I think Paul’s household code is his practical instruction about how to resolve the dilemma in their context.

…….

1 Timothy was also written to the Ephesus situation. The post I will put up tomorrow suggests much of the letter is about false teaching and there is an inordinate focus on women. Dr. Belleville makes the case that women, influenced by the Artemis cult were attempting to exert authority over men based on female superiority. The reference about men being angry and disputing (2:8) may have been traditional Greco-Roman men angry at the behavior of these women. She suggests that at the time this letter was written there was much confusion and division about appropriate behavior. Evidently, Paul’s early letter didn’t take. :)

If you hold to the Pauline authorship (as I am inclined to do) 1 Tim wasn’t written more than a decade or so after the letter to Ephesus. If you don’t hold to Pauline authorship it could have been written a little later and written about a new generation of Ephesians with a new set of problems.

Yoder’s observation that this was an attempt reign in dishonoring behavior I think is almost certain (although clearly Paul is doing this within the larger vision of recasting what it means to be the household of God.) Is it because of an over application of Galatians 3:28 (which I think 1 Cor 11 might also be) or is it just because there is chaos and instruction was needed? It isn’t clear to me. I willing to be persuaded any number of directions.

ScottB

Yes - I think your thoughts on Galatians are exactly in line with what Yoder is suggesting. Here's his basic line of argumentation, as near as I can recall:
1. In Christ, all are one - there is no longer any status or social hierarchy. This is early in Paul's theology as Galatians would indicate - I don't remember if Yoder makes this point explicitly but the chronology fits the point well.
2. Yoder is also huge on the cross as the source of Christian ethic. In other words, as I read him, freedom is not the highest good - humility and service to others is of greater importance, in taking on the character of Christ.
3. As a result, for the people of God to voluntarily take on mutual subordination would simply be a result of their being conformed to the character of Christ. This follows quite well your point here:

Like Jesus, the new creatures of the new creation were to incarnate the social structures of the old creation, but as aliens to those structures, free to conform or not conform to those structures based on the tactical advantage it had in revealing Christ to the old creation.
I think you've said what I was trying to say, but you've done a much better job of it. ;) So how does that connect with what Marshall says on this - is it in line, or is Marshall presenting something a bit different?

Michael Kruse

"So how does that connect with what Marshall says on this - is it in line, or is Marshall presenting something a bit different?"

I think Marshall would agree but his essay was mostly limited to its impact on the marriage relationship. I think one of the few weaknesses of the book is that it did not investigate household tables in a comprehensive unified manner. You can find most of the important material regarding household tables but it is scattered across multiple chapters. I have found that when people can grasp what is happening the the household tables it often creates a beginning paradigm that helps make other difficult passages make sense.

So I again, I think Marshall would mostly agree he just doesn't drive the point home. That is my sense.

ScottB

Sounds good. Thanks again for your excellent summary.

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