1st Peter Chapter 3 Does Not Teach “Male Authority”

If patriarchal men cannot use mistranslations of Ephesians 5:22 to control women, they will sometimes turn to 1st Peter.  Rationalizing male authority and female submission, however, requires that Peter’s comments be viewed very selectively, and taken out of context. Chapters 2 and 3 of Peter’s first letter encourage followers of Jesus to demonstrate Christ’s love and humility, even in situations that are unfair:

When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

The focus of these chapters is on not returning evil for evil in situations that are unjust.  The apostle Paul shares a similar message in his letter to the Romans:

Do not repay anyone evil for evil… If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

1st Peter chapter 2 recognizes the existence of slavery in the 1st century Roman Empire, but it does not condone it.  Even with masters that are unfair “skoliois” (literally bent, crooked; 1 Peter 2:18), slaves are to imitate Christ’s love.  It is important to remember, however, that Paul encourages slaves to gain their freedom if it is at all possible to do so (1 Corinthians 7:21).

Wives likewise are to demonstrate Christ’s love in their marriages, even with husbands that are unbelievers.  In chapter 3 verse 1, Peter uses the same word in his instructions to wives, “submit,” as Paul uses in his instructions to all Christians in Ephesians 5:21: “Submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.”  In both passages, the verb “submit” is in the middle voice, which means it is a reflexive action performed by the self, upon the self.  “The middle voice in Greek has no exact parallel in the English language” (Cline, 1983, “The Middle Voice in the New Testament”), so it can be difficult for people to understand this word.  “Submit” here means to voluntarily assume a disposition of love and humility towards others.  It is not about a sense of duty or obligation to others.

Husbands are advised by Peter (1 Peter 3:7) to relate to their wives “in the same way,” honoring them as “weaker vessels” (“asthenestero skeuei” in Greek).   Unfortunately, patriarchal theologians like St Augustine wrongly interpreted this language to mean that women were “weaker in the mind” than men.  Augustine then taught that it was God’s will that “the weaker brain serve the stronger” (Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153).  This was his rationale for “male authority.”

Throughout ancient Greek literature, however, this language was used to refer not to those who were “weaker in the mind,” but rather to those who were socially disempowered (Muich, 2010, Pouring Out Tears: Andromache in Homer and Euripides).  According to Roman law, a woman had less social standing than a man. In this sense, she was “weaker.” Throughout the New Testament, we see that God chooses those whom the world considers weak, to demonstrate his power (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:27).  In Christ, Peter explains that women are elevated to the position of “co-heirs” with men in God’s kingdom. Believing husbands are called upon to recognize this, and show their wives honour accordingly. If husbands do not do this, Peter warns that God will not hear their prayers (1 Peter 3:7).

Abraham, Sarah’s husband, is addressed as “lord” in 1 Peter 3:6, but it is essential to remember that this term in its original context was simply a term of respect used even to address servants (see Genesis 24:17-18).

In 1 Peter 3:4, some English translations say that women are to be “gentle” and “quiet.”  Some complementarians infer that this means women are to be “subservient,” the opposite of “having authority.”  In the Greek language, however, the first word, “praeos,” is the opposite of “agriotes”: “savageness, fierceness, cruelty” (Liddell, Scott, Jones Lexicon).  Similarly, the second word “hesuchiou” properly refers to being “calm”–“the opposite of violence, not the opposite of authority or power” (Wilshire, 2010, Insight into Two Biblical Passages).  Both of these terms represent the opposite of being vengeful, in keeping with the overall message of Peter’s letter.

The New Living Translation of the Bible injects a strong patriarchal bias into Peter’s letter by twice telling wives to “accept the authority” of their husbands (1 Peter 3:1 and 5).  In the original Greek language of this passage there is absolutely no reference to a husband’s alleged “authority.”  As stated, Peter uses the same language here as Paul in Ephesians: “hupotassomenai” (adopt a disposition of love and humility towards their husbands)–the same form of “submission” all Christians (male and female) are to have towards one another.

English translations tell us that Sarah “obeyed” Abraham in 1 Peter 3:6.  It has been suggested that this language tells us that Sarah was acknowledging Abraham’s “male authority” over her.  Once again, however, the Greek language of the passage does not affirm this.  The word used to describe Sarah’s response to Abraham is “hupekousen”; though this can mean “obey” in certain contexts, the same word was also used to describe the actions of judges (authority figures) who would “give a hearing” to people in court:

Cyrus, however, would not be at leisure for a long time to give such men a hearing (hupakouein), and when he did give them a hearing (akouseien) he would postpone the trial for a long time.  By so doing he thought he would accustom them to pay their court and that he would thus excite less ill-feeling than he would if he compelled them to come by imposing penalties. (Xenophon of Athens, Cyropaedia VIII, 18)

The two Greek words used to describe a judge “giving a hearing” to those summoned to court are “hupakouein” and “akouseien.”  These words are used interchangeably.  They were often used in ancient Greek literature to refer to “paying heed, listening, or giving a hearing to someone” (Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon).

It is important to note that while “hupakouein” is used of Sarah in 1st Peter 3:6, “akouseien” is used of Abraham in the Greek Septuagint version of the following passage: “Listen (akoue) to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned” (Genesis 21:12). In other words, both Sarah and Abraham “paid heed” to one another in their marriage relationship.

The original language of 1st Peter does not portray “male authority” as “God’s will.”  This notion has wrongly been inferred by patriarchal theologians. After discussing slaves, wives and husbands, Peter reminds all Christians to be humble and loving, imitating Christ, no matter what situation they find themselves in–the overall theme of this entire section of the letter.

1st Peter is not meant to represent a male-dominated hierarchy in the home as “God’s will” any more than it is meant to condone the injustice of slavery.  As many other egalitarian authors have said, patriarchy is the backdrop of the Bible, not the message.

7 Common Tactics of Abusive Men

At one point in my work as a therapist, I primarily counseled abusive men who had been referred by the criminal justice system. Without exception, these men used a range of tactics to manipulate and control others. These tactics can be difficult to recognize because they are designed to distort a person’s sense of reality.

I recently found some online sources that provide a good overview of just some of the tactics I observed. When these tactics are present, it is likely that you are dealing with someone who is abusive.

Examples from Shahida Arabi’s “Thought Catalogue”:

Gaslighting
Gaslighting is a manipulative tactic that can be described in different variations of three [statements]: “That didn’t happen,” “You imagined it,” and “Are you crazy?” Gaslighting is perhaps one of the most insidious manipulative tactics out there because it works to distort and erode your sense of reality; it eats away at your ability to trust yourself and inevitably disables you from feeling justified in calling out abuse and mistreatment.

When [someone] gaslights you, you may be prone to gaslighting yourself as a way to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that might arise. Two conflicting beliefs battle it out: is this person right or can I trust what I experienced? A manipulative person will convince you that the former is an inevitable truth while the latter is a sign of dysfunction on your end…

Projection
One sure sign of toxicity is when a person is chronically unwilling to see his or her own shortcomings and uses everything in their power to avoid being held accountable for them. This is known as projection. Projection is a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behavior and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a digression that avoids ownership and accountability…

Instead of admitting that self-improvement may be in order, they would prefer that their victims take responsibility for their behavior and feel ashamed of themselves. This is a way for a narcissist to project any toxic shame they have about themselves onto another…

Narcissistic abusers love to play the “blameshifting game.” Objectives of the game: they win, you lose, and you or the world at large is blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. This way, you get to babysit their fragile ego while you’re thrust into a sea of self-doubt…  (https://thoughtcatalog.com/shahida-arabi/2016/06/20-diversion-tactics-highly-manipulative-narcissists-sociopaths-and-psychopaths-use-to-silence-you/)

Examples from Gary Direnfeld’s “The Five Best Friends of Abusive Men”:

Denial
Even with fingers caught in the cookie jar, abusive men are apt to outright deny wrongdoing. “I didn’t do that. That’s not what you saw!” This is quite crazy making for the women who live with them. These women are left questioning their own perceptions, seeking to resolve the cognitive dissonance between their experience and their partner’s description of what appears as an alternate reality. Bottom line: If you experience something with your own senses, don’t question yourself and don’t take your partner’s bunk.

Distortion
Distortion differs from denial in that while some truths are admitted to, they are manipulated to suite the abuser’s point of view. With distortion, they can turn a lie into a plausible truth: “I may have done such and so, but I was just joking around.” Because they rely on a half lie, the abusive man can be more difficult to hold accountable. The partner who is subject to this form of manipulation is apt to give the abuser multiple chances, feeling the need to have absolute certainty before they can really catch the abuser at this game. Bottom line: Don’t let him play games with your mind. If it smells bad, it is bad.

Deflection
The abuser that uses deflection never addresses any issue put to him. Rather, he is apt to barrage you with a host of other issues to throw you off his scent. He will make anything other than himself the issue and will be on it like a junk yard dog on a bone. “What are you blaming me for? You know your mother doesn’t like me. Quit listening to her and we would be all right. She’s the problem between us!” Don’t let yourself be misguided. Stick with the facts and continue to hold the abuser accountable. Don’t let him throw others under the bus to save himself.

Deception
Abusive men like to get away with whatever they can. The tactics include sneaking, stealing and lying. These are the guys who will tell you they are out bowling when having a sexual meet-up or say they are working late when out with the boys. As long as they don’t get caught, they continue to lie. Catch them in a lie and they are apt to deny, distort or deflect. How many lies do you have to catch your partner in before you get the message; this is an abusive man. No solid relationship can be built on lies.

Denigration
Denigration is a verbally violent tactic of … abusive men. These are put-downs that are meant to cause their partner to feel bad. To the degree they can make their partner feel bad, they elevate their own status. These men will demean and/or blame you for any issue originating with them. This kind of abuse is particularly dangerous to a women’s self-esteem. Once you accept that you are a lowly dog, he’s got full control of you and will use you up and spit you out when finished.

Darenfeld concludes his article with the following comments:

“Sadly, abusive men live among us and what’s worse; they can hide like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They can appear charming and they will try to work their way into your heart. They seek to ingratiate themselves to you. However, once in, they’re out to exploit. Try and thwart them and they rely on their five best friends to hold power so they can continue to win their way for their own gratification.”
(http://www.yoursocialworker.com/p-articles/abusive-men.htm)

In my experience as a Christian therapist, many (though not all) church leaders had great difficulty spotting these tactics. As a result, they were often “taken in” by them in such a way that women were further victimized.

Why did this happen?

Relevant factors seemed to include:

Sexist Theology
Some theology teaches—wrongly—that God designed men to “rule over” women. This theology is rooted in Latin and English translations of the Bible that contain a demonstrable bias against women. The meaning of key passages concerning women is literally altered in translation. To provide just one of many examples, Isaiah 3:12—in our oldest manuscripts—contains a warning against abusive “creditors.” These were people in positions of power that took advantage of the poor. In later Latin translations of the Bible (beginning in the 4th century AD), this verse became a warning against “women” in leadership. We find similar sexist ideas in Latin Bible commentaries from the same period. This sexism was a reflection of the fallen cultural norms of the highly patriarchal Roman Empire. It is not a reflection of God’s will. Sadly, it has been carried over into English Bible translations and commentaries that are still in use today.

Unfortunately, this kind of dysfunctional theology presumes that women will naturally attempt to “usurp” a man’s alleged authority. Men are encouraged to actively prevent this from happening by asserting their “divine right to rule” in the church and in the home. This distorted view of “God’s will” serves to reinforce the manipulative patterns of abusive men.

Over-identifying with Abusers
In my experience, when confronted with an abusive man, many Christian leaders would assume the man was “just like them.” They would assume the man was telling the truth (since they themselves were honest), when in fact he was being deceptive. They would assume the man was being contrite and repentant, when in fact he was being manipulative. Christian leaders had a hard time imagining that someone could truly be as abusive as a woman might claim—because that kind of behavior was simply foreign to them.

The Bible contains many stories of men and women who do wrong things, have an experience with God, and learn to conduct themselves differently. The apostle Paul is a classic example. He once persecuted followers of Jesus Christ, but later became a Christian missionary. Some church leaders seem to have a hard time recognizing that abusers often do not fit the “apostle Paul profile.”

Some people can skillfully mimic Christian conversion. They know what to say and do to “appear” as though they have had a genuine spiritual experience that leads to life change. They may even progress to positions of leadership. Jesus warned about such people in Matthew 7:15: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” Jesus knew that predators could skillfully pretend to be sheep or even shepherds.

It is a tragic reality that some men are abusive towards women. If the church is ever going to address this problem, it must first learn how to identify the common tactics of abusive men. Church leaders must also put aside sexist theology, and beware of over-identifying with abusers.

Disputing the Power and Effectiveness of Male Authority

On October 31st, 1517 (500 years ago today) Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of Wittenberg’s Castle Church in Germany. The notice he posted was entitled, “A Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.”

Luther’s 95 points of critique focused on a church tradition that he viewed as harmful to God’s people and to the saving message of Jesus Christ. The tradition was known as the “doctrine of indulgences.” In Luther’s day, the institutional church claimed the authority to free departed loved ones from punishment in purgatory, if their living friends or relatives would meet certain conditions. One of these conditions consisted of a monetary donation to the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. In other words, the sins of a loved one could be forgiven (Latin “indulgere”) through the payment of money to the church. The campaign to obtain funds through the sale of indulgences led to the saying, “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.” Another alleged way to release a loved one from purgatory was to volunteer to take part in a military “crusade.”i

Luther rightly pointed out that the doctrine of indulgences distorted Jesus’ message that forgiveness and eternal life come not through external acts that benefit a religious institution, but rather through an inward change of heart and mind—turning from sin to God, and trusting that Christ died on the cross for our sins.

Luther’s position was that the institutional church did not have the authority to do what Christ alone had already done. The doctrine of indulgences displaced Jesus Christ and his message of salvation with a man-made system of “forgiveness,” available on condition of adherence to man-made rules. Rather than bringing people freedom and forgiveness, the doctrine of indulgences became a source of bondage and extortion.

Today, another church tradition continues to be a source of bondage for God’s people. It is the “doctrine of male authority.” In the Roman Catholic Church, the head of an all-male, celibate priesthood is believed to have a special ability from the Holy Spirit to protect the church from error.ii Nowhere in the Bible are we told that one celibate male will be chosen by God to safeguard the church from spiritual deception. In fact, the first man to hold this alleged office was married: “Don’t we have the right to bring a Christian wife with us as the other apostles and the Lord’s brothers do, and as Peter does?” (1 Corinthians 9:5) Rather than claiming special authority to oversee the church on the basis of being celibate and male, Peter taught that all Christians (male, female, married, single) are a “royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), filled with the Holy Spirit of God, who works in and through all of God’s people to lead us into truth (John 16:13). In other words, the doctrine of celibate male authority does not guard against error; it is an error.

Protestant churches have generally rejected the doctrine of celibacy for clergy, but they have not all abandoned the notion that spiritual authority must be “male.” Misquoting Paul in 1st Timothy and Titus, the “Bible Teacher’s Guide” found at Bible.org claims that a church leader must be “a man,” and that these men “protect the church from error.”iii While 1st Timothy 3:2 does say that an elder must be “the husband of one wife,” this is not a prescription for male authority. The rabbinical school of Shammai in Jesus’ time permitted polygamy for Jewish men.iv The rabbinical school of Hillel permitted Jewish men to divorce and replace their wives for any reason, simply by issuing them a written notice of divorce.v Neither of these practices, which applied to men exclusively, was permitted for elders in the Christian church. The same language, “husband of one wife,” is also used for “deacons” in 1st Timothy 3:12. This did not mean that deacons had to be “male.” Phoebe, a woman, is described in the New Testament as a deacon (diakonon) in Romans 16:1. This is the same word used to describe deacons (diakonoi) in 1st Timothy 3:12. Some English translations say that “deacons must be men,” but this expression has been added to the Bible by translators. It does not appear in any Greek manuscripts of the Bible whatsoever. In addition to being a “diakonon,” Phoebe was also a “prostatis” (Romans 16:2). This is the noun form of the word used by the apostle Paul in the same letter (Romans) to address those with the spiritual gift of leadership: “if it [your spiritual gift] is to lead (proistemi/verb form of prostatis), do it diligently” (Romans 12:8). The call to leadership in the church is not based upon a person’s sex at birth; it is based upon the gifts they receive from the Holy Spirit of God.

In addition to asserting that “male leadership” protects the church from error, some Protestant leaders (those that call themselves “complementarians”) claim that masculine authority also protects the family from sin.vi They claim that Ephesians 5:22 commands wives to “submit” to their husbands. According to complementarian Wayne Grudem, this will “sometimes include” “obeying actual commands” given by a husband to a wife.vii In reality, the oldest Greek manuscripts of the Bible (P46 and Codex Vaticanus) do not contain this command directed exclusively to wives. Rather, every Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) will demonstrate this by “submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). This means that all who follow Jesus and are filled with the Holy Spirit of God will relate to one another with an attitude of love and humility.

The doctrine of male authority cannot be found in the Bible’s original languages and contexts. Rather, it was added to church tradition by commentators and translators who used Plato’s philosophy and Roman law as an interpretive guide to the Bible. In addition to being unjust—giving and withholding power on the basis of a person’s sex at birth—the practice of giving men authority over women has been identified as the greatest predictor of violence against women in intimate partner relationships.viii

For far too long “male authority” has been held up as a false protection for the church and for Christian homes. It is Christ’s death and resurrection that free people from sin, and it is the Holy Spirit that strengthens God’s people against temptation and error. “Masculinity” cannot accomplish any of these things. In fact, the doctrine of male leadership is rooted in human laws and philosophy that were strongly prejudiced against women. It is time for this human tradition to be forever disassociated from the life and message of Jesus Christ.

If you agree, please feel free to add your voice to the following petition: Renouncing Church Traditions that Harm Women.

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Endnotes

i. http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-28/1517-luther-posts-95-theses.html.

ii. http://www.ewtn.com/library/answers/prochurc.htm.

iii. https://bible.org/seriespage/16-characteristics-healthy-churches-1-peter-51-5.

iv. Jesus’ Old Testament basis for Monogamy David Instone Brewer, Tyndale House, Cambridge.

vi. http://www.instonebrewer.com/divorceremarriage/Articles/WhitefieldBriefing.htm.

vii. https://www.challies.com/christian-living/leadership-in-the-home-a-godly-man-protects/.

viii. http://gospeltranslations.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_Mutual_Submission.

ix. For more information on male authority and domestic violence, see Chapters 1-3 of “Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church,” H. and B. Edwards, 2017.

A Call to Renounce Traditions in the Church that are Harmful to Women

What are these traditions?

  • That only men may hold positions of leadership in the church.
  • That only men may teach the spiritual truths found in the Bible.
  • That men have a position of “authority” over women in marriage.

Why renounce them?

  • They are an example of injustice. They give power to one group of people and withhold it from another, all on the basis of their sex at birth.
  • They foster abuse. The greatest predictor of male violence against women is an environment that teaches men to exert control and authority over female behavior.[i]
  • They have no part in the Christian faith. Despite Jesus’ example of treating women as equals to men,[ii] and despite overt statements in the New Testament that women and men are equal “in Christ,”[iii] traditions based on Greek philosophy and Roman law became the basis of a male-dominant authority structure in the institutional church. This authority structure then interpreted and in some cases translated the Bible with a systematic bias against women.[iv] It is time for this bias, rooted in human prejudice, to be forever disassociated from the life and message of Jesus Christ.

Will you publicly renounce these harmful traditions, while affirming your desire to trust and follow Jesus?

If so, please sign the petition at the following link:

https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/renouncing-church-traditions-that-harm-women

Thank you.

[i] Edwards, H & Edwards, B. (2017). Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church, Charleston, SC: Createspace, p. 8.

[ii] In John’s gospel, Jesus first openly revealed that He was the Messiah to a Samaritan woman. He did this when it was against Jewish custom for men to speak in public with women who were not their wives or relatives, and when it was against the cultural norms of the day for a Jewish person to speak to a Samaritan. This woman then took the message that Jesus was the Messiah to her town, and many people came to faith in Christ (John 4:1-42). The first people Jesus entrusted with the news of His resurrection from the dead were women. He did this when the laws and customs of the day did not regard women as reliable witnesses (Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-10).

[iii] The New Testament book of Galatians tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).

[iv] Edwards, H & Edwards, B. (2017). Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church, Charleston, SC: Createspace, pp. 10-14.

How Patriarchy (the rule of men) in the Church Enables Domestic Violence

Shame, blame, control, anger: these are the dynamics that typically lead a man to engage in acts of violence against an intimate partner.

Shame is a lie that says a person is bad, worthless, unacceptable, unlovable. To defend against shame, abusers project what they see as their own negative characteristics onto someone else.

Psychotherapist Jim O’Shea explains,

Abusive personality types have a dangerous and specific characteristic–the blaming mindset. They project their own negative traits onto their partners. This mindset sees the partner as the source of the abuser’s discomfort, shortcomings and failures, and this continually stokes his anger…

The abusive or controlling personality type believes the partner is the problem and must be controlled and made subject to his will.[1]

This shame-based, blaming mentality is embedded in patriarchal (a.k.a complementarian) theology.

A well-known theologian of the 4th century AD, St. Augustine, is largely responsible for the patriarchal theology that is still often taught in our churches and seminaries. Leaders of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood frequently quote John Calvin to defend their patriarchal view of the Bible, and Calvin cited Augustine as one of his main influences. Augustine did not get his patriarchal views from the Bible, however; he derived them from reading Neoplatonic philosophy. He then used this philosophy as an interpretive guide to the Bible. (For more information, see Chapter 3 of “Addressing Domestic Violence in the Church.”)

Augustine was also influenced by the example of his own parents and the male-dominant culture of the Roman Empire. In this culture, men were typically violent towards their wives. Commenting on this reality, St. Augustine blamed women for the violence of their husbands:

And besides this, as he [Augustine’s father] was earnest in friendship, so was he violent in anger; but she [Augustine’s mother] had learned that an angry husband should not be resisted, neither in deed, nor even in word. But so soon as he was grown calm and tranquil, and she saw a fitting moment, she would give him a reason for her conduct, should he have been excited without cause. In short, while many matrons, whose husbands were more gentle, carried the marks of blows on their dishonoured faces, and would in private conversation blame the lives of their husbands, she would blame their tongues, admonishing them gravely, as if in jest: That from the hour they heard what are called the matrimonial tablets read to them, they should think of them as instruments whereby they were made servants; so, being always mindful of their condition, they ought not to set themselves in opposition to their lords. (St. Augustine Confessions IX.9.19.)

These statements transfer responsibility for male violence onto women; they blame victims for the actions of their abusers. Augustine believed that women caused their husbands to become violent, by not being properly submissive to their “lords.”

Just as Augustine blamed women for the violence of their husbands, so too did he and other notable theologians blame Eve for the fall of humanity into sin. Addressing all women, for example, Tertullian said,

And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die. (On the Apparel of Women, Book I, Chapter 1)

Echoing this view of women, Augustine wrote, “What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman” (Let. 243.10).

Patriarchal theology pointed to Eve–and all women–as the primary cause of humanity’s fall.

The solution proposed by these early theologians was simple. Men must exercise control of women to prevent further catastrophes. Drawing from Neoplatonic philosophy, Augustine compared women to the evils of the “flesh” and explained that men—whom he compared to the “spirit”—must have complete “mastery” over them (On John, Tractate 2, § 14; Plotinus’ Enneads 1 & 4).

Through the mental gymnastics of patriarchal theology, the shame of humanity’s fall was transferred onto women, who must therefore be controlled by men. In addition to being a lie that has absolutely no basis whatsoever in the Bible, this is the very thinking that predisposes men to engage in violence against women.  In fact, a recent international study of nearly half a million women in 44 different countries found that one of the greatest predictors of male violence against women was an environment that normalized male authority over female behavior.[2]

If church leaders do not renounce the shame-based, blaming mentality embedded in patriarchal (complementarian) theology, they will continue to enable domestic violence against women.

It’s time for the church to truly embrace the following instructions of the apostle Paul to the church in Rome: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” It’s time for the church to stop listening to ancient Greek philosophy and Roman culture; it’s time to start thinking and behaving like Christ:

The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:

He always had the nature of God,
    but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had,
    and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
    and appeared in human likeness.
He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
    his death on the cross.  (Philippians 2:5-8)

 

References:

[1] Jim O’Shea Counselling Service: “Controlling people have low self-esteem and project their own negative traits onto their partners,” August 15, 2015.

[2] Heise, L & Kotsadam A. (2015) Cross-national and multilevel correlates of partner violence: an analysis of data from population-based surveys.  The Lancet, Volume 3, Issue 6.  https://www.thelancet.com/journals/langlo/article/PIIS2214-109X(15)00013-3/fulltext