Struggles for Power in Early Christianity
By: Elsa Tamez
“Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.”
— (1 Tim 2:11-12)
The First Letter to Timothy is a troubling text—especially for those concerned about the marginalization of women in the church. 1 Timothy, which seems to model the church after the structure of a patriarchal household, has served for centuries to reinforce patriarchal structures in the family, society, and the church. But rather than dismiss this text, Elsa Tamez seeks first to reconstruct the situation behind it, analyzing power struggles in the primitive church in relation to social position, gender roles, theological pluralism, and authority in the church. From this process, according to Tamez, “we should learn to understand and to dissent, to formulate a new manner of being the household of God so that all its members, men and women, can be welcomed and can be seated with joy and mutual solidarity at ‘the table of God’s hospitality.’” Thus, 1 Timothy becomes a key to unraveling points of tension in the church today.
Elsa Tamez is one of the principal initiators and developers of the feminist perspective of Latin American liberation theology. Professor of biblical studies (and former director) at the Latin American Biblical University (UBL) in San José, Costa Rica, she is the author of many books, including Bible of the Oppressed and When the Horizons Close.