When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint in the New Testament & the New Old Testament

Happy Monday everyone! I’m extremely excited to be participating in a blog tour of T. Michael Law’s new book ‘When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible’ organized by Brian LePort over at Near Emmaus. I received a copy for review from Oxford University Press and will be reviewing chapters 9 & 10.

When God Spoke Greek is a narrative history of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament.  Law’s goal in writing this book is to make the Septuagint more accessible to both laity and academics, while highlighting its important role in the development of the Christian Bible.  To read more about the preceding chapters (1-8), see the links below.

Chapter 9, The Septuagint in the New Testament

Following his discussion in chapter 8 over the Septuagint available to the New Testament authors, Law next takes a more in depth look at some specific citations found in the NT as well as the method and manner in which they are used by the NT authors. Beginning with the Gospels and Acts, Law provides several examples of OT quotations that demonstrate dependence on the Septuagint text or a Septuagint revision.  Indeed Law concludes that “most if not all of the citations in the New Testament are not in any way strictly dependent on the Hebrew,” (115).

There area several instances in which the Septuagint translation emphasizes a different theological point than the Hebrew text. Although it is impossible to know for sure whether an author intentionally chose one text over the other, Law suggests the Greek translation was often more favorable to the NT authors theological emphases. One such example is Luke’s use of the Septuagint text of Amos 9:11-12 in Acts 15:16-18.

“In the context of the Hebrew version, the prophecy is centered on the benefit to the people of Israel: the people are to inherit the remnant of Edom and all the other nations. In the Septuagint, the focus has shifted, and the Gentiles are seeking out the Lord, which becomes very useful in Luke’s hands since he wants to legitimize the Gentile mission,” (104).

Law then moves on to Paul who “most often, perhaps always, preferred the Greek” when quoting the OT as “Paul finds the Greek forms of scripture more suitable for his intention to announce God’s message to the Gentiles,” (105). On more than one occasion it appears that the Septuagint reading of a text is crucial to Paul’s argument. After spending some time on Paul, Law briefly looks at the Septuagint in the remaining NT books, the most interesting example coming from Revelation (2:26-27, 12:5, and 19:15) in which the author quotes the Septuagint text of Psalm 2:9 “where the Greek translator has misunderstood the Hebrew verb or read a different Hebrew text,” (114). As Law points out,

“This example is particularly important since it contains an obviously erroneous reading of an Old Testament passage that was left uncorrected by the New Testament writer,” (115).

That’s definitely something to chew on for a while. Chapter 9 ends with a brief discussion on why the use of the Septuagint in the NT is important. Law concludes,

“It would be worth the modern reader’s time to ponder the significance of the New Testament author’s use of the Septuagint, to consider what theological emphases would not have been possible if the authors were using the Hebrew Bible alone,” (116).

I agree… and I am pondering.  Would the New Testament be any different if the authors had not had the Septuagint as a source?

My only issue with this chapter was the lack of Greek and Hebrew text.  Law provides several examples in which the NT reflects the Septuagint Greek over the Hebrew MT and yet he only provides English translations for comparison.  While this is a non-issue for many reading on the popular level, Greek and Hebrew readers will likely find this frustrating.

Chapter 10, The New Old Testament

In chapter 10 Law describes the development of the New Old Testament noting that the early Christian “Bible” was not a fixed collection of books as we now have it, but rather “a loose collection of texts” (117). When early Christians who viewed themselves as the “New Israel” soon realized the Greek Jewish texts they were using were different from the Hebrew scriptures used by their Jewish contemporaries, the problem was easily resolved. It was obvious to most early Christians that as the New Israel, God had provided a new word in the form of the Septuagint.

“Most early Christian scholars… argued or at least assumed that the Greek Septuagint was the new word of God for the church, a divinely inspired text that God had delivered for the sake of bringing the message of Christianity to the world…” (118).

How did this new word become the New Old Testament?  The process of delineating a fixed set of books came about for practical reasons. In addition to the invention of the codex (or book), the church gave priority to some books over others based on apologetic reasons. Early Christians were concerned with settling disputes with Jews as well as pointing to messianic prophecies in the Greek Jewish scriptures.  Law makes an important distinction here between “canon” and “scripture”:

“Scripture signifies only an ‘authoritative writing in a religious community.’ Canon, on the other hand, is a catalog, a list of scriptural writings. To put it simply: there can be no canon without scripture, but scripture can exist without a canon,” (121).

Thus we shouldn’t automatically assume that if a text was not included within a canon that it was not considered to be scripture. The process of canonization would continue for several centuries during which different groups and the early theologians would advocate for different sets of books, including those that now make up the Apocrypha.  These books eventually fell out of favor among the western church and Law ultimately pits the fault with Jerome who is discussed in more detail in chapter 13.

Some Final Thoughts

When God Spoke Greek is an easy and enjoyable read. Law’s passion and proficiency are evident as he skillfully narrates the rich history behind the Septuagint and the complex text we now call the Bible. He provides definitions and clarifications on terms when needed which is sure to be appreciated by those new to the Septuagint and/or biblical studies, as well as those already aware of the complexities involved in discussing the Septuagint… I mean the LXX… I mean the Old Greek… and so on.

Law addresses the common misconceptions many of us have or have had at one point in our reading of the Bible.  Moreover, this book offers a thoughtful correction to the western church’s centuries of neglect of the Septuagint, a correction that is sorely needed.

I appreciated Law’s use of the feminine pronoun instead of the usual masculine pronoun when discussing hypothetical or generic persons, such as here in the beginning of chapter 4:

“In biblical translation, for example, the richness of Hebrew poetry cannot be communicated in ancient Greek or in modern English, so even when the meaning may not be too different, if at all, the color and depth usually is. Inevitably, however, the translator will be faced with an obscure expression in the source language; assuming she understands it she may nonetheless find no acceptable counterpart in her language,” (33).

I rarely see the use of feminine pronouns by male authors; it was a refreshing change. If you are familiar with me and/or my blog you know that language and gender are two of my favorite topics so I couldn’t not mention this minor detail.

I think the greatest benefit of this book is the questions that it provokes its readers to ask. What does it mean for us today that the Septuagint was seen by many in the early church as inspired? What does it mean for Paul to have ‘misinterpreted’ an Old Testament passage, whether intentionally or unintentionally? If the NT authors were reading some of the apocryphal books, which in turn played some role in shaping their theology, why aren’t we reading these texts as well? Why is finding the so-called ‘original text’ such a priority for many of us today if it was not a priority for the NT authors (86)?

For those interested in learning more about the Christian Bible When God Spoke Greek is a great place to start. It would also be a great accompaniment to a more thorough introduction for students of biblical studies.

A huge thank you to Brian LePort at Near Emmaus for organizing this blog tour. Thank you again to Oxford University Press for the review copy. Here are the links to the other blogs in the tour:

JOEL WATTS (Sunday, July 21st, http://unsettledchristianity.com/)
1 Why this Book?
2 When the World Became Greek

ANDREW KING (Tuesday, July 23rd, http://blogofthetwelve.wordpress.com/)
3 Was There a Bible before the Bible?
4 The First Bible Translators

KRISTA DALTON (Thursday, July 25th, http://kristadalton.com/blog/)
5 Gog and his Not-so-Merry Grasshoppers
6 Bird Droppings, Stoned Elephants, and Exploding Dragons

ABRAM K-J (Saturday, July 27th, http://abramkj.com/)
7 E Pluribus Unum
8 The Septuagint behind the New Testament

Coming soon…

AMANDA MacINNIS (Wednesday, July 31st, http://cheesewearingtheology.com/)
11 God’s Word for the Church
12 The Man of Steel and the Man who Worshipped the Sun

JAMES McGRATH (Friday, August 2nd, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/)
13 The Man with the Burning Hand vs. the Man with the Honeyed Sword
14 A Postscript

Why You Need the Septuagint

This is a great post from Abram K-J on the benefits of knowing and studying the Septuagint. He provides 10 reasons why we should know the Septuagint, my favorite being reason number three:

“It connects us to the broad sweep of history in the Church. This was not only the Bible of the New Testament writers (in many though not all instances); it was the Bible of the Greek-speaking early church.”

There are two classes from my graduate studies that radically transformed the way I thought about the Bible. The first was general linguistics which has, and continues, to shape my understanding of how and why language(s) work. The second class was a Greek reading class and introduction to the Septuagint that I took last fall. I had some knowledge about the Septuagint from my undergraduate studies, having read Jobes and Silva and done a little bit of translation work in Deuteronomy for another Greek reading class. But it was in this Septuagint class last fall that I really fell in love with the LXX.

I look forward to sharing more on Monday when I post my 2-chapter review of T. Michael Law’s ‘When God Spoke Greek’ as a part of the blog tour.

Words on the Word

It’s not uncommon for people to ask: why the Septuagint? (That comes right after: What is it?)  Why bother with the Greek Septuagint when we have the Old Testament in Hebrew, in which it was first written? English translations of the Bible in most churches use the Hebrew text as a base, anyway.

Before giving my top 10 reasons why, here are a couple ways to access the Septuagint (often abbreviated LXX after the tradition of the 70(+2) who were said to have translated it). This site has the whole Septuagint in Greek with an English translation. And here‘s a good, up-to-date English translation of the whole thing. (For hard copies, the standard complete Greek text is the Rahlfs Septuagint, and a recent English translation is the NETS.)

Here are 10 good reasons to pay attention to the Septuagint:

10. It helps us read Scripture in…

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Faith and Hope…

“Faith is the settled, unwavering trust in the one true God whom we have come to know in Jesus Christ. When we see him face to face we shall not abandon that trust, but deepen it. Hope is the settled, unwavering confidence that this God will not leave us or forsake us, but will always have more in store for us than we could ask or think.”
– N.T. Wright, After You Believe

(Re-posted from N.T. Wright Facebook Page)

LXX Susanna, Part 3: One Story, Two Heroes…

One last snippet from my Susanna paper to share which highlights the different endings of the two traditions:

As the story reaches its end, Daniel successfully reveals the truth about what transpired between Susanna and the two elders.  And as Daniel proclaims the punishment that awaits the elders, the assembly lauds the triumphant hero.  But who is the hero in this story?  The OG ending focuses on Daniel and the wisdom of youths.  Daniel’s referring expression is changed in verse 60 to τῷ νεωτέρῳ, the young man, highlighting the fact that he is young in contrast to the elders who are presumably older.  It is Daniel who is the hero in the OG version.  Susanna θ’, on the other hand, ends with a different hero in mind.

Verse 60 reads:

καὶ ἀνεβόησε πᾶσα ἡ συναγωγὴ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ καὶ εὐλόγησαν τῷ θεῷ 
τῷ σῴζοντι τοὺς ἐλπίζοντας ἐπʼ αὐτόν.

And all the assembly cried out with a loud voice and they blessed God, who saves those who hope in him.

One again we are provided with additional information that constrains the way we as readers view God, this time from the narrator’s perspective.  The focus is now on God who save those who hope in him.  For the author/translator of Susanna θ’, God is the hero of the story.  It is God who knows what is hidden; it is God who sends a wise judge to reveal the wickedness of the unrighteous judges; it is God who saves those who hope in him.

Finally, compare the epilogues of each version:

62a Because of this, young men are beloved by Jacob because of their sincerity.  62b And as for us, let us watch out for young able sons.  For young men will live piously, and a spirit of knowledge and understanding will be in them forever and ever. (OG)

63 Chelkios and his wife praised God for their daughter, along with Joakim her husband and all her relatives, because no shameful deed was found in her.  
64 And Daniel became great among the people from that day onward. (θ’)

Each discourse ends with a different focus: the Theodotion text focuses on the vindication of Susanna, which not only meant that she was spared from shame but the whole family was spared from shame.  Susanna’s parents are reactivated along with Joakim and the rest of the family, by means of anchoring expressions to link them to Susanna.  The Old Greek, on the other hand, ends with a focus on the blessing of wise young men.  The OG ending seems much more characteristic of a fable, relaying the moral of the story: the world needs more young men like Daniel.

 

Peter Conference: Edinburgh 2013

My Greek prof, Dr. Will Rutherford, presented a paper at the recent Peter Conference in Edinburgh. His paper was titled ‘On the Trail of the Scribal Peter: Apostolic Authority and the Production of Jewish/Christian Difference in Peter’s Preaching’.

If you’ve ever had the privilege of hearing him present (he presented a paper at last year’s SBL in the early Jewish-Christian relations section) you’ll know that not only is he a great scholar, he is a master craftsman when it comes to Power Point. His work and his presentations always exhibit excellence and serve as a great model to those he teaches. I’m extremely proud to have been one of his students!

Larry Hurtado's Blog

The conference on the Apostle Peter sponsored by our Centre for the Study of Christian Origins (Univ of Edinburgh) was held here 4-6 July, and I think we were all very pleased with it.  We had ca. 70 registered, 21 presentations, lots of informed and lively discussions, and a tasty conference banquet and an available bar-service (!).  My colleague, Dr. Helen Bond and I will now try to organize a selection of presentations for publication in due course.  From the quality of the presentations it will be difficult to omit any!

My own presentation kicked off the event with a brief discussion of three major treatments of Peter by Protestant New Testament scholars,  Oscar Cullmann, Martin Hengel and Markus Bockmuehl, spanning several decades. I tried to explore briefly the circumstances in which they wrote and their respective emphases.

Cullmann was deeply concerned with promoting Christian ecumenical efforts in the post-World…

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LXX Susanna, Part 2: Susanna’s Voice And The God Who Knows…

Continuing on with a look at characterization and participant reference in Susanna, here’s another excerpt from my paper (apologies for the lack-luster intro):

In the additional introduction of Susanna θ’, God is initially introduced as κύριος whom Susanna feared.  As noted above, Susanna’s parents instructed her according to the law of Moses which would clarify κύριος as the God of Israel.  If we assume a Hebrew Vorlage*, perhaps we can read κύριος in place of the divine name, as is common throughout the Septuagint, and thus κύριος is likely the preferred referential device for God.

Overspecification** is used in referring to God twice and both occurrences function as thematic highlighting devices and constrain the reader to view God in a particular way.  This first instance of overspecification occurs in a prayer spoke by Susanna which is placed a different points in the discourse in each text.  In the OG text the prayer is placed after the elders place their hands upon her head but prior to their testimony about her sexual encounter with the young man.  In the Theodotion text the prayer is placed after the testimony of the elders as Susanna cries out in a loud voice.  In the OG text Susanna instead prays to herself.

Verses 42 through 44 of Susanna θ’ read:

42 ἀνεβόησε δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ Σουσάννα καὶ εἶπεν Ὁ θεὸς ὁ αἰώνιος ὁ τῶν κρυπτῶν γνώστης ὁ εἰδὼς τὰ πάντα πρὶν γενέσεως αὐτῶν, 43 σὺ ἐπίστασαι ὅτι ψευδῆ μου κατεμαρτύρησαν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἀποθνῄσκω μὴ ποιήσασα μηδὲν ὧν οὗτοι ἐπονηρεύσαντο κατʼ ἐμοῦ.  44 Καὶ εἰσήκουσε κύριος τῆς φωνῆς αὐτῆς.

42 But Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, “O eternal God, who knows that which is hidden*** and who is aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that they have testified falsely against me.  See I am about to die though I have done none of these things which these men maliciously intended to do against me.”  44 And the Lord heeded her cry.

The fact that Susanna cried out with a loud voice (ἀνεβόησε δὲ φωνῇ μεγάλῃ) in the Theodotion text instead of praying to herself highlights her more active role in the story.  She does not remain silent, but rather declares her innocence and demonstrates her righteousness by trusting in the Lord.  Through the mouth of Susanna, the reader is given more information than necessary about God.  This information is not necessary to identify which god she is referring to as we already know that Susanna worships the God of Israel and thus this functions to highlight the theme of hidden things being revealed.

This theme is one of the most prominent themes through the story of Susanna: the elders are hidden in the garden during Susanna’s bath (only in Susanna θ’), the elders lust for Susanna is initially hidden from one another, and Susanna is uncovered before the crowd and thus what was once hidden is exposed.  From Susanna’s perspective, the Lord she fears is God who knows all that is hidden, i.e. the truth about what happened in her husband’s garden.  This information also serves to foreshadow what is to come, namely the revealing of the truth which the elders have kept hidden.  And so the Lord sends forth the wise young man Daniel to uncover that which is hidden.  Daniel is the final participant to be introduced into the narrative, initially introduced as a young boy whose holy spirit (τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον) is stirred up by God.

*Side note: I’ve not done extensive research on this particular topic and opinions are mixed as to whether Susanna was originally written in Hebrew or Greek.

**Overspecification: The description of individuals or ideas that is more specific than required to identify the intended referent. – Steve Runge

***The phrase “that which is hidden” is not present in the OG text.

LXX Susanna, Part 1: Getting To Know All About You…

Last fall my Greek professor courageously led our class through the topic and texts of the Septuagint.  For my term paper I decided to write on the two texts of Susanna, an apocryphal addition to the book of Daniel.  The text has survived in two different textual traditions, the Old Greek (OG) version and the Theodotion (θ’) version.  I was initially inspired by Kristin de Troyer’s article in A Feminist Companion to Reading the Bible: Approaches, Methods, and Strategies titled Septuagint and Gender Studies: The Very Beginning of a Promising Liaison in which she looks at some of the differences between the Esther texts (in the ways they portray the characters) while asking gender-specific questions.  I decided to look at the story of Susanna since it was a text that was essentially new to me, it has a female protagonist, and it is a text with two distinct traditions.  Here’s a quick summary from my paper for those of you who are new to Susanna’s story:

   While there are substantial differences between Susanna OG and Susanna θ’, the basic premise of the story remains the same.  There is a man, Joakim, living in Babylon with his wife, Susanna.  Susanna is very beautiful and enjoys taking long walks in her husband’s garden.  The story’s antagonists are two elders, who are also judges, meant to govern the people.  They quickly prove to be lawless men as they become enthralled with the beautiful Susanna with the hopes of gratifying their mutual lust.  The two elders approach Susanna, but she refuses them.  The elders then bring her to court with accusations of adultery with a fictional young man; the crowd believes the elders and Susanna is condemned to death.  So Susanna prays to God and he intervenes.  Now enters our hero: the young man, Daniel.  Daniel accuses the people of an unfair trial and declares that he will interrogate the two elders individually.  Daniel’s wisdom is demonstrated in his ability to establish the two elders as liars by their own admission and the story ends with Susanna’s life being spared and the two elders being utterly destroyed.

Susanna and the Two Elders

Susanna and the Two Elders

For my paper, I set out to apply a discourse-functional approach to participant reference (see Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the New Testament and dissertation) in the double-text of Susanna.  As noted above, there are some interesting differences between the two texts, especially in how Susanna is portrayed.

Here’s another excerpt from my paper on the characterization of Susanna:

The way in which a participant is initially (re-)introduced to a discourse serves as our mental representation of that participant until we are constrained to see her or him in a different way.  Some of the major participants are not named but rather are identified by an epithet or anchoring expression, while there are two minor participants that are named but remain flat characters throughout the narrative.  In Susanna θ’, the protagonist Susanna is initially introduced as Joakim’s wife.  She is referred to by name, her default and unmarked referring expression, nine times throughout the narrative.  The Septuagint’s introduction of Susanna is considerably shorter.  Some scholars argue that the first five verses have been lost, while others read “περὶ ὧν ἐλάλησεν ὁ δεσπότης” (Concerning that which the Lord said…) as an acceptable introductory statement or heading.

The text as we have it provides us with less information about Joakim as he is mentioned merely in passing and almost always in relation to Susanna; she is his wife and he is her husband (v7).  Although more information is given concerning Joakim in Susanna θ’ (he is wealthy and well-liked by the people), he functions as a plot device in both texts and thus we understand him to be a minor character.  Both texts introduce a garden that belongs to Joakim and when the elders would watch Susanna, she would be walking ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς, in the garden of her husband (v7).  Thus the author/translator signals to  the reader to keep in mind Susanna and Joakim’s relationship as husband and wife as the reader learns of the two elders lust for this married woman.  The reader soon learns that the elders attempt to force themselves on Susanna within her husband’s own domain (v19).

Additional information about Susanna is provided with her introduction to the story, namely, that she is a very beautiful woman (καλή σφόδρα) (v2).  As we noted earlier, it is atypical that a biblical character receive such a detailed physical description.  The fact that Susanna is very beautiful is important to the plot of the story and this important information is reiterated later on in verse 31 as Susanna’s speedy trial is about to begin.  In her introduction, Susanna is also referred to as one who feared the Lord (φοβουμένη τὸν κύριον) (v2) as her parents instructed her according to the law of Moses (κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωυσῆ) (v3).  This information is not necessary to identify Susanna from other possible referents, rather it is additional information that tells us something more about Susanna.  This piece of information is important to the development of the plot as Susanna’s character serves as a foil to the lawless elders who are eventually prosecuted and punished κατὰ τὸν νόμον Μωυσῆ (v62).

I will follow up with two more posts with additional excerpts from my paper. I am always look for feedback and I am thankful for opportunities to learn so please feel free to comment, correct, etc.  Many thanks to Steve who was a big help to me via Twitter during my paper-writing frenzy.

Three Things About Grace…

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“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” Lk 15.20 (NIV)

There are at least three things we should catch on to in light of the father’s interaction with the younger son in The Parable of the Father and His Two Sons (Luke 15.11-32):

Grace takes the initiative.  The father takes the initiative running out to his son and embracing him.  Notice that the father doesn’t wait to hear whatever it is the son has to say, instead he rushes out because he has found his son who was lost.  This is radical!  What does our culture teach us about reconciliation?  Usually, we expect the offender to seek reconciliation and make amends.  Jesus turns our expectations on our head and shows us that God–the one who was offended–seeks reconciliation.  This is the heart of God–for “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners [while we were still a long way off], Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).  God doesn’t require a transformation before we are reconciled to him, rather it is our reconciliation with God that starts the process of transformation.  It is reconciliation with God that brings us from death to life!

Grace is costly.  Forgiveness has its price–but it is the one who forgives, not the one being forgiven that must pay the price.  The father forgives the son at the cost of his honor and reputation so that they might be reconciled.  Likewise, God’s grace toward us is costly.  As Tim Keller says, “Salvation is absolutely free for us, but it’s unbelievably costly for him.”  At the cost of his honor, reputation, and even his life, God became a crucified-Christ “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness,” (1Cor. 1:22).  For again, “…God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).

Grace is restorative.  The father goes beyond what is expected of him because he desires reconciliation over penance (that is, some hardship or penalty in order to compensate for wrongdoing).  The father restores the son to his proper place in the family; he does not accept anything less than right relationship with his son.  He is clothed, he is fed, and he is celebrated.  Likewise, God’s grace is restorative, moving beyond the forgiveness of sins towards reconciliation.  For we too “once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Eph. 2:3-6).  The son who was lost was dead, but now that he is found the son is alive.  He has, in a sense, been resurrected from the dead!  We, too, are no longer dead but alive in Christ–through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection we are restored to our place as daughters and sons of God.  And we look forward to our future bodily resurrection in which our restoration finds its ultimate fulfillment.

As we strive to be the hands and feet of Christ our Lord in this world, and to live as people who walk in the freedom and power of the Spirit, let us take the initiative that grace necessitates, let us bear the cost the grace requires, and let us seek the restoration that grace demands.

Is Gender A Part of Being Created Imago Dei?

As I was preparing to present an argument for Egalitarianism at my church’s Elephant in the Room series (last night’s topic was gender roles in the Church and home), I came across this quote from N.T. Wright’s paper Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis from CBE’s conference in 2004:

Many people have said, and I have often enough said it myself, that the creation of man and woman in their two genders is a vital part of what it means that humans are created in God’s image. I now regard that as a mistake. After all, not only the animal kingdom, as noted in Genesis itself, but also the plant kingdom, as noted by the reference to seed, have their male and female. The two-gender factor is not at all specific to human beings, but runs right through a fair amount of the rest of creation. This doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, indeed it means if anything it’s all the more important; being male and being female, and working out what that means, is something most of creation is called to do and be, and unless we are to collapse into a kind of gnosticism, where the way things are in creation is regarded as secondary and shabby over against what we are now to do with it, we have to recognise, respect and respond to this call of God to live in the world he has made and as the people he has made us. It’s just that we can’t use the argument that being male-plus-female is somehow what being God’s imagebearers actually means.

Now, I had read this paper before but somehow I missed this point.  It really stuck out to me when reading over it again this past weekend.  So, what do you think?  Does Genesis 1:28 demonstrate that male and female are part of what it means to be created in the image of God?  Or is Wright right (ha!) in his observation that (from this passage at least) one cannot argue that maleness and femaleness are specifically unique for God’s imagebearers?

Further along in his paper, Wright states:

When humans are renewed in the Messiah and raised from the dead, they will be set in authority over the angels (6.3). In worship, the church anticipates how things are going to be in that new day. When a woman is praying or prophesying (perhaps in the language of angels, as in 13.1), she needs to be truly what she is, since it is to male and female alike, in their mutual interdependence as God’s image-bearing creatures, that the world, including the angels, is to be subject. God’s creation needs humans to be fully, gloriously and truly human, which means fully and truly male and female. This, and of course much else besides, is to be glimpsed in worship.

This is something I am still working through as I attempt to solidify my understanding of gender roles.  While I agree that men and women are different, and that being female is different from being male, I also recognize that some women are different from other women, and some men are different from other men.  This is in large part because of my own personal experience.  Surprise, surprise, I do not always easily identify with what is typically characterized as ‘Biblical womanhood’.  Nothing aggravates me more than being told that men want most to be respected and honored while women want most to be loved and cherished.  I, along with Aretha Franklin, heartily disagree.  And isn’t Don Draper’s big life question “Am I loved?”  It’s frustrating to be told women are more emotional (with the implication that this is a weakness) and social than men while men are more goal-oriented.  Have you ever met a female introvert? We aren’t really that social. I also know lots of women that are goal-oriented and very good at achieving said goals. Sorry to burst your stereo-typical gender bubble!

I think qualities like bravery and the desire to protect are not masculine traits, nor is nurturing a feminine trait.  They are human traits that humans naturally have to a varying degree, both male and female, and that all Spirit-filled people should work to develop in themselves as the Spirit works in them.

What do you think?

Here’s a video with highlights from Wright’s lecture: