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family, The

The basic social unit in Israel during the biblical period. Most of the authority in the nuclear family belonged to the father, who exercised legal control over his children and wife, although his power was not absolute (Exod 21:7-11; Deut 21:15-21). The extended family (the “father’s house”) was composed of two or more nuclear families that claimed descent from the same ancestor. The extended family acted as a corporate entity and was granted certain legal rights in order to maintain its solidarity. Several extended families were sometimes linked together to form a clan. Clan members usually lived in the same geographical area and sometimes made up an entire village (Judg 18:11-13). The family metaphor was extended beyond the clan to include the tribe and the nation of Israel itself, so that the whole people could be seen as one enormous family represented by a complex segmented or branched genealogy (Gen 46:8-27; Num 26:5-62; 1Chr 1-9). NT views of the family are somewhat different from those found in the OT. On the one hand, some of Jesus’s sayings subordinate family loyalty to loyalty to the gospel (Matt 10:34-39; Matt 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35; Luke 12:49-53). On the other hand, Jesus quoted approvingly the command to honor parents and thus supported the traditional Jewish family structure (Matt 19:16-22; Luke 18:18-30). In the early church support of one’s family was seen as a virtue (1Tim 5:8), but the traditional view of family was transformed by seeing the Christian community as a new family (Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19).