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Paul And Women

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The issue of Paul and women has been a hotly debated topic since the beginning of the early Christian church. Some have argued, using scriptural support that Paul advocated for the subordination of women. Others, however, have interpreted these scriptures to mean that Paul advocated for the egalitarian treatment of both men and women. Whichever Paul advocated, it seems as though he was certainly not consistent. In one epistle, he declares that men and women are equal. In another, he orders women to remain silent in the churches. Somewhere, along the lines, things have been misinterpreted. The passages that state that women are subordinate to men have been misinterpreted. Paul did not advocate for the oppression of women. Rather, he sought to make women more active participants in a Christian life, as well as in formal church settings.

People opposed to the idea of women in the church seem to use the same verses that they've interpreted as anti-women as their scriptural support. Rarely do these scholars refute the passages in Pauline texts that promote equal treatment for women. While using scriptural support is perfectly acceptable to support ones position, one must also take into account all the Biblical references that directly refute their position. It's imperative that they take into account those passages that promote equality for women

and men. Interpreting any part of scripture must go beyond a superficial reading. One must understand why the text was written in order to be able to fully comprehend and apply it appropriately. In order to appropriately interpret texts, one must read that text in light of the rest of the scripture. You cannot isolate a certain passage and correctly understand it. Some people who advocate for women's subordination in the church have isolated certain passages in order to promote their position. You can make the Bible say anything you want it to when you take passages out of their context

The New Testament texts referring to women present a view that is markedly different from the negative view of women that was dominant in ancient societies. Women in biblical times usually had little education and rabbis warned against teaching the law to women. Women who were considered respectable during this time did not participate in public life. Rather, such women were expected to spend most of their lives within the confines of their home. Women were viewed as temptresses that would lead man to sin. They were not counted in the number of persons needed to have a synagogue, nor was their testimony considered valid in a court of law. But Jesus' attitude and practice was in direct contradiction to that of his contemporaries. He initiated conversation even with unrespectable females like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). Jesus had women disciples who accompanied him from Galilee to Jerusalem and helped finance his ministry (Mark 15:40-41 and Luke 8:1-3). Jesus taught Mary and defended her choice to learn (Luke 10:38-42). Women were the last at the cross and the first at the tomb. After

his resurrection Jesus appeared first to women and gave them the task of telling the good news to the disciples (Matthew 28:7).

The newfound freedom and role of women in Christ is clear also in the writings of the early Church. The book of Acts frequently mentions the presence and activity of women in the founding of the Church. From the praying in the upper room (1: 14) to the persecution by Saul (8:3) to the reception of the Gospel by Greeks (17:12), women were involved. The church at Philippi was founded on women, and one of them, Lydia, obviously played an important role in the origin and growth of this church. The four prophesying daughters of Philip, who are mentioned in Acts 21:9, are further examples of the ministry of the Holy Spirit through women.

1 Corinthians 11:5 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 has been a source of disagreement among scholars for many reasons. 1 Corinthians 11:5 states:

"And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head--it is just as though her head were shaved."

1 Corinthians 14:34-36 states:

34As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

36Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?

How can Paul both give directions for proper dress when women were praying and prophesying and ask for their silence all in the same epistle? People have often attempted to dismiss either 1 Corinthians 11:5 or 14:34-36 to remove the difficulty. They have suggested that two different kinds of service were in mind or that one of the texts was added by someone else later or that Paul did not really mean what he said in one or the other of the texts. None of these explanations will do, and justice must be done to both passages. We cannot allow ourselves to ignore the texts that do not fit with our preconceived ideas.

Some scholars have wondered whether 1 Corinthians 11:5 was applicable just to that specific culture or if was meant to be universal. Others say that the covering of a woman's head was meant to be a sign of submission to her husband. Another common view is that Paul is actually refuting a Corinthian custom in this passage. These scholars say that Paul is urging women to resist this custom.

The context of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36 begins with verse 26, and it is clear that the worship of the early Church was different from our usual services. When the church met for worship, all the people were encouraged to make a contribution to the service by offering some item for praise or instruction. Paul's concern in 14:26-36 is the disruption of the service. Women are not the only ones asked to be silent. Anyone who was going to

speak in tongues is told to keep silent if no interpreter were present (14:28). Also, if a prophet was speaking and revelation came to someone else, the first prophet should be silent (14:30). Nor were women the only ones told to be submissive. The various prophets were to be submissive to each other as well (14:32). The service was to be orderly because God is a God of peace (14:33 and 40). The last part of verse 33 (" . . . as in all the churches of the saints") should probably be read with the rest of verse 33, rather than with verse 34 as in some translations.

The issue with regard to women is clearly within the

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