Patriarch does not equal Patriarchy

I’ve been wanting to write about this for some time now and some recent discussions I’ve been in this last week have made it clear that I need to start now. So here we are.

Let me start by sharing what I grew up being taught.

When I encountered ideas, actions, and teachings, in churches I attended or in books that I read, that left me uncomfortable as a young girl and as a young woman I would ask about them. Probably their first hint I wasn’t going to make it in their communities, and maybe that influenced their responses, but I suspect it worked the other way around. The answers I would get some apology (meant here not as the apology we offer when we’ve done something wrong, even though that is what it should have been in my not so humble opinion, but apology as in “defense of”) that explained how God created men to be in charge and women to be subordinate. God created hierarchy — because God exists in hierarchy.

God existing eternally in hierarchy is called Subordinationism and it’s heresy, plain and simple. You can read more on my thoughts about it.

It was explained to me that Patriarchy (the doctrine of male rule) was merely a continuation of the Patriarchy of Judaism. God gave us stories of the Patriarchs to help us learn that men are supposed to rule and that women are supposed to embrace this, etc., etc. And there were stories of Patriarchs. That was true. They just didn’t seem to behave the way the men around me did.

This bothered me, and all of this garbage was a big part of my Crisis of Bad Theology, but it was all I seemed to get. Of course it was paired with strong women in the church trying to share subtle ways to work around it, and talking about how they are challenged all the time to be more submissive and God wants to challenge us to help us grow, right? All I could think was, “apparently God just wants women to grow because men seem to be predetermined by God to do whatever they want — how does that fit with iron sharpening iron!?!”

I did eventually learn very different things — after my Crisis of Bad Theology and my return to Christian community I married an amazing husband who believed in empowering instead of dominating and, with his encouragement and full support, studied at Fuller. I now identify, despite the fact that I hate labels, as a Christian Egalitarian. What this simply means is that I believe God created male and female to live in unity with one another, with mutual submission and empowering one another to be all that God created them to be in the home and in the community and in ministry. I believe hierarchy came in as a consequence of the Fall and that Jesus fixed this problem, and this is a main thrust of Paul’s teachings.

There is a lot involved in both ideas that others have written about extensively so I won’t try to reproduce the great work already done. What I bring that is unique is the deep desire God put in me to understand the Jewish foundation into which Jesus and Paul and the others we meet in the New Testament were born and steeped. The place I landed after I committed to let God sort out my Crisis of Bad Theology involved trusting God and allowing him to help me understand and study the Scripture. I had thrown out everything except, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” I couldn’t even add, “for the Bible tells me so,” because I had been taught all of these horrible things using the Bible as a weapon against me. At least God knew what he was getting when he chose me for all of this — I was laid bare before him.

It was as I really got into the Jewish doctrinal foundations for the New Testament that I began to have real healing from the bad doctrines. Imagine the joy I was flooded with when I was preparing my daughter for her Bat Mitzvah and in the book I got to help prepare her I read this,

We bless our daughters that they follow the example of the Matriarchs. As the foundational pillars of our nation, they create the spiritual base for all future generations. (Bat Mitzvah Treasury, Rabbi Yonah Weinrib, pg 14)

Plural Unity

Plural Unity

This is confirmed on the page about the role of women in Judaism at jewfaq101.

The equality of men and women begins at the highest possible level: G-d. In Judaism, unlike traditional Christianity, G-d has never been viewed as exclusively male or masculine. Judaism has always maintained that G-d has both masculine and feminine qualities. As one Chasidic rabbi explained it to me, G-d has no body, no genitalia, therefore the very idea that G-d is male or female is patently absurd. We refer to G-d using masculine terms simply for convenience’s sake, because Hebrew has no neutral gender; G-d is no more male than a table is.

Both man and woman were created in the image of G-d. According to most Jewish scholars, “man” was created in Gen. 1:27 with dual gender, and was later separated into male and female.

According to traditional Judaism, women are endowed with a greater degree of “binah” (intuition, understanding, intelligence) than men.

It’s not that Patriarchy wasn’t part of the Jewish culture — there were Patriarchs, and men did have specific roles in society that women did not have (though some were kept from women, others were actually things women were excused from — a fact that isn’t often understood when modern Christians teach about these things). It’s that Matriarchy was also a vital part of Jewish culture and women, while they did serve in different roles, were in roles that were often considered even more vital to the continuation of the Jewish culture and people than the roles that men held.

Modern Christian Patriarchy is not a continuation of Jewish Patriarchy found in the Old Testament. It is a distortion of it — just as it teaches a distortion of Scripture’s view of men, women, and God. Modern Christian Patriarchy is toxic and is nothing more than Modern Christian men wanting to believe that God created them to have special jobs and hold special power. Because of that it is infested with power/control dynamics and not the unity and servanthood that Scripture clearly teaches and that Jesus specifically stated his people would exhibit.

I am so glad I didn’t take the word of the Patriarchy-apologists in my life. They rely on women feeling shamed and put in their place so that we won’t keep searching and studying for ourselves. Jewish women weren’t forbidden to study, merely excused from the obligation to study that men were under. Jewish religious leaders believed women would learn things intuitively that men would have to study to understand. And every good Rabbi on record taught this wife and daughters Torah in their home — they even heeded their counsel.

Jewish marriage and divorce counsel books are also incredibly supportive of women escaping abusive power/control dynamics as well as calling men out on those things as early as they become known. More and more Christian Marriage and Family Therapy books and counselors are moving in that direction, but Patriarchy has a strong hold in many quadrants of Christianity. Too many that the people in bondage to them don’t even realize are from Patriarchy.

My point is, the presence of Patriarchs in Scripture is not the same and does not support Modern Christian Patriarchy. The first is Biblical, and balanced by the presence of Matriarchs in Scripture and the Jewish teachings on both. The second is unbiblical and produces unbiblical fruit.


  1. I think the problem is that one word sometimes have more than one meaning.

    “Patriarch” means,

    “1. A man who rules a family, clan, or tribe.

    2. Bible, a. One of the antediluvian progenitors of the human race, from Adam to Noah., b. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, or any of Jacob’s 12 sons, the eponymous progenitors of the 12 tribes of Israel.”

    The one is a ruler, the other an early progenitor. The Bible has progenitors, but they were not rulers. And rulers who were not progenitors.

    To try and get patriarchy (male rule) from the Bible’s patriarchs is the fallacy of equivocation.

    This is the

    • Crystal Lutton says:

      I absolutely agree. I have also seen over and over how most of Christianity has dismissed any need to study the Jewish people before the Babylonian Talmud –and that’s the early date! More often people know what they read about them in the New Testament and even then they focus on the group of Pharisees who plotted against Jesus and not the group of Pharisees who respected and even followed him. Or all of the other Jewish people who embraced his teaching. It’s a very narrow view of such an important people. I was quite shocked when I started studying for myself in this area.

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