A Few More Whoppers

oLLzAFQTurns out that the relationship between blogging and doctoral studies is an inverse relationship. That is, as the doctoral studies have heated up, the blogging frequency has declined. And, unfortunately for this blog, that dynamic is only going to be accentuated for the next 6-7 months because of what’s looming on the nearby horizon…

THE DISSERTATION.

That’s right, me and my laptop are going to become even closer between now and October. It’s just me, a pile of data, my passion for the project, and 200 or so pages. I’ll keep you posted.

For now, as I’m ramping up to start writing, I’ve been doing some reading. Mostly, I’ve been catching up on some books that I discovered over the last year or so. One of them is this book, In the Spirit We’re Equal, by Susan C. Hyatt. I’ve read a lot of books on the topic of egalitarian theology over the last three years, but I hadn’t read one written from a pentecostal perspective…until now.

There’s lots to like about Hyatt’s work, but for my money her strongest sections are historical in nature. In one passage, she walks the reader through various quotes from old theologians, as a way to describe the uphill theological battle that women have faced through the eras.

I’m going to capture some of the better (or worse) ones here, but as I do so, a couple of reminders of some things I’ve said before. First, just because a theologian said something awful about women doesn’t mean he (and they are almost always men) is all bad. In fact, it’s often quite the contrary. After all, everyone is a work in progress.

But, still, these things need to be remembered. Because though they were written ages ago (in most cases), their echoes reverberate in today’s theological wrangling about the role of women in the church. In fact, quotes like these conspire to form a deeply bitter theological root that undergirds restrictive and marginalizing theologies about gender today.

So, without further ado, I present some more bad quotes from dead theologians.

First, let’s hear from Origen, writing in the 2nd and 3rd centuries. Origen wrote, “men should not listen to a women…even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little consequence, since they come from the mouth of a women.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, Origen then turned around and wrote, “what is seen with the eyes of the creator is masculine, and not feminine, for God does not stoop to look upon what is feminine and of the flesh.”

Or let’s check in with Chrysostom, from the 4th century. Though he is regarded as a gifted preacher and expositor, Chrysostom had this to say about women, in comparison to men: “the ‘image [of God] has rather to do with authority, and this only the man has; the woman has it no longer. For he is subjected to no one, while she is subjected to him.” To make matters worse, Chrysostom notes that men going to women for advice is akin seeking wisdom from “irrational animals of the lower kind.”

Lastly, let’s hear from Mr. Jerome, writing in the fourth and fifth centuries. Jerome was a prolific scholar, and he is famous for creating the Vulgate, the first Latin translation of the Bible. Unfortunately, we must also attribute these quotes to Jerome: “woman is a temple built over a sewer,” “it is contrary to the order of nature and of the law that women should speak in a gathering of men,” and “women, especially those who assumed leadership roles in religion were ‘miserable, sin-ridden wenches.'”

Sadly, I could go on, and I might some other time. For now, I’ll just reiterate my main point:

Our contemporary restrictive theologies about women were not born in a vacuum. Instead, they tragically rest on thousands of years of theological misogyny and patriarchy.

Friends, it’s (past) time for new ways of theologizing.

Now, back to that dissertation…

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7 responses to “A Few More Whoppers”

  1. Kathy McCready says :

    Wow- those dead theologian quotes were even more depressing than I imagined! A good point that we should not throw out the baby with the proverbial bath water. We are all a work in progress indeed!
    Godspeed on the dissertation writing. One word at a time. One sentence at a time. One paragraph at a time. Celebrate the victories along the way!

  2. Marg says :

    Hi Rob,

    Did Susan Hyatt give a reference for the “sewer” quotation? I tried hard to find it a while ago, but was unsuccessful.

    • rdixon1365 says :

      Hey Marg. Hyatt has a footnote where she references a book entitled Contributions to Christian Feminism by Elaine Storkey (c. 1995), and she points to page 48.

      • Marg says :

        I’m wondering about the context of the “sewer” quotation, and if it’s genuine.

        Many people say it’s from Tertullian, or even Boethius. Also, I’ve read a few articles about Jerome’s attitudes to women–articles that engage with his actual work–and the “sewer” quotation isn’t mentioned at all.

        I’ve seen the quotation many times and have searched for it several times (I just did another search), but I’ve never seen a reference to an actual document, written by either Jerome or Tertullian, attached to it.

        I’m wondering if it’s is a fabrication, though I’m not ruling it out as genuine, at least, not yet. I’d love to know one way or the other.

  3. rdixon1365 says :

    Right. After I saw your comment, I did a quick search as well and noticed the Tertullian attribution. I’ll do some more sleuthing when I have a bit more time. Thanks for pointing out the question, Marg!

  4. Roger says :

    Would you consider referencing these quotes to the works of the authors?

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