Saturday, December 13, 2014

Biblical Modifications Series: The Reversal of Paul

Paul established much of the teachings and dogma of the early church.  His epistles are the oldest texts that form part of the New Testament.  One of those early teachings, found in Galatians 3:23-28, is that Christianity establishes of a new order, where many of the ways of the past are set aside.
Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed.  The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith.  But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian,  for you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ like a garment.  There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Paul actively worked with women to establish the early Christian church.  This is seen in Philippians 2:2-3.
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life.
Likewise, in Romans 16, Paul commends Phoebe, a deacon of the church, and greets other women who have worked with him.

In 1 Corinthians 7:3-4, Paul describes the marital relationship between men and women as being co-equal.
To the woman the man should give what is due her; likewise the wife should give the same to the husband. The wife does not hold the rights to her body; her husband does. Likewise also, the man does not hold the rights to his body; the wife does.
That's not to say that Paul makes no differentiation between men and women.  In the first century Corinth, the common pagan practices of the cult of Dionysus involved reversal of sex roles, including cross dressing.  Paul felt it important to address this in 1 Corinthians 11:13-16, urging both sexes to dress and groom themselves properly while praying in the church.
Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair it is a disgrace to him,  but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her as a covering.  But if anyone wants to argue about this, we have no other custom, nor do the churches of God.
That's why it seems strange to see the passage three chapters later from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which says:
Let the women in the churches keep silent.  For it is not permitted for them to speak; instead let them be submissive, just as the law itself says.  If they wish to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home.  For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
This same attitude is reflected in 1 Timothy, which is regarded by most biblical scholars as a Pauline forgery.  That is, it was written by someone else after the time of Paul, but who claimed to be Paul.  Furthermore, the above passage doesn't fit well with the surrounding text.  Consider the flow of surrounding text, with this passage, marked by (*), removed:
Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should evaluate.  But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent.  For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged.  And the prophets’ spirits are under the control of the prophets,  since God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  (*)  If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, he should recognize that what I write to you is the Lord’s command.  But if anyone ignores this, he will be ignored.  Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in other languages.  But everything must be done decently and in order.
It is fairly clear that the passage was inserted at some later time, and this is the opinion of many biblical scholars.  It reflects the church's changing (reverting to the more traditional) attitude about the role of women, not the attitude of Paul.  As with several books of the New Testament written after Paul's time but in his name (for example, 1 Timothy, Ephesians, and Colossians), the influence of the church is exerted to shift women to a more submissive and subjugated role.  As they revert to the more traditional views and attitudes about women, they contradict the spirit of the new Christian order described by Paul in Galatians.


  1. Once again, Skep, you seem to be totally missing the point about whether there were any Biblical modifications made by the Early Church in order to comply with dogma. Had there been such, you would not now be able to point to passages within Paul that indicate/suggest/hint at a growth in his thought. They would have all been either smoothed or papered over by your hypothetical modifiers in order to comply with the most recent ideas. The fact that you are able to see Paul's thinking on the role of women in the Church grow and develop over time is solid evidence that no such modifications were ever made.

    Sorry, Skep. No foul ball this time, but rather a clean swing and a miss. Strike three, and the batter walks into his dugout with head down low, dragging his bat behind.

    1. Bob,

      You can believe whatever you want. But if you're interested in getting to the truth, the evidence is out there.

    2. The evidence for what? So far, all the "evidence" you've produced has only disproved your going-in thesis (which is that the Early Church altered the Scriptures in order to conform with doctrine). This current posting is a classic example. You trot it out apparently under the impression it bolsters your case. How that be so? Had the Church actually done what you've accused it of doing, you'd never see such "developmental" passages as the ones you cited from Paul. They'd have been erased by your imaginary modifiers. The fact you can still read them today is evidence that no such modification ever occurred.

      So to quote you, "You can believe whatever you want." And apparently you do, in the teeth of evidence to the contrary. So yes, "the evidence is [indeed] out there" - the problem is, it's evidence that you're wrong!

    3. There are no "developmental" passages. Paul's position is quite clear. And then, it is suddenly reversed. This is what we see all through the New Testament. Discrepancies and contradictions. This generally doesn't happen in the writing of a single author. We see it when comparing the work of different authors. For example, the gospels, written by different people contain significantly different, and even contradictory stories. But aside from examining books written by different people, we can see these discrepancies within a single book when more than one person has contributed to the version that we now have.

      Once again, this is not just my opinion. Scholars agree. The passage was inserted.

    4. "This generally doesn't happen in the writing of a single author."

      Hmm... Let's see now. November 1916: Woodrow Wilson runs for re-election on the slogan, "He kept us out of War." April 1917: Woodrow Wilson declares war on Germany; U.S. enters WWI.

      "Discrepancies and contradictions."

      My point exactly. Their very existence blow your thesis of alleged modifications clean out of the water. If, as you claim, the Early Church had been busily modifying Scripture to comply with doctrine, you wouldn't find anything even resembling such. Fascinating how you work so hard to prove yourself wrong.

  2. Bob,

    I can understand that people sometimes change their position, but that doesn't appear to be the case here.

    This so-called growth and development that you claim in Paul's thinking consists of reverting from relative enlightenment to paleolithic knuckle-dragger. I don't buy it. It makes much more sense if you understand that Paul was stepping outside the comfort zone of most people in his time. It was the church that reverted, not Paul. He didn't go from instructing women on praying in the church to telling them to keep their mouth shut in the space of three chapters.

    Even if this was Paul's position, why would he express it by making a clumsy insertion of this passage in the middle of a discussion of prophesying?

    You claim that we wouldn't see examples like this if the early church modified scripture to comply with doctrine. But that is exactly what we see. Not just in this case, but in many such cases. This is not the modern Vatican, we're talking about. It was a disorganized, disjointed group of congregations with no settled canon and ideologies that were in flux. And there are numerous examples of biblical manuscripts that contain various modifications (ie. two different manuscripts do not say the same thing), sometimes rather crudely done, without any effort to assure consistency outside the immediate context.

  3. The different churches were busy modifying texts that would become the Scripture of the Church to form and support their versions of doctrine. The Doctrine of the Church was developed over time.

  4. Skep, you are just too funny. First, you accuse the Early church of modifying Scripture to comply with doctrine, and then you quote self-evidently unaltered passages of that very Scripture in an apparent attempt to prove your point. But all you've managed to do is prove that no such modifications were ever made. How else could you cite unaltered lines from one part of Paul to contrast them with equally unaltered lines in other parts of Paul?

    Had any alterations actually been made, then either one or the other of the passages you quoted would have been re-worded by your hypothetical modifiers in order to paper over any perceived conflict between them.

    And as to your belief that no writer can contradict himself over time, that thesis is laughable on its face. Although we have no pre-conversion writings of Paul (back when he was still Saul), one could well imagine that the content of anything penned by that firebreathing persecutor of the first Christians would bear little resemblance to the post-conversion letters we do have. But in any event, there is no contradiction between the two passages you quoted from First Corinthians concerning women. The lines you cite from the 14th chapter concern the formal office of liturgical preaching. The other passages do not. Even today in the Catholic Church, the only person permitted to give the homily after the Gospel reading is an ordained priest or deacon. No one else.

    In the 1st Century Eastern Roman Empire, the Greek world was chock-a-block with largely feminine mystery cults, characterized by hysterical "preaching", mostly by priestesses of dubious character, in ceremonies of dubious propriety - ceremonies that Paul was anxious to draw the greatest possible distinction from what would ultimately evolve into today's Mass. Thus the perfectly understandable ban on female preachers.

    1. "self-evidently unaltered passages"
      - I cited passages that were Paul's and one that wasn't, so that you could see the difference. You don't have to be as astute as the scholars to see it, you only need to be open to looking objectively at the evidence.

      "Had any alterations actually been made, then either one or the other of the passages you quoted would have been re-worded by your hypothetical modifiers in order to paper over any perceived conflict between them."
      - What evidence do you have that they would do that? The NT is loaded with contradictions that were never papered over. I don't think they cared. These books were not available to the general public.

      "And as to your belief that no writer can contradict himself over time, that thesis is laughable on its face."
      - So is your comprehension of what I said.

      "The lines you cite from the 14th chapter concern the formal office of liturgical preaching."
      No, they refer to prophesying by members of the congregation. Not the same thing at all.

  5. " The NT is loaded with contradictions that were never papered over. I don't think they cared."

    If you truly believe this, then you really need to repudiate your accusation that the Scriptures were modified by the Early Church in order to conform to doctrine.

  6. Bob,

    When you have two different manuscripts that say two different things (and there are definitely examples of that), there's one thing that is 100% certain: the biblical texts were modified.