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J. K. Gayle


It'd be fair to say that Carolyn Osiek (in her writings and in this interview that you link to) 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."

Another of Dr. Osiek's students, Rod, whose blog is "Political Jesus," has also made this clear:

"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."

His comment is made following this blogpost:


Thanks, Kurk.

Still, it seems to me that you are avoiding the plain sense of your teacher's words in the response she gave at the symposium. It is not a question of whether Carolyn Osiek, in her role of professor and/or Catholic sister, supports "love patriarchy." She does not. She self-identifies, I believe, as a Catholic feminist. It is a question of what Jesus, Paul, and Peter as we know them from the NT supported.

These are Osiek's words, the drift of which you seem intent on circumventing:

"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."

On a comment thread on this blog you once implied that you thought of the author of Ephesians 5 as worse than Aristotle. I take that to mean that you think of "love patriarchy" as worse than Aristotle's natural law patriarchy.

You are welcome to your opinion. But Osiek's opinion does not correspond to yours.

She thinks of "something like Troeltsch's love patriarchy" as a more humane patriarchy. She understands early Christianity to be part of a wider movement moving at glacial speed in that direction, and she insists on calling it patriarchy, not egalitarianism.

Egalitarianism, if used of Jesus, the first generation of believers, not to mention those that followed, is a mythologizing operation. If Osiek's historical conclusions are correct, and I believe they are, scholars as diverse as Leonard Swidler, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, and those within the "biblical egalitarian" movement are mythmakers. This has been argued at length by others; if you wish, I will post on it in greater detail in the future.

Justin Richter

"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."

I struggle with the normativity derived from this hermeneutic. On one hand, it is very Catholic and Eastern Orthodox in the belief that the Church's true nature comes to fruition over time and the early Church was just the seed. This how they can have such a positive view of the changes that happened to during Constantine's era. On the other hand,it seems to me that this stance can justify anything that can be "proved" to fall within the Biblical trajectory like liberal democracy.

Great article though. Thanks!


A "love-obey" framework no less than an "equal regard" framework stands in organic continuity with the witness of scripture. Truth be told, "love-obey" vows continue to be understood by many who make them to be compatible with equal regard. But that way of framing the question does not do justice to Ephesians 5 either. A husband who takes Ephesians 5 seriously will hold his wife in *higher* regard than he regards himself.

One might also argue that an egalitarian framework, so long as its touchstone is 1 Corinthians 13, is compatible with the witness of scripture. That is the assumption behind the recent Catholic Catechism. When discussing couples and families, the CC is careful to express itself in language supportive of equal regard and compatible with an egalitarian ethos.

Steve Pable

Being the bearer of a Y chromosome, I've never read Ephesians 5 as an oppressive text, and my wife and I chose it together for our one of our wedding readings.

I've always understood it (and hopefully continue to grow in that understanding) exactly as you said, John-- holding my wife in higher regard, "handing myself over for her". And the bit about "be subordinate to one another" doesn't seem too threatening, but rather just difficult.

I do have to ask myself, however, if I am indeed letting the text speak for itself, and the Spirit through it? Or is my reading as conditioned by my culture and circumstances as was that of the abolitionist or slave-holder, for example?


Hi Steve,

Since I think the "Christ and Culture" paradigm has a place, not just the "Christ against culture" paradigm, I see no necessary problem with being influenced by one's culture. According to a long tradition of Christian thinking, particular cultures are always in some sense gifts from on high by common grace.

The important thing would be not to confuse the two. To use the traditional terms of the debate, Christ is one thing; culture is another. Let them stand in creative tension.

Dead Man Walking 2

I would like to address the part about the ‘rewriting’ of the New Testament. I can’t be the only one who feels that the discussion of this topic or any for that matter any topic cannot precede until it can really be decided as what the Bible really says. The more I read of these postings the more I don’t get honestly. How can someone call the Bible the word of god or as something that they should follow when there is so many different translations and teachings of it that change the meanings? For all I or anyone knows Ms. Osiek could be correct to what she was taught or to the translation that she has. How can you hold a discourse if there isn’t one set or agreed upon beliefs? Imagine a group of scientists trying to work together when they can’t decide about what the set values of anything is. They wouldn’t be able to do anything. So how can someone have a discussion of topics in the bible when a set definition or idea can be decided on?


I think the New Testament should not be re-written. It is a sacred text in our history and religious beliefs. There was much controversy a few months about about re writing Huck Finn. There was much discussion on re writing this book. In my opinion the book should be what the book was originally made to be. It is history and it is how we have attained our knowledge of religion.

True Grit 3

I would have to agree with Pulp Fiction 1, and that it shouldn’t be re-written. It’s just like remaking a movie or song, the original is always the best and should never try to be changed. it’s a part of history, and you can’t change history. I feel that if it were to be changed, people would question their religion, and lots of people would be very angry, because just like Pulp Fiction 1 said, it is sacred and shouldn’t be messed with.

Mission 2

I agree with Dead Man Walking 2 that the important thing is to make sure the translation is accurate. Many people are given different explanations of what the Bible is trying to say by those they are taught by. This can be by their place of worship, their parents, friends, etc.
Personally, when I bought a Bible for myself, I researched what version is the most directly translated from its original languages. I was told repeatedly that the English Standard Version is the best for that, but I do not know for sure.
I think that the re-writing of the New Testament should occur only if it is re-written to be closer to the truth. I think that it would be dishonest to re-write the New Testament to make it more applicable to modern times because, to me, that seems like a ploy to attract more members to the Church. Whereas, it should be re-written to the highest point of accuracy regardless of its history. After all, this is supposed to be the word of God, not a bedtime story we are used to a certain way, so we don't want it to change.

Praying with Lior 10

I don’t think rewriting the Bible is a smart move at all. The Bible is not meant to be a book that means one exact thing to everyone. I think it’s supposed to mean different things to different people. Who are we to say people should change their faith to better fit what we believe?

Dead Man Walking 5

I agree with the above posts, I think that it would not be a smart choice to rewrite the New Testament, or any part of the Bible. I believe that is wrong in so many ways. The bible is a piece of history. That would be like erasing every history book that we have and starting from scratch, it just doesn't make sense. We would have no way to show future generations our faith or what we believe in. The readings in church is one way how we grow in our faith and become a better follower of Jesus. I believe that if we rewrote the New Testament we would be putting things that we want to hear instead of need to hear. For example, we could bend the rules that God gave to us just to make it more convenient for us. I believe that this idea of rewriting the New Testament is wrong and would be a change for the worse for our faith.

Dead Man Walking 3

I agree with the posts above. The New Testament should not be changed. I see the fact that people might like to see it in a new translation for more modern times, but that means it could change the meanings of the stories. People take the stories differently also, there are too many ways that this book could be ruined. I would like to see a translation but I know it’s for the best that it should not be changed. I like how in the first paragraph of this blog they go into how everyone sees it differently. From the slave owner, to the Yankee abolitionist, to the biblical egalitarians they are all very different. Everyone takes the bible differently and the fact that it is so old, it makes it fun to imagine what it would be like back then or even nowadays.

Shawshank Redemption 1

It is in human nature, which is sad, to explain away truths in the Bible, as aged, or not applicable to current times. I love to hear this ignorance because with all of our great knowledge, we are doing essentially as the Bible said we would do, and move farther away from God. The information in the Bible is not aged because it carries sets of principles, which to this day, countries and people try to mimic to be better. Our county’s motto is “In God we Trust”, but the reality is that we too no longer hearken unto God, so it is not in God we trust, but in ourselves and as we seen our banking systems.

Truman Show 2

The New Testament or any part of the Bible for that matter should not be rewritten. The Bible was written be its authors in a specific way, and if that is changed things might not come across the way that they intended for them to. If any part of the Bible was rewritten the things may be put into the Bible that we would want to hear instead of what was meant for us to read. Things may be put into the Bible to make it seem like we are following God but it was changed from what was originally meant to make following God easier for some people. If we rewrite the New Testament or any part of the Bible we would be changing what many people have put their faith in.

Shawshank Redemption3

People who want to “revise” the bible so that it is “current” just want to justify what they are doing. The bible has been the same way for thousands of years and, yes, it has been translated and rewritten but to my knowledge it has never changed what it says. If you rewrite it, it will still say the same things, unless you change it so much, then it would no longer be the word of God. It would be the Bible the way people think it should be! It needs to be left alone.

The Mission 2

The only reason to revise the Bible, in my opinion, is to keep up with the current language. Reading the Bible in the King James Version with all of the “thee” and “thy’s” would make it difficult for me to understand what the writer was trying to say. But we need to be careful not to change the meaning of what the Bible says when we do revise it. I agree with Shawshank Redemption 3 that some people translate the Bible in a way to justify what they are doing and then trying to rewrite part of the Bible to back them up.

Pulp Fiction 5

I agree with Shawshank Redemption 3. In my mind it seems like the only reason to revise the Bible would be to change it to better fit a person’s life. Part of what makes the Bible so great and inspiring to so many is that it can be interpreted many different ways. In this sense it seems to me that the Bible does not need to be revised to fit more in with today’s culture, it simply needs to be revised with current ideas in mind. I try to read passages from the Bible a couple different times with different thoughts each time. I start by reading it purely as a historical text with no thoughts of today’s world. Then I reread the same passage with today’s culture in mind. I find it interesting how much a passage can change simply by how we think about things.

Nell 2

I agree with most of the other entries, that the New Testament should not be re written. The original Bible was written and the information within the original message should not be altered. I understand that in translation it is very difficult to keep the message word for word, but it is important to keep it very similar. Would a new written Bible be the word of the Lord? I don’t believe so. Ms. Osiek could be correct to what she was taught or to the translation that she has, but is that what has been accepted in society for so many years? I find it difficult to relate this to that of the image of antebellum slave-owners in the South, who succumbed to the temptation of reimagining scripture in their image. The slaves were illiterate and did not know the difference, but today, everyone is familiar with the Bible. Also, the majority of the messages that were changed and enforced were about obeying their masters, in which could be considered their Heavenly master. All in all I see this as a tough comparison.

Truman Show 4

I don't see how anyone could be for the revision of any part of the Bible. I understand there may be dissension among scholars on this topic, but I really don't think any regular readers of the Bible would ever see a need for this. Obviously not every single word or story of the Bible doesn't fit with how some people think it should be, but the Bible isn't about what people want it to be, it's about what it is. I like how Shawshank 3 puts it, people would only be trying to justify how they are living currently by attempting to revise one of the oldest books in the world.

The Truman Show  5

I completely agree with the above comments on how the new testament should not be re-written. As Neil 2 stated in his comment about how if the bible is re-written, then it is not really God’s word. Changing the books of the Bible after having them seen the way they are now for so long would be like re-writing history. You don’t seen historians going back through textbooks and just changing what the book said. The book has what is written in ti because it is the truth. If the Bible is re-written, how do we know for sure any of it is true?

Praying with Lior 2

I think that any attempt to rewrite the New Testament would be met with severe opposition. Updating it to make it easier to understand would greatly alter it meaning in my option. It’s like trying to rewrite the constitution, the founding fathers who wrote it meant it for that period and changing it to fit today’s life would corrupt the mystique of the document.

Chariots of Fire 4

The Bible should NEVER be changed, the Bible is the word of God. Changing the words in the Bible would be changing the words of God. True it might be a little complicated to understand but that's why we go to church and that's why we have classes to teach us the true meaning of the Bible. If we change it then the Bible won't be the same

Breaker Morant 3

Not surprisingly, I agree that the idea of "rewriting" the Bible in any way is ridiculous. I think that it only goes to show how truly lazy modern society has become. I don't think the Bible is easy to understand the first time you read it by any means. It is meant to be pondered and learned about in a way that applies to you. It is sad to hear that some people aren't even willing to do that.

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    a group blog on Talmud News, Reviews, Culture, Currents, and Criticism
  • Theological German
    a site for reading and discussing theological German, by Mark Alter
  • theoutwardquest
    seeking spirituality as an outward, not an inward quest, by David Corder
  • This Lamp
    Incisive comment on Bible translations in the archives, by Rick Mansfield
  • Thoughts on Antiquity
    By Chris Weimer and friends, posts of interest on ancient Greek and Roman topics (archive). Chris is a graduate student at the City University of New York in Classics
  • Threads from Henry's Web
    Wide-ranging comment by Henry Neufeld, educator, publisher, and author
  • Tête-à-Tête-Tête
    smart commentary by "smijer," a Unitarian-Universalist
  • Undeception
    A great blog by Mike Douglas, a graduate student in biblical studies
  • What I Learned From Aristotle
    the Judaica posts are informative (archive)
  • Bouncing into Graceland
    a delightful blog on biblical and theological themes, by Esteban Vázquez (archive)
  • Weblog
    by Justin Anthony Knapp, a fearless Wikipedian (archive)
  • Writing in the Dust
    A collection of quotes by Wesley Hill, a doctoral student in New Testament studies at Durham University (UK), and a Christian who seeks the charism of chastity
  • גֵּר־וְתוֹשָׁב
    by David Miller, Associate Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism, Briercrest College & Seminary, Caronport, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • ואל-תמכר
    Buy truth and do not sell: wisdom, instruction, and understanding - a blog by Mitchell Powell, student of life at the intersection of Christ, Christianity, and Christendom
  • משלי אדם
    exploring wisdom literature, religion, and other academic pursuits, by Adam Couturier, M.A. in Old Testament/Hebrew Bible (graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary)

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  • Ancient Hebrew Poetry is a weblog of John F. Hobbins. Opinions expressed herein do not reflect those of his professional affiliations. Unless otherwise indicated, the contents of Ancient Hebrew Poetry, including all text, images, and other media, are original and licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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