• I. WOMANS PLACE
  • II. THE BAPTISMAL
  • M A N F ROM HEAV E N : J O H
  • III
  • EQUAL TO GOD
  • Notes
  • THE MAN FROM HEAVEN IN PAULS
  • BREAKING AWAY
  • THE JOHANNINE GROUPS AND
  • B R E A K I N G AWAY
  • PAULINE CHRISTIANITY AND THE
  • MATTHEW AGAINST THE SCRIBES
  • III. THE MYTH
  • CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
  • AND ROSE UP TO PLAY
  • JUDGMENT AND THE BROTHER
  • GODS JUDGMENT RELATIVIZES
  • WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE?
  • CONCLUSION
  • THE CIRCLE OF REFERENCE IN PAULINE
  • MORALS FOR CONVERTS
  • Outsiders as Reference
  • The Other Letters
  • IV. RITUAL AND COMMUNITY
  • The Movement as
  • Reference Individuals
  • Outsiders as Reference
  • Tiepolo-Book'II
  • THE POLYPHONIC ETHICS OF THE
  • ISSUE: EID ¯ OLOTHYTA
  • TRANSFORMATION OF A
  • SOME CONCLUSIONS
  • ON TRUSTING AN UNPREDICTABLE
  • A STUMBLING BLOCK FOR THE
  • V. ROLES OF WOMEN IN THE
  • A STRATEGY OF PARADOX AND
  • Misreading
  • DARE WE LEARN HERMENEUTICS
  • A Community of
  • VISION OF GOD AND SCRIPTURE INTERPRETATION
  • THE IMAGE
  • BIBLICAL MOTIFS
  • VISUALIZING THE UNSEEABLE
  • AFTERWORD
  • VI. CONCLUSIONS
  • R E A D I N G A N D W R I T I
  • I M AG E O F T H E A N D ROGYNE
  • THE MAN FROM HEAVEN IN JOHANNINE
  • PART I
  • I. WOMANS PLACE
  • I. WOMANS PLACE

    By and large the opposition of social roles was an important means by

    which Hellenistic man established his identity. For example, a rhetorical

    commonplace was the three reasons for gratitude, variously attributed to

    Thales or Plato: that I was born a human being and not a beast, next, a man

    and not a woman, thirdly, a Greek and not a barbarian.7 As Henry Fischel

    points out,8 the pattern was adopted by the Jewish Tannaim and eventually

    found its way into the synagogue liturgy: R. Judah says: Three blessings one

    must say daily: Blessed (art thou), who did not make me a gentile; Blessed

    (art thou), who did not make me a woman; Blessed (art thou), who did not

    make me a boor.9

    For a long time, however, forces had been at work in the Hellenistic world

    that tended to reduce this sharp differentiation of role, particularly between

    men and women. The queens and other prominent women among the families

    of the Diadochoi often overshadowed the men around them by their

    shrewd exercise of political power. In them, as Carl Schneider remarks, the

    extraordinary feminine characters of Euripides tragedies became flesh and

    blood.10 The legal rights of women were greatly enhanced both in East and

    West; the traditional absolutism of the patria potestas was attenuated in Roman

    law of the imperial era.11 Particularly, the economic rights of women in

    cases of divorce and inheritance improved, and with them arose the figure of

    the wealthy woman, able to exercise considerable influence through the pervasive

    patron/client relationship in Roman society.12 Some of these women

    of property as well as women of lesser means undoubtedly engaged in trade,

    though there is insufficient evidence to determine the extent of feminine

    participation in mercantile occupations or handicrafts. In Greece even professional

    athletics were opened to women in the first century B.C.13 It is significant

    both for the rising status of women and for the general weakening of

    social categories in the period that mixed marriages between freed slaves and

    free women, between Greek and barbarian, between partners of different

    economic status, and the like, became more and more common in the Greco-

    Roman period.14

    In such a society, in which many forms of social relationship underwent

    extensive change, it is reasonable to ask whether, apart from Christianity,

    there were groups which significantly modified the roles of men and women

    or used the symbolism of the equivalence of male and female as a hallmark

    of group identification. Likely places to look would be religious associations,

    I M AG E O F T H E A N D ROGYNE

    5

    philosophical schools, and, because of its peculiar relationship to larger

    Greco-Roman society, Judaism.

    There are in fact signs that in some cultic associations the ordinary social

    roles were disregarded. For example, the famous inscription on a shrine in

    honor of Agdistis (and several other savior deities) in Philadelphia, Lydia, begins:

    The commandments given to Dionysius [the owner of the house] (by

    Zeus), granting access in sleep to his own house both to free men and

    women, and to household slaves. And it concludes with similar words:

    These commandments were placed [here] by Agdistis, the most holy

    Guardian and Mistress of this house, that she might show her good will [or

    intentions] to men and women, bond and free, so that they might follow the

    [rules] written here and take part in the sacrifices which [are offered] month

    by month and year by year.15 Initiation at Eleusis was permitted, at least as

    early as the fourth century B.C., to women, even hetairai (courtesans) as well

    as to slaves, and to foreigners if they spoke Greek.16 In Roman Hellenism

    syncretic mysteries of Oriental and Egyptian origin became important foci in

    the quest for identity pursued by so many persons who had been uprooted

    from the city, tribe or clan (povli~, fratriva, gens).17 In most of them, the notable

    exception of Mithraism,18 women were initiated on a par with men,

    just as distinctions of origin, family, class, or servitude were put aside.19 In

    some of the cults, moreover, the exchange of sexual roles, by ritual transvestism

    for example, was an important symbol for the disruption of ordinary

    lifes categories in the experience of initiation.20 This disruption, however,

    did not ordinarily reach beyond the boundaries of the initiatory experience

    except, of course, in the case of devotees who went on to become cult functionaries,

    like the galli who irrevocably assimilated themselves to Cybele by

    the sacrifice of emasculation. Otherwise, dissolution of role in the initiation

    must have been more a safety valve than a detonator for the pressures of role

    antagonism in the larger society.21 Initiation did not have the social consequences

    of conversion; the mysteries created no enduring, inclusive community

    that could provide an alternative to the patterns of association in the

    larger society.22

    Within the philosophical schools the equality of women with men was

    generally affirmed in principle but, apart from the Epicureans, hardly ever

    actualized in practice. Plato had advocated similar education for boys and

    girls and, in the ideal state, equal participation in all occupations, including

    the political and the military. Yet that reflected more an extension of the

    gradual emancipation then taking place in Athenian society than a radical

    R E A D I N G A N D W R I T I N G T H E PA S T

    6

    innovation.23 Plato himself, moreover, always regarded women as inferior

    by nature to men.24 The Greek intellectual tradition persistently strove to

    discover the underlying unity of reality, a quest which could provide the motive

    for criticism of the empirical divisions of society. Such criticism was more

    likely to occur when the philosophers themselves, as not infrequently happened,

    were alienated from the prevailing organs of power. The Cynics are

    depicted throughout the literature of antiquity as the very models of alienation.

    Diogenes-chriae portray a man who, for the sake of his citizenship in

    the cosmos and his mission as messenger of the gods, disdains the roles and

    obligations that belong to the citizens of any earthly city.25 Appropriately the

    epigram, Virtue is the same for men and for women, is attributed to Antisthenes,

    teacher of Diogenes.26 The Stoics took up this themeCleanthes is

    said to have written a book on the subject27and developed it into a grand

    picture of the unity of all rational beingthe gods, men, and womenall

    having one virtue as they all partook of the one logos.28

    Nevertheless, the traditional philosophical school was a closed masculine

    community from which women were excluded,29 which yielded only reluctantly

    to the ideal of equality. In late Hellenism the new educational requirements

    of the bureaucratic classes replaced the masculine ideology of the

    old education.30 Ironically, though, the practical ethics of the schools came

    more and more to be shaped by the conventional stratification of society,31

    so that there was little pragmatic reason for the admission of women as

    pupils. Like Plato, Zeno wrote a Republic sketching a utopia in which men and

    women would be equal, even wearing identical clothing,32 yet none of

    Zenos disciples were women,33 and the report that Plato had two female students

    who also heard Speusippus, if it is to be believed, is isolated in the traditions

    of the Academy.34 The story of Hipparchia, who refused high-born

    and wealthy suitors to become the wife of Crates, adopting the Cynics cloak

    and ascetic life, was a favorite subject in the collections of chriae.35 Yet its popularity

    is probably an index precisely to the novelty of a woman philosopher,

    even among the Cynics. Only from the Roman Stoics do we hear serious

    advocacy of a philosophical vocation for women, for example in the essay

    by Musonius Rufus on the theme That Women Too Should Study Philosophy.

    36 Yet Musoniuss own pupil, Epictetus, can speak of women with contempt,

    37 and even Seneca by and large shares the common prejudices

    against women as innately inferior to men.38 Though there were women in

    the old Pythagorean communityprincipally the wives and daughters of

    male members of the association, like the famous Timycha, wife of Myllia

    I M AG E O F T H E A N D ROGYNE

    7

    and Iamblichus lists seventeen of the most illustrious Pythagorean women,39

    the role of women depicted in the Pythagorean traditions is quite conventional.

    40

    Only in the Epicurean Garden did women participate on a fully equal

    basis. Both married women and hetairai belonged to the original fellowship

    of Epicurus, and one of the latter, Leontion, served as president in the rotating

    succession.41 The fact is more significant because the intimate fellowship

    of the Epicureans is a central factor in the movements existence. Seneca remarked,

    It was not instruction but fellowship [contubernium] that made

    great men out of Metrodorus, Hermarchus, and Polyaenus.42 The Epicureans

    exaltation of philia, consolidated by the communal living (koinwniva) of

    those who have attained the full complement of pleasure,43 seems to contradict

    their extreme quest for self-sufficiency (aujtavrkeia)44 as well as the

    dogma attributed to Epicurus, that man is not by nature sociable (koinwnikovn)

    and civilized.45 Perhaps, however, the case is not so paradoxical.

    The Epicureans were radically pessimistic about the public order (politeiva),

    for this existed by coercion, inimitable to self-sufficiency and therefore to

    happiness. The great cosmic state of men and gods envisioned by the Stoics

    was for the Epicureans a dangerous figment of the imagination. However,

    when Epicurus recommended the private life,46 he meant not the life of a

    hermit, but the intimate fellowship in which the self-sufficiency of each individual

    could be enhanced by their mutual support. Like the Pythagorean

    groups, the Epicurean fellowship was a therapeutic cult.47 Consequently,

    while the Epicureans rejected the institution of marriage and the duty to produce

    children for the society,48 the original Garden included several married

    couples, at least one of which came from the marriage of two members, and

    Epicuruss will made elaborate provision for the care of Metrodoruss children.

    49 Though the sage (sofov~) ought not to fall in love (ejra`sqai),50 presumably

    because eros would work against self-sufficiency, the relationship

    between man and woman within the community could be transformed into

    the friendship (filiva) of free persons. Thus the Epicureans, alone among the

    philosophical schools and initiatory groups (qivasoi) did create a communal

    existence in which the normal social roles of the sexes were abolished, and

    male and female were equal.

    If there was any group in antiquity renowned in popular imagination for

    its peculiarity over against the laws and customs of the larger society, it was

    the Jews. Did any group of the Jews distinguish themselves by uniqueness of

    the male/female relationships among them? We might suppose so, for one

    outside observer at least tells us that concerning marriage and the burial of

    R E A D I N G A N D W R I T I N G T H E PA S T

    8

    the dead, he [sc. Moses] established practices different from those of other

    men.51 Yet in practice the Jewish communities in the Roman empire seem

    to have reflected all the diversity and ambiguities that beset the sexual roles

    and attitudes of the dominant society.

    The marriage laws of ancient Israel gave to women an honorable but circumscribed

    and decidedly subordinate place. As there was in the biblical tradition

    no asceticism properly so called, so also there was no misogyny,52 but,

    like all ancient Near Eastern cultures, Israelite society in all its historical periods

    was dominated by the male. The praise of national heroes in Ben Sira

    (chaps. 44 ff.) includes only famous men; there is no place for a Sarah or a

    Deborah. Indeed the older wisdom literature recognizes only two classes of

    women: good wives and dangerous seductresses.53 Nevertheless, Judaism

    felt some of the winds of change that affected its neighbors. Like the larger

    Hellenistic kingdoms, Hasmonean Judea had its shrewd and ruthless queen,

    Salome Alexandra. And, despite Ben Sira, it had its legendary heroines, Esther

    and Judith, competent to exercise their wiles for the good of their people

    in any Hellenistic royal court. At a more humdrum level, there were evidently

    Jewish women engaged in trade and commerce, for several of the

    obviously well-to-do patronesses of Paul were Jewish-Christians.54 There is

    no record of any woman having served as an officer of a synagogue, but at

    least three women in the Roman Jewish community were honored in tomb

    inscriptions with the title mater synagogae, corresponding to the more frequent

    (nine times) pater synagogae.55

    Just as the Stoics discussed the question whether women ought to philosophize,

    so there was disagreement among the Tannaim whether women

    should be instructed in Torah. The predominant opinion was certainly negative,

    although few would take the extreme view of Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, to

    whom are attributed the sayings: Every man who teaches his daughter

    Torah is as if he taught her promiscuity,56 and, Let the words of the Torah

    be burned up, but let them not be delivered to women.57 There were

    women who learned Torahone of the synagogue lessons could be read by

    a woman58and the Talmud preserves numerous stories about the sagacity

    of Beruria, wife of R. Meir, who bested both a sectary and her own husband

    in argument, and whose opinion on one occasion was even accepted by R.

    Judah the Prince.59 By and large, however, the presence of a woman in the

    rabbinic academies must have been at least as rare as it was among the pupils

    of the Stoics, who in theory were much less opposed to the idea.

    Moreover, there were in Judaism of the Hellenistic era, as in pagan Hellenism,

    60 pockets of real misogyny. The most blatant example is Philo,

    I M AG E O F T H E A N D ROGYNE

    9

    who commonly uses the female figures in the Bible as symbols of feeling

    (ai[sqhsi~) or emotion (pavqo~), but the male for mind (nou`~) and reason

    (lovgo~)61 and who associates with woman an extraordinary number of pejorative

    expressions: weak, easily deceived, cause of sin, lifeless, diseased, enslaved,

    unmanly, nerveless, mean, slavish, sluggish, and many others.62

    When he does give a positive value to biblical women, such as Sarah, the allegory

    robs these figures of their feminine character.63 Moreover, in striking

    contrast to pagan society in Hellenistic Egypt, where women attained unusual

    independence in economic, legal, and even political affairs, Philo interprets

    the biblical laws in a way decidedly inimical to the rights of wives and

    mothers.64 To be sure, despite his ascetic and dualistic tendencies,65 Philo

    is both Jewish and Greek enough to regard marriage as natural and necessary

    but the husbands relationship to his wife is like that of father to children

    and owner to slaves.66 The proper relation of wife to husband is expressed

    by the verb douleuvein to serve as a slave,67 and the sole legitimate

    purpose of marriage and of sexual intercourse is procreation.68We shall look

    in vain in Philo, therefore, for any advocacy of equalization or unification of

    the opposite sexes. His attitude toward male and female roles is, on the contrary,

    more conservative than that of his gentile environment. To the extent

    that the Alexandrian Jewish community as a whole tended to grant more legal

    equality to women than did the biblical laws, on the other hand, it did so

    evidently more by accommodation to Egyptian custom than in distinction

    from it.

    The options are not vastly different if we consider all the varieties of Judaism

    in the Second Commonwealth periodinsofar as our limited data

    permit us to know anything about them. Some, like Philo, sharply depreciate

    the worth and place of women;69 there are groups that tend toward sexual

    asceticism, notably the Essenes and other baptizing sects of Palestine, yet

    without abandoning male dominance.70 Nowhere in Judaism do we hear of

    any real tendency to harmonize the social roles of male and female, except to

    the limited extent that Hellenized Jews follow the general but by no means

    universal trend toward equality. Only perhaps in the strange vigil of the

    Therapeutae, as Philo describes it, is there something like a ritual unification

    of the sexes, which in ecstatic song dissolves their strict separation observed

    in the everyday life of this ascetic community.71

    If any generalization is permissible about the place of women in Hellenistic

    society of Roman imperial times, it is that the age brought in all places a

    heightened awareness of the differentiation of male and female. The traditional

    social roles were no longer taken for granted but debated, consciously

    R E A D I N G A N D W R I T I N G T H E PA S T

    10

    violated by some, vigorously defended by others. While the general status of

    women had vastly and steadily improved over several centuries, the change

    brought in some circles a bitter reaction in the form of misogyny. The groups

    that made possible full participation of women with men on an equal basis

    were few and isolated; the Epicurean school is the only important example.

    Among those who advocated preservation of the status quo, the constantly

    salient concern is a sense of order: everything must be in its place, and the

    differentiation and ranking of women and men became a potent symbol for

    the stability of the world order. That concern comes through clearly, for example,

    in the protestations by moralists about the natural difference in hair

    styles of men and women.72 Thus the aphorism of an anonymous Attic comedian

    was still valid: Womans world is one thing, mens another.73

    Paul   Christianitys   there   their   The   Pauls   they   were   eventually   about   between   like   Gospels   letters   Christs   some   been   does   would   thus   FORMULA   Other   could   John   groups