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Friday, 22 March 2013

The Pauline Concept of Women – Androcentric or Christocentric? The Sequel



By Orlando Broomfield (NCU Religion Student)
Copyright © 2013

Androcentricity, as defined by the Dictionary of Human Geography is “the structuring of all life and narrative around the experiences of men.”[1] The term Christocentrism is defined by P. c. Lai as, “an approach towards the doctrine of revelation in which the person and work of Christ plays a determining or central role.”[2] In the Pauline corpus, Jesus is the essence of Christian theology and practice, but today when the rights of the individual is championed, there is a legitimate probe into the level of applicability of the Pauline concept of women for our time. Although the life and death of Christ was normative and authoritative in Pauline theology, Christocentricity was applied predominantly in androcentric ways in the primary context. 
The male-dominant culture certainly influenced Pauline theology. This Pauline theology was not uniquely Paul’s, but the continuous product of the reciprocity of the impact between the Jesus tradition and a believing community.  Professor of contextual theology, Marcella Althaus-Reid, supports this view, expounding that the Christological process is at best one aimed at constructing the Christ through “a process that depends on the interrelationality between a man called Jesus and a community of women, men and children.”[3] The point to bear in mind is their world was enwrapped in male-dominance, and the primary audience would understand in both a Christocentric and an androcentric way, any Pauline point.
The Bible on a whole is expressed through the natural and real androcentric manner over its years of production and transmission. This is not to say that females were never featured as key characters of heroism, prophecy, leadership, and philanthropy; but those incidences were not a characteristic feature of the Bible. The Pauline concept of women would be of no exception, as the sitz im leben remained essentially the same. The treatment of women in the Pauline corpus or the gospels, also points out that neither Paul nor Jesus was hostile to women. Of this, M. Rosario Barbosa stands in agreement, appealing that Paul’s respect of women in his letters “is definitely not the profile of a man who is guilty of misogyny.”[4] At the same time, the practice resulting from his theology did not bring about equality for women in the many subsequent years.
Therefore, the conceivableness of egalitarianism in Pauline epistles would be equivalent to an anomaly. Paul as a first century Christian author from an unquestionably androcentric cultural setting would only unnaturally transcend that context to be fair-minded. A broader picture is even painted by Isherwood and McPhillips by their summation, that though it was hopeful for the male Messiah of the patriarchal God to show respect to women, “this is swiftly smothered by macho-Paul.”[5] Thomas W. Ogletree does not even give Paul a point for his all-inclusiveness in salvation for both genders in Galatians 3:28, arguing that, “On this matter at least he (Paul) may not have fully comprehended the radical logic of his own position.”[6]  WM.O. Walker Jr.[7], takes this side as well, suggesting that Paul was unwilling, uninterested, or unable to challenge his political, economical, or social norms, or to apply his own theological worldview with complete consistently. Androcentricity sums up the Pauline concept of women.

References

Barbosa, M. Rosario. “Women According to Saint Paul.” 2007 http://pmrb.net/essays/st_paul_women.html (accessed March 11, 2013).

Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Lai, P. c. Towards a Trinitarian Theology of Religions: A Study of Paul Tillich's Thought. Walpole, MA: Peeters Publishers, 1994.

Isherwood, Lisa. Introducing Feminist Christologies. Lexington, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001.

Isherwood, Lisa, and Kathleen McPhillips. Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Approach. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2008.

Ogletree, Thomas W. The Use of the Bible in Christian Ethics. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Walker Jr., WM.O. "1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 and Paul’s Views Regarding Women." Journal Of Biblical Literature 94, no. 1 (March 1975): 94. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 11, 2013).



[1] Walter A. Elwell. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. (Ada, MI: Baker Academic, 2001) 446
[2] P. c. Lai. Towards a Trinitarian Theology of Religions: A Study of Paul Tillich's Thought. (Walpole, MA: Peeters Publishers, 1994) 37
[3] Lisa Isherwood. Introducing Feminist Christologies (Lexington, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2001) 68
[4] M. Rosario Barbosa. “Women According to Saint Paul.” 2007 http://pmrb.net/essays/st_paul_women.html (accessed March 11, 2013)
[5] Lisa Isherwood and Kathleen McPhillips. Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Approach (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2008) 75
[6] Thomas W. Ogletree. The Use of the Bible in Christian Ethics. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003) 168
[7] WM.O. Walker Jr. "1 Corinthians 11: 2-16 and Paul’s Views Regarding Women." Journal Of Biblical Literature 94, no. 1 (March 1975): 94. Religion and Philosophy Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed March 11, 2013).