Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!
Richard Davidson’s Moderate Egalitarianism
I’ve still been working my way through Richard Davidson’s mammoth study of sexuality in the Old Testament, Flame of Yahweh. The book is magisterial; there are not enough superlatives for it in my reading so far. His arguments are well thought out and he deals with the other side in great depth both in the text’s body and in footnotes. Davidson’s ultimate position is summed up about halfway through the book:
Jesus and NT writers began the task of cutting through all the then-current dualistic misogynist interpretations of the OT and the denigration of women, and ancient Jewish sources and practices likewise reveal a trend toward a higher view of women. It remains for the church and the synagogue to complete this task of restoration back to Eden. Divine grace is available to restore the home to the original egalitarian model, while allowing for servant leadership of the husband as may be temporarily necessary along the way to preserve unity and harmony in the family; divine grace will empower the covenant community to utilize and officially recognize the Spirit-endowed leadership gifts of women in the church and synagogue. May the day of complete restoration come soon. (295, cited below)
Davidson’s position is effectively the same as the egalitarian one until you read the middle section in which he advocates that the “servant leadership of the husband” could be a temporary necessity. His position, as argued earlier in the book, is that God mandated this kind of leadership post-fall because of the need for having leadership in the home now that sin has split it. However, even in this case he advocates working towards the Edenic ideal of a truly egalitarian marriage.
Such a position demonstrates, I think, the inadequacy of the current definitions of the egalitarian/complementarian debate. Because we have reduced it down to just two positions, some people who walk the line between the two don’t find a solid fit in either camp. I would characterize Davidson as an egalitarian, particularly due to his advocacy of working towards egalitarian marriage despite his view that a male-headship model of marriage might be a temporary necessity. Yet I wonder if we need to re-categorize the debate in order to more accurately allow for middle positions.
I’ve been greatly enjoying Davidson’s monumental work, Flame of Yahweh, and recommend it to you, dear readers.
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Richard M. Davidson, Flame of Yahweh (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007).
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
I consider myself an egalitarian, though my stance is that the husband has the casting vote but is obliged to cast it always in favour of the wife. I guess that might qualify as a middle position, though on all relevant questions (eg should women preach/teach?) I side with the egalitarians.
I’m curious as to what you mean by “has the casting vote.” I’m not saying that to challenge you–rather I just am not sure what you mean.
Thanks for the question. What I meant was that in the event of a disagreement that seems insoluble the husband gets to decide but Christlike headship means he must always decide in favour of the wife. So Christlike male headship looks, from the wordly perspective, exactly like female headship.
But I am not committed to this. The alternative for me is just straight egalitarianism. My point is kind of an ironic subversion of anti-egalitarianism. So I am saying, “OK let’s read the text the way you like, if headship is to be Christlike it must entail putting one’s wife before oneself, so your reading would establish not that the husband has the right to rule his wife but rather that he ought to take the lead in submitting to her.”
I’ve been reading your articles on your site for more than a year now, even though I’ve never commented before, mostly the articles on Atheism and I particularly enjoy your debates with Atheists.
I have one question that has been bothering me about Jesus and capital punishment. You seem like the perfect person to ask this question because of your logic skills and understanding of the Bible.
In Mark 7:10 Jesus condemns the Pharisees for not killing their children who disobeys God. I’ve looked at this verse, the preceding one and the one after. It just does not make sense to me. Why would Jesus oppose a brutal capital punishment for adultery but support the killing of children by their parents.
The closest thing I could come up with that even remotely attributes some sense of sanity to the verse is that Jesus was engaging in a tu quoque with the Pharisees to remind them of their hypocrisy and the impossibility of practicing every law of Moses. Am I grasping at straws or should I just accept the verse at face value? ie. Jesus supported the irrational killing of children.
Please, this is a sincere enquiry.
Thanks for commenting- even if it is fairly unrelated!
In Mark, Jesus often used hyperbole to make a point–indeed he does so in all the Gospels. I think this could be seen as one of the instances of Jesus using hyperbole to make a point. Craig Keener in the IVP Bible Background commentary (1993 edition, p. 153) notes that the comment is tied back into the issue of consecrated sacrifices and so Jesus is pointing out the inconsistency in applying the letter of the law but ignoring the spirit of the law. Thus, it seems to me that Jesus was putting the two inconsistent affirmations of the Pharisees up against each other and, following Keener, I would think the passage suggests not that we should kill children who curse their parents (and what that means in its context is a whole different issue), but rather that the Pharisees were attempting, as they often did, to wriggle around certain laws that they themselves affirmed elsewhere.
Also we need to be careful to draw too much theology from the incident of the woman in adultery in John 8 (which I think is what you’re referring to regarding opposing capital punishment for adultery), for it is a well-known textual variant and likely wasn’t in the original text of John. I tend to think the story is probably a true one about Jesus, but it seems fairly clear from the manuscript evidence that it wasn’t there.