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the jesus movement was not egalitarian



University of San Francisco

Introduction A current theory espoused by scholars including John Dominic Crossan, Gerd Theissen, and Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza is that Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary egalitarian and founded a community that put into practice a discipleship of equals. The present essay is the latter half of a two-part paper challenging that theory and finding it wanting.1 The first part of that paper focused on the teaching and activity of Jesus prior to his death. 2 The substance of this essay concerns the Jesus Movement from the period following Jesus death to the end of the first century. Since some proponents of the egalitarian theory regard a discipleship of equals as antithetical to patriarchy and conventional household structures and relations, the nature, significance and role of the household in the Jesus Movement will figure prominently in our analysis, as it did in my earlier examination of the Jesus tradition. In general, the conclusion of the present analysis accords with that of the earlier study: after as well as before Jesus death the dominant basis, focus, locus and model for the Jesus movement and its local assemblies was the household, an institution organized on stratified, not egalitarian, lines. As no discipleship of equals was founded by Jesus, so none was introduced following his death. Attention to household and family following Jesus death and instruction on household conduct did not entail an abandonment of equality and a reversion to patriarchalism (as argued especially by Schssler Fiorenza), but continuation of a concentration on household and family initiated by Jesus.
1 This paper was delivered at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Denver, Colorado, November 2001, in the Early Christian Families Group. 2 This was published under the title Jesus Was Not an Egalitarian. A Critique of an Anachronistic and Idealist Theory, in BTB 32,3 (2002): 75-91.

Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2003 Also available online

Biblical Interpretation 11, 2


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A summarization of conclusions reached concerning the Jesus tradition (Elliott 2002) may serve as a point of departure for examining the egalitarian or familial character of the Jesus Movement following Jesus death. 3 A close examination of texts of the authentic Jesus tradition alleged to attest Jesus creation of a discipleship of equals reveals that the egalitarian argument is fatally flawed in several respects. Most of these problems also plague egalitarian interpretations of the New Testament evidence of the Jesus movement subsequent to Jesus death. 4 1. Egalitarian theorists have left undefined the key terms under discussion; namely, equal, equality, egalitarian, egalitarianism. Consequently the nature of the equality proposed is left unclear and the idea of equality is often confused with its concrete economic and social manifestation, a manifestation never demonstrated by the theorists. When the family of terms is clarified, however, their applicability to the social realities of the biblical world is immediately open to question. For purposes of our discussion here, equal and equality are defined as meaning the same in quantity, quality, degree, value, merit, rank, level, status, position; parity in social status, rights, responsibilities, or economic opportunities.5 Egalitarian, is defined as meaning asserting, resulting from, or characterized by belief in the equality of all people, esp. in political, economic, or social life. 6 This concept that all persons are equal in respect to economic, social, legal, and political domains is of modern, Enlightenment origin and has been shaped by momentous economic, social, and political changes dramatically distancing our modern world from that of the biblical writers. The equality celebrated in the American and French revolutions, has little, if anything, in common with the comparatively rarely discussed concept of equality (more fre3 To avoid repeating myself in this present study, I shall refer the reader at points to issues discussed and documentation presented in my BTB 2002 article. 4 For other independent critiques by feminist scholars see, among others, the studies of Kathleen Corley (1998), Amy-Jill Levine (1994), and Rose DAngelo (1992). A collection of Corleys essays is now available in Women and the Historical Jesus. Feminist Myths of Christian Origins (Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge, 2002). 5 For operating definitions and discussion see Elliott 2002:75-77, 88; see also Tawney 1931; Kristol 1968; Oppenheim 1968; von Leyden 1985; and Halsey 1989. 6 Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1987, s.v.), notes that the first attested use of this term was in 1880-85.

the jesus movement was not egalitarian


quently equity or proportional equality) in the ancient world.7 Accordingly, searching for instances of egalitarianism in the New Testament communities, indeed in the ancient world on the whole, is as pointless as hunting for modern needles in ancient haystacks. 2. There are no historical analogues of actual egalitarian movements in antiquity. The examples offered, such as voluntary associations, were not egalitarian but rather stratified in structure. Kathleen Corley (1998:302) registers the same objection. Thus, if the Jesus movement had been a community of equals, it would have constituted a historical novum and sociological unicum (Elliott 2002:77-78). 3. The New Testament texts put forward as witnesses to an egalitarian community or to Jesus egalitarian teaching are all open to different and contrary interpretation. There is no textual evidence of an actual, concrete economic and social equality established by Jesus in his group of followers (Elliott 2002:78-85). 4. Egalitarian argumentation resorts to inference and rests primarily on a web of unsupported assumptions. In Schssler Fiorenzas case this also involves an inadequate clarification of patriarchy and an assumption (left unproved) that Jesus and his followers replaced the complex system of patriarchy with egalitarian structures.8 5. Egalitarian theorists have provided no evidence of actual, concrete economic and social equality established by Jesus among his first followers. Nor have they considered how such a revolutionary change in social structure could ever have been accomplished, and then subsequently itself overturned in the manner Schssler Fiorenza proposes (see below). Their theory is unconvincing historically and sociologically. 6. The theory ignores or glosses over the actuality of social and economic disparity within the Jesus movement from its very beginning and throughout its later history. 7. An especially disastrous element of this theory is its obscuring or misconstruing the prominence of the household/family in the teaching of Jesus, the manner in which the household/family
7 On the important distinction between quantitative equality and proportional equality or equity in antiquity see the texts discussed in Elliott 2002: 77. 8 For clarification of patriarchy from an anthropological perspective see Elliott 2002: 80-81.


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is employed by Jesus to illustrate the nature and values of the kingdom of God (domestic metaphors for explaining political metaphors), its central role in the mission of the Jesus movement, and its significance as chief metaphor for clarifying the divine-human relationship and life under Gods rule (as, for example, obedient children trusting in a heavenly father or as intimate siblings of Jesus, or as practicing the domestic values of generosity, hospitality, familial loyalty and support etc.) (Elliott 2002:85-88). 8. Egalitarian theorists have succumbed to the idealist fallacy of regarding assumed visions, ideas and ideals of equality as concrete economic and social realities. 9. Too many questions concerning the nature of the equality imagined and the manner of its establishment and then elimination are left unasked and unanswered. Accordingly, efforts at discovering an egalitarian character or agenda in the authentic Jesus tradition can only be judged unsuccessful and indeed futile from the outset. There is no cogent evidence that Jesus ever did or ever could reject the patriarchalism of his time and establish a discipleship of equals during his lifetime. What of the movement following Jesus death, however? Is it possible that groups of followers prior to the Pauline mission were egalitarianagain, not simply in vision but in concrete economic and social terms? Egalitarian theorists assume this to have been the case and consider this situation to have been an extension of the new relations put in place by Jesus. Equality, according to Schssler Fiorenza, prevailed in the believing communities until Paul, who was the first to revert to patriarchal thinking and models and commence a process leading eventually to the complete loss of the vision and reality of equality in the early church. Since it now has been shown that Jesus never established a community of equals in the first place, one cannot speak of his followers maintaining such a community after his death. If evidence suggests the existence of such a community of equals after Jesus and before Paul, then on theory it must have been brought into being by influential persons or groups after Jesus. Does such evidence exist? Was the messianic movement prior to Paul egalitarian in spirit and structure? How would such equality have been established and how would it have manifested itself in the structure of the house churches and the social relations within the believing communities? Let us consider now what proponents of

the jesus movement was not egalitarian


the egalitarian theory put forward as evidence and how they deal with these questions.

The Jesus Movement After Jesus Death and Prior to Paul After Jesus death, the followers who regathered and regrouped assembled in households. As they moved within and beyond Palestine, it was such households and families that served as the focus, basis, and locus of the mission. In accord with the familial focus of Jesus teaching, they continued to conceive of themselves as constituting a new surrogate family/household of God and described their social relations and responsibilities in familial terms. God continued to be viewed as Father, whose saving action is portrayed as adoption (Rom. 8:14-23; Gal. 3:26-4:7) or regeneration ( John. 3:3-6; Tit. 3:5; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23) into the new family of God. In this new household of faith (Gal. 6:10) or household of God/the Spirit (1 Tim. 3:15; Heb. 3:1-6; 10:21; 1 Pet. 2:5; 4:17) or brother/sisterhood (adelphots, 1 Pet. 2:17; 5:9), all the reborn infants (1 Pet. 2:2-3) are children of God (Rom. 8:16, 17, 21) and brothers (Rom. 1:13; 1 Cor. 1:10; 1 Pet. 5:12 etc.) and sisters9 united to God and Jesus Christ by faith/ trust and obedience (1 Pet. 1:14) and to one another by brotherly-sisterly love/loyalty (philadelphia , Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 4:9; Heb. 13:1; 1 Pet. 1:22, 3:7; 2 Pet. 1:7) and other actions of familial conduct. This household orientation of the Jesus movement, to which I have been calling attention since the 1970s,10 has been widely acknowledged and discussed in the last thirty years and requires no further rehearsal here.11 What does require examinationin
9 Occasionally the term for sister, adelph , is explicitly used for a female believer, especially where a female is particularly in view ; see Mark 3:35/Matt. 12:50; Rom. 16:1, 15; 1 Cor. 7:15; 9:5; Phlm. 2; Jas 2:15; 2 John 13. More often, reference to sisters in the faith is implied when brothers in the faith are addressed, just as their inclusion is implied in the terms adelphots , philadelphia , and philadelphos . This implied inclusion is a consequence of the perception of ancient patriarchal societies that all honorable females were socially embedded in, and under the tutelage of, honorable males. It is for this reason, among others, that non-embedded females such as widows and prostitutes represented such dangerous anomalies. 10 Elliott 1976:253, 1979:37-59; 1981/1990, 1984, 1991a, 1991b, 2000, 2002, 2003. 11 On the house churches, the church as fictive kin group, and familial ter-


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respect to the egalitarian theoryis how this domestic orientation squares or does not square with the notion that the Jesus movement was egalitarian in nature. To pursue this question we will examine New Testament texts alleged to indicate the egalitarian character of the Jesus movement in the three periods following Jesus death (prior to Paul, Pauline, post-Pauline) and we will ask how the theory fares when analyzed in the light of the domestic orientation of the Jesus movement and its economic and social disparities. The text most often cited by egalitarian theorists as indicative of the egalitarian character of the Jesus movement prior to Paul is Gal. 3:28. Scholars generally agree that this text reproduces in part or in whole a baptismal formula in threefold form that predates the Pauline mission and that is cited by the Apostle to assert the new social reality brought about by affiliation with Jesus Christ and baptismal conversion.12 While consensus prevails concerning the antiquity and baptismal mooring of this language, dissensus reigns concerning its meaning. The first thing to note is that the text says nothing explicit about equality. Greek terms for equal (isos, -a, -on) or equality (isots ) are not present. This is true, by the way, of all New Testament passages presented by egalitarian theorists in support of their case. 13 Thus we are dealing here, at best, with perceived implications of equality. Those assuming that Gal. 3:28 and its three pairs imply something about equality are in a decided minority, with most scholars agreeing that the issue in both the formula and as Paul understands it concerns the inclusiveness of the believing community and oneness and unity of persons who are in Christ, not their equality.
minology see also Martin 1980; von Allmen 1981; Klauck 1981a, 1981b, 1992; Vogler 1982; Malherbe 1983; Verner 1983; Aguirre 1984; Schllgen and Dassmann 1986; Knoch 1987; Lorenzen 1987; Crosby 1988; Pilch 1988; Becker 1989: 255-70; Branick 1989; Schfer 1989; Oliver and van Aarde 1991; Lampe 1992; Malina and Rohrbaugh 1992:100-01; de Vos 1993; Love 1993; Rusam 1993; Banks 1994; Barton 1994, 1996; Blue 1994; Wagner 1994; Guijarro Oporto 1995, 1997, 1998, 2001; Joubert 1995; Matson 1996; Osiek 1996; White 1996, 1997; Esler 1997, 1998: 215-34; Moxnes 1997; Sandnes 1997; Osiek and Balch 1997; Penna 1998; Bartchy 1999. 12 On Gal. 3:28 see Betz 1979:181-201 and Gal. 3: 26-29, and, more recently, Martyn 1997: 378-83. 13 For the passages involving terms of the isos family and on their irrelevance for the egalitarian theory see Elliott 2002:78.

the jesus movement was not egalitarian


One vocal representative of the minority is Elizabeth Schssler Fiorenza who has commented on this text on various occasions (1983:205-41; 1993:222-23). The triadic baptismal formulation cited in Gal. 3:28, she maintains, is evidence of an equality that existed among believers prior to Paul. She translates it as follows:
For you are all children [hyioi] of God. For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, There is neither slave nor free, There is no male and female. For you are all one (in Christ Jesus she regards as secondary).

In this text, she claims, is an implication of freedom for slaves (1983:209-10), a statement of the abolition of the religious distinctions between Jew and Greek and an affirmation of the equality among all those who call upon the Lord (1983:210). The husbandwife relationship, however, receives the bulk of her attention. There is no male and female asserts, in her opinion, that patriarchal marriageand sexual relationships between male and femaleis no longer constitutive of the new community in Christ (1983:211). Insofar as this egalitarian Christian self-understanding did away with all male privileges of religion, class, and caste, it allowed not only gentiles and slaves but also women to exercise leadership functions within the missionary movement (1983:218). Not the love patriarchalism of the post-Pauline school, but this egalitarian ethos of oneness in Christ preached by the pre-Pauline and Pauline missionary movement provided the occasion for Pauls injunction concerning the behavior of women prophets in the Christian community (1983:218). Pauls interpretation and adaptation of the baptismal declaration Gal. 3:28 [in 1 Corinthians and other letters] unequivocally affirm the equality and charismatic giftedness of women and men in the Christian community. Women as well as men are prophets and leaders of worship in the community. Women as well as men have the call to a marriage-free life. Women as well as men have mutual rights and obligations within the sexual relationships of marriage (1983: 235). Thus the prePauline baptismal formula, according to Schssler Fiorenza, expressed and affirmed an equality among all in Christ, and inspired in Paul a similar notion of equality that is found in several of his writings. Several serious problems attend this line of interpretation. First, since she fails to define the terms equality and egalitarian, the domains of reference of these terms remain unclear. What kind of equality does she envision and with reference to what areas of


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life? Equality before God or before both humans and God? If it is the latter, as seems to be her assumption, and if she is imagining equality in historical, concrete terms, then how have Judaeans and Greeks, slaves and free persons, males and females become equal and in what manner is this equality manifested? Is she thinking of equality as parity in social standing and prestige? Or do they now enjoy equal access to, or control over, economic resources, so that all are now equally poor or equally wealthy? Do they now have equal voice in the determination of all group affairs? Other than mention of equal access of women to leadership roles, the nature of this equality is left unclear. Nor is it clear how equality is imagined to prevail in groups where some are leaders but others are not. More problematic is an inattention to the practical question of how this equality might have been put into place, how conventional roles, relations, and lines of authority were terminated and displaced, how equality was enforced and justified among those who had been deprived of their status and roles. The greatest problem with this reading of Gal. 3:28, however, is that it mistakes unity for equality. Gal. 3:28 speaks explicitly of the former but not a word about the latter. The statement, You are all one in Christ, affirms the ethnic and social inclusiveness of the Jesus movement and the unity of all who are in Christ but says nothing about any equality of those included. The statement speaks not of being equal in Christ, but of being one in Christ. The Greek employed here is not isos, equal, but heis , one. One denotes inclusion and unity, not equality. 14 The context of Gal. 3 concerns the issue of faith supplanting observance of the Law as the means of union with God, so that Gentiles who believe are now also recipients of Gods grace. Those formerly excluded from Israel as goiim are now included on the basis of their faith. The issue is inclusion over against exclusion, not equality versus non-equality. And this is the point supported by the reference to the baptismal formulation of Gal. 3:28. The three-fold affirmation of Gal. 3:28 declares that ethnic, social, and gender distinctions conventionally made in society are irrelevant for determining who is in Christ as a result of baptism and confession of Jesus as Christ and Lord. This inclusion in
14 The sense of heis here is like that of hen in John 10:30. When Jesus, according to John, states that I and the Father are one (hen), he is asserting his union with the Father, not his equality to the Father.

the jesus movement was not egalitarian


Christ is determined rather by baptism and faith in God and in Jesus as the Christ, a faith of which Judeans and Greeks, slaves and free persons, males and females are all capable. In contrast to a previous Israelite conception of salvation and union with God according to which only the house of Jacob with whom God had covenanted at Sinai were the people of God, Greeks, the term for all who comprised non-Israel, are no longer cut off from God and Gods people. Access to Gods grace is now available to all who trust/believe, and trust/belief is possible for all. Union with God was no longer sealed and signified by a circumcised penis and hence was no longer a male prerogative. Union is effected, instead, through trust/faith and baptism under water, both of which could be experienced by females as well as males. Slaves, like women, are no longer excluded from the company of Gods people, but are now regarded as full persons and independent moral agents capable of making choices independent of their owners. Differences remain, but are no longer relevant for determining inclusion among the redeemed. This amounts to an elimination of discrimination, not an abolition of differentiation. Ethnic, legal, and social differences remain, but for followers of Jesus are not determinative of union with Christ Jesus; faith alone is. Commenting on Gal. 3:26-29, J.L. Martyn (1997:378-83) sees the text affirming an inclusive incorporation and a loss of the distinctions that formerly separated you from one another, you are now one in Christ (1997:379). Non-discriminatory inclusion is the point, not equality, which Martyn rightly never mentions. The three distinctions, Martyn asserts (1997:380), are not eliminated, but are declared to be irrelevant to the issue of who is in Christ (so also Betz 1979:193). With this formula, he notes, Paul develops the idea of a new-creational family no longer determined by religious or ethnic factors (Martyn 1997:381-82). The manner in which Paul employs this baptismal formula makes it clear that he too, its first extant interpreter, regards it as an affirmation of inclusion and oneness in Christ, not a statement about equality. With faith and baptism as the means of access of all to God, in Christ Jesus you are all sons [and daughters] of God through faith (Gal. 3:26) and as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Gal. 3:27). Faith and baptism allow universal inclusion in Christ, not the elimination of disparity. Other comments of Paul relating to these three pairs similarly


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show that his consistent concern was with inclusion and unity, not equality. 1 Cor. 12:13 appears to be a Pauline allusion to the prePauline formula. However, only the Judeans-Greeks, and slavesfree persons distinctions are mentioned, suggesting that Paul was less interested in the male-female contrast. In any case, the text and its context again indicate that the units of the formula, as in Galatians 3, were meant to illustrate the oneness and unity of the community, the body of Christ into which all are incorporated through baptism (one body one Spirit one body one Spirit). That equality is not at all the issue is also clear from the verses that follow. 1 Cor. 12:14-27 mention inferior and superior members with lesser and greater honor. Unequal though these members are, they are united in and serve one single body, the body of Christ. Pauls enumeration of various functions in 1 Cor. 12:28-31 presupposes not equality but rather variation not only in types of spiritual gifts but also in the higher and lower quality of these gifts, with love constituting the more excellent way. Notice also the ranking of functions in 14:1-40 where unity and the building of community, not equality, is Pauls concern. Col. 3:11, constituting a yet later use of the baptismal formula, like 1 Cor. 12:13, makes no mention of the male-female distinction and is immediately followed by a call for the subordination of wives to husbands, children to parents, and slaves to owners (Col. 3:18-25). Col. 4:1 speaks of isots but the term clearly means not the equality of owners and slaves but the equitable treatment of latter by the former. Paul or the Paulinist author clearly did not have any notion of equality in mind. According to Martyn (1997:380), Pauls main interest in Galatians was in the Judean-Greek distinction, as is evident in both Galatians and Romans where this distinction received the lions share of Pauls attention. To this observation one might add that even when Paul affirms Gods impartiality in Romans, he ranks the Judean first and then also the Greek (e.g. Rom. 2:9-11); for this ranking see also Rom. 1:16. The point of the statement, there is no distinction between Judean and Greek (Rom. 10:12a) is obviously not that the difference between Judeans and Greeks disappears, but, as the verses continuation shows, that the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him (Rom. 10:12b). The lordship of Christ, in other words, encompasses all persons , with faith or non-faith constituting the only factor distinguishing those who are Christ or outsiders.

the jesus movement was not egalitarian


That Paul did not regard the baptismal formula he cited in Galatians 3 to imply anything about equality is most clearly demonstrated by what he said about slaves and free persons elsewhere in his letters. As Greeks/Gentiles are still secondary grafts onto the primary stock of Israel, Gods first favored people (Romans 911), so even after baptism slaves remain different from and subordinate to their free owners (1 Cor. 7:20-24). Philemon and Onesimus are brothers in Christ, but the former remains the owner and the latter, a slave. Neither Paul nor any other New Testament writer ever advocated manumission of slaves, let alone the abolition of slavery. Betz (1979:193) observed in regard to the free-slave distinction that the possibilities for implementing the abolition of slavery were extremely limited (1979:194)an understatement if ever there was one. How could this ever have been accomplished by or in the Jesus movement? How could this tiny sect of Israel have ignored or transcended or eliminated the economic, legal and social distinctions demarcating free persons from slaves at that point in history? The conditions and attitudes necessary for such a revolution were not even in place when the words equal and egalit began to resound in eighteenth century Philadelphia and Paris. The fact is that even after baptism the actual difference and disparity between free persons and slaves remained intact among believing Christians for centuries. The slave-free person component of the pre-Pauline baptismal formula, as viewed by Paul, was also illustrative of communal integration, not of destratification or equalization. The free and the enslaved, once distinguished by law and separated in social practice, are, by baptism into Christ, integrated into one single community. The same holds true of the final element of the baptismal formula, the male-female pair. The male-female pair of the baptismal formula in Pauls understanding also had nothing to do with equality. To the contrary, Paul, like all early Christian writers, continued to view females and wives, even after baptism, as inferior to males and husbands; see Elliott 2000: 550-599. He did encourage mutuality and common consent in the marital relationship (1 Cor. 7:1-7, 12-16), but this did not entail or imply a social or economic equality of the spouses. This is acknowledged even by scholars like William Countryman (1981:122-23) and Hans Dieter Betz (1979: 196, 199-200) who allow that Gal. 3:28 might contain some hints of equality or


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female emancipation, but conclude that Paul did not take it in this sense. Indeed, Paul did not regard the baptismal tradition of Gal. 3:28 as establishing any kind of social or economic equality between males and females, husbands and wives. This is clear from the fact that he took as natural the subordination of wives to husbands in his discussion of womens head coverings (1 Cor. 11:216), which he also attempted to justify with his everything but the kitchen sink argumentation (and that he or the Paulinist further reinforced with the interpolation of 14:33b-37). Contesting that Paul was an egalitarian with regard to gender, Dale Martin (1995:199) aptly notes that in fact his writings confirm the Greco-Roman gender hierarchy. Despite assigning women larger roles and more respect in his churches, he never makes the claim that the female is equal to, much less superior to, the male (1995: 199). Neither Pauls androgynouse statement in Gal. 3:28 nor his admission of women to important positions within his churches demonstrates that he was a gender egalitarian (1995: 232). The reason for this Martin rightly finds in the physiology of gender dominant in Greco-Roman society, which is taken over by Paul as an unquestionable given (1995:199). This is true for all New Testament authors; see Elliott 2000:550-99. Pauls point in 1 Corinthians 7 was not that wives and husbands were in any way equal (against Schssler Fiorenza 1983:224), but that consent and harmony should prevail in marriages (7:3-5, 13-15) and that these relationships were opportunities of sanctification and salvation (1 Cor. 7:14-15). That women were prophets is no indication of an egalitarian revolution (against Schssler Fiorenza 1983:235), since women prophets existed in the patriarchal world prior to the Jesus movement (Luke 2:36-38). That women assumed leadership roles in the Jesus movement likewise can be attributed to their prior social status rather than to the egalitarian revolution imagined by Schssler Fiorenza (1983: 235). Indeed, the higher social status enjoyed by such female leaders as Prisca/Priscilla, Junia, Phoebe, Mary, mother of John Mark, and others is indicative of the social and economic disparities prevailing in the Jesus movement throughout its existence. Schmeller (1995:83-85), like others, considers whether Gal. 3:28 represents a social reality or only an ideal. He curiously concludes that Gal. 3:28 actually corresponded to the social reality and that the [Pauline] communities developed a high degree of unity and equality (1995:92), despite the fact that the evidence he put

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forward supports only the case of unity, not that of equality. Considering possible hints of egalitarianism in the early churches, Countryman sees in Gal. 3:28 a hint of a utopian vision of equality, framed most often in eschatological terms (1981:117). He adds, however, that there is much evidence indicating that such a vision of equality was seldom if ever put into practice (1981:12123). Thus the churchs egalitarianism had it limits (1981:123), especially in regard to the churchs ministry and clerical superiority (1981: 127-36). Countryman (1981:134-36) sees Gal. 3:28 and baptism as pointing to a condition of liminal communitas in which the baptized experienced a sense of equality. However, he immediately concedes that It did not follow that equality must pervade every aspect of the Christians life from Baptism onward. Thus, Paul could proclaim that in Christ there is neither slave nor free and then tell slaves to continue as slaves and to obey their masters (1981:135). This so-called original communitas soon ceased, he maintains, when it was necessary to take some small number of people out of that equality and assign them to make provision for social control. The divinely sanctioned inequality of the ministers, then, served to preserve the equality of the people, he asks his readers to believe. Some of them will recall the equally self-contradictory statement during the Vietnam War, We had to destroy the village in order to save it. Klaus Thraede (1981:143-144), commenting on 1 Cor. 12:13 and Gal. 3:28, speaks of an eschatological vision of equality, but likewise notes that this involved no actuality of social freedom. Gerd Theissen, in regard to Gal. 3:28 (1982b:109, 110), also speaks of an equality of status extended to all. He too, however, immediately qualifies this notion of equality by claiming that at the same time, however, all of this was internalized; it was true in Christ. In the political and social realm specific differences were essentially accepted, affirmed, even religiously legitimated (109). With this qualification Theissen acknowledges, as Schssler Fiorenza does not, the difference between utopian vision and actual historical reality. But what is gained by speaking of internalization if the social reality is not restructured? Theissens notion of internalization is just as ephemeral as Crossans and Countrymans notion of vision or Thraedes qualifier eschatological. Even if the existence of an egalitarian ideal or vision is conceded, it was an ideal not realized in historyan essential objection acknowledged by virtually all but Schssler Fiorenza. Thus


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Countryman, who sees in this baptismal text some indication of equality (1981:124-25), concedes that despite the ancient proclamation that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, the early Christians expected their converts to continue observing the social distinctions of contemporary culture in a basic way. Slaves continued to be slaves; women continued to be subordinate to their husbands (1981:123) and ministers were accorded special status in the church from the apostolic age onward (1981: 127-28). How, then, is it possible to imagine a pre-Pauline period of thorough-going egalitarianism? In sum, Gal. 3:28, the chief text on which the egalitarian theorists rest their claim, in actuality says nothing about an equalization of statuses, roles, or relations in the Jesus movement in the decades after Jesus and before Pauls mission. The pre-Pauline baptismal formula affirms the all-inclusive oneness of all who through faith and baptism are in Christ. The formula, also as understood and employed by Paul, affirms that former conventional ethnic, economic, and social distinctions remain but are no longer determinative of who is or can be in Christ. Universal integration into a new single community of Jesus followers is its point, not equalization of all members. This is clear from the content and context of Galatians 3 as well as from the use made by Paul of this formula. Gal. 3:28 concerns desegregation and integration, not equalization, and thus provides no evidence of the existence of a community of equals prior to Paul. Nor is there any historical or material evidence that would suggest viewing Gal. 3:28 in this way. With the elimination of Gal. 3:28 as evidence of an egalitarianism prevailing among Jesus groups prior to Paul, the prime witness for such an alleged egalitarianism in the Jesus movement subsequent to Jesus death and prior to Paul is eliminated. It has been shown (Elliott 2002) that the movement inaugurated by Jesus prior to his death was by no means egalitarian in nature, but was stratified economically and socially. New Testament texts alleged to express an ideal or spirit of equality are open to a differing interpretation and in any case are no proof that an equality was established in concrete social and economic terms. To pass off visions, ideas, and ideals as concrete realities is to engage in the idealist fallacy. Given, then, the absence of any evidence of a community of equals having been brought into existence prior to Paul, Schssler Fiorenzas proposal (1983:233-36; 1993:221-24) that Paul and his successors rejected egalitarianism

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and reverted to a pre-egalitarian, patriarchal form of social organization has nothing to commend it. The Pauline Period: Various Theories on the House Churches and Egalitarianism A key feature of the Jesus movement in the Pauline period, scholars agree, was its household orientation: its mission focused not on individuals but household groups; believers assembled in houses for worship; and the household or family (oikos) provided a chief metaphor, as it did for Jesus, for characterizing relations and responsibilities within and among the believing communities. On the other hand, to what extent these house churches were egalitarian communities is a highly debated issue. Theories are as diverse as they are numerous, as the following sampling illustrates. Some scholars claim that the house churches were divested of their patriarchal features and were thoroughly egalitarian in structure and spirit like voluntary associations were assumed to be. Elizabeth Schssler Fiorenza, for example, imagines that in the Pauline period the house churches were structured not like patriarchal families but like religious associations, which, she claims, were associations of equals presumably structured along egalitarian lines. Regarding the household of Prisca/Priscilla and Aquila in Corinth (1983:179) she opines that Their house church, therefore, most likely (italics added) was structured like a religious association rather than a patriarchal family Those who joined the Christian house church joined it as an association of equals. This is a claim based, however, on two dubious assumptions: (1) that voluntary associations lacked hierarchical structure in contrast to patriarchal families; and (2) that the house church was modeled after the structure of these imagined associations of equals. The most extensive investigation of this question to date, Thomas Schmellers Hierarchie und Egalitt (1995), provides little, if any, support for these assumptions. Comparing the Pauline house churches with the Greek and Roman voluntary associations, Schmeller claims to find elements of both hierarchy and egalitarianism in both collectivities. While his description of the social and economic stratification of both associations and house churches (1995:19-49, 54-92) is convinc-


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ing, his attempted identification of egalitarian features is not. House churches, like associations, had certain persons who performed supervisory and leadership functions that distinguished them from, and ranked them above, the other members. Patron benefactors of the associations, like patron householders of the house churches, were even more distinguished in these groups than the hoi polloi and enjoyed even higher prestige and status than the groups functionaries. Both collectivities had members of diverse social and economic strata. On the other hand, supposed traces of egalitarianism (e.g. each association member having a vote in the assembly, rotation of functions in the associations, brother/sister language, functions viewed as service, the mix of members, 1995:43-44, 50) are unconvincing. The first two features characterize associations but not house churches; the rest are hardly typical of only egalitarian groups. Even less convincing is Schmellers notion, expressed in the title of his study, that associations and house churches were simultaneously both hierarchical and egalitarian in structure. Not only is the evidence for this statement lacking; the very notion itself is sociologically implausible. From a sociological perspective, hierarchy and egalitarianism are mutually exclusive. Organizations that are hierarchical are, by definition, the opposite of those that are egalitarian. Social groups can be one or the other but not both simultaneously. Imagining a group to be predominantly hierarchical but a little bit egalitarian (1995:52-53, 92-93) is like imagining a virgin to be a little bit pregnant. Except in rare instances left to the religious imagination, the former state is eliminated by the latter. Evidence that associations met in homes or regarded themselves as fictive families is minimal (Schmeller 1995:48).15 This is in contrast to the Jesus movement where the oikos served as the basis, locus, and focus of the movements mission from the time of Jesus onward, as Schmeller grants, noting that the fiction of the family had much greater significance quantitatively and qualitatively in the (Christian) communities than in the association (1995:85). In sum, although searching for traces of egalitarianism, Schmeller has proved only that both associations and house churches were stratified or hierarchical in structure. Accordingly, the associa15 See Schmeller 1995:96-99 for the text of a now famous inscription of one such examplethe Dionysiac cult association in Philadelphia, second to first cent. bce.

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tions provided no historical egalitarian analogue for the house churches. Nor has evidence been presented of social or economic equality in the Jesus groups he surveyed, but only indications of new forms of inclusiveness and integration. In the light of this study, Schssler Fiorenzas notion that the house churches constituted assemblies of equals similar to the associations has nothing to commend it. A related theory of Klaus Schfer, advanced in his Gemeinde als Bruderschaft (1989), is equally unconvincing. Schfer proposed that the ecclesial model of the community as household was different from that of the community as brotherhood and that the latter constituted an egalitarian fellowship contrasting to the patriarchal structure of the former. The Pauline house churches, he maintains, were antitypes of the ancient family. In a cogent critique, Karl Olav Sandnes (1997) has shown that household and brotherhood models are not alternative models but rather converge, as, it might be added, is clearly evident in 1 Peter; see Elliott 1990, 2000. Sandnes justly concludes that the New Testament shows not egalitarian groups replacing or being replaced by patriarchal structures but rather the brotherhood-like nature of the Christian fellowship in the making, embedded in household structure (1997:151, 162-63). Other scholars envision house churches structured on conventional lines but also embodying a few egalitarian features. This both-and position (stratification and equality) has been advanced, for instance, by Schmeller (1995), as discussed above, and earlier by William Countryman (1981). Countryman, while claiming to find some traces of egalitarianism in the Pauline house churches, conceded that Paul himself was less than completely egalitarian where women were concerned, citing 1 Cor. 11:8-9 (1981:122). Likewise, in the case of slaves and masters, the slave remains slave and the master remains master so that conversion to Christianity, then, did not change the legal relationship between master and slave (1981:122). If the latter half of the sentence is accurate (and it is), what possible sense is there to speaking of a partial egalitarianism. This oxymoron prompts the same partially pregnant virgin objection directed above against Schmeller. Unfortunately such lapses in logic cripple much egalitarian theorizing. Another mode of relating a concept of equality to the Pauline house churches acknowledged to be patriarchal in structure has


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been to describe equality as eschatological in nature. Klaus Thraede (1981:145) illustrates this popular position. Some of Pauls comments, he opines (1981:145), express a notion of eschatological equality, as exists, for instance, between married believers (1 Cor. 7:2-5) or between circumcised and uncircumcised believers (1 Cor. 7:17-20) or between believing masters and slaves (1 Cor. 7:21-23). These texts, he notes however, illustrate only an eschatological equality of persons who are in Christ, an equality only coram Deo, with no concern for change in the societal hierarchy. They thus present no evidence of an establishment of actual equality in the social structure of the Jesus movement and the house churches. What the label eschatological means remains unclarified. If, as seems likely, it refers to something to be effected at the final consummation, this eschatological equality has no relevance for assessing the actual concrete structure of the house churches. Along similar lines, some scholars find Paul affirming the ideal of equality but not putting that ideal into practice. Aloys Funk, in his 1981 study of status and roles in the Pauline letters, is representative of those taking this position. He raises the issue of equality on several occasions. Paul, according to Funk (1981:75), certainly espoused the ideal equal valuation of gender status, but his ideal and real valuations were not congruent (as shown in Tables 4-13, 1981:73-125). He concludes that Paul held that being in Christ conferred an equality that was only an ideal and that was legitimated only metempirically and never put into place socially (1981:193-94, 207). Paul anticipated the full realization of the ideal equality of gender- and class status not socially in the present, but metasocially in the eschatological world (1981: 193, 204). This realization would be effected by Gods eschatological act and not by the believers (1981:193, 204, 209). Paul and his hearers, Funk observes, knew and respected the difference between the ideal of social equality in the eschatological future and its incomplete realization in the everyday world of the present (1981:193, 199). This distinction, Funk explains, made it possible for these Christians to maintain an indifference toward, and avoid a critique of, the present social order, including its institutions of marriage and slavery, without rejecting them entirely (1981:194). Pauls contribution to the overcoming of social differences was not to abolish actual social or economic disparity in respect to status and roles, but to reduce social conflict in his communities, but without eliminating their social basis, thereby allowing

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the continuation of social and economic inequity within his churches (1981:200). Metempirical legitimation, of course, whether of the elimination of religious distinctions among believers who are in Christ (as Funk 1981:75 takes to be the point of Gal. 3:28) or of the equalization of male-female functions (as Funk 1981:74-87 finds indicated in 1 Cor. 7), by definition cannot be empirically verified or falsified, as Funk himself notes (1981:203, 212). Funk, like Schssler Fiorenza and others, infers from certain texts that Paul entertained egalitarianism as an ideal. He differs, however, from Schssler Fiorenza in recognizing and acknowledging that Paul never translated this alleged ideal into economic and social reality. These real-ideal, empirical-metempirical, social-metasocial distinctions he makes are instructive but in no way alter the fact that stratification, status differentiation, and socio-economic disparity prevailed in the house churches of Paul and beyond. Yet another and more cogent approach has involved acknowledging the patriarchal nature of the house churches and not raising the anachronistic issue of egalitarianism. Gerd Theissen is representative of the many who follow this course in respect to the Pauline period and beyond. Theissen, in contrast to Schssler Fiorenza, draws a distinction between what he considers the nonfamilial ethical radicalism of Jesus as attested in the Synoptic tradition and the so-called familial love patriarchalism of Paul (1978: 111-19). The former, he has proposed, flourished in Palestine in Jesus lifetime, but was replaced by a love patriarchalism when the movement spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. But if it is the case that an egalitarian movement was never instituted as a social reality by Jesus, and if it is clear that Jesus established a surrogate family to replace the biological family, then the use of the family as a basis and model of community by Paul and others after Jesus death is not a new shift to a family model but rather an elaboration of a family model already in place with Jesus. The surrogate family of which Jesus spoke encompassed not only itinerant missionaries but also local supporters (as Theissen himself has shown, 1978:17-23). Thus households and families were not abandoned by all since household bases of the mission and domestic hospitality were essential to the movements survival and growth. Nor was the family as a communal model rejected; it was instead redefined. In this surrogate family, Theissen has shown (1982:69-119, 121-43, 145-74), economic and social disparities remained. Familial statuses, roles, and relations remained present


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but were reassigned on the basis of faith, trust, and obedience. Traditional familial values were upheld but now applied to the surrogate family in which God is Father, believers are children subordinate to God and the Fathers will, and brothers and sisters are assigned roles and statuses appropriate to their capacities and gifts as apostles, prophets, teachers, hosts and the like. Scott Bartchy (1999) recently has challenged Theissens notion that the Pauline communities were patriarchal in character on the basis of Pauls insistence on a reversal of traditional, patriarchal values in the interactions among the Corinthians in the Body of Christ (1999:76). Paul, Bartchy observes, urged that elites were to show greatest honor not to each other but to the inferior members (1999:76). A reversal of values, however, as I pointed out in connection with the teaching of Jesus (Elliott 2002), is no proof that statuses and social stratification have been or were intended to be eliminated altogether. Reversal is the inversion of existing positions of status rather than the eradication of stratification altogether. Bartchys critique of R.A. Atkins study, Egalitarian Community (1991) is well taken, as is his insistence that egalitarianism is not the opposite of patriarchy (1996:77) and that a critique of the latter does not require or imply an embrace of the former (as seems to be the trap into which Schssler Fiorenza and others have fallen). That Paul sought to undermine patriarchal ideology (1999:77) and that his basic model for his communities was a family of siblings without an earthly father (1999:69) is less convincing. For father is precisely the term Paul used of himself in portraying his relation to these same Corinthians (1 Cor. 4:15) and is an image that implies the traditional authority of a patriarch as well as the activity of nurturing (Bartchys gloss; see also 1999:73). The correlative terms children or child imply the same superordinate/subordinate relationship of Paul to others; see 1 Cor. 4:14-17; 2 Cor. 6:13; 12:14; Gal. 4:19; Phil. 2:22; Philemon 10; 1 Thess. 2:12; 1 Tim. 1:2, 18; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2:1; Tit. 1:4. It is true that Paul adopted the concept of the ekklsia, which appears more democratic than the concept of monarchy employed by Jesus. But even the Hellenistic ekklsia of Pauls world was restricted in its membership and stratified in its structure, made up only of freeborn, propertied males with different status ratings determined by the social ranking of the families to which they belonged. The inclusion of women, erstwhile antagonist ethnic groups, and slaves into the Christian ekklsia and Pauls appeal

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to sibling values (Bartchy 1999:75-76) continued the focus of Jesus on inclusivity and intimacy, but none of this led to an elimination of economic disparities or a levelling of all social rankings.

Economic and Social Disparity Within the Pauline House Churches and the Household of Faith Not one New Testament text points to an instance of actual economic or social equality among the house churches of the Pauline period. This alone is a fatal blow to the egalitarian theory. Compounding this fatality is the further fact that the house churches of Paul and of later time were stratified along conventional lines and marked by a plethora of economic and social disparities. The Corinthian community, a hunting ground for traces of egalitarianism, actually was rife with economic and social conflict. Social and economic disparities underlay the conflicts between would-be wise and foolish, rich and poor (1 Cor. 1:26-31; 11: 17-34); rich vs. poor litigants (6:1-11), strong and weak (1 Cor. 8-10). Prompting these conflicts, Gerd Theissen (1982b, 1982c, 1982d), A.C. Mitchell (1993), and Dale Martin (1995) have shown, were perspectives and modes of behavior shaped by economic and social differences. Pauls proposed solution in every case was not to criticize or condemn the inequities, but to encourage those of superior status not to scandalize and rather respect brothers and sisters of inferior status. This response Theissen has described as a Liebespatriarchalismus where patriarchal structures still characterize the Christian house churches while love, that force that holds together the social body, now shapes the conduct of the baptized. As to the charismata (1 Cor. 12:1-31), they too were not all equal but of varying quality (12:4-11, 14-31a), with love reckoned the greatest of all (12:31b-13:13). Baptism creates a unified social body, where, as expressed in Gal. 3:28, previous distinctions are still in evidence but not longer determine ones membership in the body of Christ (12:12-13). Types of leaders also were distinguished and declared distinct from, and superior to, others by virtue of their divinely conferred authority (1 Cor. 12:28-30), with Paul himself appealing frequently to authority and superior rank as apostle (1 Cor. 1:1; Gal. 1:1 and passim). The struggles between Paul and the Jerusalem au-


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thorities (Gal. 1:11-2:10), between Paul and Peter at Antioch (Gal. 2:11-21), and between Paul and the super apostles at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:1-12:21) attest to tensions and uncertainties over authority and status rather than to a prevailing egalitarian spirit. With the super apostles Paul even engaged in a game of one-up-manship (2 Cor. 11:21-12:13). Those spreading discord at Corinth claimed a higher status than others (1 Cor. 1:11-12, 3:1-4:21): the strong claimed superiority over the weak (1 Cor. 8:1-11:1) and the wealthy eschewed full commensality with the poor (1 Cor. 11:1734); see Theissen 1982b, 1982c. As a resolution to the problem of a proper eating of the Lords supper, Paul did not insist on eliminating the social and economic disparity evident among the diners, but rather urged the wealthy to avoid humiliating the poor at the assembly by first sating their hunger at home (1 Cor. 11:22, 33-34). Marital partners Paul advised to make decisions by consensus (1 Cor. 7:2-5) but, as already noted above, females were considered inferior, not equal, to males and believing wives were expected to continue to subordinate themselves to their husbands (1 Cor. 11:2-16; 14:33-35). He knew the standing inequity between slaves and owners (1 Cor. 7:20-23; Philemon) but never advocated manumission or the elimination of slavery altogether. In the Pauline and later communities, wealthy patrons and patronesses had more material resources than their clients and thus could serve as hosts and leaders of local house churches (Prisca and Aquila, Philemon and Apphia, Phoebe; see also the households and hosts mentioned in Rom. 16:3-16). To one such patron-host, Stephanas and his household, the Corinthians were told to be subordinate as a sign of respect for this familys service of the holy ones (1 Cor. 16:15-16). As another example of inequality, Paul reckoned Israel, the recipient of Gods promise, to be, as stock, prior to and thus superior tothe Gentiles, though both were recipients of Gods grace. As founder of churches, Paul was a father, concerned for, but superior to, the congregants, his children (1 Cor. 4:15; Gal. 4:9). Like Jesus, Paul understood the reversal of status not as the elimination of status but as the inversion and relativizing of status (1 Cor. 1:18-31) and reassignment of roles (e.g. women and youth as leaders on the basis of quality of service and seniority as believers). In sum, however one might be inclined to detect in Paul an egalitarian spirit or vision, it is clear that this vision (imagined or real) was never put into actual practice. The advice he gave con-

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cerning social relationships within the house churches involved not the elimination of economic or social disparities but rather ways of negotiating these differences so as to maximize mutual social respect, communal cohesion, and group loyalty and commitment. The house churches of the Pauline period were not groups of equals but were stratified economically, socially and culturally. They were marked not by an economic or social leveling of all members, but rather by an openness to allregardless of ethnicity, class, or genderand by an intimacy, spirit of solidarity, generosity and commitment to God, Jesus Christ and one another as typical of an ancient family. Thus it was fitting that Paul regarded his fellow believers as brothers [and sisters], and described the Galatian believers as house members of the faith (oikeioi ts pistes , 6:10).16

The Post-Pauline Period Families and households, patriarchally structured, remained the focus of mission and the locus of assembly as the messianic movement continued its spread across the Mediterranean world. Few hints of equality are traced to this period by egalitarian theorists. One explanation offered for this absence of evidence involves the claim that egalitarianism, once flourishing, was now deliberately suppressed within the Jesus movement and patriarchal structures were reintroduced in order to facilitate an assimilation to GrecoRoman society.

Egalitarianism Eliminated or Never Present? William Countryman suspected early Christian intimations of equality in the emphasis on humility, in the praise of poverty, in the theme of reversal between rich and poor or strong and weak, in a critique of pagan morality, in warnings against self-confidence, and in pleas for unity among the people of God (1981: 115).
16 On Pauls employment of familial terminology and imagery in general see the pioneering study of Daniel von Allmen (1981). On the aim of such employment in Galatians to create a distinctive social identity, see the instructive studies of Philip Esler (1997, 1998: 215-34).


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None of these themes, however, as we have already noted above, expressly concerns the issue of equality and none requires the presumption of a community structured on egalitarian rather than patriarchal lines. Crossan, in his study The Birth of Christianity , uses the title A Egalitarian Community? as a heading for a description of the communal sharing of goods narrated in Acts 25 (1998:445-76). His concern, however, is that such sharing as Acts recounts actually took place and constituted an act of resistance (1998: 470-72). However that might be, sharing of goods is quite different from having equal portions of goods and Crossan leaves unclarified and unjustified his use of the term egalitarian. Noting also instances of patronal sharing (Acts 4:325:11), he offers no explanation of how the same community could be marked by two seemingly mutually exclusive modes of organization. Schssler Fiorenza, on the other hand, recognizes the lack of traces of egalitarianism in the period and claims to have an explanation. In the post-Pauline period, she avers, there occurred a conscious abandonment of egalitarianism and a reversion to the conventional patriarchal family as a model for the believing community and its organization (1983: 245-342; 1993b:223-24). This reversion she finds indicated in the adoption of a household management tradition (which she calls household codes) for instruction on communal roles, relations, and responsibilities. These codes and their Christian adaptation in Colossians, 1 Peter, Ephesians, and the Pastorals all presumed stratified households ordered patriarchally and urged the subordination of women, children, and slaves to the paterfamilias . The introduction of these household codes, she maintains (1983:251-84), was aimed at readapting the Christian movement to prevailing patriarchal Greco-Roman structures so as to minimize the perception that Christianity was a counter-cultural movement causing conflict and undermining the patriarchal structures of the Greco-Roman political order. This supposed capitulation to the structures and values of Greco-Roman patriarchal society then set the pattern for the subsequent centuries (Schssler Fiorenza 1993b: 224-25). By reinforcing the patriarchal submission of those who according to Aristotle must be ruled, Schssler Fiorenza maintains (1993b:22324), the household-code injunctions rob the early Christian ethos of co-equal discipleship of its capacity to structurally transform the patriarchal order of family and state. In seeking to adapt the Christian community to its patriarchal society (italics added), these late New

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Testament texts open it up to political co-optation by the Roman empire. The fact that this Christian introduction of an Aristotelian pattern of patriarchal submission became necessary, she maintains, indicates that the communal praxis and life of the churches in Asia Minor at the end of the first century were not yet patriarchally structured (1993b: 223). This interpretation and view of things, however, rest on Schssler Fiorenzas fundamental and persistent assumption that Jesus and his early followers had established a community devoid of patriarchal-hierarchical structure. According to this assumption, any New Testament reference to Christian house churches and communities manifesting conventional patriarchal patterns must be treated as evidence of an introduction of something alien to the thought and practice of the Jesus movement. This assumption, however, has already been shown to be unsupported and unwarranted. The surrogate family created by Jesus and continued by his followers was always patriarchal in structure and the household management tradition was known and continuously used for moral instruction from Aristotle through the first century ce and beyond in both Israel and early Christianity.17 Use of this household instruction was entirely appropriate for a community that saw itself as the household of faith (Gal. 6:10) or the household of God (1 Pet. 2:5; 4:17; Heb. 3:6; 10:21; 1 Tim. 3:15; also 3:5) (Elliott 1981/1990:182-200). This is especially clear in the case of 1 Peter where the concept of household of God served as the core symbol of Christian communal identity. This letter also disproves the notion that the household tradition was employed to foster accommodation to Greco-Roman society and moral standards, since the author expressly urges resistance of societal pressures to conform and encourages rejection of societys modes of conduct (1 Pet. 1:14-19; 2:11-12, 17; 3:8-9, 13-17; 4:1-4, 12-19; 5:2-3, 6-7, 89).18 Contrary to Schssler Fiorenza , instruction concerning management of the household was not intended as a repudiation of alleged egalitarian visions and structures but as a response to the need for communal internal order in the house churches and as an implicit protest against the claims of the Roman emperor to be the pater patriae with supposed father-like solicitude toward all
See Elliott 1981/1990: 208-220 and Elliott 2000: 503-11 and the literature cited on 2000: 510-11. 18 On 1 Peters aim and strategy see Elliott 1981/1990: 101-64 and Elliott 2000: 97-118.


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his subjects, including the Christian community. On the latter point see Elliott, 1981/1990:175-80. Finally, Schssler Fiorenzas construal of the vacillating history of the early Jesus movement, built as it is on a web of unproved assumptions, must be rejected on multiple counts. The alleged egalitarian revolution left not a single trace in the historical record. There is no incontestable evidence of a supposed egalitarian phase of the Jesus movement prior to Paul and hence no evidence that Paul and his successors undermined and reversed this egalitarianism. To the contrary, after Jesus death the movement was marked by the same social, economic and legal inequalities that prevailed earlier. Complex economic, social, and cultural changes would have had to precede and accompany the dramatic shifts in the movements internal structure from patriarchy to egalitarianism back to patriarchy. 19 Of such changes there is not the slightest evidence in the historical record. That this all occurred within some seventy years, as postulated by Schssler Fiorenza, defies imagination. Her theory is sociologically implausible and historically indemonstrable. Expanded Use of the Household Model and Household Management Tradition The family and the household continued to serve as a major or root metaphor of the believing community locally and worldwide. This is shown by the continued employment of familial terminology (brothers, sisters, brotherhood, familial love, household of God, children of God, father/son, etc.) to describe the community of the believers and the intimacy of their relation to God, Jesus Christ, and one another (Gospels, Acts, Heb., Jas., 1 Pet., 1-2 Tim., Tit., 1-3 John, Rev.). Use was made of household management tradition in order to encourage a respect for order and harmony within the community (Col., Eph., 1 Pet., 1-2 Tim., Tit., 1-3 John, Gospels). Such order was crucial for achieving the social cohesion necessary for ensuring the independent viability of the movement and its resistance to external social and political pressures urging conformity and assimilation. In contrast to Schssler Fiorenzas assessment, use of this household manage19

For an extensive list of such required changes see Elliott 2002: 85.

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ment tradition served the aim not of assimilating to Greco-Roman patterns of domination, but of resisting pressures to conform under the assurance that ones place of belonging was in the oikos tou theou, not the emperors patria , that ones father was not the Roman emperor claiming to be pater patriae, 20 but the merciful heavenly father/progenitor who raised Jesus from the dead and brought about a regeneration to new life (1 Pet. 1:3; Tit. 3:5-7; John 3:1-18), that ones closest allies and supporters were brothers and sisters in the faith, and that ones ultimate familial loyalty (= pistis) was to none but this heavenly father, his resurrected child, and ones fellow siblings in the faith. The evangelists underscored the importance of household and family in several ways. First, they preserved and recorded the tradition involving the authentic teaching and activities of Jesus where household and family figured prominently. On this material see Elliott 2002:78-84. Secondly, in their own narratives and redactions of the tradition they actually increased the number of instances where houses and households form (a) the setting of Jesus teaching and ministry21 and/or (b) its focus.22 Third, a use of the household management tradition is possibly evident in Mark and then Matthew. Mark 10:2-31 is organized as instruction pertaining to domestic responsibilities and household management (vv.2-12

20 On the cunning claim of the Roman emperor to be father of a subjugated fatherland and Christian political resistance see Elliott 1981/1990: 17082. 21 For additional domestic settings of teaching and proclamation see Mark 1:1620/Matt. 4:18-22; Mark 5:19-20/Luke 8:38b-39; Mark 6:1-6a/Matt. 13:53-58; Mark 12:40/Luke 20:47; Mark 13:15/Matt. 24:17-18; Mark 3:20-35; Matt. 13:36-43; 13:52; 17:25-27; 23:8-12; Luke 7:36-50; 10:5-7; 10:38-42; 11:37-54; 14:1-24; 19:1-10; 22:2438; cf. also Acts 2:42; 5:42; 18:11; 20:7-12, 20; 28:30-31. For increased domestic settings of healings see Mark 7:24-30; Matt. 9:27-31; Luke 14:1-6; John 4:46-54; cf. also Acts 9:10-19, 32-35, 36-43; 20:7-12; 28:7-10. For additional eating scenes in domestic settings see Mark 14:3-9/Matt. 26:6-13; Luke 7:36-50; 10:38-42; 11:37-52; 14:1-6, 7-11; 15:11-32; 17:7-10; cf. also Luke 15:2; 22:7-38; 24:28-32, 36-49; John 12:1-8. For the house/household as a setting for epiphanies see Luke 24:28-43; John 20:19-29. See also the addition of genealogies of Jesus (Matt. 1:2-17; Luke 3:23-38) and of other familial information about Jesus and his relatives (e.g. Matt. 1:18-2:23; Luke 1:5-2:52; see Matt. 1-2; Luke 1-2; John 2:1-11, 12; 6:42; 7:3-10;19:25-27). 22 For increased references to households and domestic conduct and added familial imagery in the teaching of Jesus see Mark 10:2-9/Matt. 19:3-8; Mark 13: 33-37; Matt. 5:14-16, 22-24, 47, 48; 10:21, 25; 13:24-30; Matt. 18:16-18; 20:1-16; 20:20, cf. Mark 10:35; Matt. 21:28-32; 21:33, cf. Mark 12:1/Luke 20:9; Luke 6:36; 7:11-17; 12:3; 24:28-35; 13:25-28, 35; 15:8-10, 11-32; 16:1-9, 19-31; 17:7-10; 18:9-14; 19:1-10.


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affirming marriage and proscribing divorce; vv. 13-15, children as models for the household of faith; vv. 17-22, 23-31 on possessions and property). The arrangement is adopted and augmented by Matthew (19:3-30), immediately following a discourse concerning brotherly and sisterly conduct and forgiveness within the community (18:1-35). Finally, in regard to portraits of the believing community in the Gospels, it has been shown how the family/ household was developed in varying ways as the basic ecclesial metaphor for Mark (Donahue 1983:31-56; Elliott 2003), Matthew (Crosby 1988; cf. also Duling 1995, 1997) and Luke (Elliott 1991a). Given the abundance of familial terminology in the Fourth Gospel (God as father, Jesus as son, believers as children of God, etc.), a similar case, I believe, could be made for John as well. This all bears out S.C. Bartons point (1994:224) that even the intra-familial tensions among the followers of Jesus mentioned in the Synoptics are no indication that the evangelists adopted an anti-familial stance as such, contrary to the position of egalitarian theorists. Their point is rather that the new primary allegiance of followers of Jesus is the new solidarity which consists of the eschatological family of God.

Economic and Social Disparities The Jesus movement and the house churches of this period continued to be shaped by a wide range of social and economic inequities and numerous distinctions of roles and status. Economic inequity and actions of partiality plagued the believers addressed by James (2:1-5:6). The rich oppressed the poor (James 2:6-7; 5:16) while the poor nevertheless deferred and sucked up to the rich (2:1-4). Social and economic inequity is acknowledged, but it is instability and fragmentation that is condemned, not inequity. 1 Peter, like Pauls letters, attests the existence of both socially superior free persons and inferior slaves in the Christian community (2:16, 18-25) and, like Paul, encourages the subordination of wives to their husbands (3:1-6; see also the subordination of recent converts to their presbyter-leaders, 5:5a). Similar stratification and calls for subordination are found in Colossians (3:18-4:6), Ephesians (5:21-6:9), and the Pastorals (1 Tim. 4:11-6:2; Tit. 2:1-3:2). Exhortations to mutual humility presupposed situations where

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persons could exploit rank (e.g. 1 Pet. 5:5b-7; James 4:6-10; Mark 10:35-45; see also Phil 2:3). Although in Matthews Gospel believers are called brothers/ sisters (5:21-26; 7:1-5; 12:46-50; 18:15-22, 35; 23:8-10; 25:40; 28:10), the community of Matthew was one that was stratified socially and economically, constructed on the model of the patriarchal household, and instructed as a household (so Crosby 1988; Love 1993; Duling 1995; 1997). Luke-Acts highlights the shift of the community from the Temple and its purity system to the household and its domestic sphere as the new locus of the Spirits action (Elliott 1991a, 1991b). The mode of interaction encouraged within the community was that of generalized reciprocity, as would have been appropriate of groups assuming the identity of fictive kin (Elliott 1991a, 1991b).23 Characteristic of Luke-Acts at the same time is the specific prominence accorded the apostle as one who was with Jesus from the beginning (Acts 1:21-26) and the precedence ascribed to the twelve apostles (Luke 6:13) as honored guarantors of the tradition. The sharing of resources recounted in Acts (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35) implies the unequal distribution of resources within the community and hence the need for a generous sharing of goods by the economically better off with those less well situated economically and socially. The account of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) points to the reluctance some had even to act in accord with this ideal of sharing (or the reluctance considered plausible by Luke, if this should be judged an ideal scene). Acts also attests the fact that James, Jesus brother, had higher social status by virtue of his blood relation to Jesus, which qualified him for leadership of the Jerusalem community after Jesus death (Acts 15:13-21; see also Gal. 1:19; 2:2:6, 9-10). In the Johannine community, according to John 120, the Beloved Disciple enjoyed higher social status than Peter or other disciples. The interchanges presented in John 21:15-23 reflect disagreement over this issue of status and appear to offer a correction in favor of a rehabilitation of Peters rank in consonance with the Synoptic view. In this same Gospel, Mary Magdalene is uniquely accorded a preeminent status as first witness of the risen Christ, thus attesting how unsettled and disputed the issue of rank was in the early
23 On the concept of generalized reciprocity (meeting needs without keeping score, as with kin) as distinguished from balanced reciprocity (quid pro quo, as with neighbors) and from negative reciprocity (maximized gain and minimized loss, as with strangers), see also Malina 1986: 98-111.


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movement and how nothing like a discipleship of equals prevailed. In regard to women generally, numerous women indeed were extolled as extraordinary witnesses to the gospel and exemplars of faith. This included Mary, the mother of Jesus; the praised but unnamed woman of Mark 14 who anointed Jesus body and who is to be inseparably linked with the proclamation of the gospel (Mark 14:3-9); the hemorrhaging woman and dead girl (Mark 5:21-43 par.); the Syrophoencian woman (Mark 7:24-30/Matt 15: 21-28) as well as Mary Magdalene, first witness of the resurrected Christ (John 20:1-18). But in none of these several cases were any conclusions drawn about their social equality with others. The messianic sect shared with its parent body, the House of Israel, the assumption prevalent throughout the ancient word that females were not equal to but inferior to males, a condition determined by nature, God and the gods. See Elliott 2000:550-94. The New Testament evidence further indicates that in the messianic community some women enjoyed roles of patronage and leadership, such as Phoebe (Rom. 16:1); Prisca/Priscilla (Rom. 16:3; Acts 18:3; 1 Cor. 16:19; 2 Tim. 4:19); Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11); Apphia (Phlm.); Mary, mother of John Mark (Acts 13:12), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15, 40) and the elect lady of 2 John (2 John 1). Junia and her husband Andronicus were saluted by Paul as persons of note among the apostles (Rom. 16:7), indicating that she too ranked among the apostles. Those enjoying these apostolic credentials were distinguished from, and superior to, other leaders and believers, as 1 Cor. 12:28-30 makes clear. In the case of other women leaders, in addition to their divinely conferred charismata , it appears to have been their elevated economic and social status that positioned them, as it did their male counterparts, to serve as patrons and hence as leaders in the churches meeting in their homes. Thus, it was not to some abstract notion of equality that they owed their role and status as leaders but to concrete economic and social realities, contra Schssler Fiorenza (1993b). In the case of leadership, there was the obvious disparity between leaders and followers. Those acknowledged as leaders enjoyed higher social status than others, whatever the reasons for this acknowledgment (whether because of their extraordinary call by God as apostles or prophets, or because of their seniority in physical years or in the faith, or because of the quality of their service within the community). Throughout the New Testament believ-

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ers were urged to render to these leaders the respect and honor that their status and responsibilities deserved (e.g. 1 Cor. 16:1515; 1 Thess. 5:12-13; 1 Tim. 5:17-19; Heb. 13:7, 17; 1 Pet. 5:2-5a). Paul and other named authors of New Testament compositions presumed that it was their authoritative status that, along with the content of their message, would gain for their writings a favorable hearing. This superior status points not to equality but to status differentiation within the Jesus movement. In sum, in the final third of the first century the organization and shape of the messianic movement underwent no major changes but remained based on the house churches and their patriarchal arrangements. Household heads (males and females) offering, as patrons, the hospitality of their homes for assembly and worship, served as leaders and were rendered respect and gratitude from the rank and file. Beside the role and status differentiations distinguishing leaders and led, there also remained not only difference but also disparities between free and slave, wealthy and poor, the whole and the ill, the old and the young, males and females, parents and children, seniors in the faith and recent converts. There is no evidence indicating that this stratification was reintroduced in this period to replace an egalitarian community alleged to have been established by Jesus. Increased attention to domestic relations, issues of household management, and order within the brother/sisterhood of faith and household of God, and increased interest in the oikos/oikia as root metaphor for the believing community were not part of a repatriarchalizing of the Jesus movement in an effort at assimilation to Greco-Roman structures of domination. They were rather evidence of an effort at establishing the distinctive social identity of the household of God, enhancing its order and social cohesion, and encouraging unqualified commitment of its members to God, Jesus Christ, and one another.

Summary and Conclusions The egalitarian theory fares no better in clarifying the structure of the Jesus movement after Jesus death than it does in explaining the nature of the community established by Jesus. The concept of equality/egalitarianism, as utilized by egalitarian theorists, is of recent modern vintage and historically incompatible with the


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conditions and perspectives of first century persons. It is thus not surprising that neither the New Testament nor any other ancient source presents evidence of egalitarian communities or even egalitarian visions. The evidence required, of course, is not simply inferences of egalitarianism or eschatological visions of equality but historical proof that existing economic and social disparities were eliminated in the Jesus movement and replaced by structures ensuring economic and social parity among all believers. This evidence has not been provided because it cannot be provided. Texts averred by proponents of this theory to indicate or hint at traces of Christian egalitarianism are open to other and contrasting interpretation. To imagine what amounts to two sea changes within half a centurya revolutionary shift from traditionally patriarchally structured households to households structured as communities of equals and then within a generation a reversion back to patriarchal arrangementsis as sociologically nave as it is historically indemonstrable. Nor has consideration been given to the complex change in economic, social, and cultural arrangements that would have had to occur for such an egalitarian revolution to have taken place. This complexity of factors helps to explain why there was no historical instance of an egalitarian movement and no historical analogue for the situation Schssler Fiorenza imagines. If some form of egalitarianism actually had been established, we also would expect to find some lament of its loss by those who had previously benefited from the old arrangement. But of such a lament there is also no trace. Nor is there evidence of any attempt to justify a latter return to patriarchal patterns, as would be required in order to gain compliance from persons prospering from previous egalitarian arrangements. Regarding a focus on the household in the negative fashion advocated by Schssler Fiorenza, finally, distorts or obscures the positive role played by the household/family metaphor and the fiction of surrogate kinship in the theology and ongoing survival of the early church. The theory fails on textual, social-scientific, historical, and interpretive grounds. The household formed the basis, locus, and focus of the Jesus movement from its inception. The house churches were stratified, not egalitarian, and were marked by economic, social, legal, and cultural disparities, along with differences of age, gender, class, ethnicity and the disparities they entailed. The available evidence indicates that these conventional differences were not eliminated

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but relativized: the differences no longer determined who had direct access to God and to the media of salvation; they no longer determined who were and were not members of the Israel of God; they no longer defined insiders and outsiders, friends and enemies. But they did continue to define and determine, for better or worse, the statuses, roles and relations within the Jesus movement and its local expressions throughout the first century and beyond. At no point, the evidence suggests, did the Jesus movement ever constitute a discipleship of equals. The concern of the nascent church was not to make all equal but to be all-inclusive. To put it in a musical idiom, the concern was to get as many persons as possible into the same choir and on the same page conceptually, religiously, and emotionally, not to make them all organists, directors or one mass Favoritchor . However much we moderns and heirs of the American and French revolutions cherish the hard won prize of political and legal (and in some domains economic and social) equality, we must as honest historians acknowledge that this is a development of the modern era and not to be found in the societies and even mentalities of antiquity. Equality and egalitarianism in concrete economic and social terms is not in the material traces or literary record of the nascent Jesus movement, claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Jesus turned to the oikos and the family as the focus of his ministry and basis of his teaching concerning the reign of God. This focus on household and family as both basis and model for the movement was maintained by his followers after his death and well into the second century. The household provided one of the chief models, if not the root metaphor, for depicting the communal identity, unity, intimacy, and loyalty of the believers in relation to God, Jesus Christ, and one another. On a personal note, I must confess that I have not enjoyed mounting this critique. With every fibre of my egalitarian being I wish it were demonstrable that the Jesus movement had been egalitarian, at least at some point in its early history. This surely would make it easier for todays advocates of equality, among whom I count myself, to appeal to our past as a source of inspiration and moral guidance for the present. But, as the historical and ideological critic in all of us insists, wishing and politically correct ideology cannot not make it so. Ultimately, this well-intentioned theory is an unhappy example of anachronism and idealist thinking that must be challenged not just because it is indemonstrable


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or an example of flawed interpretation but also because it is so seductive. The notion that the Jesus movement ever formed a community of equals founded by Jesus is a phantasm, a fata morgana , a wish still awaiting incarnation. If the church were ever to put an egalitarian vision into practice, it would be a first-time event and an accomplishment that eluded even Jesus and his first followers.

The theory that Jesus founded a discipleship of equals that after his death assumed the shape of egalitarian structured house churches, which by the end of the first century abandoned their egalitarian ethos and organization and assimilated to the conventional patriarchal household pattern of their GrecoRoman environment, fails to stand up under close scrutiny. The theory lacks probative textual and historical support, is sociologically implausible, conceptually anachronistic, and appears ideologically driven.

Aguirre, R. 1984 La casa como estructura base del cristianismo primitivo: las iglesias domesticas, Estudios Eclesisticos (Madrid) 59/228:27-51. Translated into English as Early Christian House Churches, Theology Digest 32/2 (1985): 151-55. Allmen, D. von. 1981 La Famille de Dieu. La symbolique familiale dans le Paulinisme . (Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 41; Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht). Atkins, R.A. 1991 Egalitarian Community. Ethnography and Exegesis (Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press). Banks, R. 1980 Pauls Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Historical Setting (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). Bartchy, S. Scott. 1999 Undermining Ancient Patriarchy: The Apostle Pauls Vision of a Society of Siblings, BTB 29: 68-78. Barton, S.C. 1994 Discipleship and Family Ties in Mark and Matthew (SNTSMS 80; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press). Barton, S.C. (ed.) 1996 The Family in Theological Perspective (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark). Becker, J. 1989 Paulus. Der Apostel der Vlker (Tbingen: Mohr Siebeck). Betz, H. D. 1979 Galatians . (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress Press).

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Blue, B. 1994 Acts and the House Church, in D.W.J. Gill and C. Gempf (eds.), The Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans): 119222. Bossman, D.M. 1996 Pauls Fictive Kinship Movement, BTB 26: 163-71. Branick, V.P. 1989 The House Church in the Writings of Paul (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier). Carter, W. 1994 Households and Discipleship: A Study of Matthew 1920 ( JSNTSup 103; Sheffield: JSOT Press). Corley, K.E. 1998 The Egalitarian Jesus: A Christian Myth of Origins, Forum 1-2: 291325. Countryman, W. 1981 Christian Equality and the Early Catholic Episcopate, ATR 63/2:11538. Crosby, M.H. 1988 House of Disciples. Church, Economics, and Justice in Matthew (Maryknoll: Orbis). Crossan, J.D. 1998 The Birth of Christianity. Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco). DAngelo, M.R. 1992 Theology in Mark and Q: Abba and Father in Context, HTR 85:14974. De Vos, C.S. 1993 Kai O OIKOS ... The Nature and Religious Practices of Graeco-Roman Households as the Context for the Conversion and Baptism of Households in the Acts of the Apostles (PhD diss., Flinders University, Adelaide). Donahue, J.R. 1983 The Theology and Setting of Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark (The 1983 Pere Marquette Theology Lecture; Milwaukee: Marquette University). Duling, D.C. 1995 The Matthean Brotherhood and Marginal Scribal Leadership, in P.F. Esler (ed.), Modelling Early Christianity (New York: Routledge):159-82. 1997 `Egalitarian Ideology, Leadership, and Factional Conflict Within the Matthean Group, BTB 27/4: 124-39. Elliott, J.H. 1976 The Rehabilitation of an Exegetical Step-Child: I Peter in Recent Research, JBL 95/2: 243-54. 1979 I Peter: Estrangement and Community (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press). 1981 A Home for the Homeless. A Sociological Exegesis of 1 Peter, Its Situation and Strategy (Philadelphia: Fortress). 1984 Philemon and House Church, The Bible Today 22/3: 145-50. 1991a Household and Meals vs. Temple Purity. Replications and Patterns in Luke-Acts, BTB 21: 102-08. 1991b Temple versus Household in Luke-Acts: A Contrast in Social Institutions, in J.H. Neyrey (ed.), The Social World of Luke-Acts (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson): 211-40. Published also in Hervormde Theologiese Studies 47/1 (1991): 88-120. 2000 I Peter. A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Anchor Bible 37B; New York: Doubleday).


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