The Real Paul Series #4

Published May 12, 2015 by

Paul & Jesus on the Patriarchal Systempat

Patriarchal and hierarchical systems were designed to control, to dominate and oppress those beneath the ruling elite. There was little to no movement between one’s place in this system–illness or injury could move one to outcast–in theory, healing could move one back to one’s former position.  A freed slave rose in status, but women were pretty much stuck.In Israel, the ruling elite included the puppet king of the Romans, the priestly caste and the scribes set against 90% of the country’s population–the peasants and outcasts.  The population was heavily burdened by combined Temple and Roman taxes, which could quite literally drive them into  a state of homeless.  It is to these Jesus spoke when He said: Blessed are the poor(destitute) in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.*

If, however, we think not just of personal or individual evil but of social, structural or systemic injustice–that is, of precisely the imperial situation in which Jesus and his fellow peasants found themselves–then the saying becomes literally, terribly, and permanently true.  In any system of oppression, especially in these oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity, the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out deliberately as human junk from the system’s own evil operations.**

In the Roman Empire, the six hundred senators–the elite of the elite–controlled a population guesstimated to be eighty million plus.***  Only adult males could vote; the females of the aristocratic population were allowed to produce as many heirs as humanly possible before dying.  The slave population, estimated between 10% to 40%, were a part of the spoils of war as Rome conquered new lands and peoples.

The patriarchal system defined the structure of the family, the society and the government.  It controlled access to power, to resources and, ultimately, to the Divine.  Self-determination and gender equality were non-starters.  And female children could even be denied life itself if the father chose to cast them out as useless at birth.

Rev. Claudia Naylor

Matthew 5:3*
Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, by John Crossan**
Estimates of the population of Rome and the Empire vary greatly***

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