Sunday, March 7, 2010

Titus follows Paul who follows Aristotle: Who must the women follow?

The celebrated Greek virtue of self-control (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) has to be defined differently for men and for women, Aristotle maintains. Masculine sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη] is rational self-control and resistance to excess, but for the woman sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη] means obedience and consists in submitting herself to the control of others."
--Anne Carson, Men in the Off Hours

Today, my spouse and I visited a friend's church, where the preacher preached through Titus chapter 2.  "Titus" is the letter addressed to a young man from Crete named Titus written from the older man from Tarsus named Paul.  Titus is Paul's disciple.  Paul claims to be the disciple of Jesus from Nazareth but writes like a disciple of Aristotle from Athens.

Both Aristotle and Paul use the word sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη] differently for men, women, and slaves.

Below is what Aristotle wrote and then what Paul wrote. It's from Aristotle's Politics, translated by Harris Rackham, and from Paul's Titus, translated by the man-only team creating the English Standard Version of the Bible.  I've only inserted Aristotle's and Paul's word (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) into the English texts so you can see it in some similar contexts.  

Note the difference between (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) for men and women; and note the question and the implicit suggestion about slaves (whether males or females) -- Can slaves have (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη])?  No, it seems slaves really cannot have (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]).  

Note also how women (with children and slaves) are described as subject and subservient.  Note also how women are described as prone to chattering and slander (i.e., as having little (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) with respect to talking.)

Here goes:
Hence it is manifest that all the persons mentioned have a moral virtue of their own, and that the (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) of a woman and that of a man are not the same, nor their courage and justice, as Socrates thought, but the one is the courage of command, and the other that of subordination, and the case is similar with the other virtues.... 

First of all then as to slaves the difficulty might be raised, does a slave possess any other excellence, besides his merits as a tool and a servant, more valuable than these, for instance (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]), have the courage, justice and any of the other moral virtues, or has he no excellence beside his bodily service? For either way there is difficulty; if slaves do possess moral virtue, wherein will they differ from freemen? or if they do not, this is strange, as they are human beings and participate in reason. And nearly the same is the question also raised about the woman and the child: have they too virtues, and ought a woman to be (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]), brave and just, and can a child be ([the opposite of] sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) or (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]), or not? This point therefore requires general consideration in relation to natural ruler and subject: is virtue the same for ruler and ruled, or different? If it is proper for both to partake in nobility of character, how could it be proper for the one to rule and the other to be ruled unconditionally? We cannot say that the difference is to be one of degree, for ruling and being ruled differ in kind, and difference of degree is not a difference in kind at all. Whereas if on the contrary it is proper for the one to have moral nobility but not for the other, this is surprising. For if the ruler is not (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) and just, how will he rule well? And if the ruled, how will he obey well?.... 

And therefore both these virtues are characteristic of a good man, even if (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) and justice in a ruler are of a different kind from (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) and justice in a subject; for clearly a good man's virtue, for example his justice, will not be one and the same when he is under government and when he is free, but it will be of different kinds, one fitting him to rule and one to be ruled, just as (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) and courage are different in a man and in a woman (for a man would be thought a coward if he were only as brave as a brave woman, and a woman a chatterer if she were only as modest as a good man; since even the household functions of a man and of a woman are different—his business is to get and hers to keep).
--Aristotle, Politics
1But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. 2Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]), sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4and so (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]) the young women to love their husbands and children, 5to be (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]), pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. 6Likewise, urge the younger men to be (sophrosyne [σωφροσύνη]). 7Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, 8and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. 9 Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.
--Paul, "Titus"

3 comments:

Jay Seidler said...

I suppose it doesn't really matter why this Paul suddenly became so fond of the word σωφροσύνη along with a whole lot of other unique words. If this is the same guy that wrote the letter to the Galatians, was he converted again or what happened?

J. K. Gayle said...

Why wouldn't it matter, Jay? You see that I'm wondering whether Paul looked to Aristotle for much of his construct of "Nature's" orders. Did he, if writing differently to people in Galatia, convert to a different order? I really do think that Aristotle impacted Paul with respect to "logic" (since Paul's the only NT writer or Greek bible writer if LXX is included) to use Aristotle's word, "logic." I also think that Paul enacted his understanding of Aristotle's "rhetoric," when Paul was in Athens. Why the contradictions and changes? Maybe they're what contemporary rhetoric historian George Kennedy describes as "letteraturizzazione" or "the repeated slippage of rhetoric into literary composition" or "the general tendency for rhetoric to devolve to non-public, literary, non-persuasive forms." That's highly speculative, and is high-horse intellectually snobby, if you ask me. But then again, I've speculated some in posts here at this blog. What do you think?

Jay Seidler said...

I guess I am just wondering if the pastoral epistles are authentic Pauline. If so, then there seems to be an obvious change in Paul's emphasis. If they are not Paul's then we still are faced with this material that was eventually admitted in the canon, but then we might see the earlier Paul in a different light. But the comparison you show between the letter to Titus and the Aristotelian text is very enlightening in any case.