Chapter 3 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: FAMILY WITHIN CHURCH, STATE AND SOCIETY
The Hellenistic Context
It is important to consider the perceptions about children and family life through the ages. In the Hellenistic context, two contrasting views on children existed. The value of children was for the well-being and economic survival of their parents. The parents could also live after death through their children and heirs. Children were considered indispensable as they were used for economic, military and cultural purposes by the State (Wiedemann 1989:25-26).
On the other hand, childhood was considered a state to outgrow and children were considered fundamentally deficient and not fully “human”. Children occupied a low status in society and brutal practices toward children were allowed under Roman law. Fathers had almost absolute power over his children and could even put them to death. He could also decide whether to recognise a new-born and raise him/her, or to expose the baby (cast it out in a public place) (Gundry-Volf 2001:32-33).
The exposition of unwanted babies was a widespread belief (Wiedemann 1989:36). Exposed infants would die, unless they were picked up by strangers, in which case they might be raised as beggars (sometimes having been mutilated for this purpose), for profit as slaves or as prostitutes (Gundry-Volf 2001:33-34).
The Old Testament-Jewish context
In the Jewish context, it is evident that a higher value was attributed to children. Abraham was promised that his descendants would multiply. This was a gift of God, a sign of God’s blessing and a source of joy. Jews view life as sacred from birth and even at conception. Abortion, infanticide and exposition were unacceptable to them (Gundry-Volf 2001:35-36).
There are many testimonies to parental love and pleasure in children. Children are a divine sign of God’s blessing in accordance with the very blessing of the Creator upon humanity in primal history (Gundry-Volf 2001:35). Male children were circumcised and that was a symbol of being part of God’s covenant with Israel. Parents were expected to teach this to their children.
In Deuteronomy 6:7 God says that the commandments that He has given must be on their hearts. It must impressed on their children, recited to them and talked about. On the other hand, children were also viewed as ignorant, capricious, and in need of discipline (Isaiah 3:4; 2 Kings 2:23-24). Children therefore fell short of what the ideal human being should be. To be compared, or worse, to be ruled by children, would be an incredible insult to an adult male Israelite.
The evidence in the Jewish context of the Old Testament is therefore twofold. On the one hand, children were highly regarded as children of the covenant. Children were loved and cherished and the Jewish parents, especially the father, were not nearly as cruel towards their children as compared to the Hellenistic and Roman context. On the other hand, children were also viewed as ignorant and in need of discipline. This context forms the basis of New Testament teaching on children.
Children in the New Testament
People brought children to Jesus so that he would bless them but the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said: “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it” (Mark 10:13-16).
Jesus strictly warns his disciples not to prevent the children from coming to Him. Children must under no circumstances be excluded from the blessings of God. He then takes the children in His arms and blesses them and in doing so, teaches that the reign of God belongs to children.
Van Aarde argues that it is possible to consider these children, from a perspective of the social stratification of the first-century Herodian Palestine, as part of the lowest class, namely, the “expendables” (Van Aarde 2001:136). This makes the aforementioned teachings of Jesus even more profound.
Jesus taught that the primary beneficiaries of that reign were lowly and powerless people. In Luke 6:20-22, he calls the poor, the hungry, and those who weep the fortunate ones. The kingdom of God will be theirs; they can be happy when people hate them, reject or insult them, and condemn them. Children shared the social status of the hungry, the poor, and the suffering. It is Jesus who calls all of them “blessed” (Gundry-Volf 2001:38).
It is significant that Jesus said that whoever does not receive and welcome the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all. Nowhere in Jewish literature are children put forward as models for adults. Instead, comparison with children were treated as an insult in the Greco-Roman setting (Gundry-Volf 2001:39).
Then what did Jesus want to teach His disciples? Entering the reign of God “as a child” thus seems to involve both a certain status, an actual dependence on God and a corresponding quality, namely trust (Gundry-Volf 2001:40).
In Ephesians 6:4 we read that parents should not anger their children but should raise them with discipline and instruction about the Lord. This means that parents should treat their children fairly and not as if they occupy the lowest tier in society. Children must not be treated like slaves and the poor because they are objects of God’s care and love. Matthew 18:6 also reads as a stern warning from Jesus to whoever treats a child harshly, for it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake. Children should rather be loved and protected.
Jesus makes a direct correlation between how one treats children and one’s greatness in the reign of God (Mark 9:33-37). Jesus sat down, called the twelve disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all”. Jesus reached for a little child, placed him among the disciples and embraced him. Then he said: “Whoever welcomes one of these children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me isn’t actually welcoming me but rather the one who sent me” (Mark 9:35-37).
Jesus also makes no distinction between the ways a man or a woman should treat children. Mark depicts Jesus, a man, taking a small child in His arms as an example to His male disciples (Gundry-Volf 2001:42, 44).
The first three verses of Ephesians chapter six depicts the responsibility of children; they should obey their parents and accept their guidance and discipline as if it were from God. This text is integral to teachings on family life. These kinds of teachings may also be found in Colossians. This was a patriarchal society, where children listened to their parents and the man was the head of the household. Fathers carried the religious responsibility of the household, as they would teach the children at home and later the boys would attend synagogue.
1.1 Research field
1.2 Research problem and gap
1.5 Description of specific methods
1.6 Reflection on ethical implications for researcher and co-researcher
1.7 Relevancy of the study
1.8 Limitations of the research
Chapter 2 EPISTEMOLOGY.
2.1 The premodern times
2.2 The modern times .
2.3 Postmodern perspectives
2.5 Hermeneutic phenomenology .
2.6 Social construction .
2.7 Scientific discourse
2.8 Wentzel van Huyssteen
2.9 Post-foundational approach
2.10 A critical correlational hermeneutic
2.11 Transdisciplinary approach
2.12 The narrative approach
2.13 Exploring ‘nostalgia’ and ‘imagination’
2.14 Eco-hermeneutic paradigm
2.15 The Living Human Document
2.16 The Living Web
2.17 Contemporary Feminist Theologians
2.18 The position of men
2.19 The work of Christian theology
2.20 The art of hearing
2.21 The Ghost Kingdom
Chapter 3 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND: FAMILY WITHIN CHURCH, STATE AND SOCIETY
3.1 The Hellenistic Context
3.2 The Old Testament-Jewish context
3.3 Children in the New Testament
3.4 John Chrysostom
3.6 Thomas Aquinas on childhood
3.7 The Child in Luther’s Theology
3.8 John Calvin
3.9 Karl Barth
3.10 The development of welfare in North America
3.11 Adoption in South Africa
3.12 Love and Christian Family Theory
3.13 The Church and family today
Chapter 4 THE HISTORY OF ADOPTION
4.1 In the best interest of the child
4.2 The adoptee
4.3 Permanence for children
4.4 Giving background information
4.5 The adoption trauma
4.6 To adopt or foster, or not
4.7 The adoptee’s or foster child’s viewpoint
4.8 The view of adoptive parents
4.9 The view of the biological parents
4.10 The adoption play
4.11 The adoptee as mythological hero
4.12 The adoptee as an adult
4.13 The search
Chapter 5 THE STORIES
5.1 The mad, sad baby
5.2 The adoptive parents
5.3 The biological parents
5.4 Interpreting the narratives
5.5 The stories about the experience of loss for people in the adoption triad
5.6 The specific pastoral experiences of the presence of God
6.2 The experience of loss
6.3 The stories of hope
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