Monday, March 20, 2023

A History Lesson


A History Lesson

I just happened upon an AMAZING example of teaching. It brings to mind the famous (or infamous) Universe 25 experiment. Now, to begin, I despise the word fascist. The practice of using the word flippantly as a derogatory tag has my utter contempt. It insults the memory of Jewish people and others who lost loved ones in the war. It ignores the very important lessons of history. This story involves an insightful history teacher, Mr. Ron Jones. It was 1970, and students were concerned about the Vietnam War. While teaching a lesson about World War II, a student asked how a nation’s entire population could follow the horrid Nazi regime and plunge the entire world into war. Thus, Mr. Jones started a 5-day experiment.

Over the next few days in class, he implemented a few rules. Any student wishing to speak had to stand and address Mr. Jones with no more than three words. Further, the class had to come up with their own self-styled salute, which wound up being a “C” with the right hand lifted vertically. They had to come up with a new name for the movement they had started, which wound up being “The Third Wave.” Mr. Jones began implementing slogans, such as Strength Through Discipline, and Strength Through Community, and so on. They came up with special posters that symbolized their group.

Eventually, Mr. Jones also appointed special teacher helpers in class, who would report to him students who were not totally on board with his new rules. They had special identification cards. No one knew who these students were, but in fact, many of them had been recruited to this role. Students who were identified as “not with the program” were subject to a class vote of guilty or not guilty. Those who were found guilty were sent to the library during class time and refused the opportunity to participate. Nearly all students that were accused were found guilty by their peers.

Students were chastised for not finding more violations, and the smallest discrepancy soon began to be reported to Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones lied to the students and told them their grade would be based on following his growing list of rules, or, alternatively, by leading a successful coup. Student “observers” with special cards soon became student “guards.” Mr. Jones further lied and told his students that the Third Wave was spreading in schools across the country, to form a new national party that would dismantle the system and replace it with their own.

On the fifth day of his experiment, Mr. Jones called an assembly in the school gymnasium with the followers who had remained loyal. There, he told them the truth, that there was no national movement, that his new rules were all a ruse, and that he had done these things to answer the question, “How can an entire nation follow a bad cause?”

Certainly, a comparison could be made between turning in students who did not go along with the new system with “cancelling” and “doxing” people online, the risk of which is negligible. The new “rules.” The new “righteousness.” The new attempt at calling all ideology which does not agree completely in lockstep with its adherents is wrong. The labeling of certain ideas and groups as “hate,” which denies other viewpoints altogether is wrong.

I believe the issue is, at its roots, spiritually discerned. Other comparisons could be made. I’ll leave that for the reader to consider.

Video link attached to the comments.


Armchair Coach

Amateur historian

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Was the Apostle Paul a Misogynist?


Was the Apostle Paul a Misogynist?

At Pastor Alex’s retirement party, I was alarmed when an acquaintance said out loud that she considered Paul to be a misogynist and an invalid source of scriptural authority. What? I asked myself. To clarify, a misogynist is a person who dislikes, despises or is strongly prejudiced against women.

So, why would a person refute such a large body of recognized scripture, God’s Holy and eternal word, accepted as inspired by the Holy Spirit? Further, didn’t they realize that such a rebuke might be hurtful to the person we had gathered to celebrate? So, I decided to do a study, completely neutral in my preconceptions until such time as my research was complete.

Going to google, I searched first for the selected scriptures that were considered controversial. I will cite these one at a time. I think it is relevant to understand as well the churches and people Paul was writing to. To a lesser extent, I think it is also important to understand better the different and distinct cultures and societal expectations that were prevalent and applicable at the time.

Additionally, I owe a great deal of thanks to Melinda Nelson, for completing work I did not have to do, with her thesis paper “The Reputation of the Apostle Paul: Was he a Misogynist?” which was written for a secular college in 2014.

Finally, I wanted to thank my old college professor (now deceased) Dr. Ed Hindson, for his sermon The Book of Revelations in 45 minutes. In understanding what different churches and regions were going through, it is also important to listen to and understand the words of Jesus with regards to what He said about these churches, which are truth. He is the final authority and His words remain forever.

With that being said, let us begin with Paul’s background. I will cite Melinda Nelson as simply “Nelson” from this point. At the beginning of her paper, Nelson states “My thesis is that if one
understands Paul and his writings on the subject of women within the original/ proper context
these controversial verses and ideas many not be, in actuality, as controversial, offensive, or
relevant to modern society or modern women as has been previously thought.” [Nelson, p.1]

Saul was born in Tarsus, a trading city, and had education both as a Jew and in Koine, common and Classical Greek language, as well as Greek writings and philosophy. [p.2] He was no educational slouch. Saul began formal training as a Rabbi in his teens. As the son of a Roman citizen, he was also accorded Roman citizenship. Saul was a person of very high social standing in more than one culture.

After his appointment as a member of the Pharisees with further training, Saul was known as a zealot, and participated in the approval of and murder of Christians, specifically, Stephen in Jerusalem. On his way to Damascus to continue persecution there, he was met by Jesus on the road and his life was changed.

He began to go by his Roman name Paul, and to preach of his experience to the Gentiles. He had a disagreement with the apostle Peter over whether new converts should convert to Judaism, and as a result it was decided that Paul should minister to Gentile converts, while Peter would devote his ministry to Jewish converts. Paul was eventually executed in Rome during Nero’s reign.

I want to interject by saying this. Men will not die willingly for a lie. It is against the nature of self-preservation. They will not go headlong into death for a false cause. These men, Paul and the apostles, knew that Jesus was raised from the dead. They knew Jesus was Lord. And they are to be admired and recognized for their supreme sacrifice and faith. Onward.

Controversy One of Five: 1 Timothy 2

The letter was written to Timothy in Ephesus from the city of Laodicea. I find this interesting in that the churches of both of these cities were addressed by Jesus in the book of Revelations. So, there is a kind of cross reference going on here. What does Jesus say to the churches in Laodicea and Ephesus? Laodicea was a rich retirement community. They had hot springs and cold springs where rich people would go to the “spa.” Kind of like Florida. The church in Laodicea was in trouble. They were the putrid church. Their attitude was “we are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Jesus warns them that they are in fact, poor wretched and blind. They are lukewarm, and unless they repent, they will be spewed out of His mouth. We all need to repent, for sins both known and unknown with all humility.

The church of Ephesus, similarly in Revelations, is a church in trouble. They were a preoccupied church in a city of over 250,000 people. Jesus says that the church in Ephesus had lost their first love. Because like many of us and like me, they became too concerned with the cares of this world. They were metropolitan. They were concerned with the Kardasians, the celebrities, the clothes and styles, the veritable worship of ashes, of iniquity, of that which does not truly matter in eternity. Paul tells them in his letter to Ephesians not to be drunk with wine, and also tells both men and women to submit to one another. Both of these admonitions are more important than initially considered in light of our concern of understanding Paul. So, with this understanding of what was happening, let us see what Paul said in his first letter to Timothy.

2 Therefore I [a]exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in [b]authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and [c]reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth [d]in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

This, by itself is not too controversial. Even though it was by the orders of kings and authorities (Pontius Pilate, Herod Antipas, the Jewish High Priests) that Jesus was crucified, it was the will of God. Ultimately, it was our sin that caused Jesus’ death, and He was willing and obedient to God the Father. We do not mistake that Paul was approving of these rulers in their condemnation of Jesus to death, who was innocent. Therefore, we must understand that not all scripture is to be interpreted to obtain the outcome that we desire and that supports our preconceptions. In this, scripture must be considered in light of other works inspired by the Holy Spirit. Let God be true and every man a liar. The word men in the above section can be interpreted as mankind.

A point of attention is that Paul says here he is speaking the truth. Why does he say this? See below.

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and [e]moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

The reason Paul specifically pointed out he was speaking truth is that there were false teachings being spread within the church and the newly formed Christian community. He addresses both men and women about what proper worship practices are to be during public worship services.

I was interested to learn that in Ephesus, according to both Jewish and Greco Roman standards, women should avoid excessive adornment, for it was symbolic of prostitutes and of sexual promiscuity/marital infidelity, and everyone knew it. Nelson states “Verse 10 continues by explaining how women should adorn themselves modestly: “but with good works as is proper for women who profess reverence to God”. In this verse Paul is reminding the women of Ephesus of what is important to Paul, to God, and what should be more important to them: reverence to God, not the love of material adornment that false doctrine appears to be spreading through the church at Ephesus.” [p.8]

Is it possible that just as Paul had learned that there were instances of drunkenness in Ephesus, that the same source had told him of some women who were interrupting services or spreading heresy? It would explain the need to address this behavior without ascribing to him chauvinistic preconceptions.

NOTE: We ALL need to submit ourselves one to another, not deeming ourselves as greater than anyone. For the servant of all is the greatest of all, and we need to have less of ourselves, and more of God in our lives. And whoever keeps his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake, the same shall find it. Further, we need to be totally and completely submissive before God, who is holy and righteous and true. We need to be quick to hear and slow to speak. That goes for everyone.

But what about the bit with Adam and Eve? Paul points to Genesis 2 and 3. It seems Paul’s intention is not to blame women for the fall of man, but rather (in light of the false doctrines being spread) to point to Christ as some women of Ephesus had been deceived just as Eve had. As for child bearing, Nelson points out that the Greek word teknogonias can be translated as “child bearing,” but it can also be translated as “the birth of a child.” [p.10] This changes the meaning of the sentence, referring to the specific birth of Jesus. Thus, the birth of Christ redeemed Eve who was deceived, just as some women of Ephesus were deceived by false doctrine.

It seems to me that Paul’s admonitions for women were specific to, and directly for the women in the church at Ephesus. Further down we learn that Paul specifically teaches that women are to speak publicly when praying or prophesying. He would not have said that if he was a misogynist.

Controversy Two of Five: Ephesians 5

 15 See then that you walk [e]circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of [f]God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might [g]sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, [h]of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

Paul tells the church at Ephesus to walk (behave/act) with self-awareness, not as fools but wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. It appears as though some there were using their time poorly, going after shiny, sparking things, which attract attention, but in the end truly do not matter. Some, it appears, were prone to time wasting behaviors, the fidget spinners of the age. 

Additionally, as previously mentioned, Paul has to warn them of the dangers of alcohol. I had always thought the word dissipation meant to spread out, as to dissolve in a liquid. However, the word also means a wasting by misuse, or a mental distraction, amusement, or diversion. The definition also refers to a dissolute way of living, especially excessive drinking of liquor.

So, the church in Ephesus, in what is modern day Turkey, is in trouble. Nelson makes a few important cultural observations in this passage. The first is that immediately preceding the direction for wives to be subject to their husbands, Paul tells them to submit to one another. Paul does not state that there is no reciprocation between men and woman. Greco-Roman society was extremely patriarchal, and there were tensions between the Gentile and Christian communities. Ancestral laws stratified class and promoted slavery. Nelson states “Christianity broke these laws, and patriarchal ideas, by making all people equal in Christ. For this reason, Greco-Roman society was “sensitive” to the social-political implications that Christianity held.” [p.11] Paul could not command husbands to submit to their wives or masters to submit to their slaves, lest violence occur, or possibly worse.

However, Paul does give a caveat. He commands husbands to love their wives to the point of sacrificing themselves, even to death, just as Christ loved the church. This demonstrates the deep, abiding, dedicated, strong love that a husband is to have for his wife.  There is no command for wives to lay down their lives for their husbands, and further, there is no objection -none whatsoever- by those who contend that Paul was a misogynist over this great divide in sacrifice of love. Verse 30 reminds both husbands and wives of their equal status in Christ. Therefore, I find this entire objection without merit. It picks and chooses at certain verses while ignoring others and the wider body of scripture.

Controversy Three of Five: 1 Corinthians 11

1 Corinthians 11

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. For if a woman is not covered, let her also be shorn. But if it is shameful for a woman to be shorn or shaved, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. 10 For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. 12 For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.

13 Judge among yourselves. Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him? 15 But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given [a]to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

After establishing the church at Corinth, in what is now Greece, Paul began to receive letters from members containing questions about immorality in the church, asking for his opinion and guidance. So, Paul began a correspondence. He answers these questions in 1 Corinthians, making the work an “occasional” epistle and not a set of universal laws or Christian codes. The commands given in 11:4-12 are specific to Corinth and the problems faced by that church.

Paul was concerned and committed to three aspects of worship: 1. Honoring God by applying scripture to worship 2. Believers showing respect to each other 3. The testimony or view of the church to unbelievers. All three of these themes occur throughout the letter.

Nelson notes that in pagan worship rituals, men would cover their heads with togas or clothing. [p.17] She states that if Christians were to continue this practice, it would be dishonorable to Christ for mixing church services with pagan worship. There are other times when it was appropriate for men to wear head coverings in scripture, but Paul’s direction is a specific response to pagan influence in Corinth.

By the same token, Paul states that women in Corinth are to keep their heads covered during prayer and prophecy. He does not say that women are not to pray or that women are not to prophecy, an important distinction. The practice of women covering their heads was a cultural practice and a sign of respect to their husbands, and as such, is a situational direction. The admonition for women to cover their heads does not extend to single women or widows; it applies only to married women. The heads dishonored are not their own, but that of their husbands.

Paul was addressing themes two and three above. However, a question arises. Why would Paul tell the women of Ephesus to remain quiet while allowing the women of Corinth to pray and prophesy publicly? It is possible that there was a problem with the women of Ephesus interrupting services with heretical statements, thus requiring the issue to be addressed.

A woman’s head was shaved as a societal punishment in Corinth for adultery. Paul compares the shame a woman would have for disrespecting her husband in public with disrespecting him through infidelity. This is a strong viewpoint, so it was obviously something he felt deeply about. I find it interesting that the very same punishment (shaving the head) was applied to women in Holland who compromised and slept with German soldiers occupying their country during World War II.

Paul gives direction to both men and women of Corinth for appropriate attire during worship. The words “a symbol of authority on her head” in verse 10 means that women should have the freedom of choice regarding covering their heads, but the responsibility is still theirs.

Verses 7-10 about images, reflections and angels are more difficult to understand, but Nelson does a much better job at explaining it than I could. “Man was made in the image of God and should not imitate pagan rituals because he was made for Gods glory (Pratt, p. 349). Similarly,
woman was made for man and is the glory of man; therefore, she should honor her husband by
veiling her head. While this may be misinterpreted as men being more important to God than
women, the verse says that “woman is made in the reflection of man”, not in the “image of man”.
By stating the difference Paul is showing that women are not completely “derivative of man”,
but were created by God as a reflection, making woman both the glory of man and of God.” 

Paul concludes in verse 12 the equality of men and women, that both are dependent upon one another, and should respect each other equally, and further, that all come from God. This, also, is not a statement a misogynist would make.

Controversy Four of Five: Galatians 3

Rather than support the accusation of misogyny, this segment refutes it.

26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

This paragraph makes clear the equality of believers in Christ. While Paul takes a risk against the followers of Peter by stating boldly that in Christ there is neither “Jew nor Greek,” he goes even further by stating there is no male or female. This also goes against the Hebrew prayer which many Jewish men spoke daily: “Blessed is God who has not made me a Gentile, who has not made me a boor (slave,) or a woman.”  If Paul, A trained rabbi and Pharisee, were truly prejudiced against women, wouldn’t he support this traditional prayer?

Further, this prayer emphasizes that Gentiles were of a higher social standing than slaves, and that slaves were of a higher social standing than women. Paul cuts through them all and “demolishes the idea as one that should not be held by Christians.” [p.20]

Controversy Five of Five: Romans 16

I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

Here Paul is completing his letter to the church in Rome, where he will shortly afterwards be martyred. Paul greets 29 separate people and groups assembled in Rome, thanking them all for their prayers, for their labors on his behalf, and for risking their very lives for him. Who is the very first person he extends his respect and thanks to?

Sister Pheobe is not just a servant in the church of Cenchrea, but a recognized deacon of that church by Paul. Phoebe was given the important task of delivering Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. Paul shows he is not against the idea of women teaching, learning or having authority in the church. Phoebe had to “read, explain and circulate the message among the Christian community in Rome.” [p.21]

I wish I could copy/paste Nelson’s entire conclusion for it is a resounding refutation of any idea of Paul being a chauvinist, misogynist or bigoted hater of women. Paul’s main concern was to spread the gospel and to represent Christ in a positive and socially acceptable way. Paul explained and addressed issues regarding men and women and their roles in society and church.

Paul’s concerns and ordinances for women addressed concerns on a case by case basis within the specific confines of the churches they were written to. He focused on the interdependence between husband and wife in Ephesians, not a non-reciprocal relationship based on submission. The entries in Galatians and Romans are true indicators of Paul’s attitude towards woman as equals in Christ. [p.22]