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Paul: Misogynist Or Radical Egalitarian?


GeorgeW
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In the March-April issue of the Fourth R (a publication affiliated with the Jesus Seminar), there is an article titled “Paul on the Status and Role of Women.”

 

If we take all of the writings attributable to Paul as representing his views on women, we could rightly conclude that he was a misogynist, even perhaps by standards of his time. But, the author, William O. Walker, Jr., makes a persuasive argument that Paul was actually a radical egalitarian regarding the status and role of women.

 

First, there are a number of passages in his letters that treat women leaders in the church on a level equal to that of men and names several in writing. In one passage he praises both Prisca and Aquila, a man and wife. In one place he names her first and in another, him. In another passage he identifies Pheobe as a deacon or minister. In addition, there is the ‘Baptismal Formula’ in Galatians 3:27-28, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

Second, most of the sexist passages in the letters attributed to Paul were almost certainly not written by Paul. These include First & Second Timothy and Titus. These writings are widely accepted as pseudonymous by NT scholars.

 

Third, the author argues that the couple of sexist passages in letters generally agreed as authentic to Paul are, in fact, interpolations. He says that even conservative scholars now agree that one of the two sexist Corinthian passages (1 Cor 14:.4-35) is a non-Pauline interpolation. Although there is not such wide agreement with regard to 1 Cor 11:3-16, the author argues that it is an interpolation on various grounds.

 

So, were we to ignore the letters not actually written by Paul and delete a couple of possible interpolations in the authentic letters, we would be left with a ‘radical egalitarian.’ Maybe Paul has gotten a bad rap from some biblical critics.

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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I agree. Richard Rohr made some tapes (okay, cds) about Paul called Life as Participation which I highly recommend. Paul probably can be said to be radical for the time, that is to say he did a pretty good job for living in a strict patriarchal society in which women were merely property (thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife nor his ox, etc.)

 

Hollis

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I think Paul was just trying to make it (early Christianity) work. Whatever it took. My impression is that Paul honored all people, except those who caused conflict, perhaps, as best he could in the known world at the time. (And I probably don't agree with him on a few significant theological issues.)

 

Dutch

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If the question is "How did Paul (the person) feel about women in the church" then you absolutely have to consider whether he wrote the passage and not someone else. Why would you let someone else put words in Paul's mouth especially when we don't even know who it was?

 

steve

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I hope to find time to follow up on some of these scholars evaluations of the texts attributed to Paul, maybe after I get the present heavy load of stuff done I'm having to cover getting back to work.

 

But, must comment...years ago, when I first really, seriously began to read the bible, I quicly encountered some serious problems that greatly disturbed me at the time, and over the interveing years, I have come to feel this ever more strongly//

At the time, I had not yet studied much theology or scholarly works, nor formal education in logic, but, had always had among my strengths some very well-developed skills, even something of natural giftedness, in reading, comprehending, analzing, and evaluating literature and other written material, or listening to rhetoric or arguments.

One trait i've always had, to the discomfort of some, is as I've had somone say, that if you tell Jenell a story a second time, no matter how mant years later it might be, you'd better tell it exactly the same, or she'd going to catch the discrepancy.

I've always been extremely good a quickly spotting internal and external inconsistencies or contradictions as well, whether in written or spoken accounts.

And I've always had, I guess you can call it "an ear", if it were in music, for both following the development of an idea or concept, its coherence or discord, as a musician might listen to a pieve and say, there's just someothng "off" there, just goesn't flow, doesn't fit, but aslo "an ear" for a particualr "writer' voice."

All of those things came into play as i read the supposed writing of Paul. My immdeiate impression, when has never weakend, but grown stronger as I identified identified specific sections of texts and what bothered me about them, quickly convinced me the epistles atrributed to PAUL contained at least theee, perhaps 4, differnet msjor contribituorsm and several more minor ones,like maybe lster'exposditiors' thast had thought to clarify, but lacking good understanding of what they were commnting on, that had been mish-mashed together. Some were rather lengthy, some just a sentence or two. Bit thy do things like break right into thr midde of some quite well thought out sections of reasonable idea developmemt, crudely patch in conflicting, contradtictory, that goes way off track,even negate what came prevoius, before the text before it seems to drop back in to continue where it had bee going before interrupted. Most the sections where Paul seens to expreses demeanding ideas about women are those that just don't fit.

 

Jenell

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Why would you let someone else put words in Paul's mouth especially when we don't even know who it was?

Steve,

 

I am not clear on what you are asking or proposing. The pseudonymous writings and interpolations were written after his death. They were forgeries written in his name.

 

George

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the question was

So, were we to ignore the letters not actually written by Paul and delete a couple of possible interpolations in the authentic letters, we would be left with a ‘radical egalitarian.’ Maybe Paul has gotten a bad rap from some biblical critics.

 

steve

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