Marg Mowczko’s Post on 1 Clement
A few days ago Marg Mowczko’s Blog New Life had this to say about Clement’s use of the Greek word for “head” (transliterated “kephale”) in the letter known as 1 Clement:
This passage in 1 Clement is not about leadership or authority, even though the word kephalē (head) is used here. In fact, if “head” is inferred as meaning “authority” the meaning of this passage will be lost. Similarly, I believe that the meaning of passages in Paul’s letters are lost when “head” is assumed to mean “authority” (e.g. Eph. 5:23).
Rather than authority, this passage in 1 Clement is about mutual submission, unity and harmony in the Church. It’s also about helping the disadvantaged, the weak and the poor. Clement does not go as far as Paul does in his teaching about body ministry; Clement seems to perpetuate social distinctions whereas Paul aimed to lessen the distinctions between the haves and have nots. Paul’s goal was equality (Gal 3:26-28; 1 Cor. 12:13; 2 Cor. 8:14 NIV).
The overriding aim of Clement’s letter was to resolve some issues about leadership in the church at Corinth; yet, nowhere in his letter is the word kephalē (head) used in the context of leadership.
Marg also has this to say about Clement’s attitude towards women:
Sadly, the passage quoted above is directed to men (andres adelphoi) (1 Clem. 37:1). In fact, Clement addresses most of his letter directly to the men (andres adelphoi) rather than to all the believers in Corinth, both men and women. Unlike Jesus and Paul, Clement was not a champion of women; however, Clement recognized and honoured biblical women such as Rahab. . .
The scope of Clement’s letter is limited. His primary concern was for harmony and peace in the Corinthian church and, to that end, he encouraged mutuality and mutual submission among the men. However, it is apparent that he did not regard women as the equal of men, or as colleagues in Christian ministry. This is in contrast to Paul. The letters that Paul wrote to churches were not addressed to the men only.
I noticed that Clement had to use “andres adelphoi” to specifically mean “male brothers” as distinguished from just “adelphoi,” which is how Paul usually addressed the church as a whole in his letters. It does make me wonder about the people who are so up in arms about the word “adelphoi” in the New Testament needing to keep being translated “brothers” rather than “brothers and sisters.” Obviously if “adelphoi” alone meant “male brothers,” Clement would have had no reason to qualify it with the word “andres.”
It’s also interesting that Paul specifically did not use “andres adelphoi” in those passages where biblical hierarchalists believe he intended to exclude women, such as in 1 Corinthians 14:26: “What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation.” (Emphasis added) Since in verse 34 Paul supposedly constrains all women to silence, and in 1 Timothy 2:12 forbids them to teach, the word “adelphoi” in verse 26 really ought to have been written “andres adelphoi.” Writing only 30 or so years earlier than Clement, Paul could thus have made it perfectly clear in 1 Corinthians that women were not to give “teachings.” If that were what he meant, the way to clarify the gender of the “adelphoi” to whom he was speaking was readily available in the language Paul was writing in. Why didn’t he use it? Why did he use the same unqualified “adelphoi” that he used a few verses later in Chapter 15 verse 1, which says “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,” and which could not possibly have been intended to exclude women?
I’m sure that in ancient Greek, just as in modern English, it was not customary to change back and forth between one sentence and the next, who you were addressing using the same form of address.
And why didn’t Clement use the word “kephale” in the sense of “authority” in a letter which was about resolving questions on leadership authority in the church? Clement clearly did want to exclude women from the whole conversation, and yet his writing does not support in any manner that it might be possible to translate “the kephale of the woman is the man” from 1 Corinthians 11: 3, as “men are in authority over women.”
1 Clement is an interesting read, albeit long-winded at times, as it gives us a glimpse into church life at the end of the first century, but, because of its male bias, I am glad that it was not included in the New Testament. On the other hand I am very glad that Paul’s letters – with his encouragement of mutual submission amongst all believers and support of women ministers – were considered inspired and authoritative, and were included, even if a few verses in them are genuinely difficult to exegete.
It’s interesting to me how men such as Clement (despite the inclusiveness of Paul’s letters) chose to be exclusive against women so soon after Paul’s writings. Paul really was swimming against the current! That’s what makes it so odd that Christians today are so convinced that it’s necessary to be counter-cultural against female inclusiveness today, not understanding that the New Testament’s counter-cultural teachings were actually pro female inclusiveness.
It is human nature, and the desire of those with traditional power to hold onto it, that has remained the same. Those who support male-only leadership are really simply going with the long-established flow.