This was waiting for me when I came home today, after week of being away… And I couldn’t have been happier to see it. As a matter of fact, I kissed the cover. Sorry, but Kenneth Bailey is an awesome author and I cannot wait to to read this book! (A lot better than those other Baileys – Scott and Jeremiah)
Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, steeped in the learning of his people. But he was also a Roman citizen who widely traveled the Mediterranean basin, and was very knowledgeable of the dominant Greek and Roman culture of his day. These two mighty rivers of influence converge in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. With razor-sharp attention to the text, Kenneth Bailey examines the cultural milieu and rhetorical strategies that shaped this pivotal epistle. He discovers the deep layers of the Hebraic prophetic tradition informing Paul’s writing, linking the Apostle with the great prophets of the Old Testament. Throughout, Bailey employs his expert knowledge of Near Eastern and Mediterranean culture to deliver to readers a new understanding of Paul and his world. Familiar passages take on a new hue as they are stripped of standard Western interpretations and rendered back into their ancient setting.
Beyond me – at this point – but I would encourage you to join the conversation.
All the major commentaries on 2 Corinthians suggest a sequence of events in Paul’s interactions with that church. If you can see an aspect in which a published sequence is more convincing than mine, please explain it in the comments. I will then send you a free 2 Corinthians commentary of your choice if yours is the best (or only) comment!
1st Timothy 2.19-15 has been explained a variety of ways, from the extreme to the ‘Paul obviously didn’t write this’. For those of us who believe that he did, and can see that this passage stands in opposition to other passages which indicate equality for women, we are left with either a contradiction or a twist. What exactly did Paul mean as he wrote that to Timothy, especially given his previous statements about women?
For the second time in as many weeks, Daniel Kirk has incited the biblioblogosphere –
But we need to say more about this passage as well. Because not only does the ancient church serve as a living counter-point to this passage of scripture, almost every modern-day church does as well—even those who cling to the prohibition of women teaching on the basis of a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant word of God. To see how this is so, let’s broaden our vision to the other commands contained in this paragraph.
Many times, people focus on Phoebe (Romans 16.1) as an example of the woman’s role in primitive Christianity – but what about Chloe?
For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. (1Co 1:11 NKJ)
We know several things about the background of 1st Corinthians, the first and foremost, that the local church was undergoing factionalism. At this time, local congregations did not meet in a large assembly hall, but in homes, perhaps many homes, throughout the city. Further, we know that women were rarely given the same social standing as men.
Who was Chloe to the Church at Corinth? William Ramsey (Historical Commentary on 1st Corinthians) notes that most likely, considering the weight that Paul placed on her representative’s testimony, she was an outsider to the local squabbles in the congregation. This is plausible considering that Paul did not take sides in the letter, but sought to bring both back to the one foundation. Had he adopted one side over the other, it would have muted his voice. Paul goes so far as to figuratively place himself and Apollos at the head of the divisions so as to not single out the true instigators of the troubles (1st Cor. 4.6). This has to add weight to the mention of Chloe’s name as the instigator of the the letter. Further, as Calvin (on his commentary) points out, Paul didn’t mention ‘some of the household’ of Chloe had reported these things to him, but all those of the household. It would be absurd to believe that Paul hid the culprits of the report behind the head of the household and those who brought what could have been a condemnation from Corinth on the entire household.
What made up a household in Roman times? According to Florence Dupontv (Daily Life in Ancient Rome), the household was made up of more than just the immediate family and hangers on, but slaves, freedmen and women, including aunts, uncles, cousins, and ex-in-laws. Families to the Romans were more about alliances and contacts than our notion of Traditional Marriage. Considering the Roman rules on marriage, bloodlines, and property ownership, it is difficult to see Chloe, as mentioned here, as anything but the head of the house – whether by widowhood or not. Normally, a woman would be considered as a part, or perhaps apart, from her husband’s household, owing more to the male ownership of women and a tool to carry on the bloodline or to forge alliances than to an actual marriage of love. If it is Chloe’s house, it is the exception to the rule; if it was another’s house, such as Chloe’s husband, son, or brother, then they would have been mentioned. The weight of evidence suggests nothing more than this was her house, and she was the head of it.
So, who exactly is Chloe? First, she is the exception to the rule in ancient Roman Society. Secondly, she is not an exception to the rule in Pauline thought. As we have mentioned Phoebe who was a deaconess in the early Church, we’ll move to three other highlights in Paul’s doctrine:
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow Jews, who were in prison with me. They are highly respected among the apostles and became followers of Christ before I did. (Rom 16:7 NLT)
Give my greetings to Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in the ministry of Christ Jesus. (Rom 16:3 NLT)
There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28 NLT)
First, here, Junia is a feminine name, and Paul counted her among the Apostles (note, the term ‘apostle’ means a wide range of people. Only later did it come to fully stand for the Twelve.) Second, it was against custom to present the name of the wife before the name of her husband. Third, as we will cover later, those in Christ did not operate in the same social structure as those in the world around them. For in Christ, there was no respect of a person based on their style and manner of their birth.
Paul displays the characteristics of someone who was highborn – he was the product of a marital union which netted him Roman citizenship – and a Pharisee. He was a member of the ruling class in ancient Palestine, and indeed, for much of the world due to his Roman citizenship. he was well-educated, and no doubt connected. Yet, for Paul, after Christ, he became no one. While we find that Paul does respect roles for men and women (some would dispute the letters in which this is showcased) he is careful, I believe, to keep them equal as humans, and further, to remind us that the social structure of the outside world is not the social structure of the Church.
It is possible that Chloe was indeed head of the household; however, since not only did she send out messengers to report to Paul, was she something more than the head of a household, an anomaly in and of itself in ancient Rome. Returning to the point that her name was mentioned, she had to have served in a more secure position than a simple ‘pew filler.’