Thursday, July 3, 2014

Considering the Titus 2 Woman

Young girl reading in 1st century
bronze (Wikipedia)
In the Pauline Epistle to Titus, the recipient was charged with improving the lives and reputations of Christians on the island of Crete. This rested on the pastor teaching “sound doctrine” as to how everyone was to conduct himself or herself. Particular details were made concerning how church leaders, slaves, and men and women according to age were expected to conduct themselves. In short, Titus was responsible for turning lying, gossipy, drunk women into model citizens:

[Π]ρεσβύτιδας ὡσαύτως ἐν καταστήματι ἱεροπρεπεῖς, μὴ διαβόλους μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ δεδουλωμένας, καλοδιδασκάλους, ἵνα σωφρονίζωσιν τὰς νέας φιλάνδρους εἶναι, φιλοτέκνους σώφρονας ἁγνὰς οἰκουργοὺς ἀγαθάς, ὑποτασσομένας τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν, ἵνα μὴ ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ βλασφημῆται. – Titus 2:3-5 (NA28)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.Titus 2:3-5 (ESV)

Our task today is to identify what exactly was expected of the Cretan women. Unfortunately, this passage isn’t exactly easy to for someone as Greek illiterate as I. However, with a lot of help from various language resources, I think I’ve managed to parse out the text:
  • ἱεροπρεπεῖς (“befitting a sacred place”)
  • καλοδιδασκάλους (“teacher of virtue”/“teaching good”)
  • σωφρονίζωσιν (“making sensible”)
  • φιλάνδρους (“husband-loving”/“man-loving”)
  • φιλοτέκνους (“children-loving”)
  • σώφρονας (“sensible”/“of sound mind”)
  • ἁγνὰς (“pure”)
  • οἰκουργοὺς (“working at home”)
  • ἀγαθάς (“good”)
  • ὑποτασσομένας τοῖς ἰδίοις ἀνδράσιν (“while being in the state of having been made subordinate to their own husbands”)

I’m still uneasy about how I’ve worded that last one!

When considering this list, we must keep in mind a few things: Scholars are constantly warning us layfolk not to get caught up in irrelevant details such as the number of things in a list or their relative importance. This is by no means an exhaustive list of godly characteristics for Roman-era Cretan women, or women today. And while their inclusion in the Epistle to Titus suggests that they were of some importance for the initial audience, we shouldn’t think that these should necessarily take precedence over other characteristics that Paul just so happened not to mention in this passage. Finally, it might be tempting to impose a ranking ordering, and many have done so, prioritizing loving one’s husband over being good. However, as scholars remind us repeatedly, that’s not the point of the list. All of these characteristics are important for living a blameless life, and one shouldn’t be neglected in favor of another that’s more to one’s liking.