Thursday, September 17, 2009

John Chrysostom: Case When Women can Teach

First, let us launch our case by citing the case of women for you to see how blessed Paul, who put shackles on them, was also the one in turn to undo them. "If a woman has an unbeliever for her husband, and he consents to live with her, she is not to dismiss him." Why? "For all you know, you might save your husband." How, you ask, can a wife save him? By teaching, instructing, encouraging to a consideration of piety. Yesterday, to be sure, blessed Paul, you said, "I allow no woman to teach;" so how is it you go on to make her the teacher of her husband? Far from contradicting myself, I am actually quite consistent. At any rate, listen to why he disqualified her, and why in turn he promotes her to the position of teaching, so that you may discover Paul's wisdom. Let a man teach, he says. Why? Because he was not deceived; the text says, "Because Adam was not deceived." Let a woman learn, he says. Why? Because she was deceived; the text says, "The woman was deceived and became a transgressor." In the present case, on the other hand, the opposite is true: since the husband is a non-believer and the wife a believer, let the wife do the teaching, he says. Why? Because she has not been deceived, being a believer. So let the husband do the learning: he was deceived, being a non-believer. The role of teaching has been reversed, he is saying; now let the exercise of lordship be reversed. Do you see in each case he shows lordship following upon deceit and sin, not upon nature? From the beginning, then, deceit came to the woman, and subjection followed upon deceit; later deceit was transferred to the man, and subjection was also transferred.

- John Chrysostom (around A.D. 347 to around A.D. 407), Sermon 5 on Genesis, in St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pp. 82-83 (2004), Robert C. Hill translator.