Nympha, the Laodicean House Church, and the Household Codes

Nympha, the Laodicean House Church, and the Household Codes July 19, 2019

Very interesting remark from Margaret MacDonald about Colossians 4, Nympha, the church that meets in her house, and negotiating the household codes:

“According to the author of Colossians, the house of Nympha offered the perfect space for the performance of this text (4:15-16). Colossians 4:16 calls for a public reading of Paul’s letter in the church of Laodicea that in all likelihood met in Nympha’s house. Here it is the modern interpreter who encounters irony. We are to imagine patriarchal teaching calling for the subjugation of wives to husbands proclaimed in a spaced ruled by a woman. Nympha’s status as a widowed (?), well-to-do woman may have rendered her largely exempt from the impact of the restrictions. Her house and status in the wider community may have offered the church a semblance of protection and respectability – suitable sanctuary for an ethos that relativized the rubrics of household and citizenship within the confines of an invisible spiritual body. We cannot hear her own voice, but in the world of emerging Christianity Nympha herself may have viewed such ethical teaching as obvious and prudent. Or, like many women throughout history who have been confronted with hierarchical authority structures, she may have known that she could work around the rules.”

Margaret Y. MacDonald, “Can Nympha Rule This House?: The Rhetoric of Domesticity in Colossians.” In Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities, ed. Williee Braun,  (Waterloo, ONT: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2005), 115 (99–120)

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