Bodies marked by power

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch has, quite reasonably, received a great deal of attention from those interested in gender and theology. It is a strongly positive portrayal of a person whose gender was non-standard, and who would have been perceived as deviant and threatening by the dominant cultures of their time; a person who is, in the narrative, shown to be uncommonly intelligent, inquiring, and able to be received rapidly into the new Christian community. (Note that I will generally use the pronoun “they” for eunuchs in this essay; though most or all would have used “he” … Continue reading Bodies marked by power

Girl and snake at the end of time

Once we get past the first three chapters of Genesis, there is no text in the Bible which has been such a flashpoint for discussions of gender, power, economics, or the human future as the Revelation to John of Patmos – and it is not a coincidence that these two texts sit in a single sentence, for John is very deliberately writing a book which, after taking on and taking up the entire prophetic tradition, consciously returns to and rewrites the very beginning of scripture. John’s Revelation has been significantly repositioned by recent scholarship, which has understood its connections to … Continue reading Girl and snake at the end of time

Covenant and Treaty

As I suggested in the previous post, the fact that patterns of Biblical imagery are now used to inform an understanding of marriage does not necessarily mean that the Biblical text is thereby being honoured; it is possible to read image patterns onto contemporary situations and institutions in a way which stretches the text considerably, perhaps too far to be sustainable. I have already argued that this is the case with the imagery of Christ and the church, which caused problems for the authors of This Holy Estate. I’d like now to look, admittedly briefly, at one of the other … Continue reading Covenant and Treaty

The missing bride

There has been a certain struggle to find scriptural warrant for the privileging of marriage over all other forms of human relationship, and its apparent status as a sacrament of such importance that different understandings are worth splitting the church; and this has been a struggle largely because scripture has very little to say about marriage, and much of what it says is not especially positive. The Hebrew scriptures present no theology of marriage; it is simply a phenomenon of social life, which sometimes work out and sometimes doesn’t. In those letters which are unquestionably authored by Paul, the closest … Continue reading The missing bride

Discerning the body

The earliest text which tells us about the body of Christ is Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. And what he tells us there is that Christ’s body is a) a diverse group of people, and b) bread and wine. Right away, we are on confusing ground. Obviously, the historical body of Jesus of Nazareth underlies these transformations, but it is notable that the church produced (or at least preserved) texts which kept this unnatural body at the foreground, in advance of those texts which treat Jesus as an individual body in time. It is, of course, absolutely essential to … Continue reading Discerning the body

Regarding the grammar of God

The recent debate over the marriage canon of the Anglican Church of Canada has revealed at least two major theological fault line, both deeply underexamined. One is how we think about gender, both in the order of creation and in the order of redemption, and in our language about God and humanity; whether our scripture and tradition actually tie us into a simple gender binary to anything like the extent we have believed for the last few centuries. The other is how we think about the theological nature of covenant partnership (and, secondarily, how this relates to the institutions known … Continue reading Regarding the grammar of God

The content of obedience: Julian of Norwich

I’ve alluded several times already, in this blog, to the scriptural narrative structures in which a woman – first Eve, then Mary – appears as the representative of humanity in general. This is a striking choice, which may reflect the general tendency of scripture (like some genres of folk tale) to foreground the excluded or less powerful, the younger, smaller, and poorer, the socially less esteemed. There is a danger here, however. The relationship between God and humanity is, necessarily and properly, a dramatically asymmetrical one. The proper response of the creature to the creator is one of joyful obedience … Continue reading The content of obedience: Julian of Norwich

On family and the virgin birth

We are bodies, created and mortal, like the grass and the creeping animals; but we are bodies of a different and complex kind. We hunger and ache and struggle and desire, we sicken and die, like all mortal things. But we are, since that fateful moment at the tree, bodies endowed with the knowledge of good and evil, and the faculty of choice. And only through that strange faculty can the story be turned around, and our strange souls and bodies finally saved. Christianity has always, as a defining feature, insisted on the real and complete physicality of the incarnation. … Continue reading On family and the virgin birth

Girl and snake part two

This post may seem like a partial digression, and certainly less relevant to current controversies in the Anglican Church of Canada, but I think it is part of building up a structure of ideas – and it is also perhaps just as well to wander off the immediate topic on a week when everyone is focussed on General Synod. (I will also leave some other speculative threads lying where I dropped them, and hope to return to them later). One of the unmistakeable features of the story of what Christians have come to call “the fall” is that the woman, … Continue reading Girl and snake part two

Girl and snake part one

After the creation narrative, of course, the second Genesis account moves on to perhaps the most famous of all Biblical narratives, that story of the ishshah, and the serpent, and the two strange trees. Genesis 3 is hardly ever quoted in our current controversies, and although it has historically been used to undermine the position of women in marriage, society, and the church, it is rarely openly employed that way in Anglican contexts today. Nevertheless, it is a story which has often been (though incorrectly) perceived as a story about sex, and it is certainly a story which touches on … Continue reading Girl and snake part one