Sunday, February 7, 2010

What St. Paul Really Said About Women

Throughout most of church history, the apostle Paul has held the reputation of being what one might call the “Great Christian Male Chauvinist” toward women

Although women had fared well with Jesus, appearing as central figures in many of the greatest parables and episodes of the Gospels, their degradation apparently began with St Paul.

Paul’s writings about women have been cited throughout the centuries as authority for the notion that women are second-class citizens in the kingdom of God and the Church.

Paul was not a believer in the inferiority of women. He did not advocate a secondary role for women in the church. He did not teach the notion of a divine hierarchy with husbands ruling over their wives. Instead, the apostle Paul consistently championed the principle of sexual equality within the church and the home. He carefully selected his words in writing about women and marriage, challenging the social roles for women in his age and the philosophy and theology that defined these roles.

Those who first quoted Paul and interpreted his writings were themselves bearers of centuries of Greek philosophy. They understood Paul from the viewpoint of their own culture and customs.
From the classic period, especially in the teachings of Aristotle, came the conviction that women are inferior to men. Church leaders who themselves were a product of Greek culture and education interpreted Paul’s writings from the perspective of Aristotelian philosophy.

Women exercised the gift of prophecy in the age of Paul. Besides Paul himself, seven men and four women are identified as prophets in the Book of Acts. Paul referred to the act of women praying and prophesying during public worship, and he did so in a casual manner, as if the practice were well established.

Modern translations of the Bible cannot give us a complete and faithful rendering of what Paul wrote, simply because the meanings of words and phrases in any language can never be fully embodied in a translation into another language.

In Paul’s letters, he acknowledged the value of women leaders within the churches. Some years after leaving Philippi, he wrote to the congregation there, entreating two women leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, to end a dispute between them the fact that he named these women indicates their importance within the church.

In the long history of Christian teachings regarding the relationship of women and men, the model that gained favor in the Church was not the one voiced by Paul, but by a pagan philosopher five centuries older, defended in the sanctuaries and cathedrals of the Christian faith by quoting the words of Paul, as translated, out of context, without reference to the ideal close to Paul’s heart that he so earnestly sought for the church, that there be sexual equality among Christians, “neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”.

Peace and love,


"Be still and know that I am God"(Psalm 46:10)


  1. We are one body in Christ and we do not stand alone.....words from a great song that are very fitting here....