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The Bible and Culture

Mark Driscoll is an increasingly popular Christian teacher, with a considerable ministry. One of my students at Asbury Seminary asked me to comment on this video (see above), more specifically on the use of Titus 2 in this video to justify a tradtional patriarchal home structure for Christians. Let me first say I have no problems with women who feel called and gifted to stay at home with kids, or men for that matter either. Care-giving and nurturing is not a gender specific thing, but there are times and ways in which a mother is probably better at it. If Mark were only suggesting that, we would have little to quibble about. But in fact he is saying and claiming much more than that as Biblical. There is in fact nothing in Titus 2, that justifies the way Mark Driscoll and his wife use that text to repristinize patriarchy. The Bible says nothing about women needing to ‘stay at home’ while dad goes out and ‘makes a living and provides for the family’. This whole way of envisioning the social situation is post-Biblical. Both the husband and wife worked in and out of the home or on the land in antiquity. There was no such division of labor of women in doors and men out doors or men away at some factory and women at home. There was no industrial revolution yet, there were no factories, and all work was local, and mostly on one’s own or one’s neighbor’s land, unless one was an artisan in which case, both parents worked in and out of the home. So Driscoll has totally misread the Biblical social situation and how it worked. Look for example at the book of Ruth. Where do we find the women working? They are in the fields— work outside the house etc. But let’s look more closely at Titus which is about older and younger women, and older and younger men, and more specifically about how the older women need to be a good example to the younger women. There is exactly one Greek sentence that mentions husbands and wives (vss. 4-5). That one verse simply says that younger women should be encouraged to love their husbands and children, be chaste, be good managers of the household, kind, be submissive to their husbands so the Word of God may not be discredited. Why exactly does Paul address older and younger women in the way he does in this text? Two reasons. Firstly, this text reflects a concern for apologetics, and secondly he does so because he is dealing with religiously mixed marriages. Paul is concerned that women be a good witness to their husbands, who are not yet Christians, hence the advice in vss. 4-5. This is apologetics and missionary advice. It is not a statement based in eternal gender generated roles. It reflects the fact that it would normally be the case that the husband would dictate the religion of the family, and unlike Plutarch, Paul will not advise these younger women to do this, to simply capitulate to pagan religion. So, what can they do to show their love for their husbands? Paul lists what they could do to be a good witness in vss. 4-5. Paul’s advice here differs from his advice to situations where we do not have a religiously mixed marriage. But let’s linger for a moment on the phrase that woman is to be a good manager of the household—- there are two relevant Greek terms—- oikonomos, which a woman or a man could certainly be called, and the term means household manager, and here in Titus we have oikouorgos, which means household worker literally. The reason English translations tend to use the former rendering rather than the more literal one, even for oikourgos is in part because of the mention of slaves. The household Paul has in mind has slaves (see vss. 9-10) which in itself makes the situation totally different from the modern Western household, unless of course you’ve hired illegal immigrants to do the grunt work at home and are paying them under the table. Then there could be some analogy. But any home that had domestic slaves such as this situation, had the slaves to do ALL THE HOUSEHOLD WORK, including minding the children and helping them with their school lessons. In fact there was a particular household slave used for the latter—- the paidagogos which does not mean pedagogue, though that is where the English word comes from, but rather means the child-minder of younger children, the nanny, who among many jobs walked little Publius back and forth to school and helped with the homework. The wife, in this case, the young wife, did NONE of these jobs on a regular basis, in such a household. She supervised the management of the household. In fact, she was the de facto head of the household. What did the husband do? On a normal day, he handed out the list of jobs to his slaves and clients between 6-9 in the morning, and then he went out to the forum or agora to chew the fat, make business or political contacts, play backgammon, go to the baths and gymnasium, get a hair cut etc. In a situation like this, it was the wife, more than the husband who was not merely the bread baker but the head of the household, making sure their would be bread on the table. The man’s job was to go out and establish the public reputation of his family through dialogue, meals, going to games. etc. Both husband and wife ‘provided for the family’ in such situations, and in a high status marriage, like those Paul is most concerned about in the Pastorals, very often the women had more money, social status, and business acumen and contacts than the men—- which is why a smart man would marry her in the first place. Anyone who has been to Pompeii will have seen the homes in which the front lower level of the house is the family business, for example serving food. On a day to day basis it was more likely to be the wife and slaves who ran the family store front business, while the husband ran around making contacts, playing games, eating with friends and the like. If you want to read about daily life in places like Rome, Ephesus and elsewhere in Paul’s day, and begin to understand the actual family structure and roles, read the delightful book ‘A Day in the Life of Ancient Rome’ by Alberto Angela. If you want detailed exegesis of Titus 2 and the rest of the Pastorals, see my Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians Vol. One (InterVarsity Press). For all his touting of being faithful to the Word of God, and I am sure he is trying to do so, it’s clear Mark Driscoll, at least in this case, has not bothered to study it in its original historical contexts, and instead has chosen to read into the text modern conservative patriarchy, an all too common practice in conservative Christian circles. The irony is, despite his castigating the ways of the larger culture of today, in fact what he has done is anachronistically read a certain kind of modern Christian culture back into Titus, when in fact the family situation Paul is addressing is far different from his own.

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