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.