Proverbs 21:9 says, “It is better to live in a corner of a roof, Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.” Doug Wilson excoriates Rachel Held Evans’ interpretation of this text, saying:
What Evans did was this. Whenever she caught herself being verbally inappropriate, she put a penny in a jar, and every penny represented a minute she had to go up and sit on the roof of her house.
This is where I clear my throat tentatively, not sure I could have heard this right. But I did, and there are three obvious things that can be mentioned right off the top. First, the text says that it would be better for the husband to be up on the roof than downstairs with Rachel Held Evans when she is being bad. So what’s she doing up there?
Wilson has two more points, and the stinger is at the end. Read the rest here.
Yes, RHE has some incorrect Bible interpretations, they are easy to find, I found 5 and did not try very hard. But that is not the point of the book, in other words, do not read her book thinking it is a textbook on how to interpret the Bible, that is not its genre. It is a book about asking questions and enjoying the process of trying new things.
I don’t think Doug Wilson said it was a textbook on biblical interpretation. In fact, he said one of her central points was to make the Bible look silly. I agree with Wilson. RHE appears to deliberately misinterpret texts in order to demonstrate that the Bible is outdated and irrelevant to society.
You said:” RHE appears to deliberately misinterpret texts in order to demonstrate that the Bible is outdated and irrelevant to society.”
How do you know this?
I do not think that is the point of her book at all.
Do you have a problem with her because she is not being “submissive.”
Denny has something negative here almost every day about RHE. He appears to have a woman problem also.
BTW I say DITTO to what Caleb W said.
Tom, for the record I do not care for the teaching of Joel Osteen nor Brian McLaren (to name just two men). Poor theology does not discriminate on the basis of gender.
Here is really the main issue with me. I have many non-Christian friends that mock the Bible, and I am sincerely worried for their eternal souls. They won’t read anything of true substance, but they will read nonsense like “Your Best Life Now” and “A Generous Orthodoxy”. I think they will enjoy this book as well, and I don’t mean that as a compliment.
I would think that any non-Christian friend would be much more put off of Christianity by reading Douglas Wilson than Rachel Held Evans.
Unfortunately, what I said has been deleted.
Books that simply ask questions and don’t provide answers are purposeless, especially when the author badly misrepresents a situation in order to poke fun and ask the questions.
She is not trying to make the Bible look silly. What she is doing is asking questions and challenging some examples of interpretations with which she disagrees.
Don, I realize that there is sincere disagreement among believers when it comes to gender roles. Had she written a book that seriously addressed these disagreements and chronicled her struggle, then she would get a “pass” from me.
Granted, she may also have been trying to bring a little humor to a difficult subject. I know that humor can sometimes be mistaken for sarcasm.
However, please point me to a genuine theologian and his written commentary that advocates (a) sleeping in a tent in the 21st century, (b) climbing onto the roof of a house, or (c) standing outside with a sign that praises a husband. I was unaware that these interpretations were seriously held my theologians. For that matter I was unaware that non-theologians thought this way either.
Since I cannot edit my previous post, I am adding this to clarify for Don. Given the extensive posts on this subject, I shortened my points above for brevity. Point (a) – should have said “a wife must sleep outdoors in a tent when she is menstruating, (b) just look to Doug Wilson’s explanation on this one, and (c) RHE claims that a valid interpretation of Prov 31 is to stand at the city limits with a sign saying her husband is awesome.
I apologize for condensing the points. I realize that people still live in tents, and I plan on living in one for a few days in the spring when we go camping. However, I have never read a theologian that advocates putting his wife in one when she is on her period. Please tell me what living theologian advocates this?
are you using doug wilson to stir up controversy for the purpose of driving up your blog ratings?
As far as I know, there are some people that sleep in tents all the time. Many Messianics build a temporary tabernacle to sleep in during that festival and I am sure some of them look like a tent. The roof of a house was something that was cultural in the time the text was written, we do not often go up on roofs, except apartment dwellers do sometimes. How to apply those ideas the mention being on a roof is a discussion. Gates of a city is another concept that was cultural to the time the text was written, so RHE was being humorous but also faithful in a way to the text.
Yes, in some ways she was being overly wooden in her literalism of some passages, but that was the way she decided to make her point in terms of questioning (and not answering) what is cultural and what is not in the Bible.
Just to take one point from you’re last line of your first paragraph, “so RHE was being humorous but also faithful in a way to the text.”
This is EXACTLY the issue. She wasn’t being faithful to the text. She wasn’t even trying. She used ‘literalism’ as a strawman to ‘literally’ interpret in any way she deemed appropriate.
Complementarians aren’t ‘literalists’ in this way. Not even close.
She creates an interpretation of the text that NO ONE else takes whether in complementarianism (lets not be fooled by her terminology of ‘biblical literalism’, we all know her main reason for writing the book) or for that matter in any Christian circle.
Wilson uses this instance as paradigmatic of the way the RHE twists Scripture (and yes, her reading of this Proverb can only properly be understood as twisted) and adds her own made up regulations and restrictions to put on top of the Scripture. Its OBVIOUS in this one instance, RHE’s point is not that she is concerned with obeying the Scripture, but rather to make a mockery of it.
She scoffs and mocks her own made up interpretation of the texts and then comes back to argue that this proves her point that its impossible to objectively interpret Scripture, so one must subjectively pick and choose which Scriptures you will obey.
I believe one best understands the Bible’s view of femininity not so much through the dissection of certain verses, but by ascertaining the pulse of God’s intended revelation throughout scripture. We should never reduce femininity to certain words or activities, but rather see it as a component of a profound relationship. After all, Jesus pointed out that there are those who call Him Master, who believe they are doing His works, but whom He says He “never knew” (Matthew 7:23).
If we are to comprehend femininity, we must look first at its truest picture depicted in the church’s proper heart toward Christ. We are called to be humbly submissive, joyfully receiving His gifts, eagerly following His leadership, gratefully resting in His protective strength. Our beauty is a direct reflection of His great love. There is no place for self-will, self-protection, or self-determination, but rather an ever-increasing responsiveness to who He is, what He has done, and the glory He eternally reveals.
In the relationship between men and women, femininity cannot attain this height. Both human masculinity and human femininity are stunted and imperfect. But there is a great difference between patiently and diligently grasping for a bar that can never quite be reached, and lowering that bar to something far less just because we find it easier or more to our liking.
In marriage there is certainly a place for self-will, self-protection and self-determination– spouses cannot be and are not meant to become God to us. We are called to be stewards of our bodies and minds, taking care of ourselves because we are precious to him. Self-care is part of our duty to God as those made in His image. Giving over our wills to anyone but God is idolatry. Teachings other than this are dangerous, not just to ourselves, but to any other humans we give inordinate amounts of power and control to.
Just saying, “You have power, now use it wisely” to the ones being put in power, is not enough. Human power must be limited. No mere human spouse should be given the right to be treated as if he were God.
Of course, one might let RHE explain herself what her goal was, rather than attributing motives to her. Here is what she says on her own blog that she was doing:
Because the book is much more than the playful, humorous experiments in which I take “biblical womanhood” to its literal extreme—praising my husband at the city gate, growing out my hair, sitting on my roof, covering my head, etc.—activities that are clearly meant to be hyperbolic and provocative. The book is packed with research, stories, examinations of Hebrew and Greek, interviews, analysis, and perspectives from a variety of biblical interpreters as well as everyday women practicing “biblical womanhood” in different ways (an Orthodox Jew, an Amish housewife, a pastor, a polygamist family, a Quiverfull daughter, etc.) . My goal is to make readers first laugh, and then think, about the ways in which we invoke the phrase “biblical womanhood,” because I believe both the Bible and womanhood are more complex than a list of rules and acceptable roles. Any inconsistency in my hermeneutic is intentional and acknowledged, meant to point to the inconsistency of a patriarchal hermeneutic. (See some of my past posts on the subject to learn more, especially “Better Conversations About Biblical Womanhood Part 1 and Part 2” and “Complementarians are selective too.”)
So — no, she wasn’t trying to make the Bible look silly. And she wasn’t taking these “humorous experiments” seriously herself. She was trying to make us all think about why we read the Bible the way we do– and why we then turn on others who read it differently and tear them to bits.
Sorry. WordPress defaults to my username rather than my full name, and sometimes I forget to change it.
Sorry. WordPress keeps defaulting to my username whenever I go for a few days without actively telling it to use my real name here.
One misunderstanding that seems common among many of the remarks and reviews is that she sought to spend a year living according to the Bible and has pointed up to her satisfaction at least that such a lifestyle is ludicrous. It then follows that she is argiung that the Bible is ludicrous.
As Don Johnson points out this is not her aim at all. She did not try and live according to the Bible as SHE reads it. She tried to live according to the Bible as Complementarians read it, or as she thinks they read it. She is not a liberal. Some seem to have only two categories, evangelical and liberal. But she claims to be postevangelical. Thus she lives under the authority of the Bile but understands it differently from what many evangelicals have believed.
This is not a debate about whether to live according to the Bible. Evangelicals and RHE are agreed we should do that. It is an argument about hermeneutics. You cannot criticise her hermeneutics as derived from this book because it is not on view in the book. What is on view is HER understanding of the complementarian hermeneutic. Thus in remarks about this book, she can be criticised for her understanding of the complementarian hermeneutic, not for her hermeneutics.
So Michael Sweet or anybody else can find wrong understandings of the biblical text on every page, or should be able to, as RHE is deliberately presenting wrong understandings under the impression that Piper and Grudem et al hold to such understandings. And then demonstrating through living them out that they are wrong understandings. She needs to be corrected in her understanding as to what the complementarians are saying and how they are arriving at their views.
Since the complementarians won’t answer direct questions, learning what they prescribe is an insurmountable challenge.
as one commenter wrote above,
It honestly does look like Rachel H. Evans takes texts from the old testament law and Proverbs and tries to make the Bible look silly and ridiculous. (by ignoring hermeneutics, literary genre, and NT fulfillment, as Kathy Keller and you and others have pointed out.)
Most, if not all of the examples they go through on the recent Today Show were OT law and this Proverbs passage – totally ignoring that the OT law is fulfilled by the NT.
Since the Old Testament texts should be understood in the context of theocratic Israel and that the ceremonial, ritual cleansing laws, feasts, food laws, theocratic civil law related to the land and punishing evil in civil society, etc. are all fulfilled in Christ, (Matthew 21:43; Mark 7:19; Colossians 2:13-23; Hebrews chapters 7-10; Hebrews 11-12; Galatians 3-4; etc.), since they are clearly fulfilled by the NT, RHE would have done better to just focus on these 3 issues:
1. The head coverings of 1 Corinthians 11
2. That woman are not be pastors/elders/Bible teachers with authority over men in the church. 1 Timothy 2:11-15. From reading her blog and her statements on this; this seems to be root of her problem. She wanted to be a Bible teacher and loves reading and thinking and questioning, and she is angry that conservative churches would not let her teach or be a pastor/elder. She admits this in her writings, that she held a grudge against the apostle Paul for this passage of Scripture, and the parallels or similar teachings elsewhere.
3. That a husband is the head of the wife – the leader in the family. Ephesians 5:23
Where does she interact seriously with how complimentarians understand submission of the wife – that it does not mean that the husband has the right to be cruel or unreasonable or unjust or not listen to her counsel and input?
She seems to attack those 3 things by all the OT law and Proverbs texts and making fun of the Bible.
Her other problems are with the violent texts in the OT regarding war against the pagan tribes of Canaan(but does she even deal with Genesis 15:16 ?); slavery in the OT law – but that indentured servitude was an economic issue not a racial evil as in the south USA (does she even mention the difference and the answer to that apparent problem ?); the whole Evolution-Creation debate (does she even include any of the good arguments and points that question Evolution – like Philip Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial” and Stephen Meyer’s work or other Intelligent Design proponents? ); that conscious faith in Jesus is the only way to salvation (does she deal with good articles/books on that subject, for example, John Piper’s “Let the Nations Be Glad” ??); that homosexuality/acts/lusts/same sex marriage is always a sin. (does she deal with good books on that subject like Robert Gagnon, or James White/Geoffry Neal’s “the Same Sex Controversy” or Jeffery Sattinover’s “Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth” ? )
Those are the same issues the most skeptics/agnostics/atheists have with the Bible that people bring up all the time in witnessing situations. (besides miracles, the Virgin Birth and resurrection) By siding with theological liberals/atheists and skeptics, she gives popular ammunition to those attacks on the Scriptures.
What do you think is the best commentary on the head coverings issue in 1 Corinthians 11:1-16?
I hope you don’t mind me chipping in, but I’ve read the treatments in both of the reputedly premier commentaries on 1Cor11 (Gordon Fee and Anthony Thiselton) and find that most modern stuff (even including our dear brother Tom Schreiner in RBMW) is often a stretched attempt to make scripture conform to our modern sensibilities.
Which is to say, two happy exceptions I’ve come across are:
1) Stephen B Clark – Man and Woman in Christ. The whole book is incredible and the chapter on head coverings is absolutely stunning, in my humble opinion. Would encourage you to buy the book from Tabor House, but think you may be able to read the part here:
2) A great online article by Michael Marlowe, which engages with scholars like Fee:
I’m assuming you are aware of all the stuff on the other side. Hope this is helpful,
Thank you Henry! Looks like what I am looking for.
No problem, I think the time is coming when this issue will be ripe for reconsideration by evangelicals. You might also find John Murray’s reflections on the matter interesting:
Not many seem to be aware of this small little piece by him. Also, Michael Marlowe has collected a list of other articles on the matter, though I have not read them all:
Other folk who have in print advocated the practice in our day include RC Sproul, RC Sproul Jnr, Bruce Waltke, Noel Weeks and Mary Kassian. Bruce Waltke wrote a paper for BibSac and Noel Weeks wrote one for WTJ a couple decades back. Have not read them yet though.
People need to know that you have not cited one Greek scholar. How Bruce Waltke got in this line up, I don’t know. We have discussed this but he does not claim the kind of background in Greek that you attribute to him. Anyone may write about this chapter, but if one has studied Greek and the ancient world, the oddities of these articles stick out.
I have spent some time discussing this with Marlowe as well. He has an amazing website, but a woman does not need to buy the starched white linen bonnets that he prefers so they can demonstrate their abject submission.
I don’t know if it is worth mentioning that none of the others are Greek scholars either.
John Klink, Jr.
There are those who try to defend Mrs. Evans, by suggesting that raising strawman arguments and mocking the bible was not her intention. Whatever her intentions, (only she and God know them) the results of her work are strawman arguments, and a tone that mocks the bible. We cannot (nor should we) judge her intentions. But since she put out her work in the public domain, we can (and should) point out the terrible flaws in her results.
I am halfway through the book and have found neither mockery of the Bible nor strawman arguments. I don’t think the book is actually saying, “Hey, look! Complementarians think you should sit on your roof, call your husband master and sleep in a tent on your period! Isn’t that silly?”
What she was doing, as I quoted her above, was deliberately using hyperbole to make people really think about what a literal hermeneutic could entail if taken far enough. Jesus actually used the same rhetorical technique all the time– saying that people should cut off their hands or pull out their eyes if they offended them, for instance.
As for the Bible not saying women should sit on their roofs– no, it doesn’t. But neither does it say that when a woman gives driving directions to a man, she should do it in a soft, humble voice, with respect to his God-given authority. Nor does it give a list detailing exactly which ministries a woman can do in the church and which she can’t– that she can take up the offering but not give the sermon, etc., etc. All this is evangelical Talmud. Christians do this all the time– taking their application of a piece of Scripture and claiming it is therefore scriptural for all Christians to do as they do. If Rachel wants to imitate this common practice, I don’t see why she shouldn’t. “Practice my application!” is part of what many Christians claim is “living biblically.” If people don’t like it– well, maybe that’s sort of the point.
“Using hyperbole” as a valid writing device is often appropriate. But I think “using hyperbole” is quite different from what Evans has done in this, and other, specific example. This is more along the lines of dishonesty, not even a strawman or red herring. Evans sets up invalid premises and thus her conclusions, even if not meant to be taken literally, are hard to consider as valid. The end doesn’t always justify the means.
John Klink, Jr.
Taking the literal hermeneutic . . . far enough?
She didn’t use anything like a literal hermeneutic. There is nothing literal about her version of Proverbs 21:9. Its not even close to ‘literal’.
Right I have read the first few chapters and have yet to find any mockery. In fact, most of them so mar have just been expressions of how she was humbled by trying it for a while. It’s an interesting book, but I not sure why people are so upset?
I think the best overall commentary on 1 Cor is Ken Bailey’s recent book. It is good on 1 Cor 11.
On the ceremonial laws in the Torah being fulfilled in Christ and therefore being done away with, I think you are misunderstanding Scripture. See Acts 21 where Paul pays for Nazirite vows in order to show he is a Torah-observant Jew, this is after Jesus died and even after Galatians and Romans is thought to have been written by Paul.
What RHE is concerned with are some (false) interpretations of Paul, not what Paul actually taught. As Peter noted, some of the things Paul wrote were hard to understand in the 1st century, how much more is that true today.
Paul paid for the Nazirite vow not because he had to or because to not do it would be a sin, but because he was trying to win the Jews to Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 – For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.
Thanks Don, for your interaction with my post!
Do you think ceremonial laws and sacrifice laws are still applicable to Christians?
In Acts 21 that you mention – Paul is applying his principle that he taught in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 and 10:30-33 – “I have become all things to all people”; “to the Jews I became as a Jew” and “to those under the law, as under the law”; and “give no offense to Jews or Greeks (Gentile unbelievers) nor to the church of God.” He was being a good witness to the Jews. But after 70 AD, the Church could not longer even do all of that stuff that Paul does in Acts 21. You should not use a historical narrative (Acts 21) to overthrow all of the other clear teaching (verses below). (which it seems like you are doing)
It is clear from Mark 7:19, Matthew 21:43; Hebrews chapters 7-10, 11-13, and Colossians 2 and Galatians 3-4, that the ceremonial laws, cleanliness laws, feasts, and civil laws of punishments for the theocratic state of Israel were fulfilled and not binding on Christians.
The moral law is still applicable, but not in order to gain salvation (never was intended that way) – Genesis 15:6; Galatians 3:21-24; Romans 7 – the law was meant to expose our sin, increase our sin, judge our sin, and drive us to frustration and repentance.
I have “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” edited by Piper and Grudem, and pretty much agree with most of it; and Schreiner’s chapter 5, “Head coverings, prophesies, and the Trinity” deals with 1 Cor. 11, but I was unsatisfied with it, as I remember seeking answers to how to deal with it; but maybe I need to read it again. Maybe there is no better solution than the way Schreiner deals with it, which seems to be the cultural solution for today, as most complementarians take it for today.
I wanted to see if Denny had another article or commendation on that chapters.
I have Kenneth Bailey’s “Jesus through Middle Eastern Eyes”, but don’t have the 1 Cor. book by him, but thanks for the recommendation.
I would see Peter’s statement in 2 Peter 3 as more relating to the issue of God’s sovereignty and patience to save more of the elect as the reason for why Jesus has not returned yet (context of 2 Peter 3) and that Peter is relating that to those themes in Romans especially – Romans 2 – patience of God leading you to repentance, and Romans 11 – kindness, severity, patience of God and the plan for the Jews in the future – rather than alluding to 1 Cor. 11 on head coverings.
Luke tells you in Acts 21 why Paul did it, in order to show to his opponents that he was a Torah-observant Jew and to repudiate the claims that he asked other Jews to stop following Moses, not get their kids cicumcized and not follow Jewish customs.
One basic principle of prot Bible interpretation is to use more clear texts to help understand less clear texts. Acts is a straight historical narrative, with a theme of expanding the Kingdom both geographically and culturally. It is not as complex as Paul’s letters, esp. 1 Cor, Rom, and Gal.
Whatever Paul means in various verses in 1 Cor, Rom and Gal. they cannot contradict the fairly clear statements in Acts, esp. as scholars think Acts was written after those letters. In other words, when Acts and one of those letters seem to disagree, which do you think is more likely, one is misunderstanding Acts or one is misunderstanding one of those 3 letter. I think it is overwhelmingly the latter. Paul is claiming in Acts to ALWAYS have been a Torah-observant Jews and to NEVER have taught other Jews to abandon Moses, circumcision or Jewish customs. I think all of Paul’s letters need to be read assuming what Luke wrote in Acts is exactly correct.
” Paul is claiming in Acts to ALWAYS have been a Torah-observant Jews and to NEVER have taught other Jews to abandon Moses, circumcision or Jewish customs”
Actually, Paul never claimed that. It was the elders in Jerusalem making the statement.
Let’s deal with a very simple question. If the temple were around today, would Jewish Christians be required to make sacrifices for their sins?
“There is no place for self-will, self-protection, or self-determination, but rather an ever-increasing responsiveness to who He is, what He has done, and the glory He eternally reveals.”
Are you advocating that a woman should remain with her children in a violent situation? You may do this yourself if you like, but you have no right to advocate submission to violence to anyone else.
A woman has every right to protect herself from violence, from beatings and from rape. A woman is not required by the Bible to lie down and take it! Will someone please realize that this is dangerous and immoral. There is no need for anyone to worry about the disrepute that RHE brings to Christianity when comments like this are made in public.
I have never read so many “likely’s” and “might” in a row in any piece of writing before. And so it should be. Stephen Clark omits the most significant thing that we actually know about women and head coverings, and I have no idea how he could have made this kind of error and slipped it by a publisher.
“In fact, for her not to have the appropriate expressions of her position as wife and woman would be degrading. A woman without a veil and a woman without long hair would be disgraced.(13) Contemporary Western society is losing its awareness of how symbols of status and subordination can be honorable.”
This is utter nonsense. It was slave women who were not allowed to wear a head covering. Although citizen women did not always wear head coverings, they often did. And when they did, these were sometimes a symbol of their position as a patron of a business or guild. Just look at a few statues and see that these are wealthy widows that have endowed major institutions and they appear in public in no way subordinated to anyone at all, and they wear a palla because it was the style.
A palla and stola were a sign of wealth and status not subordination. With this kind of thing being written by so called scholars, hurray to RHE for entering the fray!
Both of those analyses of 1 Cor 11 pericope are fatally flawed, IMO, because they do not read 1 Cor 11:10 for what it says in the Greek, but rather change its meaning based on what they THINK it must mean. 1 Cor 11:10 is the center of the chiasm according to Bailey and so it the most important verse to get right, and Clark and Marlowe get it very wrong. The point of Paul’s teaching is that a woman can choose what to do with he cultural “head thing” whatever it was, it might have been a veil, a headcovering, a style of hair or a style of haircut, all of those potentially fit the meaning of the Greek phrase “down from the head”.
About Acts 21, Paul did assert his agreement with what James and the elders said, by his own plans. Communication is not just what is recorded as speech, it also includes actions.
If the temple was still standing, then Jews would need to follow the Torah stipulations for the temple, including sacrifices. However, many do not really understand what this means since they decline to deeply study this aspect of the Bible, esp. as they have been taught by those they respect that it has been made obsolete, because the teacher uses either the dispensational framework or the Reformed “Moses’ covenant has 3 parts and only the moral part remains” framework.
So you are claiming that sacrificing animals for the remission of sins would be done by Christian Jews? Was Christ’s work not sufficient?
That is a way too common misunderstanding of what Torah teaches that you mentioned. I (tried to) phrase it right, you phrased it wrong.
Heb 10:4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
The author of Hebrews is not establishing some new doctrine, they are restating what Torah teaches. One can tell that the author is Jewish, they know a lot about some details of the temple that would not be known by gentiles of that time.
What the Bible actually teaches and what some THINK it teaches can often be 2 different things.
Do you ave an obsession with RHE? I think you have written more blogs about her than Obama. Have you read the book yet?
These sorts of comments make me giggle. One has to wonder if they commenter has an obsession with *you*, counting up the posts you publish on various topics.