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I just noticed that the advertised cover for a forthcoming book I’m editing has my name as ‘Mathew’ rather than ‘Matthew':

ATPHD

I’m sure this will get sorted out before printing, but it reminded me of some other editorial oopsies I’ve encountered – like a previous book (caught before printing) in which the cover said ‘hermenutics’ rather than ‘hermeneutics':

Future of Biblical Interpretation IVP

And there’s the NIV that I’ve pointed out before, in which an ironic section of Scripture has a portion missing:

wpid-dsc_0522.jpg

I also have a book on my shelf in which the author’s first name, rather than surname, appears on the spine:

Porter Stovell

But my most treasured editorial oopsy comes in Feldmeier’s commentary on 1 Peter:

Feldmeier

It is often said that Stephen’s speech represents an answer to the charges that he was undermining Temple and Torah, in the form of a theologically radical vision of a God who has brought Temple and Torah to fulfilment in Jesus. It is suggested that from this Christological vantage point, Stephen is critiquing a Jewish over-emphasis on the Temple as the limiting location of God.

But is this theologically radical critique really evident in the speech itself? In my view, the emphasis is not on Temple and Torah as fulfilled and surpassed, but rather on the God of the Scriptures as the one who has historically communicated his presence and his demands through rejected messengers: the alien Abraham, the afflicted Joseph, and the abandoned Moses, in particular. Thus the way Jesus is introduced at the end of the speech (as one who has been betrayed and rejected) is the climax of the point Stephen has been developing throughout the speech.

Bede Fever

Yesterday I ordered a whole bunch of works by Bede (you know, the venerable one). It’s all because of one paragraph he said about the book of Samuel, which was the most amazing thing I’ve read about the Old Testament by an early Christian writer. I want to know if that paragraph is representative of what he says more widely, or if it was a one-off fluke. Given the look of him in this picture, I’m bracing myself – that’s one cross looking monk…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve come to think that the word ‘straight’ – when applied to sexuality – unwittingly carries a theologically illegitimate load.

But I’ll unpack that theological critique in a minute. First, listen to historical and queer critiques of the label:

Noted gay historian Ned Katz rails against what he perceives to be the misguided notion of physiologically driven static sexual identity:

the biological determinists have convinced many of us that an individual’s “real” sexual feeling is physiologically and immutably grounded, therefore “natural,” “normal,” and good. Similarly, some sexologists have insisted that an individual’s erotic emotions, though only focused after birth in a process of social interactions, are set at an early age and for life – and, thus, we imagine, are authentic and good. The idea that hetero and homo feelings are legitimated via such biological or social determinisms constitutes a widely held late-twentieth century U.S. folk belief. (Jonathan Ned Katz, The Invention of Heterosexuality, 7)

Hanne Blank, in her Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, points out that this alleged binary biological classification of sexual orientation did not arise from science at all:

the original creation of “heterosexual” and “homosexual” had nothing to do with scientists or science at all. Nor did it have anything to do with biology or medicine. “Heterosexual” (and “homosexual”) originated in a quasi-legal context, a term of art designed to argue a philosophical point of legislature. (xiv)

Blank claims:

there is no scientific data that substantiates a genetic or biologic basis for sexual orientation, period. (34)

Many scientists have claimed to find evidence of homosexuality in the body, in anatomy and genetics and hormones, but none has so far held up to scrutiny: when we look for proof that our “gay” bit of the body is genuinely different from a default “straight” model, the evidence tends to fall apart. In the face of more than a century of failing to find an empirical basis for sexual orientation, the depth of the faith scientists continue to maintain that they will find such a thing is almost touching. It is also very telling: there are a lot of people out there who very badly want the doxa of sexual orientation, in which we all have an enormous social investment, to have a physical, demonstrable existence. (42)

Blank goes on to argue that this phenomenon of binary orientation has been held to be obvious only in the last fifty years or so, and that the conceptualising of sexuality as two static identities has been a gross oversimplification that has served to erase the profoundly dynamic and ambiguous nature of human sexuality from mainstream acknowledgement.

The need to self-identity as ‘straight’ emerged, according to Blank, by the heirs of the Victorian era’s

increasingly common experience of looking in the mirror to see if a deviant or degenerate looked back… It was triggered socially, by fear. Becoming sexually self-aware was a matter of pure old-fashioned self-defense. Western culture acquired sexual self-consciousness on a grand scale because self-assessment offered ways to defend against being marked as a degenerate or deviant. Heterosexuals learned to experience heterosexuality – to think about themselves as “being” and “feeling” heterosexual, to believe that there is a difference between “being heterosexual” and “being homosexual” – because they needed, in newly official ways, to know what they weren’t. (49)

I find myself struck by this: What if this is right? What if the very possibility of self-identifying as statically ‘straight’ arose out of a selfish desire to be considered non-degenerate and pure by default?

Now I don’t doubt that for most people, their experience is that they are consistently attracted to the opposite sex (myself included). I’m not suggesting that that experience is invalid; but I’m open to the critique from the Queer community that questions whether this experience can or should be statically labelled as ‘straight,’ as though it secures people into a lifelong ‘correct’ sexuality.

The very idea that any human could be statically wired in a ‘straight’ shape seems, if we think about it, anathema to Paul’s theology. That becomes obvious if we replace the word ‘straight’ with its Greek counterpart, ‘orthos‘: does Paul think that some humans are ‘wired’ statically orthos, while others are not? For the one who insists that ‘we were by nature objects of wrath,’ the idea doesn’t seem to fit – it carries over-ambitious implications.

This is not making any comment about the shape of embodied calling to which those in Christ are summoned; it’s simply a hesitation about the way we sometimes label our ‘nature.’ So I am happy to never use the term ‘straight’ of myself again. I have become persuaded that it is a theologically inappropriate term.

I was commenting on 1 Corinthians 11 in a NT class the other day, and it struck me again that Paul has a keen interest there in setting up hierarchies of human honour, and then surprisingly subverting them by subjecting all humans to God. This happens at both the beginning and the end of the headcoverings discussion in chapter 11, as well as earlier on in chapter 3:

3:21-23:

  • The set up: So let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all belong to you…
  • The sting: …and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

11:3

  • The set up: I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife…
  • The sting: …and God is the head of Christ.

11:12

  • The set up: For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman…
  • The sting: …but all things come from God.

As Karl Barth said, the ‘secret nerve’ of this epistle comes in those condemning and liberating words: from God!

There is a new article by Jennifer Shack in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, suggesting that the manuscript evidence cannot support the idea that this controversial passage is an interpolation. She concludes:

So where does all this leave 1 Cor. 14.34-35? It leaves it in the text. If it cannot be viewed as an interpolation, what does that mean? It means that we continue to wrestle with the evidence and we continue to do the best we can to accurately understand the text of 1 Corinthians with Paul’s words in 14.34-35 intact.

A few years ago I posted my ponderings about the textual integrity of this passage here – but I haven’t been 100% satisfied with any of the ‘wrestlings’ I’ve seen with the passage. If it is indeed original to the letter, then a face-value reading is so obviously at odds with chapter 11, that it is necessary to press further and attempt other readings. I’m pretty sure I’ve posted my own tentative wrestling with the content of the passage before at some point, but here it is, for what it’s worth – by no means a settled conclusion, but an imaginative attempt…

Could it be that the command to silence is directed to the wives of (male) prophets whose messages are being evaluated?

The broader passage would thus read as follows (from 14:29):

29: The command to allow evaluation of speaking prophets

  • 30-33: The silenced speech of critiqued prophets: control yourself!
  • 34-35: The silenced speech of wives of critiqued prophets: control yourself!
  • 36-37: The subjection of prophetic utterance to apostolic command

To expand (and over-translate, for the sake of elucidating my suggestion; repeated terminology is italicised)…

Let two or three prophets speak, and others should evaluate what is said.

If an evaluative revelation comes to one of these “others” who is seated…

  • the prophet should be silent – for you prophets are all able to prophesy one by one, so that all of the congregation might learn and receive encouragement. And the spirits of prophets are in subjection to prophets – for God is not a God of disorder but of peace – as in all the churches of the saints
  • The wives of such critiqued speakers also must be silent in the churches – for it is not permitted to them to speak (i.e. on behalf of their silenced husbands) – but let their spirits be in subjection just as the law also says. But if they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home – for it is embarrassing for the wife to speak up in church
  • You indignant prophet, did the word of God come from your mouth? Or has it only reached you? If anyone thinks themselves to be a prophet or spiritual, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command.

Someone has uploaded my whole monograph, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reversal: The Impact of Paul’s Gospel on his Macro-Rhetoric, onto Scribd – so it can be read in full, downloaded, and is entirely searchable – all with proper pagination! You’ll find a number of other full NT monographs there as well.

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