Peter, Paul, and Mary

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flikr photo by Zest-pk

Posted by Zenaida

At the recent Exponent retreat, the keynote speaker gave a presentation on the following verses of Paul’s epistles:

1 Tim. 2

11 Let the woman learn in asilence with all subjection.

12 But I suffer not a woman to ateach, nor to busurp authority over the man, but to be in csilence.

1 Cor. 11

3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the ahead of the bwoman is the man; and the chead of Christ is God.

I am not going to try to summarize the entire presentation in this post, but I will mention a point that stuck out to me. Paul’s epistles were written to combat the local permutations of Christianity. People tried to impose Jewish law on the Christian teachings, and later inaccurate translations could account for ideas about women that were not in harmony with Christ’s teachings. Hopefully there will be more discussion on this topic, but, I share these verses because they inspired contemplation about how I personally relate to God, Christ and the way the church presents Christ’s messages. Is man my head, and how does my personal relationship with God work?

I found that I relate more often to the stories of men than of women. Mostly because women’s stories are sparse, I suppose. I would like to share one that has significant meaning for me right now:

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was aafraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little afaith, wherefore didst thou bdoubt?

It amazes me that Peter walks out to the Lord, and when he begins to fear he sinks. He is actually walking on water, and even as he is doing it, he doesn’t really believe it, because he sinks.

I can definitely relate to this in my life. Being a musician, playing music is one of the greatest pleasures in my life. I’ve studied and worked hard to perfect pieces of music, and I distinctly remember being in a lesson, playing for my teacher, and I was able to play this piece beautifully and accurately, earning the praise of my teacher. But, even as I was doing it, I couldn’t believe that it was actually me doing it. I still work hard, and I still have to work to believe that I am doing it, and doing it well. Although, I’ve found that letting go, and allowing myself to have faith in myself is a lesson I’m learning one step at a time. Being able to play music for the love of it; being able to share it with other people and communicating in a way that is transcendent; being in the moment and loving it for what it is; these are the reasons I love what I do, and I will continue to work for that openness.

I love Peter’s story, because he is the first apostle, a leader among leaders. He is confident enough to walk on water, and human enough to sink. It gives me hope.

A story about a woman that reaches out to me is Mary Magdalene’s story. And, since it is Easter, this one has been prevalent in my consciousness. Mary comes to the tomb to do what she can for the Lord, even after he has died, and finding it empty weeps. Two angels come to her and ask her why she is crying, whom she answers with her fear that Jesus’ body has been taken. She turns to see him standing there, but blinded by tears, doesn’t know it is him.

John 20

15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, aMaster.

She was the first person to see him resurrected, and had the honor of bearing that knowledge first. She knew him when he spoke her name. She had compassion to serve the Lord when there was nothing more to be done. She was allowed to see him even before he had returned to the Father. She took the message to the apostles. That also gives me hope.

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7 Responses

  1. Caroline says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on these passages, Zenaida. I struggle with those passages from Paul. I absolutely hate the way they were translated in King James, and I appreciate the work by feminists to read more space and less misogyny into the verses. But ultimately, even if one does translate ‘head’ as ‘protector’ as some feminists do, I still am not entirely satisfied. (Maybe that translation smacks too much of ‘presider’?) I still see women being placed in a secondary position of some sort, even if it is more benign than what comes out in King James.

    My cynical side reads these Pauline verses and just shrugs. Of course Paul would say these things -he was a product of his times and culture. I tell myself that I shouldn’t expect anything better from a 1st century man. (Which, by the way, makes me love Jesus all the more. Regarding gender issues, he was able to soar above culture in a way I don’t see any of the apostles doing.)

  2. mb says:

    “She knew him when he spoke her name.” I love that.

    My Greek New Testament is packed in a box somewhere, but I can put together some things about 1st Corinthians 11 from my study notes. I wish I’d had a chance to hear that keynote speaker.

    The word Paul used in this chapter for “head” is kephale. In some other passages of scripture the word “head” is a translation of the Greek word, arche, meaning boss or chief or beginning. But arche isn’t used here. Kephale means “physical head” or “one who proceeds another into battle”. In ancient military terms it meant the phalanx at the head of a wedge shaped group of soldiers. So the warrior or group of warriors who fights ahead of you in the battle is your kephale.

    In verse 10 the word shows up again. “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels”. Some more modern translations assume that the “power on her head” refers to the practice of wearing a veil since “covering the head” is addressed in adjacent verses. (In ancient Jewish culture, women covered their hair as a sign of their married status. A married woman going about without her hair being covered might today be akin to a woman today publicly throwing away her wedding ring.) However the word translated for “power” is not the word for veil, it is exousia, a word used in reference to kings and magistrates. It was used by Christ when he said that he had the authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6) and all authority on heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).

    This was important particularly to the Corinthians who were living in a culture influenced by Essene, Greek and Jewish cultures which taught that women were a distraction to men (Essene) or an object to be owned by men (Greek) or subject to them (Jewish). So here Paul is talking about women having authority and influence upon men, their co-fighters in front of them in the battle for righteousness. He is saying that women are not what your culture teaches them they are, but rather are co-warriors acting as a “rereward”. In modern vernacular I think you could say “they’ve got your back”.

    Which leads to the question, why “because of the angels” in verse 10. What have angels to do with women having authority? Well, as you pointed out, John 20 and and also Luke 24, the women at the tomb converse with angels when they get that first news of the resurrection and also, there’s Acts 2 where Peter teaches that the prophecy of Joel is being fulfilled when your sons AND your daughters will have God’s spirit poured out upon them and they will prophesy. Paul is pointing out that there is recent angelic evidence that this new understanding of women as workers in the kingdom of God is divinely inspired.

    (This is much more reasonable than Tertullian’s take on verse 10. He thought that perhaps angels who saw women with uncovered hair would become enamored of them.)

    Now, that all said, I seem to recall that kephale is also the word used in Mark 10 when Jesus says “but whosever will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all”. Just as the Corinthians struggled with what their culture said about the standing of women, we 21st century Americans struggle just as much with what our culture says about what authority is and how we should manifest it, male or female. We stumble on that a lot.

    Whoa, this is way too long. I’ll save 1st Timothy for later.

    In verse 10 the word shows up again. “For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels”. Some more modern translations assume that the “power” on her head” refers to the practice of wearing a veil since “covering the head” is addressed in adjacent verses. (In ancient Jewish culture, women covered their hair as a sign of their married status. A married woman going about without her hair being covered might today be akin to a woman today publicly throwing away her wedding ring.) However the word translated for “power” is not the word for veil, it is exousia, a word used in reference to kings and magistrates. It was used by Christ when he said that he had the authority to forgive sins (Matt. 9:6) and all authority on heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18).

    This is important particularly to the Corinthians who were living in a culture influenced by Essene, Greek and Jewish cultures which taught that women were a distraction to men (Essene) or an object to be owned by men (Greek) or subject to them (Jewish). So here Paul is talking about women having authority and influence upon men, their co-fighters in front of them in the battle for righteousness. He is saying that women are not what your culture teaches them they are, but rather are co-warriors acting as a “rereward”. In modern vernacular I think you could say “they’ve got your back”.

    Which leads to the question, why “because of the angels” in verse 10. What have angels to do with women having authority? Well, as you pointed out, John 20 and and also Luke 24, the women at the tomb converse with angels when they get that first news of the resurrection and also, there’s Acts 2 where Peter teaches that the prophecy of Joel is being fulfilled when your sons AND your daughters will have God’s spirit poured out upon them and they will prophesy. Paul is pointing out that there is recent evidence that this new understanding of women as workers in the kingdom of God is divinely inspired.

    (This is much more reasonable than Tertullian’s take on verse 10. He thought that perhaps angels who saw women with uncovered hair would become enamored of them.)

    Now, that all said, I seem to recall that kephale is also the word used in Mark 10 when Jesus says “but whosever will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all”. Just as the Corinthians struggled with what their culture said about the standing of women, we 21st century Americans struggle just as much with what our culture says about what authority is and how we should manifest it, male or female. We stumble on that a lot.

    Whoa, this is way too long. I’ll save 1st Timothy for later.

  3. mb says:

    It’s especially too long because I inadvertently double pasted it. whoops.

  4. Jenn in Boise says:

    Not only was Mary Magdalene the first witness of the resurrection but he chose her above all others. She is also who anointed Jesus in preparation for the what he had to go through. To me this is a very important part of the story.

  5. G says:

    okay, this will be a bit random, but, mb; loved this part: “[women are] co-warriors acting as a “rereward”. In modern vernacular I think you could say “they’ve got your back”.
    because I love a woman who knows how to use a sword.

  6. Kelly Ann says:

    Who was Leonard Arrington?

  7. rachel says:

    in the words of maria portokalos from ‘my big fat greek wedding’….

    “the man is the head, but the woman is the neck. and she can turn the head any way she wants.”

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