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02/06/12

Did Paul Hate Women?

Author: Roger Barrier

Dear Roger,

When I read some of the things Paul wrote about women I understand why many (especially Non-Christians) consider Paul to be a male-chauvinistic-sexist pig. I will make my question very simple and specific: “Did Paul hate women?”

Sincerely, Julie

 

Dear Julie,

The pastor’s conference in Seoul, Korea attracted one hundred pastors from all over the world—mostly from the Far East. Most spoke English to some degree. Translators were provided for the rest. Dr. Paul Yonggi Cho was describing the processes that led to his founding and growing the largest church in the world. We watched with amazement on day earlier as eighteen thousand people crammed the worship building full for each of the seven Sunday services. Eighteen thousand times seven equals 126,000 people—not counting the thousands more who watched on multiple television screens in the education buildings. We spent the entire day on the roof watching the crowds come and go.

 

The next morning Cho said three outstanding things. First, “I ask our people to come to church no more than two times per month. We have no more room.”

 

Second, he said, “The foundation of our church is built on small groups that meet in people’s homes. I soon realized why small groups work well in Korean culture while they have only a slight chance of succeeding well in America. But, is a topic for another time.

 

Finally, he asked all the American pastors in the group to stand. So we did—about twenty of us. “It breaks my heart,” he said, “at what you have done to your women. You hold them back and relegate them to rather insignificant places of ministry instead of setting them free to minister. It is no wonder Christianity is struggling in your country. You go into spiritual battle with one hand tied behind your back.”

 

I was angry. Who was he to tell us that our attitude toward women was not Biblical! Later, I reflected that maybe the pastor of the world’s largest church knew a little more about practical ministry than I. I got off of my “high horse” and began looking at women from a little different perspective.

 

My wife, Julie, is an orchestra conductor. She was preparing the summer-music week orchestra for a performance on Thursday night at the Glorietta Baptist encampment in New Mexico. Each evening different ensembles, groups, bands and vocalists performed. All the groups were led by men except for Julie’s. Late Thursday afternoon the “powers that be” informed Julie that while all the other leaders conducted from the platform, Julie would conduct her orchestra from the floor in front of the stage. After all, she was a woman and women were not allowed on the platform during a worship service. Are you kidding me! Julie humbled herself and complied. I must admit that I was thrilled at the furor that ensued against the “powers” when it became obvious to all what they had done.

 

About five years into my ministry a wise counselor told me, “Julie is a talented and powerful woman. You had better set her free to be all that God wants her to be or in twenty years you’re going to have a very angry woman on your hands.” I took that advice, set her free and ran interference when necessary.

 

One of my ministry goals was to untie the hand behind my back and set the women of our church free.

 

An honest look reveals that Paul was deeply concerned with the value and role of women in the church.

 

Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

He wrote in 1 Corinthians 11:11-12: “In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.”

 

Notice not only the value Paul that places on women in the first passage, but notice also the restoration of women to their complementary role as demonstrated in the second passage.

 

Passages that seem to devalue women need close attention.

 

For example, in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, Paul expressly forbad women from speaking in church and required them to be submissive: “… women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If 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.” By the way, we must note that In 1 Corinthians 14 Paul was delineating the rules for speaking in tongues during a church worship service. In light of the context Paul was declaring that women were not to speak in tongues in the church service.

 

In 1 Timothy 2:11-14 Paul declared: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

 

Paul’s theological reasoning in this passage for why women should not have authority needs careful attention. That women should learn from and be in submission to men as declared here has caused much discussion and conflict over the years.

 

The job of a good Bible student is to figure out what the original writer had in mind when he wrote what he wrote. Often times there’s more to a passage than what first meets the eye. 1 Timothy 2:11-14 is one such example.

 

A cursory reading of the passage says simply that women are not to have authority over men because Eve was deceived in the Garden and Adam was not. Adam knew exactly what he was doing when he ate the forbidden fruit. Which is worse, to be deceived or to intentionally, willfully disobey the express word of God?

A proper interpretation of this passage must consider other relevant Biblical passages, cultural concerns, historical precedence, traditions and the various English translations of the Greek and Hebrew texts. I don’t believe that a proper interpretation can be made without figuring out the practical and theological implications of why Paul included the issue of childbearing. Finally, consider the far reaching implications of whether or not this instruction is from God Himself or is simply Paul’s opinion. Compare “I do not permit,” with Paul’s statement, “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)…” in 1 Corinthians 7:10-14. This passage is not so easy to interpret or apply as many would have us believe.

 

When we put the entire body of Paul’s comments about of women into perspective we see that far from hating women, Paul is doing all he can to set them free!

 

In the society of Paul's day women had little or no standing whatsoever. In the Jewish culture women were forbidden to learn. Women had no part in the Synagogue service; they were corralled outside in a place where they could not be seen nor heard. “I would rather have the roll of the Law burned than have it taught to a woman,” wrote Rabbi Eleazer in the Talmud. “To instruct a woman in the law is to cast pearls before swine.” Rabbi Megilla wrote: “It is shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men.”

 

Greek culture was no better. The respectable Greek woman never appeared on the street alone; she never went to a public assembly—much less ever spoke in one. Can you imagine that the Greek language had a special word for almost everything—but there was no special word for “wife.” Imagine that! The same word, “gune” (γυνη), referred to either a woman or to a wife. Context was necessary to decide whether the discussion was about wives or just women in general. Talk about wives being unimportant!

 

Paul’s teachings regarding women were revolutionary to his women devaluating society. According to Paul, women were to be taught and instructed. In Christ women were no longer muzzled! Yes, she was once deceived, so teach her! He invited women into the church service! As we see in the next passage women were encouraged to speak, pray and even prophesy in church meetings! This was unheard of in Paul’s day!

 

Look at the liberation and equality Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.” Imagine that, no longer outside the door! No longer forbidden to speak! Women are praying, preaching and prophesying along side men in the church!

 

Paul demonstrated his appreciation and value of women in a practical way in the number of women he greeted in Romans 16. Of the twenty-nine individuals mentioned, nine of them were women.

 

In Romans 16:1-2 Paul mentioned Phoebe as being a "great help” to him. This Greek word occurs in no other place in the New Testament. It is the feminine form of the Greek word “prostates.” According to Liddell and Scott's lexicon the literal meaning is, "one who stands before, front rank, leader, chief, protector, champion." It is most likely that Phoebe was the one entrusted by Paul with delivering the letter of Romans from Greece to Rome.

 

Pliny The Younger (Ad 62-113) sent the following letter to the emperor in Rome as he tried to figure out how to deal with the new Judaic sect called Christianity. He wrote, “I thought it the more necessary to inquire into the real truth of the matter by subjecting to torture two female slaves who were called ‘deacons,’ but I found nothing more than a perverse superstition which went beyond all bounds….” I believe that Pliny chose these two “female slaves” to torture because they, like Phoebe, held some official position as deacons and could reveal what Christianity was all about.

 

In Romans 16:7 Paul wrote: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who were in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Junias was commended by Chrysostom as being an early female apostle.

 

“Greet Tryphena (dainty) and Tryphosa (delicate), those women who work hard in the Lord,” wrote Paul in Romans 16:12. These two were likely sisters and he mentioned them with a smile. The Greek verb, “kopian,” means “to toil to the point of exhaustion.” “You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you have worked your tails off for Christ.”

 

Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord,” wrote Paul in Romans 16:12. Here he used the past tense. This probably meant that Persis was getting up in years and that her hardworking days were over. She was Paul’s “dear friend.”

 

In Romans 16:13 Paul greeted “… Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too” Tradition tells us that Rufus’ mother married Simon of Cyrene, the one who carried the cross of Christ to Calvary. This same Simon became a Christian and led his family to Christ.

 

“Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them,” Paul wrote in Romans 16: 15. The tradition is that Nerus and his sister were children of the man who was in charge of killing Christians during the reign of Nero. After witnessing the powerful testimony of so many Christian martyrs, they both surrendered their lives to Christ as Lord and Savior.

 

As a moment of inspiration lets me share the story of a young-married aristocrat who lived in Carthage, North Africa, named Perpetua. At the age of twenty-two she was tried before a procurator who asked, "Are you a Christian?"

“I am” she answered.

Her diary is preserved: “Then, he passed sentence on the whole of us, and condemned us to the beasts.... Then, because my baby was accustomed to take the breast from me, and stay with me, I asked my father for my baby. But my father refused to give him. And as God willed, neither had he any further wish for my breasts, nor did they become inflamed; that I might not be tortured by anxiety for the baby and pain in my breasts.”

 

The rest of her short-life’s story is passed on to us by Tertullian: “Then she summoned her brother and spoke to him: ‘Stand fast in the faith, and love one another; and be not offended by our sufferings.’" The Devil made ready a mad heifer ... Perpetua was tossed into the ring, and fell on her loins.... Then, having asked for a pin, she fastened her disordered hair, for it was not seemly that a martyr should suffer with her hair disheveled, lest she should seem to mourn in her hour of glory.”

 

So revolutionary was the power of Christ in early church times that Libanius, the pagan philosopher, exclaimed, “What women these Christians have!”

 

Julie, to you and to all of the others who’ve asked me this question, or one similar, I hope my answer satisfies you that Paul didn’t hate women; rather, he loved and appreciated them.

 

Love, Roger


Comments

Awesome!
Zach , 07/21/10 12:28 PM
this was an excellent source of information, the best I have come across, because I too had issues regarding this topic. I am a young woman of Christ, who is also for women's rights. I wanted to show that the Bible, the New Testament does not hate women as many feminists of today claim.
Cruxlilium , 08/24/10 06:05 AM
The argument is just silly. One must accept the idea that only a son can be a child of god, and that also, that nothing female is holy. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Nothing female.

i believe that it is our each and only goal to put forward the most positive, wonderful and most productive attitude, and that we should invest ourselves towards the good.



Lisa Taylor , 06/21/11 12:22 AM

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PASTOR MEDINA MEDINA , 02/12/12 10:20 AM
Ivan Tate , 03/09/12 11:41 PM
This was an excellent essay. I've been struggling with this idea of women to be submissive for quite sometime, especially since in my heart i truly dont believe that God would make me or any woman the wayy we are if we were just to be nothing but statues. And many of my beliefs stemmed from the fact that paul said it. And soyou manyy people tookon him word for word ouut of context. And i too read those words as maybe its just by his opinion due to him saying it, but i never took into context the time period and how revolutionary he was being in a time wheen women really were considered as scum.

This has brought some interesting things for me to think and consider.
andrea harrington , 07/13/12 07:43 AM
Thank you, Roger! I am studying Biblical Womanhood and this adds greatly to the conversation. I wanted to add a thought that I have found Wayne Grudem's teaching on 1 Cor. 14:34 to be valuable from his book "The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today", specifically chapter 11 (Women and Prophecy: Prophesying encouraged, but not the judging of prophecies). In his summary paragraph he writes, "However, this does not imply a total silence, but only a silence with respect to the spoken evaluation of prophecies, the topic which Paul has just mentioned in the previous context (1 Cor. 14:29)." It is a very satisfying read.
Kimber Bowers , 08/14/12 03:18 PM
I used to think that Paul despised women but I realized that, to understand his behavior, I had to consider the times and the people he taught. The Greek and Roman marriages were horrendous. Greek men thought that they could only love an equal, another man. Women were too inferior and could not be educated. Roman men thought women were inferior because they could not be soldiers and could not learn. Females were so inferior that all the girls in the family were usually given the same name; if the first one was Dianna, all the others were called that too. the men referred to the wives by a word that meant "thing," res. Of course, women being human, resented and hated the men; they often fooled and cheated their husbands with the help of the servants. St. Paul had to remake these marriages into the sort of marriages and home life the Jews had. Now, all the women in the church were married, wives. When he spoke of women he meant wives. His way to teach the men that women had brains and to have the women show respect to the men was to tell the women/wives not to ask questions in church but to ask their husbands. The husbands were told to teach their wives. Problem solved. There were women deacons at that time and women giving prophesies in church; the problem was not about women but regarding wives. He also said, "Christians be submissive one to another" wives this means you too. Apparently people in general were obstinate, combative and not agreeable. Paul said many good things about specific women; he did not hate women. Paul was trying to form good families, with men as the head of the house and the house full of love and respect.
Ruth Feldman , 10/13/13 04:45 AM
you are coppy and paste of feminism pauls messages dpes not regard culture nor time but merely creation and law and deception.
jonathan asmerom , 01/30/14 05:27 AM
Thank you for this upbeat article!
It is very important for the Christian faith that we do not forget the "groundwork", as it were: Made in the image of god, female and male - this, for me, logically entails the existence of both aspects within god.

If that is not enough for some people, we shoul not overlook a fact that gets 'lost in translation':
In both Hebrew and Aramaic - languages that Jesus preaumably spoke (or at least understood) - the word for the Holy Spirit is FEMALE. This just as a tidbit for those who claim that "nothing female is holy": Indeed, a vital aspect of god was originally understood to be female!

As a linguist, I think we should reflect on that: If, in your mind, something is inherently female, it will shape your thoughts - just think of e.g. 'mother' and a female character will 'pop up' in your head.
If a part of god was given an inherently female word to describe it, a similar 'pop'ing would have happened in your understanding every time you thought on the matter.
This is no complicated, unlikely psycho-hokuspokus. It is straightforward and needs to be realized. For Jesus and for the people he talked to, this female aspect was presenz every time he spoke that word!

God is not exclusively male. To say so is to limit god, and even from a purely rational, or frim a non-believing standpoint that is nonsensical if god is defined as omnipresent, all-encompassing etc.

Yours most sincerely.
Jani Schubert , 07/15/14 03:18 PM

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