"Paul OBVIOUSLY had a "sit down and shut up" attitude toward women--and we are supposed to trust HIM?!"

[Note: This is a simple summary of the detailed data in the syllabus. Refer there for sources/discussion. Updated: 01/02/97; corrections 2024]
Paul is often maligned HEAVILY as being this quintessentially-Talmudic misogynist throwback, who set women's gains under Jesus back 2-3 centuries...but this is SO FAR from the truth...

Just to show how off this misconception is nowadays, let me quote from Rosemary Reuther (a very outspoken feminist theologian) who is drawing upon Elizabeth Fiorenza (a very outspoken feminist theologian). Neither of these could REMOTELY be called 'apologetically inclined' toward Paul(!):

"It is generally assumed that Paul is the author of a Christianity of female subordination. But more recent studies have shown that the historical Paul in fact continued most of the assumptions and practices of early charismatic, inclusive Christianity. Indeed, most of the New Testament evidence that women functioned as local leaders, as well as traveling evangelists, is to be found in the Pauline letters. Paul addresses almost an equal number of women along with men (sixteen women and eighteen men) in his greetings to Church leaders in Romans 16. He mentions two women, Euodia and Syntche, as having preached the gospel "with Barnabas and me" in Philippians 4:2-3. He addresses a woman name Junia by the title of "apostle," and constantly refers to the husband and wife team, Priscilla and Aquila, as "Church leaders," usually naming Priscilla first. He also speaks of the prominent woman Phoebe by the title of both "deacon" and "prostasis" or leader, of her community.

Paul received from the early Church both a practice of thus including women in the ministries of catechesis, prophecy, local Church leadership, and traveling evangelism (the role Paul calls that of "apostle"), and also a baptismal theology of male-female equivalence in Christ as reflected in the Galatians 3:28 reference. This formula was not original with Paul; he cites it from early Christian tradition. The Galatians baptismal text expresses the early Christian vision of the new humanity in Christ. It was consciously moulded to contrast with the traditions of rabbinic piety, adapted from Hellenistic philosophy, in which the Jewish male thanks God for having been born male and not female, free and not slave, and Jew rather than Gentile. By declaring that in Christ these divisions had been overcome and all these groups made "one," the early Christian stated the essence of his or her new identity as one where the equivalence of all humans in the image of God had been restored." (WS:WWR:212-213)

[Note--the 'recent studies' Reuther refers to are works by Fiorenza...]

The data we discover about Paul shows that in every way he was as "liberated" in his actual treatment and teaching re:women as was Jesus. But Paul actually goes beyond this--he (as a human) can label women as 'fellow-workers' with him--a 'peer' statement from the great Apostle to the Gentiles.

As Reuther/Fiorenza noted above, Paul was VERY 'inclusive' in his views--women were leaders, were co-workers, were patrons, were deacons, were apostles, were emissaries, were official delegates, were prophets, were prayer warriors, were leaders of house churches. He "allowed"(!) women to pray and prophesy in church (e.g. I Cor 11.5) and called on them to disciple leading men (Priscilla and Apollos). He addresses NT epistles to them (e.g. Philp) and entrusts NT epistles to their care (e.g. Romans).

As the apostle Peter noted in 2 Pet 3.15-16, Paul writes some things that are 'hard to understand'! He has passages which will probably always remain obscure (i.e. the head-covering passage?), and many passages that are exegetically baffling. The 'female silence' passages ('I do not allow a woman to teach' and 'women should keep silent in the churches') fall in these categories. The fact that Paul obviously allows women to speak in the churches ("pray and prophecy") and that prophecy was considered every bit as authoritative and as a teaching-practice as "official" instruction, should tip us off that something else is going on in those two texts. Exegetes from all persuasions have identified a number of options that remove the 'clash' with his less ambiguous (1) apostolic praxis and (2) other passages in his teaching corpus. It still remains which option will surface as a consensus option among students of Paul.

In any event, Paul comes off as quite 'liberated' --esp. for his Pharisaic upbringing! The stereotype of a female-hating, women-subjugating, Christian "Rabbi Judah" just cannot be objectively maintained anymore.

No, Paul understood their potential contributions to the cause of His precious Lord--their passion, their commitment, their love for the Desire of All Nations--and did not hesitate to worship with them and "put them to work alongside him" in His apostolic mission...
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