Woman’s Role In New Testament Household Codes: Transforming First-Century Roman Culture -- By: Shi-Min Lu

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 30:1 (Winter 2016)
Article: Woman’s Role In New Testament Household Codes: Transforming First-Century Roman Culture
Author: Shi-Min Lu


Woman’s Role In New Testament Household Codes: Transforming First-Century Roman Culture

Shi-Min Lu

Shi-Min Lu is a PhD student of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. Her research focuses on the ecclesial integration of Confucian familism, the core value of Chinese culture that has many implications for the Chinese church. This article was co-winner of the student paper competition at CBE’s 2015 conference in Los Angeles.

Dismayed and confused by constant concerns about safety for girls and exclusion of women from church leadership, Faith Martin began a journey searching for theological developments regarding such demeaning views of women.1 Other studies of women in the church, such as Ruth Tucker and Walter Liefeld’s Daughters of the Church, reveal a consistent disparagement of women since the third century.2 Interpretations of NT household codes favoring male authority have often been cited to support such practices. These interpretations bear two kinds of illusions. One implies that church membership is predominantly male. The more serious concern is that presumptions of superiority and inferiority contradict the gospel message of love and grace, the good news of setting the oppressed free. Therefore, a proper theological hermeneutic of the NT household codes demands the inclusion of cultural dimensions.

Scholarship over the last few decades has offered abundant insights into the Greco-Roman world. Research has revealed that male-dominated household management had its origins in Greek philosophy, was adapted by the Romans, and influenced the household codes in a few NT epistles. Archaeological studies piece together an image of ancient social life further illuminating the cultural context of the Christian church in its germination. For understanding the NT household codes, these findings offer social, in addition to theological, perspectives.

David Balch offers convincing evidence that the rules regarding household management can be traced to Aristotle’s Politics over 300 years before the church.3 The rule of household management stems from Aristotle’s concept regarding harmony in the city-state. Harmony in the family, the basic unit of the city-state, sustains harmony for the city-state. Harmony among the members of a family is crucial for the stability of the city-state. But for Aristotle, this harmony is achieved at the cost of slavery and female subjugation. Following Jesus’s ministry of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and letting the oppressed go free (You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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