Act Like a Man or Act Like a Woman”

For Paul men and women are essentially one in 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” (Galatians 3:28). But essential oneness and equality in Christ does not extinguish the differences between men and women in this world. Men are called to be leaders and women followers in the home (Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7). Men are to teach and rule in the church while women are to listen and learn (1 Timothy 2:8-13, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

 

“Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  Let all that you do be done in love’ (Paul in I Corinthians 16:13, 14).

“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like women, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (Dr.  Valerie Hobbs’ Revision).

The Aquila Report has published Dr. Valerie Hobbs’ reflection on the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:13) titled Act Like Women. She suggests that the dynamic equivalent translation of “Act like men,” could in our contemporary setting be “Act like women.”

Her reasoning as I follow it, is:

(1) What Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians was 13:13, 14 was: “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love” (ESV).

(2) What Paul was doing when he wrote “act like men” was to use as a metaphor the Roman soldier: “Here, Paul draws on military imagery, evident from the Greek: grēgoreite: keep awake, keep vigilant, take as your inspiration a Roman soldier. It’s a metaphor for the spiritual life, intended for all Christians, men and women” (Valerie Hobbs).

(3) Who are the Christians today who most embody the characteristics of the vigilant Roman soldier? Dr. Hobbs’ answer is, “Christian women” who have endured “toxic masculinity.”

(4) Therefore, if Paul were writing today and wanted an apt metaphor, he likely would write not “Act like men,” but “Act like women.”

A few notes on what Dr. Hobbs has written:

(1) When Paul wrote “to act like a man” or “to conduct oneself in a manly or courageous way” (A  Linguistic Key to the New  Testament), his metaphor was not how the Roman soldier acts but how a man who is manly acts.

(2) The way the phrase is translated in the various versions establishes that he had in mind, not the Roman soldier, but the male human being:

  • “quit you like men” (KJV)
  • “quit you like men” (ASV)
  • “be courageous” (RSV)
  • “act like men” (NASB)
  • “act like men” (NIV)
  • “be strong” (NKJV)
  • “be courageous” (NRSV)
  • “act like men” (ESV)

(3) What is clear is that even the more “dynamic” translations understand what the Apostle wrote as based on “manly characteristics” or “manly virtues.” No one understands the the word as associated with those character traits which are distinctive of the female person. The Greek is based on the word for “men” and even those translations that are “looser,” emphasizing the significance of the word over its literal meaning, translate it with reference to words that are associated with “manliness” – that is, “courage” or “strength.”

A few notes regarding Dr. Hobbs’ understanding of the text:

(1) Dr. Hobbs has missed what Paul wrote in Greek. She calls our attention to Paul’s use of the metaphor of the Roman soldier. But it is not the third verb (“act like men”) but the first verb of the sentence that calls our attention to the soldier, “grēgoreite,” translated as “be watchful,” which means “to watch, to stay awake, to be alert” (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament).

(2) Paul does not write “act like men” or “be strong/courageous” until the third verb of the sentence. Here he uses “andrizesthe” (from aner/andros” meaning “male” or “man”) which means “to conduct oneself in a manly, or courageous way” (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament). “The word was also used in a papyri in the exhortation ‘therefore do not be fainthearted but be courageous as a man'” (Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament). In other words, while Paul calls us to emulate the Roman soldier with the first verb, he calls on us to emulate men with the third verb.

(3) For Paul men and women are essentially one in 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” (Galatians 3:28). But essential oneness and equality in Christ does not extinguish the differences between men and women in this world. Men are called to be leaders and women followers in the home (Ephesians 5:21-33, 1 Peter 3:1-7). Men are to teach and rule in the church while women are to listen and learn (1 Timothy 2:8-13, 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

(4) As there are differences of role in home and church, so there are differences of nature and natural characteristics between men and women. When Paul’s readers, male and female, read, “Act like men,” they had no struggle with understanding. Nor should we. They (and we) knew what men are naturally like. Thought there are men who fail to “act like men” people know from intuition and observation that men are meant to be manly which includes the quality of courageousness. It is the man (husband and father) who places himself between his wife and children and the attacker. If it is the wife who must stand between the attacker and her husband and her children, then she is having to fill an “unnatural role” in which she, rather than her husband, must “act like a man.” Her husband has failed to be a man. As much as Dr. Hobbs may wish to flatten the differences between men and women, husbands and wives, and to blur the distinctions between men and women, the Bible won’t allow it; the Bible everywhere assumes or explicitly teaches that men and women are different by God’s creative design and that these differences remain in the age of redemption. There are such things as “acting like a man” and “acting like a woman,” and when a woman acts like a man or a man acts like a woman, the natural (created) differences are denied, or, to put it more bluntly, rebelled against.

What are we to make of Dr. Hobbs? She is a Christian and a feminist, or, to put the terms together, she is a Christian feminist. Three times she speaks of “toxic masculinity” not just in society but also in the church. What is her goal? The removal of distinctions between men and women in society and in church so that there is “equality and fraternity”:

By now, to all with eyes to see, the evidence is clear of the pervasiveness of a toxic masculinity that cultivates male violence, sexual aggressiveness, and emotional distance. But it is too early to say whether we will see any change in our society’s perception and treatment of women and other vulnerable people. What might it take for Hollywood, for politics, for all our institutions to be transformed into bastions of equality and fraternity after the reckoning of its tyrannical power players?

I fully grant Dr. Hobbs right to be a Christian feminist. The one thing I do not understand is why she, as a Christian feminist, should have a voice among conservative and confessionalist Presbyterian and Reformed people.

William H. Smith is a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church and lives in Water Valley, Miss.

The post Act Like a Man or Act Like a Woman” appeared first on The Aquila Report.



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