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An examination of the allegedly egalitarian texts of the Bible

The "Word of God" as written by Paul, Galatians 3

Galatians 3 - Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.

So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.

Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

WHAT DOES THIS PASSAGE MEAN?

Galatians 3 is not addressed to civil leaders or to governments. It is not calling on any nation or state to implement equal treatment for all.

 

It talks about those who are baptised into Christ only. 

The passage is not talking about people who are insincerely baptised. They would not be baptised into Christ.

Anybody being baptised for the sake of going through the motions is not really baptised in the sense that the power of baptism has not been allowed to work. It is only an outward ceremony. We do not know for sure if Paul really means baptism in water. The Bible talks mostly about a baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Many read the passage as saying that by virtue of being human we are all equal. They need to read it properly. In fact it is denying that we are all equal for the person in Christ or not in Christ cannot be equal. It is speaking of how those who Jesus brings to himself in faith and devotion are all united as in connected. Unity and equality are not the same thing. A family is united but the baby is not equal to the parents in authority or any role.

Some say that passage poetically says we are all one man in Jesus meaning we are his body parts. Is it saying all who are in Christ are equal as persons? No. It says they are equal as parts of Christ. It is about Christ not human dignity. Your finger is equally part of your body though it is not as useful as your tongue. It is equal in that it is in your body but not equal with other parts in importance.

But the passage does not mention the body of Christ doctrine. Being one in Christ just means that all are connected in Christ by grace and grace is given to those who failed to obey the law of God be they Jews or not. It no longer matters if you are a Jew or Gentile - the two are now saved by grace.

The body of Christ doctrine describes how Jesus works through the members of the Church. Paul in Galatians is talking about how grace and Jesus unite people in the first place.

Some read the text as banishing slavery. That is a stupid reading for Paul never said slavery should be abolished and never challenged slavery. Not a single New Testament text explicitly rejects slavery. Texts that say all are equal are not enough - they are too general. People have always boasted that people are equal but their actions said different. Indeed scholars say the early Church didn't bluntly oppose slavery but accepted it as a fact of life. They deny that Christians necessarily thought that this meant accepting it as good or moral. That is a lie for people have always challenged the way things are done at least verbally and not a word in the New Testament explicitly condemns slavery. Some of the teachings are alleged to undermine it but were they intended to? "Love your neighbour as yourself" cannot be assumed to mean that the believers regarded slavery as wrong for who is to say they were consistent? And if slavery was a part of society it does not mean Christians had to keep slaves but they did.

The text says there is no slave or freeman in Christ. If there is no slave there is no free person anymore!

It says all have an equal share in the inner presence of Christ.

It says we are Abraham's heirs. We may be equal in that but not necessarily in anything else.

It is not talking about legal rights at all.

It is not talking about social rights.

It is talking about spiritual unity. It does not say what is given is a right. It is not talking about rights even!

Christian feminists claim that the passage says there is no male or female in Jesus so women should be ordained to the priesthood just as men are. But the passage is using hyperbole for clearly there are men and women in Christ.

There are no men and women before God in the sense that he will give them Abraham's inheritance and the presence of Jesus in their hearts. But otherwise there are men and women.

The book Christianity is Not Great says that Galatians 3:26-28 which says there is no male or female or slave or free or race in Jesus for all are baptised into the Christ and clothed with him. It says this is not a socio-political egalitarian text. It is not about how society should treat Christians or anybody. It is about how Christians stand before God. The text would mean there are no free people anymore if you take it to be about how people must be equally treated in society.

I would stress that the text says those different people are clothed in Christ. It is not talking then about them being equal but about Jesus making them one by covering them in himself. It says nothing about people being equal in themselves. Jesus somehow almost becomes them so the equality they have is his not theirs.

The book refutes the notion that the Bible improved things for slaves. It's God allowed masters to beat up even female slaves. As Paul was clear that he accepted Old Testament morality as valid and even argued that disobeying it is the reason we need a saviour, so he would not have intended to demand freedom for slaves.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 makes it clear that men and women are not equal - men must make the decisions not women.

Ephesians 5:25 says that women must submit to their husbands in all things. The text says wives must totally submit to husbands but never says husbands are to totally submit to wives so it is odd how some can imagine the text is about gender equality.

Acts 10 speaking of a Jew and non-Jew states that that God treats all groups fairly and is no respecter of persons. The context is that a non-Jew was accepted by God as a follower of Christ indicating that it was not just to be open to Jews anymore. This seems to contradict the Bible God who up to then only cared about Hebrews and the Jewish people. It could mean that God is making a fresh start. Or it could mean that he was being fair all along for the only people who would respond to him before were Hebrews which was why no effort was made to evangelise other nations. That would be possible but far-fetched but it could be what the text means for it wouldn't be the first far-fetched Bible teaching. Or perhaps God has reasons for refusing to help other nations come to faith in him.

Acts 17:26 is interpreted in an egalitarian way in the book. The verse in the New King James Version (NKJV) reads:

And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us

Saying all people came from one man does not imply that all people are equal. In fact the verse speaks of boundaries suggesting that race should be seen as a division or boundary and that this is the will of God. The verse not only gives no reason to condemn racism but it seeks to paste a divine sanction on it. The context is how Paul found an altar to the unknown God among the pagans. So he is saying that God has created different races so that they might grope for him. To say that God wants people to grope in the dark for him is bizarre but that is what he said. It certainly implies that Christians are somehow superior to these gropers and know better.

There are no truly egalitarian texts in the Bible.

We conclude that Galatians 3 is being twisted by those who turn it into a ban on sexual equality and on slavery.