Women in Biblical Tradition
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Kathryn Smith
January 8, 2002
"The Patriarchy (Method and Meaning)"

I.   Patriarchy as a Social System
A.   Definitions
1.   androcentrism - language and perspective that place males at the center of description or analysis
2.   patriarchy - a social system in which a limited number of privileged males ("fathers") have power over women, children, and less-privileged males (slaves, freedmen, clients, unemancipated sons)
3.   patria potestas - an ancient ideal in which the father has absolute authority over the persons and property in his power, even when such power has been curtailed by state authority
B.   Patriarchy as the dominant system in antiquity
II.   Problem of Pristine Beginnings'
A.   The notion that Christianity was fully egalitarian in its earliest stages and then became less so as patriarchal society began to reassert itself
B.   Truth - There were very strong egalitarian impulses that were strong in the early movement
C.   Problems
1.   Even the earliest layers of the Jesus movement show patriarchal practices
2.   Some Christian scholars try to make Judaism look really bad in order to make Christianity look really good
a.   Comes out of ignorance of early Judaism
b.   It brings hatred towards a race that is against feminist thought
3.   Judaism in the 1st century was not monolithic
4.   Cannot use 3rd-6th century rabbinic sources to describe the Judaism of Jesus' day
5.   Need to recognize that Christianity was a kind of Judaism and that there were other egalitarian Jewish movements at the time as well
III.   Is the Bible Patriarchal? - Yes!
A.   Patriarchal Elements
1.   Women's legal status is derived from husband or father
2.   Women's legal status is often the same as chattel - property
3.   The perspective is generally that as the male as normative - i.e. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife."
B.   Elements that Challenge Patriarchy
1.   Women are active agents in their stories (property cannot be active agents)
2.   Bible has a pattern of accepting contemporary social systems while challenging them
a.   Slavery
b.   Gender Issues
C.   The question is which gets priority
1.   For those who hold the Bible authoritative must decide how to balance the two, or which side to take (Can the Bible be both authoritative and patriarchal?)
a.   Must find a way to negotiate these two
b.   See Bellis 17-18 for various approaches
2.   Is patriarchy descriptive or prescriptive
a.   Descriptive - explaining why the current situation is the way it is
b.   Prescriptive - explaining how things must be because of the world
c.   Consider the issue of Israel asking for a King - see the parallels with gender issues (Judges 8, 1Samuel 8)
3.   One Strategy
a.   Educate ourselves on the cultural codes during each time period
b.   Recognize that the Bible does not always give a uniform picture
c.   Extrapolate larger meta-narratives and overriding concepts that allow us an interpretive matrix for individual events
d.   Evaluate the events in light of the meta-narrative or overriding concept
4.   Feminist Hermeneutical Principles
a.   To read the text by focusing on those on the margins or the oppressed (gender, class, ethnicity) [Note that this concern itself is one of the overriding concepts of scripture]
b.   To read sympathetically the self-locating position of Israel as a small, weak tribal group in the midst of powerful and formidable colonial empires
i.   We must keep in mind our own social location as a colonial empire and recognize that this will get in the way of our reading]
ii.   The understanding is that Israel was weak (in regards to their neighbors) but they are not inferior