Comments 5

  1. Prof. Lief here seems to make, if I’m not mistaken, what has become a common error in interpreting Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Also, I don’t see the word “longer” in the verse, but we’ll leave that as it is for now.) First, nowhere does the verse say nor imply that “in Jesus Christ God breaks open every cultural category humans use to define each other.” Certainly, God does break down false cultural categories in the Bible, but this verse only speaks of one category that breaks down, as I hope to explain in a moment. Second, his translation of Gal. 4:7, “So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God,” uses the word “child” where it appears the word “son” would be better.

    The entire context of Gal. 3-4 is speaking of covenants and inheritance. Thus, Gal. 3:28 is speaking of how in the past, in Israel, inheritance went primarily to free, Jewish males–but not in Christ, where inheritance is for all believers (including Greeks, females and slaves). We have equal inheritance, so we have equal access to God. It seems Paul reinforces the statement of equal inheritance by saying not merely that we are all “children” of God, but that we are all “sons”–that is, we have all taken on the identity of those who receive an inheritance. We have done this because we are clothed with Christ (3:27), the Son and Heir, and thus we become sons and heirs.

    As for the matter of breaking down cultural categories, people may be tempted to take this verse into other realms outside its context and to say that, for example, there is no longer any headship-authority of a man in marriage toward his wife, or to say that maleness is not a requirement for church office. However, the context of this verse does not offer any such justification. (I also believe both conclusions are mistaken, and I am concerned about how readily people carry this verse outside of its context.) Gal 3:28 speaks of equal inheritance, and equal inheritance does not imply that all social differences disappear. For example, there are genuine differences between boys and girls, and we should not pretend there are not.

    So I do not believe that Gal. 3 and 4 support your argument. But your overall point is a good one–God made man (God uses the male term inclusively, Gal. 5:2) male and female, both in his image. We should not demean girls as girls or boys as boys, because God has made them both as they are. We should not insist on specific gender roles/activities in realms where these are not justified, and we should not discourage anyone from pursuing a joyful life before God in a capacity he has gifted them for if he has given them the liberty to pursue it.

    1. All true but keep in mind that “maleness” in the biblical context, especially in the early church and Israel, would mean married men who have produced children. Should we follow this rigidly forever?

      “We should not insist on specific gender roles/activities in realms where these are not justified” is what every culture agrees with and then defines “not justified” differently.

      1. What is your evidence that “maleness” in the Bible would refer to married men who have produced children? When the Bible says God made man “male and female” (quoted in the New Testament as well), there appears to have been no implication of the male being the father of children already.

        As to “not justified,” you are correct. Different cultures dictate different roles for boys and girls, and no doubt many of those distinctions are not biblically justified. Boys and girls should act differently–because they are growing into men and women, who should act differently–but they should not necessarily act in the way every culture dictates. I do not think Prof. Lief has provided much rationale to say why particular patterns are wrong, and he hasn’t really given any guidance on how male and female differences should be appreciated in the actions of boys and girls.

    2. Sorry, I see I included an incorrect reference. “Gal. 5:2” should have been “Genesis 5:2,” where God uses the term for the man inclusively.

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