Patriarchal Christian boys will only allow Priscilla to smile and nod silently as Aquila speaks

Jessica at Friendly Atheist and the Mad Priest both react to a strange story from Bristol University in the UK, where the boys in charge of the school’s Christian Union have barred women from speaking at its events.

John Bingham of The Telegraph has the full story:

Bristol University Christian Union emailed members to say that women will not be asked to preach – unless, in the case of a handful of married students, they are accompanied by their husband.

The decision represents the latest sign of the growing influence of conservative evangelical teaching, particularly among younger Christians.

“Paul said farewell to the believers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.” — Acts 18:18

… In an email, which was obtained by the student newspaper, The Tab, the Christian Union president Matt Oliver, explained that the executive committee had decided in principle it was “OK” for women to be allowed to “teach” – meaning to preach from the Bible.But he added that he recognized it was a “difficult issue for some” and that therefore women would not be invited to do so at the group’s main weekly meeting known as “CU:Equip,” or on residential weekends or missions.

He added: “But a husband and wife can teach together in these.

“This means that women are able to teach (including on their own) in any other CU setting.”

The message adds that such was the strength of feeling that one member of the executive had resigned on theological grounds.

…  The Rev Dr Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, an Anglican priest and former Durham University chaplain, wrote on Twitter: “Bristol CU’s idea of compromise is rather like the CofEs — ban women so as not to upset anyone who might object to them.”

I think the muddled strangeness of this rule about husband-and-wife duos is yet another attempt by patriarchal Christian boys to deal with the huge biblical problem they can never get around: They attribute rules to the Apostle Paul which the Apostle Paul flagrantly ignored.

For the boys in the patriarchy, The Most Important Passage in the Entire Bible — a passage that trumps the greatest commandment and the second which is like unto it, and which justifies excluding half of the church — is 1 Timothy 2:11-12:

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.

This was almost certainly the very passage cited by those Bristol Christian Union boys resigning in a huff. This was Paul’s rule, the PCBs say, so therefore it must also be our rule.

The problem is that if this was really Paul’s rule, then Paul must have been very upset with … Paul. Because he violated this supposed rule all the time. He acted, in fact, as though he was never aware that it was supposed to be a rule at all.

It’s a bit awkward that the same guy the PCBs insist did not “permit” women to teach was constantly going around commending women for their teaching.

Perhaps the most egregious case of this is Priscilla. Here she is teaching and having authority over a man in Acts 18:

Now there came to Ephesus a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria. He was an eloquent man, well-versed in the scriptures. He had been instructed in the Way of the Lord; and he spoke with burning enthusiasm and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue; but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

Paul must have been furious. Priscilla broke his rule requiring her to sit “in silence with full submission.” She violated his rule by teaching a man, wielding authority over and correcting a male preacher.

But if Paul found any of that upsetting, he never said a word about it. He lived at Priscilla’s house for quite a while in Corinth, then took her with him as a teaching comrade on his trip to Ephesus. He greets her in his epistle to the Romans as a “co-worker in Christ Jesus,” not as a submissive silent partner. And because she really was his co-worker, Paul passes along greetings from Priscilla at the end of 1 Corinthians, where we also learn there’s a church that meets in her house. Paul also cheerfully sends greetings to her again in … wait for it … 2 Timothy.

Priscilla was kind of a big deal. And her prominence in the New Testament shows that the PCBs’ insistence on making 1 Timothy 2:11-12 some kind of rule against women is utter σκύβαλα, as Paul would put it.

I think this Bristol group’s odd rule allowing only married women to preach and only with their husbands present is their desperate attempt to account for this Priscilla Problem.

That’s apparently easier than simply admitting that whatever one makes of that bit from 1 Timothy, it clearly cannot mean what the patriarchal Christian boys so vehemently want it to mean.

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  • finbikkifin

    I work at Bristol University. Ugh.

    I was going to say more, but that just about sums it up for me. I am bad at words.

  • patter

    He greets her in his epistle to the Romans as a “co-worker in Christ Jesus,” not as a submissive silent partner.

    He also mentions that she risked her life for him.  Cheeky little reprobate — how dare she? 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Just when I think we’ve at least had universal acceptance of women speaking as freely as men do in the Western World.

  • histrogeek

     Why would you think that?
    On the other hand, I admit that most dudes are not so utterly and weirdly blatant about it.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    That’s precisely the point. People at least pay lip service to the notion as opposed to being out and out stuck in 1912.

  • Lliira

     I have to echo histogreek. Why on Earth would you think that?

    Trust me. We are not allowed to speak as freely as men. And it’s not just religious universities that bar us. Groups of the most left-wing atheists in the world like to tell us to shut up and sit down and take it. Their rules might say otherwise, but their actions say, “letting you exist here at all is a great boon from us to you, so be eternally grateful and never speak up.”

    I think you’ve got privilege blinders on, if you ever thought women’s words were allowed as much as men’s.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    As I said to histrogeek, we’re at least at the point where lip service is generally paid to the lack of silencing of women. For people to return to blatantly, in public, telling women to shut up speaks volumes about the fragility of such progress.

  • Magic_Cracker

    But how ever will these poor boys gain the respect and admiration of others if they they don’t stamp their feet and demand it as their birthright? By earning it? That shit’s too hard!

  • BrokenBell

    Just the complete cognitive dissonance involved in this warped idea of inclusiveness, where women are stifled and ignored in the name of making sexist groups feel more welcome… Does the fact that this makes women in many other groups feel decidedly unwelcome and excluded just not cross their minds? Or are they themselves already so steeped in sexism that they don’t even think about all women as being of equal worth as any man? I doubt it’s a coincidence that this comes so soon after the Church of England’s decision to do the same. They don’t have much influence these days, but what little they still have can’t wither away quickly enough.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Honestly, I don’t think they care how it makes us feel. We’re supposed to submit to them, remember, meaning that they’re supposed to tell us how we feel, what we think, ETC. 

    So of course they’re going to tell us that we should be happy about this kind of treatment, and that we should go along with it willingly. And since they told us to feel that way, why would we feel stifled and abused?

  • Carstonio

    The problem is that if this was really Paul’s rule, then Paul must have been very upset with … Paul. Because he violated this supposed rule all the time. He acted, in fact, as though he was never aware that it was supposed to be a rule at all…It’s a bit awkward that the same guy the PCBs insist did not “permit” women to teach was constantly going around commending women for their teaching.

    Why is Fred splitting hairs like this? The rule is immoral because it’s sexist, and Paul was wrong to create and teach the rule. Whether Paul actually observed the rule doesn’t change its immorality. “Difficult issue for some”? Oh, please. What, are these men afraid that being taught by a woman will make their testicles shrivel?

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     > Why is Fred splitting hairs like this?

    My guess is, because there exist people in the world who are not willing to embrace the idea that they can judge for themselves which of Paul’s teachings are moral or immoral, but who might nevertheless be willing to reject this particular sexist rule if it can be demonstrated to them that Paul himself rejected it, and whether or not those people reject this rule is somewhat important to Fred.

    Of course, an alternative approach is to just dismiss such people as you do here. As long as they don’t have power to enforce this rule on others, and as long as we don’t care too much what rules they subject themselves to in their own lives, this approach can work OK.

  • Carstonio

    who might nevertheless be willing to reject this particular sexist rule
    if it can be demonstrated to them that Paul himself rejected it

    Here’s where I’m getting confused…Would these people automatically make exceptions for actions where the immorality was blindingly obvious to them? If so, the immorality of this particular rule should be just as obvious to them. And if they don’t make exceptions, where they simply follow whatever Paul says, that wouldn’t be any better than living as an automaton.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    If so, the immorality of this particular rule should be just as obvious to them.

    Perhaps. I’ve generally found it’s easier for me to understand other people’s choices when I don’t assume that the  immorality of a particular choice is as obvious to someone else as it is to me.

    As to whether it should be that obvious, well, maybe so. I’m not sure why that matters.

    I mean, yes, OK, let us suppose that it should be obvious. It follows that, if it isn’t obvious to them, that they aren’t the way they should be. And it follows from that that… what?

    Would these people automatically make exceptions for actions where the immorality was blindingly obvious to them? […] if they don’t make exceptions, where they simply follow whatever Paul says, that wouldn’t be any better than living as an automaton.

    I’m not sure that’s true.

    Suppose, for example, that I have a friend in real life, Sam, whom I’ve known for thirty years. Suppose that, for most of that time, Sam and I have had long, detailed conversations about politics… what candidates we supported, what bills we endorsed, what letters we write to people in office, where we volunteer, etc. And suppose that over that time, I have gradually come to the realization that when Sam and I disagree about politics, the majority of the time Sam is right and I am wrong. When I support a candidate or a bill Sam opposes, or vice versa, I later realize I ought not have. Etc.

    I don’t think it would be unreasonable for me to conclude, on that basis, that when Sam and I disagree about politics, I should do what Sam suggests rather than what I think I should do. And I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with my living that way. Perhaps it’s living as an automaton, but if so, then there’s something to be said for living as an automaton.

    Now, should I make an exception for a case where the wrongness of Sam’s position was blindingly obvious to me? Well, I don’t see why. If I’ve already concluded that Sam is reliably better at making these sorts of judgments, I’m not sure why I should discard that conclusion just because I happen to feel that this particular judgment is blindingly obvious.

    Of course, maybe it’s not the same for morality, and my analogy just doesn’t hold. Maybe, unlike judgments about politics or mathematics or chemistry, moral judgments are something we can’t really be wrong about, so the idea of someone else being better than I am at making moral judgments just doesn’t make sense. That would be consistent with the idea above that the immorality of particular sexist choices should just be blindingly obvious to everyone.

    Is that similar to what you’re suggesting here, or have I missed your point altogether?

  • Carstonio

    Your analogy is what misses the point, because these folks appear to be treating Paul or his god as an authority in the command sense. I was asking if they are discarding their own moral judgments and are simply following orders.

    Also, my point isn’t necessarily about moral choices. I’m saying that these men don’t seem to be offended by sexism or by sexist rules for whatever reason.

  • The_L1985

    These people believe that without the Bible, you can’t make moral judgements, only immoral decisions. They believe that God should be the sole decision-maker because human beings will always get it Very, Very Wrong.

  • The_L1985

    These people are taught that being an automaton is more godly than having free will. I grew up under this form of warped Christianity, and so did Fred.

  • DorothyD

    Whether Paul actually observed the rule doesn’t change its immorality.

    Or whether Paul actually wrote the rule for that matter. But that’s a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish…

  • Magic_Cracker

    You’re assuming ever letter bearing Paul’s name was written by Paul. That’s not the case, so it’s possible that Paul was NOT the raging misogynist and homophobe that misogynists and homophobes make him out to be.

  • DorothyD

    Jinx. 

  • Carstonio

    I was already aware of the disputed authorship. It’s just irrelevant to my point, because otherwise that would imply that the rule would be OK if he did indeed write it.

  • Lliira

     Why is Fred splitting hairs like this?

    He does this every time this issue of Paul’s words here comes up, and it has gotten to the point where I am seriously ticked off by it.

    So, Fred. What did Paul mean when he told women to shut up and submit, i.e., be slaves? Do you think he didn’t actually say it? Do you think he didn’t actually mean it? He could very easily have been playing politics by praising certain women in the public sphere while saying women should not be in the public sphere — it’s exactly the same thing the right wing in the U.S. does today.

    You can’t be on the side of the angels merely by saying the Bristol boys and their ilk are wrong. All that means is you’re not on the side of the devil. People on the side of the angels say what they mean and mean what they say as clearly as they possibly can. What do you think of Paul saying women should submit? Please stop telling us to ignore the blood on someone’s hands because he did some stuff that wasn’t all bad.

  • Ben English

    I’m fairly certain Fred has addressed this himself occasionally, and I know he’s linked to others discussing it on several occasions. Even if you put aside matters of authorship (some of the Pauline Epistles are likely not actually Paul’s work, including the letters to Timothy), and  issues of translation, where patriarchists have created translations that suit their own ends instead of accurately representing the Greek, and matters of context (where we only have one side of the conversation)…

    Fred’s point here is not to comment on the morality of excluding women. He doesn’t do that because sexism is self-evidently immoral. His point here is to undermine the arguments of the patriarchists on their own terms. He’s undermining the attempts to take specific instructions about specific problems out of context and use them as universal standards to govern gender relations.

    You’re acting like his purpose here is to defend Paul’s sexism, which honestly makes me question your reading comprehension skills.

  • British Girl

    You jest but according to a friend of a friend this is precisely what men fear about being taught by women. After trying to explain to a friend why 1 Tim 2v11-12 needed to be read in their cultural context – Ephesus – Priestess only cult of Artemis – the need not to interupt the service with questions about what was going on – which should apply to all genders. Why being told that women shouldn’t preach was hurtful especially as I myself am exploring a call to ordained ministry. And then this from one of his friends:

    “What I find really offensive is women who preach or want to preach, but not being happy with a women only audience, its just smacks of pride on their part – like ‘we are not happy to only be able to preach to half the congregation’. You obviously dont see your fellow sisters as worthy of your words – that makes me feel – well not worthy. When what this country needs so badly is women preaching to women and addressing issues that cannot be addressed by men for the simple reason that men are not women and they dont know what its like to be woman. Also lady preaches out there – have a long hard look at the way men are wired. I can see two reasons women should not preach to men 1) men have God given egos and would not be taught so well by a women as a man 2) the lady preacher has only got to make a slip up in the wardrobe department to cause men not to be listning but looking. Men and women are equal but with different roles equally needed roles. Take a look at http://www.reviveourhearts – an incredebly gifted woman uses her gifts in the way God intended and addresses women – covering marriage, kids, hormons ect.* Its so needed, So come on women if you can teach – we need YOU!”

    I wasn’t entirely sure whether they were being sarcastic or not. But the grammar/spelling makes me fear that this was meant to be serious. Needless to say this is where I pulled out of the conversation and considered introducing my head to my desk for the next half an hour.

    *As a single woman I wonder how I am supposed to preach on Kids/Marriage… ah obviously by staying single and not submitting to a husband I am not fulfilling “God’s will for my life”. Mind you I could do a fair run on hormones. Not to the congregation’s benefit I assure you.

  • Carstonio

     

    “I can see two reasons women should not preach to men 1) men have God
    given egos and would not be taught so well by a women as a man 2) the
    lady preacher has only got to make a slip up in the wardrobe department
    to cause men not to be listning but looking.”

    You banged your head on your desk for only half an hour after reading that? That sounds like the justification I’ve encountered for controlling female sexuality, which is to protect men from the fear that they’re raising other men’s children.

    And what house of worship would have preachers of either gender wearing clothing that would create that kind of malfunction? Did the preacher accidentally order breakaway cassocks made for intimate role-playing?

  • stardreamer42

     Yes — good ghod, the man-bashing in that one short sentence! Once again, sexists prove that they hate men far more than any feminist ever has.

  • Carstonio

    It does indeed seem like man-bashing, but it’s really a specific type of male entitlement. It places the responsibility for limiting men’s behavior on women. (If that sounds like a rape mentality, that’s probably because it is.) Men are perfectly capable of being taught by women without their egos wilting. Or attending a service by a female preacher without mentally undressing her. The patriarchs just don’t want to do so, because that would mean treating women as equals.

  • Tricksterson

    Or they’re simply ascribing their own weaknesses to all men.

  • Carstonio

    “Or”? Perhaps the whole reason for sexism is because such men fear themselves to be inferior to women. If not for those specific weaknesses, than for others. Their emotional development probably stopped in middle school – they refuse to grasp that a woman in authority over them is not their mother telling them to clean their room, and very likely they perceive seeing cleavage as discovering the Holy Grail.

    Some guy once overdubbed a sexist narration onto the Cami Secret ad, lamenting that life sucks and the product was taking away one of his little joys of the day. If the Star Trek holodeck ever became a reality, I imagine men like him would spend every waking hour there as virtual Solomons surrounded by women, serving not just their sexual wants but also their pitiful ego wants.

  • The_L1985

    I didn’t know breakaway cassocks existed. Clearly I’m behind in the adult-playtime department.

  • Carstonio

    Heh. I was making up that type of clothing for a laugh, but I strongly suspect that such cassocks actually exist.

  • Lunch Meat

    I think a simple word swap says all that needs to be said here (also correcting the grammar because it offends me):

    “What I find really offensive is men who preach or want to preach, but
    not being happy with a man-only audience; it just smacks of pride on
    their part – like “We are not happy to only be able to preach to half
    the congregation.” You obviously don’t see your fellow brothers as worthy
    of your words – that makes me feel, well, not worthy, when what this
    country needs so badly is men preaching to men and addressing issues
    that cannot be addressed by women for the simple reason that women are not men and they don’t know what it’s like to be men. Also gentleman preachers
    out there – have a long hard look at the way women are wired. I can see
    two reasons men should not preach to women: 1) women have God-given egos
    and would not be taught so well by a man as a woman, and 2) the gentleman preacher
    has only got to make a slip up in the wardrobe department to cause women
    not to be listening but looking. Women and men are equal but with
    different roles, equally needed roles. Take a look at http://www.reviveourhearts
    – an incredebly gifted man uses his gifts in the way God intended and
    addresses men – covering business, tools, sports, etc. It’s so needed, so come on men if you can teach – we need YOU!””

  • Ymfon Tviergh

     This was my first thought as well.

  • Mark Z.

    The rule is immoral because it’s sexist, and Paul was wrong to create and teach the rule. Whether Paul actually observed the rule doesn’t change its immorality.

    No, but it may rebut the presumption that this was a rule that Paul taught. If he wrote letters recognizing women as leaders of the church, then clearly he did not have a “women must not ever lead the church” policy going.

    Now, if you’re a fundamentalist and believe that the English text of the Bible that you have in front of you is the inerrant and infallible word of God, then I guess it doesn’t matter whether Paul actually wrote it or not, because 1 Timothy 2:12 is a command directly from God to you and you must obey. But in that case it’s chock full of commands that you aren’t ever going to be able to obey (2 Timothy contains a command to bring the coat that Paul left behind at some guy’s house) and the whole enterprise is futile.

  • SisterCoyote

     I dunno, probably because Paul is considered an important voice of the early Church – whether rightfully so or not – and he was a real person, and it is important to get to the truth of what he said. It’s important to remember that his “rules” were, in fact, advice written to individuals, and churches, that were having issues and corresponding with him to help solve them. He wasn’t always right, but he wasn’t trying to lay down the Absolute Truth As Law.

    In this case, I don’t remember where I read this (possibly here?), but there was a theory/explanation for this that went along the lines of pointing out that up until now, women had always been silent in church, and these women were so excited to be able to join the conversation that they were talking over others, generally being kinda rude, and Paul’s advice was less “Sit down and let the men talk” and more “Sit down and let everyone get a chance to talk.”

    I dunno if I buy that. But the point is a valid one – that Paul didn’t always mean what it seemed like he did, and that it’s always wrong to assume that what he said was meant to be taken as a hard-and-fast rule. (Also, he was learning as he went, too. I figure it’s entirely possible that, as much as any of us, he said some stupid things, had his eyes re-re-re-reopened by someone who’d been hurt by them or just strongly disagreed, and realized he was in the wrong.)

  • Carstonio

    it’s always wrong to assume that what he said was meant to be taken as a hard-and-fast rule

    You and many others here seem to be reading my criticisms as applying to Paul himself. While you make good arguments, they’re focusing on what I call process –  an analysis of the author’s intentions that takes into account the historical and theological context, and the arrival of a sound interpretation. Nothing wrong with that, but it doesn’t get at the problem with the patriarchal men.

    Take Paul out of the equation for a second. What’s on the table is the idea of women being barred from roles that involve teaching men or having authority over them. My objection is that for the men we’re talking about, this idea doesn’t seem to repulse them or outrage them. You’re
    probably right that they’re reading Paul’s writings as hard-and-fast rules, and I agree about the fallacy of assuming he meant these as rules. I suppose I want such men to have a Huck Finn moment where their consciences rebel against their reading of 1 Timothy.

  • SisterCoyote

     

    You’re probably right that they’re reading Paul’s writings as
    hard-and-fast rules, and I agree about the fallacy of assuming he meant
    these as rules. I suppose I want such men to have a Huck Finn moment
    where their consciences rebel against their reading of 1 Timothy.

    Fair point, and one I’d concede. It would definitely be awesome to see people realize that their consciences are a more important voice than that of a preacher 2,000 years ago – or actually, just about any preacher of any time, because you see this stuff with St. Augustine, too.

  • Jenny Islander

    In one of his letters–if I am parsing it correctly–he says (paraphrase) “You know, the guy I’m sending this letter with is looking peaked because he worked until he was sick making sure I had what I needed while I was stuck here in prison because SOMEbodies didn’t send any care packages, hint hint,” but at the end of the letter he says, “Got your care package, thanks so much,” which suggests to me that he was dictating the letter over a period of time and didn’t realize that a care package was in fact on its way.  Sometimes he goofed.

  • Jenny Islander

    Found it–it’s Philippians.  I recommend this letter if you want to get a feel for Paul the human being, BTW.  It rambles and gives the air of a man who is walking around and around a small room or exercise yard to help himself think while his scribe jots down what he’s saying.  There are lots of personal notes to friends and fellow workers.  Also it keeps on trying to end and failing.  Seriously, the first time “Finally, brethren,” appears is in the middle of the letter.

  • Tricksterson

    I woudn’t be surprised if, at the root, that was it exactly, although they probably wouldn’t admit it.

  • markedward

    Hhhhhh…

  • markedward

    @Magic_Cracker (the Reply button seems to have not worked),

    Also, even if it was written by Paul, it may not mean what everyone thinks it means.

  • markedward

    You need to read what Fred wrote more carefully. Pay attention to the underlined words from what Fred wrote:

    (1) ‘Because he violated this supposed rule all the time. He acted, in fact, as though he was never aware that it was supposed to be a rule at all.'(2) ‘It’s a bit awkward that the same guy the PCBs insist did not “permit” women to teach was constantly going around commending women for their teaching.'(3) ‘That’s apparently easier than simply admitting that whatever one makes of that bit from 1 Timothy, it clearly cannot mean what the patriarchal Christian boys so vehemently want it to mean.’Fred is obviously saying that Paul was not creating some kind of universal rule that women must never be allowed to teach or have authority, only that patriarchal men insist that that is what Paul was doing; i.e. Fred is saying that whatever it was Paul said, he’s being misinterpreted.

  • Carstonio

     

    only that patriarchal men THINK that that is what Paul was doing; i.e.
    Fred is saying that whatever it was Paul said, he’s being
    misinterpreted.

    But whether Paul was being misinterpreted is less relevant than the pitiful failure of these men to see that any such rule is immoral. I’m incredibly tempted to just dismiss them as massively stupid. But I’ve encountered horror stories here and elsewhere about some folks’ frustrations with Birther relatives, and the the minds of these patriarchal men might very well operate the same way.

  • The_L1985

    Fred is talking about people who view the Bible, especially the Pauline epistles, as having the final way in how all churchy business ought to be conducted. Such people will only back down if you point out that Paul, specifically, didn’t say what they think he said.

  • Carstonio

    Don’t they also view this as the final way in how all societal business ought to be conducted? Such as male headship of families?

  • The_L1985

    True. But I figure that someone who’s never encountered fundies may need to be eased in to the whole “these people view one book written 2000-3500 years ago as The Definitive Guide To Doing Everything Ever” concept.

  • flat

    In the church where I am a member from only men are preaching, I hope this didn’t upset anybody here on slacktivist.

  • Tricksterson

    First we’d have to know what you think of that.  If you agree, why?  If you don’t have you spoken up?  If not why not?

  • The_L1985

    Depends. Is this just what happens to be the case right now? Or would a woman be barred from preaching if she expressed an interest in doing so?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    Honestly, with all these contradictions, I can’t really blame these kids for getting confused. I just read through this post and I’m still confused as to what’s supposed to be the moral lesson imparted by Timothy. Is it the passage about women not talking the big part, or isn’t it? If the latter, then why was the passage included in the final Bible? If the former, then why wasn’t it made more clear that Priscilla was meant to be a special case (a la Bachmann or Palin) and not something that most Christian women could aspire to outside of extraordinary circumstances? 

    It can’t be both, and I can’t really blame these kids for thinking that the rule that is written in the form of a rule is the actual rule, and the series of anecdotes that could be interpreted as a contradiction are just supplemental stories. Or maybe their failing was trying to find rules in the Bible at all.(I can blame them for being assholes, but not for failing to understand these Bible verses.) 

  • LL

    I predict years of happy marriage and workplace harmony for those young men. 

    RE  “then took her with him as a teaching comrade on his trip to Ephesus.”

    A “teaching comrade.” Uh huh …

  • MikeJ

    You missed out on one of the arguments I’ve heard: but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.

    You see Priscilla pulled him aside and talked to him in private afterwards.  Even when she knew more than a man did, she didn’t contradict him in public.

    I would argue that maybe she was just being polite, or maybe she wanted to be able to hear more about what he really thought before condemning it.  Others would argue that Priscilla knew that it was wrong for women to speak about god in public.

  • vsm

    “You see Priscilla pulled him aside and talked to him in private
    afterwards.  Even when she knew more than a man did, she didn’t
    contradict him in public.”

    That’s not a very good argument. If they really did want to interrupt a preacher in public to discuss the finer points of theology (a great way to make friends, I’m sure), but thought a woman shouldn’t do so, why didn’t Aquila speak up?

  • MikeJ

     It does say that Aquila did speak up along with Priscilla, but it also says that both did so after the fact, in private.

    Someone could believe it was ok for Priscilla to correct somebody in private but not in public. That doesn’t force Aquila to speak in public.  This couple could easily be seen as meeting the standard set by the nitwits the article is about since the wife is teaching with the husband,

  • Vermic

    Priscilla was kind of a big deal.

    I’m a little surprised that Priscilla made it 2000 years in the Bible without some meddling editor pulling a “Junias” and turning her into a man.

  • Lunch Meat

    I’m a little surprised that Priscilla made it 2000 years in the Bible
    without some meddling editor pulling a “Junias” and turning her into a
    man.

    I wouldn’t so much mind that. Then we’d have an apparently gay preaching couple.

  • P J Evans

    some meddling editor pulling a “Junias” and turning her into a man

    It would have been a lot more obvious, for one thing. ‘Priscilla’ isn’t as easy to change to a man’s name.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Regardless of whether we take either Paul or the guy who wrote Timothy, the existence of Priscilla doesn’t imply that the passage in Timothy “clearly cannot mean what the patriarchal Christian boys so vehemently want it to mean.”

    As mentioned by several people above, the current most-commonly accepted belief among Biblical scholars is that Paul didn’t write either 1 Timothy OR Acts, though he is thought to have written Romans.  So that passage in Timothy could very well mean exactly what patriarchal Christian boys think it means, because there’s no reason to think that the author of 1 Timothy agreed on that score with either the author of Acts or with Paul.

    Now whether we should take what any of those authors write as, er, gospel is another question, of course.  I always figure that Peter didn’t think Paul was always right, and if Jesus’ best friend didn’t think that, why should I?  And I’m even less impressed by the moral authority of some random guy who forged a letter in Paul’s name so that people would listen to him.  (And, of course, there’s the fact that my own moral judgment disagrees with the author of 1 Timothy.)

  • Jurgan

    Acts has never been attributed to Paul in the first place- it was written by Luke.  It’s basically the sequel to Luke’s gospel.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I know — I meant that a contradiction between views expressed between Acts and 1 Timothy doesn’t really create the problem of Paul apparently contradicting himself since neither of them were Paul. 

    More to the point, the person who wrote Acts and the person who wrote 1 Timothy were two different people.

    Thus the author of 1 Timothy could very well have meant exactly what the religious right thinks he meant, and it wouldn’t be a problem that it contradicts Acts (written by Luke, who may or may not have actually witnessed any of Paul’s ministry) or Romans (written by Paul).  He’s a different author, who apparently had a different (and later) idea of the role of women in the church

  • Lori

    The fact that they were written by different human authors doesn’t really solve the problem though, it just kicks the can a little farther down the street. 

    The people we’re talking about claim that regardless of who the human author was all the books of the Bible were written by inspiration of God. They also claim that the Bible is supposed to serve as our guide for living now. The obvious contradictions create some major problems with both of those points, no matter who wrote the individual books.

    Of course, the contradictions create problems even for those who aren’t pushers of literalism and inerrancy, but that’s another issue.

  • christopher_y

    I thought Acts was generally thought to have been written by Luke

  • Tricksterson

    It is but Luke is usually considered a colleague/student of Paul so he’s often considered Paul’s mouthpiece.

  • http://heathencritique.wordpress.com/ Ruby_Tea

    I’m listening to Tim LaHaye’s Jesus: Why the World Is Still Fascinated by Him right now* and it strikes me that as much as people go on about Jesus being the most influential person in human history…really, Paul is much more so.  Sure, Jesus taught some good things and some stupid things, but Paul is the one who spread them far and wide, and added in things that were even stupider and much, much more cruel.

    These silly men should just forget about Jesus and simply call themselves Paulians.  Hell, it would do less damage to the church as a whole that way.  (And no, I can’t even believe I’m considering that angle.)

    * Yes, it’s just as dumb as you might imagine.  Exhibit A: he’s still pissed about that whole Da Vinci Code thing.

  • http://amavra.wordpress.com/ MotherDemeter

    I sometimes say the conservative legalist type of Christians ought to call themselves Paulians :).  Truly the religion of Christianity as it exists today only does because of the influence of Paul – both his evangelism and the (at least attributed) letters that describe the early church.  The Church of Christ I grew up with was especially attached to every word Paul wrote.  Honestly I really think they do like Paul more than Jesus – how else can you explain the relentless devotion to homophobia and misogyny (quoting Paul) and the gleefully ignoring  of Jesus’s command to help the poor?

    To OP: My aforementioned church insisted that Priscilla only taught under the authority of her husband and that when they went to teach the mistaken godly man they went in private.  That proved, to them, that women cannot hold public authority or give public sermons or religions instruction but can approach men one on one for evangelism – but best done with the leadership of their husband.  My church would not permit a woman to lead a prayer, a song or even teach the teen classes because there were baptized young men in the class (baptism being the dividing line between boy that can be taught by a woman and man who cannot be).  My church also broke contact/ fellowship with other groups who did allow women to hold any ministry role, or lead prayer or singing.

    It is fun being perpetually in the same class as unbaptized children! Kids as young as 10 (or even 9 sometimes) could get baptized and immediately women lose authority over the baptized boys.  Boys typically got baptized older – 13 to 15 – but still. 

  • Jenora Feuer

     I always liked the line in Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up where Train, an academic and sociologist who has inspired (and repudiated) a whole batch of eco-terrorists, says “I am no more responsible for the actions of my followers than Christ is responsible for those upon whom Paul of Tarsus projected his own personal neuroses.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charity-Brighton/100002974813787 Charity Brighton

    I wonder if it feels weird to always be at least 10 or 15 years behind the rest of the world. 

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    10 or 15? I’m in my 40s, and tried to look back on my life to any time I DIDN’T have women in authority over me; most of my school teachers were women; vice principals — who do most of the discipline in schools. Most management people I’ve worked for have been women; I can’t think of a time when I could AFFORD to consider women as anything but equals!

  • EllieMurasaki

    Teaching is a female-gendered job. (Not sure whether that causes or is a cause of the shit pay and shit respect, though.) Needing to respect teachers as people in authority over oneself is a thing one is expected to grow out of.

    Predominantly female management is not at all the norm unless the employees are also predominantly female. Like, my place of employment, the person who’s the whole division’s boss is male, everybody who can boss him is male, but both levels of managers between him and regular employees are all female except for the IT manager. This is a consequence of how the division is 90% female and the IT section has most of the division’s men.

  • LL

    See, this is where being an atheist saves some time. Instead of debating whether this guy from thousands of years ago really said/wrote this, I can treat it all as, basically, Chicken Soup for the Ancient World. That’s it. That’s all it  means. It’s not a rule, it’s just what some guy (who may have been named Paul) thought. Giving his words more weight than those of, say, Tina Fey or John Grisham is just silly. Frankly, I assume everybody (including the women) who lived thousands of years ago regarded women as basically baby factories and live-in maidservants, and somebody who didn’t think that way was the exception, not the rule. You might say I’m being too harsh, but I’m not the one telling everybody that people with peens are superior to ones who don’t have peens. I try to judge people by what contribution they make and by how they treat other people, not by what genitalia they’re sporting.

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    I was kind of vaguely horrified when I heard about what the Bristol University Christian Union hadn’t gotten up to – Bristol’s my home, and I don’t want people associating it primarily with this stupidity.

    It almost certainly has to be in reaction to the recent C of E women bishops affair – the same passage was quoted frequently as to why it couldn’t be allowed. 

    Of course, even that was more a matter of the vote in favour of women bishops not succeeding by a sufficiently overwhelming majority.

    It’s worth pointing out that from my experience of University societies, the “Christian Union” is a misleading name – it’s not usually the only or even the most popular Christian organisation on campus. I remember when I was at University of Birmingham there was a bit of a kerfuffle involving the equivalent there, which the Student Union had insisted call itself the Evangelical Christian Union to more accurately reflect its position; most of the newspapers simply reported that as the Christian Union as well. 

    At that time, I looked into it and I was surprised to discover that a lot of these organisations are more recent than people assume, often set up on an almost American evangelical model. 

  • http://twitter.com/WayofCats WayofCats

    I think this example is yet another illustration of how “some Bible verses are more equal that others.”

    The guys running the church claim there’s equal weight to all the verses, but that’s not so, is it? As always, they pick the verses that just happen to support whatever twisted mischief they would like to get up to!

  • http://twitter.com/shutsumon Becka Sutton

    When I was at Uni in the early 1990s if someone had tried to suggest such a rule to the CU there the president would have whapped them up the side of the head and if she hadn’t the treasurer would have hit them with her flute (or maybe not – it was an expensive flute).

  • Michael Pullmann

     She definitely wouldn’t have used her flute. You don’t treat your instrument that way.

    Music stands, on the other hand, are a dime a dozen and make a delightful KABONG sound when whacked against something.

  • joyce meech

    I don’t have a source for this–but over a decade ago when I was an SS teacher, I was studying to teach from the book of the “Hebrews.”  More than one article suggested that Priscilla was its author.  “Hebrews” is evidently written in a higher standard of Greek—more sophisticated words, better grammar.  Paul, on the other hand, wrote Greek as if it was his second language.  “Hebrews,” however, is seemingly written by a well-educated, native author.  The articles suggested that Priscilla fit both criteria.

  • Mary Kaye

    Many years ago I was running weekly open Pagan moon rituals, and we had one guy start attending who didn’t like to let women speak.  He’d interrupt them, he’d contradict them, he’d talk over them, he’d veto their ideas.  I ended up walking out of the first event he showed up at.  Someone else walked out of the next one.  Next business meeting, the group discussed this and decided to ban him.  One of the Board members–I’ll call him B–volunteered to meet with him and let him know.

    It ended up being a very long conversation in which the guy tried to figure out what on Earth had just happened to him.  At first he thought B had banned him and wanted to know why.  No, no, said B, I missed those rituals, it was the rest of the Board.  Why?  Remember the woman you offended in ritual one so she walked out?  A Board member.  And the one in ritual two?  Also a Board member.  4/5 of the Board is women, and you pissed them off bigtime.

    The guy was apparently flabbergasted.  *Women* made the decision to kick him out?  And men like B just went along with it?  His next tack was appealing to B as a fellow man in order to get back in.  No way, said B, you pissed off four good friends of mine.

    More amazement.  B’s relationship with these women–and he wasn’t even dating them, they were all married to other people–meant more to him than male solidarity?  Shouldn’t B welcome having another strong man in the group?  An ally against all of these *women*?  Couldn’t B recognize their common cause?  Or…had he appealed to the wrong person?  Was the true male leader of the group someone else?  He listed some names, but B just rolled his eyes….

    B is a very patient guy, and this went on for *hours*.  Didn’t change the outcome, of course, but apparently it was quite an eye-opener for B, and for me too.

  • stardreamer42

     Wow. That’s a more-than-usually-overt illustration of homosociality, in its “bros before hos” guise.

  • Parisienne

    I have no desire to defend the actions of this particular CU, but I think it’s worth saying that University CUs often do a lot of quite stupid things and I am not without hope that the people in question will see the light later.

    The main reason for the stupidity of CUs is the age of the people involved, i.e. usually somewhere between 18 and 20. This is often the first time these people have found themselves in a position of “spiritual authority” and it tends to make them take themselves more seriously than they ought, especially some of the more self-confident boys. CU members often come from quite sheltered homes and church environments and tend to see the world in quite certain, black and white “we know everything” terms. A few years later you realise you were basically an arrogant adolescent trying to pretend to be some kind of spiritual giant and you feel a bit embarassed.

    At their best, the main plus of CUs is that they can be a place where people form very close friendships and genuinely love and care for each other. Since this is the first time they are living away from home, this is a good thing. I don’t think they necessarily understand the way the rest of the student body sees them though (those not very fashionable and slightly pious people doing their boring bible studies).

    (FWIW, my (evangelical) CU did have more than one female president and allowed female speakers. But we were still basically a bunch of kids and did plenty of other stupid stuff that we thought was extremely important at the time.)

  • http://danel4d.livejournal.com/ Danel

    For what its worth, it seems that BUCU have done one of the speediest reverse ferrets I’ve ever seen, but the Student Union is still looking into it. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mickey-Bitsko/100003815336222 Mickey Bitsko

    Coincidentally, this is exactly how Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge got pregnant.

  • MaryKaye

    I’m a geneticist.  My undergrad research advisor was female, my thesis advisor was female, and the chair of the department where I got my PhD was female (though the chair rotated on a tight schedule, so the position didn’t accumulate a lot of power).  I understand, however, that this would be pretty unlikely in many of the other sciences; genetics, as a relatively young science, has a bit more gender balance.  There is still a worrisomely large proportion of male faculty in my current department (including the chair) but given how hard we have tried to recruit women, I’m inclined to think it’s more a lack of candidates than a bias in our selection process.  We keep making offers and getting outbid.

    This is not to say that there aren’t problems.  We have an organization of women students and faculty dedicated to trying to resolve some of those problems.  In particular, female students far too often come out of their training feeling unqualified (“imposter syndrome”) which is bad for their mental health and career performance.  And women are way overrepresented in non-tenure-track appointments.

    I think the biggest problem facing women in my field is that the academic workload is hard to shoulder unless you have a support person covering for you in other areas of your life.  My chair shocked me by saying, during a hiring debate, “She would be a great candidate.  Do you know, she was on the phone working on her project with collaborators *while she was in labor*?”  Which, um.  Some of us are not Superwoman and actually need time off for things like that.

  • Tapetum

     O-O  *gulp*  Working while in labor would *not* have been happening for me. No way, no how.

    Out of curiosity, how does one address imposter syndrome? It’s something I’ve suffered from in various guises practically my whole life. Usually it’s only after I’m out of a particular position that I can admit to myself that I was pretty damned good at my job, class, whatever. When I’m actually in the midst of things, I constantly feel like I’m going to prove myself an idiot the next time I open my mouth.

  • Tricksterson

    It should be noted that when fundiies say “inspired by God” they don’t mean that God put the general idea into their head (which what I think happened with the Bible, and the Koran, and the Bhaga-vagita and, for all I know, Dianetics).  They mean that it was essentially dictated to them.