Jacques Ellul on the Antifeminism of the Early Church

          In his The Subversion of the Church, Jacques Ellul attributes the devaluation of women and their disbarment from leadership in the church not to the handful of “Sit down and shut up” passages attributed to Paul or the overall patriarchal cast of scripture.  He believes the early church (he’s talking primarily about the 3rd and 4th centuries) reread/misread these passages because of its success and its new relation to wealth and power.  Here’s how he develops this thought:

“I do not think that this was based on the two or three texts from Paul that are usually taken to be misogynist and antifeminist.  Christianity took this course by reason of the mutation that led it to adopt the values of conquest, power, and domination (in a good cause).  Since then, women have been debarred from participation in the spiritual life and in the truth of Christ.  Biblical texts (divorced from their context and from counterbalancing passages) were then utilized to justify this attitude.  The choices of values did not result from a philosophical attitude nor a theological decision but from the material fact of the acquisition of riches, which now directed the church at its very heart.  This lead to a rereading of the situation, of the vocation that revelation affirmed in relation to women.” (34)


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