There is long held desire by the Christian church to maintain one, solitary stance on each issue that is presented to them. The dilemma here however, is that the bible as a source of information does not always seem to hold one consistent view. This is even more so an issue when looking at the letters written by the apostle Paul. Paul is known in his writings to have somewhat confusing opinions which are not always clear cut. While on some issues Paul is very clear, such as his opinion on the necessity for circumcision, other issues have been the cause of disagreement among churches and scholars and even sources of heated debate. One of these widely discussed issues is that of the status of women in the church. In analyzing Paul’s letters, particularly the letters to the Galatians and to the Corinthians, scholars and churches alike have come up with widely differing interpretations of how Paul views the status of women. It is important when evaluating this issue to look at all sides of the argument and to analyze the sections which have caused the most heated debate. Among the most crucial things to understand when grasping the letters of Paul is that these are not written as general passages which apply to all of the christian community, but should be put in the context the time at which they are written and the recipients of the letters. Even after analyzing all of these things though, there are still vastly differing views held on the subject and to varying degrees of severity. the result has been an ongoing struggle of churches and individuals to formulate their own stance on the subject and to find a niche which best suits their opinions.
Popular opinions held of women’s involvement and status within the church, and particularly how they relate to men can be divided into two categories, egalitarian and
complementarian1. The former view focuses on the equality of men and women in the church while the latter emphasizes the idea that men and women hold complementary roles and that each gender has their place in a marriage and in the church, often leaving the woman in a subordinate position. Neither side outwardly argues the other’s ideals, but rather stresses their own ideals on the subject. There are others still who remain undecided on the issue and 1
genuinely seek answers
. Paul is probably the most cited source surrounding the issue of
women’s involvement in the church and also the most widely debated. Since Paul’s opinions can be viewed to hold each extreme, both for and against the status of women, it is crucial to look at each side of the issue.
There are a number of scholars who maintain the idea that Paul’s writings are fully against the status of women in the church. In his paper on The Politics of Heaven
, Joseph A.
Marchal sees Paul’s letter. particularly the letter he writes to the Philippians, as very gendered2. Gillian Beattie also maintains a similar view in her book “Women and Marriage in Paul and his Early Interpreters”. Beattie looks at 1 Corinthians, particularly at the passage which states that women should be silent in the church and states that this comes from Paul’s issues with female prophets. He believes that Paul is attempting to give female prophecy an ultimatum: either stop speaking and making prophetic claims , thereby maintaining their prophetic status, or renounce their status and continue with inspired speech, without the support of Paul3. Beattie maintains
J. David Miller, “Translating Paul's Words About Women”, Stone Campbell Journal
12 (Spring, 2009):
Brigitte Kahl, review of
The Politics of Heaven: Women, Gender, and Empire in the Study of Paul (Paul in Critical Contexts
, by Joseph A. Marchal,
Atlas Book Reviews
(2008): 213 Joseph A. Marchal “Atlas Book
Women and Marriage in Paul and His Early Interpreters...
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