Seeing the release of the first volume of Susan Wise Bauer’s History of the Ancient World prompted me to go back and read something she recently published in Books and Culture, which prompted me to leave the response below on her blog:
This comment is not related to the present post, sorry. Seeing your new book out (congratulations! and congrats on the Ph.D., too!) prompted me to go back and look at something that recently came to my inbox from Books and Culture.
So I’ve just read your piece on the book by John Stackhouse, and it seemed to me that you rested a lot in that piece on the analogy between what the Bible says about slavery and what it says about women. I’m sure someone has said something like this to you already, but my conscience constrains me to communicate this: complementarians hold that there is a major difference between what the Bible says about slavery and what it says about women.
The Bible says nothing about slavery being part of God’s created order. Nor does the Bible indicate that slavery was present in Eden. Every statement the Bible makes about slavery regulates a wicked practice of fallen people. I’m sure you’re aware of the differences between the humane treatment of slaves in the Bible and the more harsh conditions among other peoples of the ancient Near East. Moreover, in Philemon, Paul certainly sets Christians on a trajectory that moves them to think of slaves as brothers.
On gender, by contrast, we find distinctions set forth in the creation account. In Eden Adam’s role was to work and keep the garden, while Eve’s was to help the man. Just as God had exercised dominion over his creation by naming it, so Adam exercises dominion–a righteous, holy, God-intended, unfallen, perfect dominion–over his helper when he names her first “woman” then later “Eve.” God holds Adam responsible for the sin, even though Eve sinned first (“Adam, where are you?”), and Paul interprets this to mean that “through one MAN sin entered the world. . .” And then Paul’s appeal for female submission to male authority in 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 is to this created order. There is no trajectory away from the pattern set for male-female relations in Genesis 1-2.
Therefore, I do not believe there is an analogy between what the Bible says about women and what it says about slaves that justifies a movement away from complementarian gender roles.
I would type more, but I have to prepare to lead a Seder meal tonight and preach a sermon tomorrow. I have an essay just out in a new book from IVP, the presentation form of which you can read here: http://www.swbts.edu/faculty/jhamilton/documents/4-12-05.pdf
I look forward to reading volume 1 of your history of the world.