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Patriarchal Prejudice and Pride in Greek Christianity Some Notes on Origins Eva C. Topping Κατηγοϕεί ÏŒ 'Αδάμ ôè τη Εΰα1 A recent article in The New York Times (September 13, 1981) states that the women of Greece are "statistically shown to be more socially and economically discriminated against than their counterparts in any other Western country." This conclusion could hardly surprise anyone who is familiar with the contemporary Greek scene. Still it is shocking to read in this report that 78 percent of the illiterates in Greece are women. The article mentions several factors that contribute to this situation . Among them are "the heavily patriarchal nature of Greek society , the traditionalist influence of the church and a social outlook that values a woman according to her subservience and housework abilities." The critical role of the Church, a powerful social institution in Greece, is barely suggested, although the article points out that "By law women are forbidden participation in the councils of the Greek Orthodox Church." The Church has, however, played a key role in defining the female image and bolstering the values incorporated in the social and economic structures which discriminate against women.2 By its centuries-old antifeminist attitudes and practices the Church has officially in effect sanctioned the patriarchal prejudices and pride which, when institutionalized, are responsible for woman's low estate in Greece. As elsewhere in the Western world, it is true also in Greece that "Christian ideology has contributed no little to the oppression of '"But Adam accuses Eve." From a primitive kontakion on paradise lost. P. Maas, Frühbyzantinische Kirchenpoesie (Bonn, 1910), 14. The first to blame it all on woman, Adam was not the last. (I wish to thank Professor Elizabeth A. Clark of Duke University for her helpful reading of this essay.) 2On the significance of religion for the "woman question" see the valuable essays in Rosemary Radford Ruether, ed., Religion and Sexism: Images of Woman in the Jewish and Christian Traditions (New York, 1974). 8 Eva C. Topping woman."3 The "traditionalist influence" of the Greek Church on the status of women, moreover, rests on an antifeminist theology whose tenacious roots extend back into history for almost two thousand years and reflect the prevailing patriarchal structures of the early Christian centuries. In this brief essay I wish to discuss the theological origins of the ideology in the Greek tradition. I must emphasize at once that the sexist theology of the Greek Church is neither a unique nor an isolated phenomenon. On the contrary it is shared by all branches of Christianity . Together the Greek and Latin Church Fathers appealed to the same Biblical texts, such as Genesis 2:7-3:24 or I Timothy 2:Î - Ι 4, for proof of male superiority and female inferiority. From them they drew identical conclusions and produced the same negative derogatory image of woman. Christian theology concerning woman belongs to a single scriptural and patristic tradition. My observations on this subject are based primarily on my reading in Greek patristic writings and on my studies in Byzantine hymnography . As much as possible in these notes I shall let the creators of this antifeminist tradition in the Greek Church speak for themselves. By examining the teachings of the Greek Church Fathers of the first five Christian centuries we shall better understand the background of woman's second-class status in modern Greece. That this is woman's proper and natural place in the scheme of things has never been more plainly and bluntly stated than by one of Orthodoxy's most prestigious dogmatic theologians, St. Cyril of Alexandria: ήγεμο- νικώτατονδετοαϕσενάεί,καιενδευτÎ-ϕατάξειτόθήλυττανταχή(for most capable of commanding is the male always, and in second class the female everywhere).4 This sweeping statement of woman's subordinate status assumes the force of immutable eternal law, a permanent ruler-subject relationship between man and woman. With teachings similar to this the Church ratified and sanctified existing social and economic structures that oppress women. The Fathers' anti-woman theology was founded on their conviction that woman possesses a special nature, designed for her by the Creator. In the beginning, at creation, her inferiority was made explicit . Sexist selection and interpretation of Biblical texts buttressed this basic doctrine. Generally ignoring the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 7-17
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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