Tuesday, June 28, 2005

St. Paul & Darwin on Husbands & Wives

A classfellow sends the full passage from the New Testament on the strictures for husbands and wives in Christianity.

And here's the Bible passage from Ephesians 5:22-33 (New International Version):Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so
also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this way, husbands ought to love their
wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church -- for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery -- but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
We'll discuss this in seminar Wednesday, but my comments are that, as I read it now for the first time in some years, it seems entirely different from what Darwin said about women -- as we had it read to us by our visitor today. Darwin was clear and prolix- "men are superior to women" and in a great list of charateristics - courage, strength, intelligence, imagination, creativity etc etc -- with the only exceptions being maternality and vanity.

Ephesians, on the other hand, above talks only about _marriage_ -- and even there there is (a) reciprocity and (b) the quite remarkable -- indeed anti-Darwinian -- statement that men and women are _one flesh_. I just looked up what the Bible says about men & women, and it there it strangelyseems to emphasise their equality. As came up in class, the fifth Chapter (vs 1-2) of Genesis says that God is both male _and_ female:

... God created man, in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them;
And St. Paul on men and women says this (Galatians 3:28

... there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.
Again, your responses & developments are encouraged during seminar on Wednesday; but this does, prima facia, seem very different in spirit than "men are stronger in mind and body than women", and of course this from Descent of Man:

[Men have] a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can women- whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands. If two lists were made of the most eminent men and women in poetry, painting, sculpture, music(inclusive of both composition and performance), history, science, and philosophy, with half a dozen names under each subject, the two lists would not bear comparison. We may also infer, from the law of the deviation from averages, so well illustrated by Mr. Galton, in his work on 'Hereditary Genius' that..the average of mental power in man must be above that of women.
And so this is why I would not read Darwin's scientific assessment of women to the class! I would hate it to be thought that I endorsed such misogyny -- let alone this extreme.
[Update: "and" changed to "as" in the Ephesians quotation, thanks to a comment below.]

11 comments:

Kristen said...

I think it's supposed to be: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church....not "and"....

Kristen said...

Yep...I double-checked...and it's "as" not "and"...which kind of changes the meaning a bit...

Kristen said...

I see your points, but the Ephesians passage assumes that all women are wives and men are husbands. It assumes that most people will take on these roles. And even though it doesn't come out and say "women are inferior"...it does indeed imply that...just as it implies that women are dirty and need to be cleansed or purified in some way. AND, even though it doesn't come right out and say "men are superior to the inferior women"...this is DEFINITELY how many, many, many branches of Christianity have interpreted it. And the interpretation is important, I think...since it's so widespread.

Kristen said...

And isn't saying that the husband is the head of the wife another way of saying the husband is superior?

Kristen said...

Yes, Darwin is indeed more blatant...and as I understand it, Darwin was not a Christian....but I don't think what he said about women would have EVER been possible unless a long history of Christian misogyny had come before him.

Kristen said...

Here's some interesting info I found at http://atheism.about.com/b/a/152227.htm

A Woman's Place in Christianity
Christianity has not been very supportive of women, historically speaking. Much of the time women have been denigrated and forced into a second-class status. This was true right from the earliest years of Christianity and has continued down through today.

The Holland Sentinel offers some quotes:

Clement of Alexandria (150?-215?): "Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman."

Tertullian (160?-220?): "Woman is a temple built over a sewer, the gateway to the devil. Woman, you are the devil's doorway. You led astray one whom the devil would not dare attack directly. It was your fault that the Son of God had to die; you should always go in mourning and rags."

Ambrose (339-97): "Adam was deceived by Eve, not Eve by Adam... it is right that he whom that woman induced to sin should assume the role of guide lest he fall again through feminine instability."

Augustine (354-430): "Woman was merely man's helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God."

Pope Gregory I (540-604): "Woman is slow in understanding and her unstable and naive mind renders her by way of natural weakness to the necessity of a strong hand in her husband. Her 'use' is two fold; [carnal] sex and motherhood."

Thomas Aquinas (1225-74): "[Woman] was made only to assist with procreation."

John Knox (1513-72): "Woman was made for only one reason, to serve and obey man."

John Wesley (1703-91): "Wife: Be content to be insignificant. What loss would it be to God or man had you never been born."

Southern Baptist Convention (2000): "A wife should submit herself to the leadership of her husband. Leadership in the church should always be male."

Local church in Holland (2004): "More and more we see women being placed in the position of Elder or Pastor in churches. Is this a good thing? Well, if your goal is to undermine the authority of the Word of God, it's a good thing."
The position of women in Christianity is much better today than it was even just a few decades ago, never mind a few centuries ago, but it's interesting to note the degree to which many traditionalists continue to fight against treating women as if they were fully equal. They insist that women have a "different" role in life than men, conveniently ignoring the fact that this "different" role inevitably becomes a "lesser" role as soon as the cameras leave the press conference.

Dr. S.A. Ogden said...

Dear Kirsten:
a) I've fixed the quotation as noted.
b) I don't see the quotation as saying all men and women are husbands and wives. Doesn't St. Paul say something that people are better off _not_ marrying?
c) Good idea to quote an atheist interpretation in this regard. But does scholarship here require a Christian interpretation be quoted equally?

Dr. S.A. Ogden said...

Dear Kirsten:
The matter here is primary versus secondary sources. For Darwinism we cited a primary text: Darwin's _Descent of Man_. To balance, we cited a primary text for Christianity: the New Testament. Now, the secondary interpretation for Darwinism is ourselves - seminar discussion, this blog. For secondary interpretation of Christianity you have introduced an anti-Christian source (an atheism website) which has gived selective quotations from some secondary interpreters of the primary text.
The next academic step is to introduce a pro-Christianity source - Christian feminists perhaps? - and give their secondary interpretations by way of scholarly balance.

Kristen said...

Yes, Paul says it is better to not marry, but he also realizes that not many people would be able to stay unmarried due to their desire. It is either marriage to a human or marriage to Christ. If you decide to be married to Christ, then you are almost more than human, and the categories of being human do not apply to you, since you are more of a spiritual being. For humans, though, being a husband or wife is the norm -- it is expected.
I think the Ephesians scripture talking about husband and wife is simply figurative language for talking about "adult men" and "adult women". The only single women and single people of the time would have been prostitutes, lone beggars, or those utterly devoted to Christ and the Church. And prostitutes and beggars were considered sub-human (regardless of Christ's kind and compassionate behaviour towards them), and those devoted to Christ were considered more than human.

Dr. S.A. Ogden said...

Dear Kirsten:

Hmm .... interesting & well-considered post. In possible support of your position, was then St. Paul himself married? (Darwin was ;--)

eunice said...

I agree with Kristen in that Bible portrays women as inferior. Even in the beginning, in Genesis, man was created first, then woman. Woman was only created because man needed a companion. Also, the woman was formed from the womb of the man. At the end of verse 23, it says that the woman was taken out of the man, made by his flesh and bone. Normally, creatures bore from other creatures remain inferior. For example, a mother and child. A child is inferior to the mother because it is the mother who gave the child its life. Just the same, in the Bible, woman is inferior to man because it is out his being that she exists.

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.
But for Adam [h] no suitable helper was found. 21 So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs [i] and closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [j] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said,
"This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman, [k] ' for she was taken out of man."

(This was taken from www.bible.gospelcom.net)