Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Teaching Of Paul Concerning Women (Part 2)

Part 1 is available here.

AP: Although the "body" (σώμα) of man, or human being as considered material living being, is not evil or synonymous with "flesh" (σάρξ), with all its pejorative sense of baseness and sin, the "weaknesses of the flesh" impact believers also, according to Paul, in the blackest aspect of sexuality: lustful appetite. The tribulations of the flesh appear even in the lawful union of husband and wife (v. 28). Marriage is, therefore, a lesser evil for Paul and therefore relativizes him. As the end of time urges, those who have wives live as if they did not have one (v. 29). But all this must apply to men as well, not only to the women as if Paul considered them more "carnal" than the men. That's not what's going on. Probably the opposite, as 1 Cor. 7:36 says: "But if any man fears that he is unfit for his fiancé, because he has excessive vitality, and it must be so, then he should do what he wishes: do not sin, marry."

From the feminist point of view, the positive aspect of the Pauline doctrine lies in an undeniable appreciation of women on the same level as men in certain strata of the marital-sexual horizon. With goodwill, Paul could be placed slightly in the line of the first text of Genesis (1:27): the prohibition of divorce affects men and women alike (v. 10–11); with regard to conjugal relations, the apostle presupposes absolute equality of conditions (vv. 2–4); celibacy does not seem to be based on a negative estimate of the female being as a female, as a perverse sexual entity, as it happened among some Jews.

In this new messianic group that was awaiting the imminent end of the world, women have the same place before God, and in the essence of salvation, as men. It is consistent with this program of spiritual equality (Gal. 3:28) that women perform some functions in the Pauline communities:
1. Patronesses and benefactors (typical scheme of the Hellenistic Roman Empire of "patron-client," but in the realm of the domestic church). This is the case of a woman named Lydia who traded purple linens, rich, God-fearing, according to Acts 16:–15, and of Phoebe, according to Rom. 16:1–2. Priscilla and her husband Aquila also acted as benefactors, for they opened their home in Ephesus for the meetings of the domestic church of the city (Rom. 16:19).
2. Ministers or deaconesses (functions sometimes difficult to distinguish from female evangelists). Thus, Rom 16:1.
3. Prophets. That women exercised the gift of prophecy in the Pauline communities as "prophetesses," that is to say, in some form as "leaders," is clear and is easily proved by 1 Corinthians or Acts. In strictly Pauline communities, women could pray and prophesy in public under certain conditions (1 Cor. 11:5).
4. Teachers. 
5. Evangelists/apostles, etc.
Could it be said that for Paul women were socially and according to the order of creation a second degree being? Many commentators strongly deny this, since they argue that the passages about the roles of women in the community we have just considered should be taken into account, as well as the equality of public expression, such as praying voices and prophetesses, which we have also cited. Others, however, accept that Paul harbored these feelings for himself, and let them show in 1 Corinthians clearly, the notion that women are second-degree human beings since this led him to the exegesis of Genesis 2 as a whole, forgetting the egalitarian text of Gen. 1:27.

Unfortunately, this second opinion weighs more heavily, albeit with some counterbalance due to the functions they performed in domestic churches. In general it could be said that for Paul, man and woman are both on the same level, one for the other, in the intimacy of marriage, sexual intercourse, and in the spiritual (1 Cor. 7:4, 11), and which are christologically equal, but without deducing any explicit consequences for social life in terms of substantial equality. Paul never bothered to overcome this situation of social inequality of women because he was convinced of the imminent end of the world.

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