Monday, May 26, 2008

A Man Does Not Answer For The Sins Of His Wife: She Is Her Own Moral Agent and Her Own Possession ("The Jewish Way")

Comparing patriocentricity to the practice of Orthodox Judaism according to Rabbi Maurice Lamm in “The Jewish Way in Love and Marriage

One of the most disturbing things that I’ve heard in recent years is this whole idea that men somehow atone for their sins of their wives or will somehow answer for his wife’s shortcomings before God. I believed that this odd belief was just confined within the so-called “Biblical patriarchy” movement and patriocentricity, but when I lectured at a Southern Baptist Seminary a few months ago, I had several young men approach me to explain why I believed that they would not stand before God to give an account for their wives’ actions when they themselves one day stand before God to give an account of their lives. I never dreamed that anyone outside of this aberrant, spiritually abusive belief system would embrace such an idea. One can even easily find an example of this at Homeschooling Today Magazine concerning the editor and his wife. The editor declares that his responsibilities include “sanctifying his wife.”

I cannot believe that any professing Evangelical Protestant Christian could hold to such a belief! A husband certainly has a sacred duty to his wife -- to love her as he loves his own flesh, even to lay down his own life for her care -- but an unholy man cannot sanctify himself, let alone another being. To suggest this rejects the saving power of Jesus Christ by grace through faith and promotes a return to the law and works for ongoing sanctification for the Christian. It also inserts a mediator into a woman’s relationship with God and denies that she has access to the Throne of Grace through the Blood of the Lamb alone by requiring the intervention of a man. I find this concept sub-Christian if not pagan. It is certainly not Reformed Christianity.

These views are touted to be a concept of the supposed “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” and are promoted (presumably) to be supported by Scripture. I found this quote from Lamm’s book to be quite enlightening, because this idea clearly did NOT arise from the practice of orthodox Judaism.

Pg 156-157

The wife cannot remotely be considered the property of her husband. The husband never had the power of compulsion over his wife, as was true of English law until the end of the nineteenth century. In Jewish law, the husband is not responsible for his wife’s crimes or her sins. Except when she is involved in irrational behavior or starkly immoral displays, the husband had no right to interfere in her life. Similarly, the particular heinousness of adultery is not that it is an invasion of the husband’s private property; it is a sin against God that threatens the whole structure of the family and society.

Indeed Maimonides writes that “If a woman says: ‘My husband is objectionable to me, I cannot live with him, “ we compel him to divorce her forthwith, for she is not a captive to be compelled to intimacy with one she hates.” Rabbenu Tam, of twelfth-century France, and Rosh, of thirteenth-century Germany, two leading authorities, disagree because they fear this kind of reasoning may come to be used indiscriminately as an excuse for obtaining a divorce. However, we may infer that if it were humanly possible to be certain of the genuineness of the objection in each case, it would constitute grounds for a compelling divorce.

A married woman is considered legally and actually to be in her own possession. In reference to different subjects in the laws of marriage, two medieval authorities make pointed statements. Rashba: “The woman’s person is not acquired by the husband and this marriage ceremony is not a property transaction.” Ramban: “She has never been the property of her husband and is in her own possession.”
In the next post:

Laying the groundwork for understanding Paul's discussion of sanctification in Ephesians chapter 5.

Copyrighted material quoted here
under fair use for educational purposes from
by Maurice Lamm. San Francisco, CA: Harper and Row, 1980.