Book Review: The Fall of Patriarchy -- By: David M. Scholer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 21:2 (Spring 2007)
Article: Book Review: The Fall of Patriarchy
Author: David M. Scholer

Book Review: The Fall of Patriarchy

Del Birkey

(Fenestra Books, 2005)

Reviewed by

David M. Scholer

DAVID M. SCHOLER is Professor of New Testament and Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Dr. Scholer has been a member of Christians for Biblical Equality for about thirty years and has devoted much of his scholarship and teaching to the issues of biblical equality for women in ministry.

Del Birkey, an independent scholar and author of The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1988), has written a passionate, wide-ranging, and interesting book on the harmful power of patriarchy and its critique by Jesus and the apostles, representing the biblical truth of gender equality. Birkey published an article on patriarchy in the Spring 2000 issue of Priscilla Papers, which he says was the beginning of his work on this topic.

Birkey carries out his task in eight chapters. The first three analyze the origins and nature of patriarchy as a “fallen worldview.” Chapter 4 focuses on Jesus (and other elements of the New Testament); chapter 5 gives attention to Paul. The sixth chapter discusses the church fathers’ solidification of an ecclesiastical patriarchy, which overpowered the biblical teachings of gender equality. Chapter 7 discusses what Birkey calls the “fourth temptation”: the desire for men to use “forbidden authority… in leadership among God’s people and in our marriages” (p. 225). The last chapter is a strong denunciation of what Birkey names Christian patriarchy and its harmful effects on the church and its mission.

The book concludes with three appendices (six views on patriarchy and the Bible, summaries of five evangelical authors who have various differences on the issues, and a summary of the current state of house church studies—a major interest of Birkey, which appears frequently in the book), extensive notes, and an index.

It is impossible in one brief review to comment on all aspects of Birkey’s book, especially since his study is so wide-ranging, and perhaps not even always clear in its organization of data. This review will focus primarily on the chapters devoted to Jesus and Paul.

Chapter 4, “Christ against the Patriarchy,” focuses briefly on Jesus’ critique of the (patriarchal) power and authority of religious leaders, and then pursues extensively how, as Birkey describes it, “The House Structure of the New Testament Churches Provided the Effective Milieu for Gender Equalization in Christ” (p. 73). The attention to the teachings of Jesus which bear on the issues of patriarchy is too scant. Passages in the Gospels in which Jesus d...

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