1. In drawing this analogy, I should make it clear that I am not reducing the problem of gender domination to an epiphenomenon of difference; nor would I so reduce anti-Semitism. The analogies seem, nevertheless, illuminating as partial accounts of both and, moreover, help explain the historically very well attested association of Jewishness with femaleness as a topos of European culture. [BACK]
2. I wish to spotlight the eloquent remarks of Adele Reinhartz: “While I am concerned about the roles of women within the Jewish community and can offer a critique of their ambiguous portrayal in Judaism's foundational documents, I deplore superficial and apologetically motivated attempts to demonstrate the superiority of Christianity to Judaism on the basis of the respective roles they accord women” (1991, 183). [BACK]
3. See the brief discussion of her work from this perspective by Reinhartz (1991, 166–67). However, I must admit that I find bizarre Fiorenza's comment on Jewish manumission of slaves: “The slave gained complete freedom except for the requirement to attend the synagogue” (214), as if “Christian freedom” did not carry with it also a series of religious obligations. Is the requirement to participate in the Eucharist somehow more free than the requirement to attend synagogue? I feel an echo of a very ancient polemic (and dispute) here. [BACK]
4. There seems to be little recognition that these two explanations are at least partially contradictory, or at any rate, render each other otiose. If it was the “pagans” who pressured Paul to insist on male-female hierarchy, then what is th function of “rabbinic prejudices” here other than to provide a gratuitous slap at Judaism? Incidentally, at the time of Paul, the rabbinic movement did not yet exist, so “rabbinic prejudices” is in any case an anachronism. In fact, as we shall see below, it is also an inaccurate (although widespread) description of the relationship between Pauline “halakha” and that of contemporary Judaism(s), but I anticipate myself. [BACK]
5. I am obviously not of the opinion that 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 can simply be excised by fiat from the Pauline corpus, because of these tensions. See on this Walker (1975) for the pro position and Murphy-O'Connor, O.P. (1976) and Meier (1978) for the con. [BACK]
6. The spherical humans described by Aristophanes in the Symposium, while obviously related genetically to the myth of the primal androgyne, encode quite a different set of meanings; first of all, they are physical, and second of all they are not all androgynes by any means. Aristophanes's myth comes to provide an etiology for sexualities rather than to be an “articulation of the notion that human perfection is only accessible apart from sexual difference,” as Elizabeth Castelli would have it in an article otherwise wholly admirable (1991b, 31). A very important discussion of the Aristophanes text may be found in Laqueur (1990, 52–53 and 260n.82). As I mention below, Philo, who strongly endorses the myth of the primal androgyne in his writing, is thoroughly contemptuous of Aristophanes's story. [BACK]
7. In Boyarin 1993, I have claimed that rabbinic Judaism successfully resisted the mind-body dualism of Hellenism with, however, both positive and negative consequences for sexual politics. One of the strategies for that resistance, I claim, was a parodic appropriation of the myth of the primal androgyne which subverted its ideology. Elizabeth Castelli has asked whether primal androgyny and a primal androgyne are as easily conflated as I am doing and acutely refers to O'Flaherty, who writes: “In religious parlance, androgyny is a much more comprehensive and abstract concept than is implied in this visual [virtual] image of the androgyne: to say that God is androgynous is very different from saying that God is an androgyne.…[To define] the androgyne in the strict sense in which it is convenient to define it here: a creature simultaneously male and female in physical form” (1980, 283). It seems to me, however, that to the extent that we are talking about human beings and not mythical creatures, it is hard to separate androgynes from androgyny, and that is precisely the nub of the whole problem. Either the androgyne is some sort of a universal, abstract, pre-gendered creature—or an idea of humanity, which more or less comes down to the same thing—or it is two people joined in intercourse, with all that may entail in terms of power relations. A true androgyne is just an image; in the imaginary we can imagine anything, but what does it mean on the ground, in terms of real human lives? [BACK]
8. “Of all Paul's letters, 1 Corinthians is thoroughly and intensely concerned with the physical body” (Neyrey 1990, 114). “Word-statistics show a sudden rise in the frequency of sōma in I and II Corinthians and Romans. The denigration of the body at Corinth provides the reason” (Gundry 1976, 50). See below other symptoms of the “corporeality” of Corinthians. This approach, which understands Pauline discourse to be functioning on two levels at the same time, promises a solution as well to the famous question of the so-called indicative alongside the so-called imperative moods of Paul's discourse (Bultmann 1967, 8). Note that my approach answers Bultmann's just methodological demand that approaches to this problem not trace these two moments in Paul back to two historical, psychological origins. As Bultmann writes:
Paul's view of flesh-spirit possesses to a considerable degree the character of the metaphysical dualism that is typical of Hellenistic mystery religions.…On this basis then, it is possible to arrive at an understanding of the antinomy—the occurrence of indicatives and imperatives side by side—that can claim to grasp it in terms of the material itself. For the mystic, otherworldly salvation is a present reality, and since this is the case the indicatives can be used in a natural way to speak of that salvation. The imperatives do not really conflict with this, since they express the fact that the empirical, concrete human being is to be canceled out.
I would only modify this formulation, rather, to read that the imperatives do not conflict with this, since they express the fact that the concrete human being has not yet been canceled out. Although Bultmann is only setting his formula up in order to tear it down, I think that my reformulation goes a long way to answering the objection he raises: “Can we say that Paul's empirical fate does not concern him any longer? On the contrary, it served the function ‘that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh’” (25). On my modified version of the concept, this is no objection at all, because the place of the flesh is still maintained. This does not preclude, of course, the possibility that, in given historical circumstances, Paul would emphasize one or the other of these aspects of his thought, which is what I am claiming for Galatians and 1 Corinthians. [BACK]
9. There is nothing particularly new in this formulation per se. What is new in my interpretation is that the differences between Galatians and Corinthians, while contextualized by different discursive, “political” contexts, nevertheless form a consistent pattern and social theory on Paul's part. [BACK]
10. The difference between this interpretation and others apparently similar is that I do not think that Paul retreated from Galatians to Corinthians; rather, the former represents the ideal (spirit) while the latter represent accommodation with the real (flesh). Lest this sound implausible, once more I cite: But because of porneia, let every man have his wife and every woman have her husband. Much follows from that concession to the demands of the unredeemed flesh. Paul argues that when one does not make provision for the flesh, then one gives an opportunity to the flesh! Pace Campbell, then, Galatians 3:26–29 is not “over-realized eschatology” (1992, 108). [BACK]
11. It is further fascinating to note that in Sanders's chart of verses that deal with the various issues of Pauline theology, all of the verses that have to do with the fate of Christians who sin are from the Corinthian correspondence (Sanders 1983, 9), and again, “Here [in Corinthians] we see that, when he had to deal in detail with transgression within the Christian community, reward and punishment, and the possibility of postconversion atonement, he did so in a thoroughly Jewish way” (107), that is (on my view) “according to the flesh.” Also, “Paul's discussion of marriage (1 Cor. 7:1–16, 25–40), even though he qualifies part of it as only his opinion (7:25, 40), is close to halakhah” (119n.46). [BACK]
12. Dawson reads “the emergence and domestication of radical gnōsis in its countless forms” as the “common feature in these struggles that recur throughout the [Western] history of interpretation” (1992, 17). Karen King has emphasized to me (orally) that the term “gnostic” itself is highly problematized in current research and has suggested simply abandoning it in this context. I think, however, that as long as we define our terms and use the term to refer to specific spiritual, ideological tendencies, it still serves a useful purpose. [BACK]
13. By “ungrammaticality” here, I mean the stylistic infelicity of the formal difference between the different clauses of the Pauline formula, that stylistic infelicity which marks formally the site of a citation and thus points to the intertext. This provides the strongest argument for Meeks's view that Gal. 3:28 has a proto-gnostic background (to use J. Louis Martyn's terminology) and not an apocalyptic one. Martyn claims: “Nothing in the text or context of Gal 3.28 indicates that the thought is that of re-unification” (Martyn 1985, 423n.16), but precisely this argument that Paul is citing Gen. 1:27 and alluding to the “myth of the primal androgyne” does constitute an indication of re-unification. [BACK]
14. Thus, I completely disagree with Fiorenza, who claims that “the immediate context in Galatians speaks neither about baptism” (208). From the very beginning of the chapter until its end, that is all that is being spoken of. [BACK]
15. Below I will argue further that Pauline baptism functioned in this way, providing a momentary experience of breaking of categories in the experience of “the spirit.” I should clarify here, however, that I am not claiming that Paul's religion was heavily influenced by or transformed into a mystery. I am entirely convinced by the arguments of Davies (1965, 90–93) as to the implausibility of this thesis that was once quite popular among certain schools of Pauline scholars. Wedderburn 1987 has, I think, finally confirmed Davies's view of this matter definitively. I am very convinced, moreover, by Davies's comparisons of the baptism and Eucharist with the religious experience of the Passover as imagined in rabbinic Judaism. Rather, I am suggesting that in some ways Pauline baptism was structurally similar to the experience of initiation in the Mysteries without arguing that it was therefore connected with them—at the very least, because the Mysteries seems largely a second-century phenomenon. Note that while initiation into Judaism, either through the Exodus or conversion, did, of course, include the entry into a historical community, it did not ever imply any erasure of social roles and hierarchies within the community. To be sure, slaves who became Jews were no longer slaves (or rather, slaves who were freed automatically became Jews), and Greeks who became Jews, by definition, were no longer Greeks but Jews, but even these changes in status only emphasized the fact of difference even more. Women, moreover, certainly remained women. Paul's baptismal declaration of the end of difference cannot, I think, be traced simply to Semitic-speaking “Jewish” sources. [BACK]
16. I am, of course, aware that Macdonald's reconstructions are not universally accepted. [BACK]
17. Note how far this theme goes back in Greek culture as well. Thus in Aristophanes's Ecclesiazusae breakdown of distinctions between male and female leads to a situation in which “private property is abolished and all is held in common. Exclusive relationships between men and women are forbidden; sexual access is open for all. Dichotomies between male and female, public and private, old and young no longer control the relations of citizens and all (except, of course, slaves) become part of one unified family, eating, drinking, and sleeping together” (Saxonhouse 1992, 2–3). Note the connection between the breaching of the household, i.e., private property, and the breakdown in sexual boundaries between household and household as well. Given such traditions, is it any wonder that Paul would be concerned lest his breakdown of social distinctions between men and women also lead into such sexual anarchy? Note also how far Paul goes beyond such thinking in imagining an end to class distinctions of slave and free as well. I think he may well be unique in this in antiquity. Could not the communal life of the early Christian churches have seemed to some similar to the utopian vision of the play (cf. Saxonhouse, 12)? Indeed, is it any wonder that some Corinthian Christians might have drawn such conclusions? [BACK]
18. This interpretation obviates the necessity to understand that Philo punctuated Genesis 1:27 differently than we usually do, for he does, on my reading, construe male-and-female with the first incorporeal human as spiritual androgyny, which means (in good structuralist fashion) neither male nor female, and that is my whole point. Contrast Wegner (1991, 45 and 47). [BACK]
19. This hypothesis also explains the otherwise seemingly unmotivated reference in Philo's text to the Symposium of Plato and especially to Aristophanes's story of double-creatures (not necessarily androgynes by any means) at the origins of humanity. Philo is counterposing to this “abhorrent” image of physically double bodies an ideal one of spiritually dual humans. Philo's reversal was double-reversed by the Rabbis, who restored the myth as one of a physical androgyne, as I argue in Boyarin (1993, 42–43). This point is valid whether or not the community of Therapeutae ever really existed. In either case, the description is testimony to the translation of anthropology into social practice in Philo's writing. If they did exist, moreover, we have further strong evidence that Philo is representative of larger religious traditions and groups. [BACK]
20. Anne Wire has made the valid point that Philo describes the Therapeutrides as “aged virgins,” which, given his usage discussed below, might well mean formerly sexually active women. In a sense, then, these women had “had their cake and eaten it too.” The symbolic incompatibility, however, between sexuality and spirituality is nevertheless reinforced, and, as we shall see, in many groups the renunciation had been total and permanent. Furthermore, it is important to note that the women of the culture may not have experienced this “renunciation” as a sacrifice but as a liberation, and I am making an open judgment here which draws on my own contemporary values, which is valid to the extent that I am involved here in a critique and analysis of contemporary culture using the ancient materials as one tool of analysis. In any case, however, it is clear that an autonomy predicated on the forced choice of celibacy (in order to achieve autonomy) is a highly compromised autonomy, however it may have been experienced.
It is not to be ignored, of course, that men, too, in these systems are ideally expected to embrace celibacy. Male autonomy and creativity are not, however, predicated on such renunciation, except in one sphere. Thus non-celibate men have many avenues of self-expression and freedom together with sexuality and paternity, while women can only choose between an all-encompassing maternity or none at all. There are, to be sure, in both Judaism and Christianity some hints at ruptures in this rule. See Boyarin (1993, 167–96) and Harrison 1990. [BACK]
21. See, for example, the characteristically philonic usage, “When a man comes in contact with a woman, he marks [makes her marked; note the semiotic terminology] the virgin as a woman. But when souls become divinely inspired, from being women they become virgins” (QE II, 3). Obviously, Philo's usage is influenced by general Greek diction in which παρθένος is often contrasted to γυνή, as for instance in Xenophon's Anabasis 3.2.25: γ. και παρθένοι, cited in Liddel-Scott, 363. This Greek usage alone is significant, because it already encodes the idea that virgins are not women. In Hebrew, the word השא, which also means both “woman” and “wife,” can never be contrasted with הלותב “virgin,” and indeed הלותב השא (= a virgin woman) is a common expression. Finally, even in Greek, one can speak of a γυνή παρθένος (= virgin woman), as in Hesiod's Theogony 514 (L-S, 1339). The structural opposition between virgin / woman in Philo is thus significant and revealing, even if he is only exploiting and developing a sort of quirk of Greek—a fortiori if, as I hold, he is doing more than that.
The passage from Joseph and Aseneth, cited by Macdonald (1988, 289) also supports this reading, for Aseneth is told, “because today you are a pure virgin and your head is like that of a young man.” When she is no longer a virgin, only then she becomes a woman. [BACK]
22. Steven Knapp has made the excellent point that the social entailments of a statement like “There is no male and female” could not but “leak from one social space to another,” as it were, and Paul's formulations do not have only the consequences that he intended them to have. “On the other hand, there is some reason to think that marriage in what Boyarin calls ‘the Christian West’ has evolved into a more egalitarian institution than marriage in at least some other cultures; if so, how would one go about excluding the possibility that this tendency was encouraged by the Pauline ideal of spiritual androgyny?” (from response at Center for Hermeneutical Studies). The answer is that I am not trying to exclude such a possibility at all. I am speaking here of Paul's intent, not as a hermeneutical or historical control on his text, but as a construct in its own right and a way to understand what seem otherwise to be contradictory moments in his discourse. Of course, this “leaking” goes both ways, for ultimately if a certain vision of gender equality that we share owes its origins to perhaps unintended consequences of Paul's discourse, it is perhaps equally the case that the general male-female hierarchy of even celibate Christian communities owes its origin to his discourse on marriage! [BACK]
23. Note that in Colossians, a text which if not Pauline is certainly from circles close to him, the Haustafel follows hard by “there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man, but Christ is all and in all” (3:10f.). Fiorenza acutely remarks that “Paul has taken great care to give a double command covering each case of active sexual interaction between husband and wife. However, it would be reaching too far to conclude from this that women and men shared an equality of role and a mutuality of relationship or equality of responsibility, freedom, and accountability in marriage. Paul stresses this interdependence only for sexual conjugal relationships and not for all marriage relationships” (224). [BACK]
24. One consequence of my interpretation is that we need not assume “outside” influences for explaining Corinthian Christianity. This point gains particular cogency if we accept the hypothesis that Galatians was written while Paul was in residence at Corinth, thus increasing enormously the plausibility of the assumption that his “doctrine” in Galatians reflected his early preaching in Corinth. For this view, see Watson (1986, 59). [BACK]
25. For a fairly thoroughgoing account of this “benevolent” gender hierarchy, see Boyarin 1993. Note that in that form of Judaism, for all its genuine discrimination against women, it is not enshrined as law that wives must be obedient to their husbands' rule. The verse which, in certain Christian circles, is usually cited as requiring wifely obedience, Gen. 3:16, “And your desire shall be toward him, but he will rule over you,” is interpreted in talmudic law that husbands must be particularly attentive to pay attention to their wives' unspoken need for sex. Philo the misogynist does read this verse as encoding female submissiveness, but even he explicitly remarks that this servitude is not to be imposed through violence (Wegner 1991, 59). None of this remark should be taken, however, as a covering over or apology for either the misogynist tone of some talmudic/midrashic discourse or the pervasive disenfranchisement of women in that culture and particularly their near-total confinement to the roles of wife and mother. If individual men were somewhat restrained in this culture from cruel physical domination of individual women, the culture as a whole certainly was cruel in its restriction of possibilities for female freedom. Once more, as in the case of celibacy, women may not have experienced this as cruel. From our perspective, nevertheless, it is. I am not prepared, however, to dismiss their experience as “false consciousness.” As Karen King has remarked, “The difference between men's imaginings of women and women's lives is such that we can affirm that women have found spiritual fulfillment and salvation in the practice of Judaism and Christianity despite what the texts would lead us to think” (response). [BACK]
26. Since this is the passage to which Fiorenza's student refers as where “he so firmly emphasized the equality of woman and man in marriage,” then his apparent contradiction can hardly be seen as “reverting to rabbinic prejudices.” Moreover, such provision for mutual consideration of husband and wife for each other's needs is hardly incompatible with gender hierarchy. As I have argued with regard to rabbinic Judaism and suggest here with regard to Paul as well, the attitude of husband to wife was expected to be one of benevolent dictatorship, which precluded any cruelty or lack of consideration.
What is remarkable about the Corinthians passage is rather its rhetoric, the fact that Paul addresses men and women equally, whereas the implicit subject of the Mishna is always a man who owes obligations to his wife and to whom she is also obligated. This is an important distinction; however, we should not make too much of it, for we do not know what rhetorical form a Pharisaic/rabbinic address to the populace, whether oral or epistolary, would have taken. Paul's rhetorical stance is usually every bit as androcentric as that of the Rabbis: “It is well for a person not to touch a woman”—not “It is well for persons not to have carnal knowledge of other persons.” Conzelmann's argument that he used this form “due to the formulation of their question” (1976, 115) represents wishful thinking. Much more convincing is Wire's interpretation: “The immorality he exposes is male. The solution he calls for is marriage, and here, for the first time in the letter, he refers to women as an explicit group. Paul is not telling the offending men to marry. This cannot happen without the cooperation of others and the others cannot be male” (78). This would certainly explain well the shift from androcentric to “egalitarian” rhetoric in 7:2–3. See also her remark that with regard to the virgin, “Paul does not repeat the same words to the woman but continues to the man, ‘But if you marry, you do not sin, and if the virgin marries, she does not sin’ (7:28). In this way Paul manages to incorporate the rhetoric of equality, although the woman is only talked about, not addressed” (87).
Karen King has contributed some very wise remarks, which I think worth quoting extensively:
My own work has shown that quite often a pattern can be discerned in men's writings about women: That is, the way that men view their own bodies and sexuality is structurally analogous to how they view women. In a sense, men often use women (or the category of woman) to think with. Control of one's own sexuality and the use and control of women seem to be two sides of the same problem.
For Philo, a man's relationship to himself is one of control pure and simple: the control of the body by the mind. This control constitutes good order and the best interests of the self. Analogously, women are to be under men's control. They are not rejected, but it is understood that the good of society and man's spiritual progress can only be achieved by the subordination of women, for their own good. Women out of control again and again constitute Philo's primary metaphor for spiritual and social disaster.…
For Paul, however, the relation to the self is less one of control and more one of reciprocity. He does not abandon the body, but expects to see it transformed. Sexuality, body, and spirit are more fully integrated in his conceptuality of self than with Philo. Yet as you note, there still exists a clear hierarchical relation between spirit and body. Celibacy models this relation most clearly. It is also the inscription on the body of his ideal of unity expressed in Galatians 3:28. The model for relations between men and women is similarly one of reciprocity, not equality, as is shown in I Corinthians 7 and 11.
I would only wish to emphasize, following Wire and the logic of King's own statement, that this reciprocity of male and female is hierarchical precisely in the way that spirit and flesh are for Paul, thus further confirming King's approach. King's principle, which I absolutely endorse, has been of major importance in development of my work. [BACK]
27. See Tomson (1990, 111) for demonstration that there was such a trend of thought in one form of Palestinian Judaism, and that the prohibition was derived from Gen. 1:27[!], just as Jesus had it. In addition, for Paul at any rate there is the general apocalyptic sense that everything should remain just as it is until the imminent Parousia. For this interpretation, see Wimbush 1987. [BACK]
28. This interpretation carries with it the consequence that certain Orthodox Fathers of the church best represent the “authentic” Pauline tradition—for instance, Clement of Alexandria, whose positive view of marriage is well known, but also such figures as Gregory Nazianzen, who writes “I will join you in wedlock. I will dress the bride. We do not dishonour marriage, because we give a higher honour to virginity” (quoted in Ford 1989, 25). I am also quite persuaded by Ford's description of the later John Chrysostom's ideology of sexuality that his mature view was not very different from that of the Rabbis (49 and passim), but once again it is important to note that with all that, Chrysostom himself was celibate, and as Ford notes, “he continued all his life to consider a life of virginity in dedication to God as an even higher calling” (73). Others of the Cappadocian Fathers, including Gregory of Nyssa, seem also to reflect such positions. See Harrison 1990. [BACK]
29. It should be noted, however, that since in the biblical text itself, Eve is positively evaluated as the “Mother of All Living,” Philo does not assign her or sexuality only a negative value. Moreover, the term “Helper,” for all of its connotations of subservience, is one that he can only read as having a positive valence, because help itself is clearly positively marked. On this, see Dillon, “it seems true to say that in Philo's thought there is present the recognition of a female life-principle assisting the supreme God in his work of creation and administration, but also somehow fulfilling the role of mother to all creation. If this concept reveals contradictions, that is perhaps because Philo himself was not quite sure what to do with it” (Dillon 1977, 164). Similarly, in his allegorical interpretation, for Philo, “woman” is the senses, and the import is that they are something that cannot be done without, something that has a positive role to play, however disturbing, in human life. This understanding on the allegorical level has its parallel on the literal level and even in practice, for in Philo, I think, literal women have about the same status as their signified, the senses, do in the allegorical meaning. [BACK]
30. See Wire (1990, 88) for an excellent discussion of the interpretative problems of this verse, but the point being made here is not affected. Any way you cut it, the ratio between celibacy and marriage here is the same. [BACK]
31. I find that Wire's interpretation of this section, 116ff., esp. 118–20, is the only weak part of her argument. I think, moreover, that the reconstruction offered here strengthens her overall reading considerably. [BACK]
32. The use of δόξα “glory” as a synonym for εἰκὼν “image” is beautifully explained by Alan Segal as deriving from “God's Glory” which represents his human image (Segal 1990, 41). See also 2 Corinthians 3:18 and discussion in Segal (1990, 60). [BACK]
33. Once again, let me make clear that even the explicit hierarchy reified by these verses does not necessarily authorize a tyranny of men over women, certainly not a vicious one.Κεφαλή may or may not mean “ruler,” but there can be no doubt that structurally there is here a hierarchical series of God ;mt Christ ;mt man ;mt woman, whatever the value placed on that hierarchy. I thus find myself here, as in other respects, in complete agreement with Engberg-Pedersen (1992, 681n.9). See also Fitzmyer (1989) for a strong argument that this term does mean “one having authority over” in Jewish koine. [BACK]
34. This interpretation was suggested to me by Karen King. Anne Wire has proposed an entirely different reconstruction of the relation of the baptismal formula to Genesis, suggesting that it does not represent a return at all but a new creation which negates the original one. She accordingly disagrees with the Meeks-Macdonald interpretation. My construction of Paul is not crucially dependent on either of these historical reconstructions being “correct,” although admittedly it is much neater following Macdonald. I think, moreover, that there is perhaps less reason than Wire thinks to strictly contrast the two versions. Colossians 3, for instance, “and put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew” etc. suggests rather that the two go together, i.e., a creation that is new but also a return to the original. [BACK]
35. From her response at Center for Hermeneutical Studies. [BACK]
36. Contrast Betz (1979, 200). [BACK]
37. Compare Macdonald (1988, 286 and esp. 290), who sees a much more fundamental difference between Paul and the Corinthians than I do. Note that my interpretation of “in the Lord” is diametrically opposed to his (291). As in many cases in chapter 7 as well, as Wire points out (passim), Paul grants a point in principle and disagrees in practice. Note, moreover, that the cases are exactly parallel. [BACK]
38. For the latter, see Meeks (1973, 191 and 199), and Wire's characteristically shrewd remarks: “On the contrary, they [the Corinthians] may claim in their prayer and prophecy to mediate between God and humanity so that through the spirit the perishable does inherit imperishability and the primal dissociation is breached” (23). This breaching of the dissociation between spirit and flesh, raising of flesh to the status of spirit, would be that which transcends gender as well and explains much of the Corinthians' behavior, including paradoxically both their tendencies toward celibacy and libertinage as well as the Corinthian women's apparent adoption of male styles of headdress (Meeks 1973, 202; Macdonald 1988).
It is important to point out that, although less prominently, celibate men were also apparently sometimes imagined as androgynous. Verna Harrison has been doing very important work on this issue. It is tempting to speculate that Origen's self-castration fits into this paradigm as well; a speculation which can take place, incidentally, whether or not it actually happened. See on this point also the important and stimulating remarks in Brown (1988, 169). This pull to celibacy (and androgyny) for men is also a function of being freed from the constraints of the “world and the flesh,” correspondingly weaker insofar as those constraints were much less burdensome for men than for women to start with. Note that the priests of Agditis an androgynous form of the Magna Mater used to emasculate themselves (Meeks 1983, 169). Fiorenza's reference to this cult (213) in apparent support of her claim that Galatians 3:28 “does not express…‘gnosticizing’ devaluation of procreative capacities” seems somewhat inapposite in this light. [BACK]
39. De Baptismo XVII 4–5. [BACK]
40. The classic study of this phenomenon is Vööbus 1951, and see the excellent chapter in Peter Brown (1988, 83–103). [BACK]
41. See the important passage in The Acts of Andrew, cited by Aspegren (1990, 126), in which the apocryphal apostle begs Maximilla to remain steadfast in her decision to cease having sexual intercourse with her husband in the following terms: “I beg you, then, O wise man (ὁ φρόνιμος ἀνήρ), that your noble mind continue steadfast; I beg you, O invisible mind, that you may be preserved yourself.” Here it is absolutely and explicitly clear that through celibacy the female ceases to be a woman. The passage could practically appear in Philo. [BACK]
42. See, however, n.22 above. [BACK]
43. Interestingly, there is a unique historical case which suggests that this structure remained dormant even in Judaism as a marginal possibility. I refer to the one case of a post-biblical Jewish woman who functioned as an independent religious authority on the same level as men, the famous nineteenth-century “Maid of Ludmir,” and precisely the same mechanism operates, autonomy and religious leadership for a woman as an equal to men but only because she is celibate and therefore not a woman. Indeed, as soon as she engaged in marriage, at the age of forty, at the urging of male religious authorities—and a celibate marriage at that—her religious power disappeared, because she had revealed that she really was a woman, and not a man in a woman's body, nor an asexual androgyne. See Rapoport-Alpert 1988. [BACK]
44. For the antiquity in Greece of the theme of women becoming male, see Saxonhouse (1992, 57–58), who traces it back at least to Aeschylus. Incidentally, Simon Peter's declaration in this text that women do not deserve life should be contrasted to the explicit statement in the Talmud that women must pray just as men do, “because do not women require life?” (Kiddushin 34b). [BACK]
45. This also suggests that it is not so obvious that the only direction of such gender blending or bending was from female to male, even for a misogynist like Philo, a fortiori for less misogynist Jews and Christians, even though it is not to be denied, of course, that the usual image was of a female becoming male. [BACK]
46. This story, as well as that of Thekla, has, of course, been discussed by myriad critics and commentators. [BACK]
47. For martyrdom as victory, see Revelation 3:21. [BACK]
48. In this light, the fact that the Gospel of Thomas most likely originates in the most rigidly celibate of all early “Orthodox” churches, the Syrian church, takes on particular significance. See Meeks (1973, 194); Richardson 1973. [BACK]
49. According to Stevan Davies, these texts were produced by women very similar in social status to the “virgins” of Philo, older women who either were unmarried or had left their husbands (1980). Even Dennis Ronald Macdonald (1984), who disagrees with Davies, still agrees that the oral sources of these texts were produced among celibate women. [BACK]
50. Once more, I emphasize that neither they nor the Jewish women may have experienced their lives the way we predict owing to our own cultural prejudices. [BACK]
51. Incidentally, Fiorenza errs when she writes there that in rabbinic Judaism, “even the full proselyte could not achieve the status of the male Israelite.” This does not affect, however, her larger claim that the constitution of the Christian community through baptism was intended to be something entirely different from the solidarities of physical kinship that characterized Judaism. This fundamental change in the notion of kinship did not produce, however, only and always welcome sociocultural effects, as Jews and Native Americans (among others) know only too well. (See Chapters 1 above and 9 and 10 below for further discussion.) [BACK]
52. This should not be taken as a totalizing statement denying wives (either in Christianity or in rabbinic Judaism) all freedom and subjectivity; indeed, it is not inconsistent with the notion that married women could have positions of at least partial leadership in the Pauline churches. Cf. Fiorenza (1983, 232–33). [BACK]
53. In this sense, then, Paul essentially agrees with the Corinthians as to the way to gender equality (cf. Wire 1990, 65 and especially 90), but Paul sees what he takes to be negative social and moral effects of the wrong people attempting to achieve such status. We need not necessarily accept as “historically” accurate Paul's evaluation of the situation. Anne Wire has argued that Paul's position involved a great deal of oppression of the Corinthian women, “Apparently Paul sets out to persuade women to give up what they have gained through sexual abstinence in order that the community and Christ himself may be saved from immorality” (79). I think that Wire's rereading of 1 Corinthians 6 and 7 is of great significance for our evaluation of Paul here, although for reasons I shall immediately lay out, not for our interpretation. By a very careful and close reading Wire has arrived at the following conclusions vis-à-vis this section of his text: Paul is primarily concerned with male immorality, and his injunctions to marry fall on women to provide legitimate sexual outlets for men, so that they will not fall into porneia. This includes those Corinthian women who have already achieved a high degree of spiritual fulfillment, who are now commanded to renounce this achievement for the sake of providing sexual service to men not called to the celibate life. Paul's discourse is, on this reading, considerably more compromised ethically than I have allowed above, in that its hierarchical imbalance falls on all women, including those successfully called to the celibate life. The consequence of Wire's brilliant reconstruction is “Paul's agreement with the Corinthians concerning gender equality on principle is strictly a rhetorical ploy if he is, as you say, ruled by the ‘negative social and moral effects of the wrong people attempting to achieve such status’” (from Wire's response at Center for Hermeneutical Studies).
It is here, however, that I wish to introduce a nuance, which, if it be apologetic, at least is not compromised by being apology for my own religious tradition, although there may be another factor working here: As a male Jew, all too aware of the gap between my own aspirations toward feminism and the shortcomings of my practice, I may be drawn to forgiving perceived—or constructed—analogous failures on the part of a forefather of sorts. Nevertheless, even given all the details of Wire's construction of the Corinthian women prophets and Paul's repressive reaction to them, I think we do not need to conclude that his agreement with them in principle is “strictly a rhetorical ploy,” but rather, I think a genuine and failed vision. Whether the baptismal formula in Galatians 3:28 is, as I suppose, a reflection of the primal androgyne interpretation of Genesis 1:28 or a radical rewriting of Genesis in the new creation of Christ, as Wire proposes, I think that it genuinely holds out the vision of social equality for all human beings. Paul, however, I argue, simply cannot think himself to an adequate social arrangement with equality for the sexes other than chastity, which for one reason or another he considers to be an unworkable solution at the present time. And yes, I agree, it may very well be that it is unworkable because of male sexual need in his view, and women may be the servants, for him, of that need; nevertheless, I think that he as well as the Corinthians, as opposed to rabbinic Judaism, envisions an end to gender hierarchy. In any case, if on the one hand, Wire points to the devastating history of male oppression of women in the name of Paul, one can also cite at least a nascent discourse and real history of chastity as female autonomy also carried out in his name, in what is, after all, the Acts of Paul and Thekla for notable example. Similarly, with regard to the parallel issue of slavery. Philemon has been used (maybe misused) as a text in the service of slavery. It is just as true, however, that Galatians 3:28 has been mobilized in anti-slavery discourses. The failure of consistency here involves not Paul's aspirations but his achievements. Others who come after may indeed be able to put into practice that which in Paul is fraught with contradiction. I think that the ultimate elimination of slavery in all of the Christian world is an eloquent case in point, although it took nearly two thousand years for Paul's vision to be realized here.
Richard Hays, on the other hand, suggests to me that in this verse, Paul is already into his discourse on the already married, and all he is saying is that those who are married should not become celibate. This interpretation would only strengthen my overall case. I am not entirely convinced, however, that this is the only way to read the verse, since then v. 3 would seem redundant. My take on the verse is rather that Paul is echoing—approvingly, and this is crucial—that which the Corinthians had written, namely, that celibacy is ideal. Paul agrees with them strongly, for he later repeats the theme of the free virgin, but qualifies their “extremism.” On this whole section, Wimbush 1987 can also be profitably consulted. [BACK]