Friday, November 30, 2012

from the Carnival ... "The invisible women bishops of Phillipi"

If you saw the last post and remember that I read Jim West's blog and Scotteriology then you may have worked out what the Carnival is.  Well, here's something from the latest Carnival.

A very lengthy quotation:

I’ve been pondering yesterday’s reading for St Clement. (For me it’s also tomorrow’s reading as I’m preaching at a transferred patronal festival.) It includes these verses from Philippians:
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. (4:2-3 NRSV)
Here, even more than in many places in Paul, it’s hard to reconstruct the details of the situation that is being taken for granted by Paul and his addressees. However, it seems to me that we can say the following.
  • This touches on the main reasons for the letter. Paul’s appeal to Euodia and Syntyche echoes the language of his appeal in chapter 2 “to be of the same mind” which leads into the famous Christ-hymn.
  • A personal disagreement between these two women seems to mirror, perhaps cause, a disagreement in the life of the church.
  • Their position and their relationship is important enough for Paul to direct much of his argument towards healing it.
  • There is no appeal to any other leader to solve the problem, knock heads together, etc, and there is noticeably no appeal to any man to exercise any authority over these women. Even Paul does not try to make his appeal one to authority, but one to friendship and mutual loyalty.
  • The identity of the loyal companion Paul addresses is unknown. He is, however, a man asked to assist them. There is no male superiority assumed as a right.
  • The women are equated with Clement (traditionally identified as the later bishop of Rome) and all Paul’s fellow-workers who have struggled with him in proclaiming the good news.
The most likely explanation of these observations and deductions from the text is that the women belong to, and are even among the leading figures in, the leadership group of the church. Only a prior ideological commitment by the reader to male leadership alone would make this an “impossibility”. For every other reader, it seems a very plausible – I suggest the most plausible –explanation.

Thoughts?  Invitations to comment at Wenatchee The Hatchet are invariably met with the endless throng of the singing of crickets across the cosmos.  Maybe that's what we deserve for having disabled comments on some of the posts that were most likely to have inspired comments?


Juniper said...

I suspect this view, which seems sound, might find support in the work of Richard Bauckham who has written at length about what he thinks were the roles of women who travelled with Christ and were part of the early church. Also, consider that while household codes delineated who was in what position (in a hierarchical sense), then as now, someone of influence could step beyond the normally prescribed roles.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Bauckham's monograph on Jude/2 Peter is pretty good. I read it back in 2007 and found it quite fascinating.

Juniper said...

I'll have to read that. I started reading Bauckham a few years ago. It took awhile before it stopped going over my head.

Wenatchee the Hatchet said...

Juniper, if you could mention bibliographic references for Bauckham's work on women associated with Jesus post `em here. Thanks.