Paul was no more an egalitarian than Jesus, and by the time of Romans he had even given up on the apocalyptic formula of Gal 3:27-28 (cf. I Cor 12:13). The reason is simple: Gal 3:27-28 was offensive, impractical, and doomed to fail in the ancient Mediterranean, where different ethnic groups, genders, and social classes could get along only by preserving their identities. Attempts to eliminate distinctions in honor-shame societies only encouraged groups to re-assert their identities in aggressive ways. That's why there is Jew and Greek in Christ, after all.I am inclined to agree with Loren here, but with the qualification that Paul's thought becomes most clear when it is interpreted in its eschatological context. For "egalitarian" in scholarship on the New Testament, we should substitute "eschatological". The reason that Paul can say, in Gal. 3.28, that there is no Jew nor Greek "in Christ" is that we should remember that "in Christ" is itself an eschatological concept. Those who have been baptized into Christ, those who have "put on" Christ are those who share his destiny, those who belong to the one who will return to establish his reign. It is in that future that there will be no Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. What being "in Christ" means is having the hope of salvation, a future in which such distinctions will have no meaning. It stands to reason for Paul and his contemporaries that there is still male and female in the present. There is no attempt to abolish gender differences. Likewise there is still slave and free in the present. He is not trying to change the social order. It will be God who does that thing which is promised to those currently "in Christ".
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Jew and Greek in Christ
On The Busybody, Loren Rosson has an interesting post headed In Christ There Is Jew and Greek, developing from his earlier post Controversial Studies and the Question of Motive: The Apostle Paul; this is a quotation: