Paul and Women…Worth a Second Look

Despite being a woman, I teach Bible courses at a university, and have done so for years, even to student populations including men!

Semester after semester students are shocked to find out what biblical scholars have known for so many years we assume everyone already knows. For example, there are two creation accounts in Genesis, there are four gospels in the New Testament and they weren’t created to portray one seamless biography of Jesus, and, for goodness sake, understanding the Bible to be an inspired text, does not require one to believe it is flawless.

One particular aspect of the New Testament is crucial to understanding Christianity’s stance regarding women, and it is this very aspect that many readers seem to know nothing about.

In short, here it is: Paul did not write all of the New Testament letters. Further, the New Testament letters demonstrate a variety of thinking about women and men, households of the first centuries. The missives that Paul did write demonstrate a radical equality between women and men that the Roman Empire would have seen as potentially dangerous.

So, as the early Christian movement sought to maintain its viability within the Roman Empire, Paul’s (and Jesus’) radical ideas became somewhat muted in the later letters written in Paul’s name.

Unfortunately, for many, it is in these pseudo-Paul letters (especially 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) where women are portrayed as subordinate to men and it is these assertions that take center stage, and thus gain authoritative, if misguided application.

There’s no need to take my word on this, though. I’ve included a link where recently John Dominic Crossan, a noted New Testament scholar, provided his analysis of Paul and Paul’s stance on women. It’s worth reading.