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Was the apostle Paul sexist?

Discussion in 'Biblical Debates' started by ThisShouldMakeSense, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. ThisShouldMakeSense

    ThisShouldMakeSense Active Member

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    i'd like to get people's opinions on the matter. there are a few things he said which some consider sexist. how do you feel about it?
     
  2. Uncertaindrummer

    Uncertaindrummer Active Member

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    Do you believe that Paul's epistles in the Bible are inspired? I do. And if so, it is the Holy Spirit's will that what he wrote was written. If so, are you comfortable calling God a sexist?
     
  3. Ori

    Ori Angel slayer

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    God is not sexist, because God is sexless.
     
  4. Original Freak

    Original Freak I am the ORIGINAL Freak

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    Not having a sex doesn't mean you can't show favoratism towards and think down upon a certian sex. The two have nothing to do with each other.
     
  5. jewscout

    jewscout Religious Zionist

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    i'm not familiar with the text could someone please enlighten me on what he is refering to...thanx
     
  6. Uncertaindrummer

    Uncertaindrummer Active Member

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    I am not sure of the exact numbers (I am BAD with remembering Bible verses...), but Paul says things along the line of women being submissive to their husbands, etc.

    Although God says basically the same thing in genesis, so I don't see why Paul gets such a bad rap...
     
  7. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Unfortunately.....


    The Role of Women in the Church
    Some important biblical texts

    From : -http://www.faithnet.org.uk/KS4/Social%20Harmony/womeninchurch.htm
    In the first creation account in Genesis we read that when God created humanity they were created equal in all matters.​

    'So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them' (Genesis 1:27)​

    Although Genesis 2 subsequently introduces the notion that man was created before women, (and so could introduce the idea of a hierarchy in human relationships), this latter account needs to be seen in the context of the former. Thus Genesis 2 seems to refer more to the notion of humans being created according to their own kind (NB. Genesis 1:25, 5:1-2) and that that they are unique in that no suitable helper (co-worker/mate?), could (or should), be found for man from among the animals.​

    In Genesis 3 the Fall of humanity from their initial state of perfection ('in the image of God'), is described. As a result of this fractured relationship between God and humanity certain curses are brought to bear on both human and non-human relationships. One of these is against the woman.​

    'To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you."' (Genesis 3:16)​

    Although these verses are important, and will be referred to later, the most controversial and developed statements concerning what should be the role of women in the 'Church' are found in Paul's letters. The most significant for our discussion here are these.​

    'For God is not a God of disorder but peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak but must remain in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire of something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.' (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)​

    'A women should learn in quietness and in 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, and 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.' (1 Timothy 2:11-15)​

    'There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' (Galatians 3:28)​

    At first glance these latter teachings attributed to Paul seem controversial and present a view of women which is 'out of touch' with the modern mindset. So before we begin understaning the relevance of these verses today, as with all biblical texts, we need to understand the social situation into which Paul was writing in order to reveal the most likely meaning behind his comments. ​



    Background notes for exploring the Pauline material on the role of women in the Church






    Paul’s letters (Epistles) to the young churches in Asia Minor have been the source of much debate with regard to what the role of women should be in the Church. Even more problematic is that Jesus seemed to have an entirely different attitude towards women than the Apostle Paul seem to have later on. Was Paul developing Jesus’ own beliefs and practice with regard to women or was he introducing ideas of his own?



    Jesus and Women​





    At the time when Jesus lived society had a generally negative attitude towards women. Both Jews and Greeks believed women should be limited to the domestic roles of wife and mother and also believed that they were responsible for most (if not all) sin (especially sexual temptation – NB. Jewish men thanked God they were not born a woman!). However, despite the cultural limitations imposed onto women a quick glance through the gospels will reveal that Jesus had a very positive attitude towards them. He accepted and affirmed women who were neglected by society and declared them people of value. Jesus healed women who were considered ritually unclean and forgave women guilty of sexual sin. Jesus both taught women and included them amongst his followers/disciples. In his teaching they are often used as examples of people living a life of faith. Although women were not generally educated at the time of Jesus he allowed them to sit at his feet (the traditional posture of a disciple – Luke 10:38-42), and taught them. We should also note that it was women (including a reformed prostitute Mary Magdalene), who first witnessed and told the twelve male disciples about the resurrection of Jesus.



    The Apostle Paul and Women​





    Paul’s comments about women are often understood as sexist and at first reading we can understand why. However, Paul, like Jesus, was a man of his time and needed to be sensitive to the opinions of society whilst also trying to work-out the new Christian faith. Paul’s letters to the young churches in Asia Minor were written in response to real issues facing them at the time. When Paul writes about women he is obviously responding to questions being raised about their role and place in the new church structures. In his world, as in Jesus’, society had largely negative attitudes towards women and men were considered head of the household. Roman law gave a man complete authority over his wife and her quiet submission was considered her greatest virtue. Most men married when they were in their thirties and usually to girls in their teens. As such their wives would be less intellectually challenging for them and this mainly because women were largely uneducated. There was also a concern, at the time of Paul, that new religious groups would challenge traditional Roman values. The new Christian faith liberated both men and women but if this was not to get out of hand it needed to be ‘controlled’ and developed in an acceptable and responsible way.

    Interpreting the biblical material on the role of women in the Church

    Using the background information it seems Paul was giving instructions to the Church which, although on the surface it looks like it denies women the right to teach and have spiritual leadership in the Church, now looks more like Paul was actually empowering women and giving them a status denied to them by society. Despite the fact that women were not held in high regard Paul taught that they were equal with men (Galatians 3:28). Far from denying women the right to have spiritual leadership Paul in fact wants women to be educated first before this happens (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Until such time Paul sets out some basic rules which will enable women to learn ('A women should learn in quietness and in full submission'). Elsewhere in the New Testament Paul acknowledges that women can have (and are having), a spiritual input into 'services'. In a letter to the church at Corinth he writes, 'And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head...' (1 Corinthians 11:5 - he also says exactly the same about men in verse 4!). Notice he does not say women should not prophesy (or preach/teach) in Church services but only that they should have their head covered when they do. Thus even Paul acknowledges and allows that women should exercise spiritual leadership in Church.​

    Now one could insist that the texts quoted above should be interpreted so that women have no spiritual leadership in Church but this would require taking the words literally without accounting for the context into which they were written. Obviously Paul's reference to the Genesis account in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 implies that the texts should be taken this way but there are other factors to be accounted for as well if a literal interpreation is to be insisted upon.​
     
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  8. michel

    michel Administrator Emeritus
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    Pt 2

    Is the reference to the Genesis text to be taken literally? If it is then what are we to make of the curse on the woman in Genesis 3:16. Is this prescriptive or descriptive? In other words, does it say what God commands to happen ('Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you') or what will naturally happen as a result of disobeying God? If we say it is prescriptive (i.e. God commands it), then we should be denying women the right to pain relieving drugs when giving birth because God must want women to suffer ('with pain you will give birth to children'). Thus if Paul is using Genesis 3 literally to make the point that women shouldn't teach because they sinned first then according to this they should also suffer maximum pain when giving birth to children. Clearly few Christians would agree with denying women pain relieving drugs when giving birth so we need to question Paul's use of this passage in his letter to Timothy.


    1. If women are not to speak in church but are to ask their husbands if they do not understand something (1 Corinthians 14:33-35), what happens to single women? The verse does not account for their needs which implies it cannot be taken as a statement about all women.
    2. If the passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 is to be taken literally then what do we make of verse 15 which says women will be saved through having children ('But women will be saved through childbearing - if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety')? Although some take the verse to speak of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the verb for childbearing here is plural and implies many children (or women gen. having children). This raises the problem of women who cannot have children. If the verses here are to be taken literally then are we saying that women who cannot have children will not be saved? Obviously not for Galatians 3:28 says that all men and women are equal. Salvation is not restricted to men only. So this passage seems not to be speaking about all women but only the women under Timothy's care (or in his 'church') and as such sets out advice applicable for a specific time rather than for all of Church history.
    There are other passages which need to be taken into account when discussing the role of women in Church (E.g. 1 Timothy 3:1-13), however it is our contention that these must be understood in the context of this discussion in order that consistency in interpreting the Bible is maintained.​

    The role of women in the Church today

    In the USA Barbara Harris became the first woman Bishop of the Episcopal Church in 1989. In November 1992 the Church of England Synod (general council) voted that women could be ordained as priests. Although the Anglican Church now accepts that women can be ordained to the ministry not all its members agree this to be the best decision and deep divisions remain. In Catholicism women are still not allowed to be priests as the Church believes only men should represent the congregation before God (NB. Jesus was a man and there were twelve male Apostles (first leaders of the Christian Church)). In fact, priests are not even allowed to be married thus providing a further means to keep women separate from Church matters. In other Protestant traditions women are allowed to exercise spiritual leadership (E.g. The Salvation Army, Methodists), whilst others still believe to do so is unbiblical (E.g. The Brethren, some Evangelical Christians). Where women are denied spiritual leadership in the Church they are often allowed to share testimonies, lead the singing, teach in the Sunday School and read the Bible (except in Catholicism where neither men nor women are allowed to read the gospels and The Brethren where women are not usually allowed to speak at all during the service). Where women are allowed some input into the spiritual life of the Church (E.g. Reading the Bible etc), those who oppose women's ordination will not allow them to preach or take any position of spiritual leadership (E.g. Elder, Pastor). This is because to do so will require them to make decisions concerning spiritual matters (or teach the congregation regarding spiritual matters), and to do this will put such women in a position of spiritual authority over men which, according to them, the Bible denies them (E.g. 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Where women have been appointed to positions of leadership in the Church this has been largely due to a recognition of spiritual gifts and this seems to be the important factor in raising the status of women in the Church today (i.e. Is it better to appoint a gifted female leader rather than an ungifted male leader?). ​
    1 Timothy 2 9-14


    9In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;

    10But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.

    11Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.

    12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.

    13For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

    14And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.:(
     
  9. Uncertaindrummer

    Uncertaindrummer Active Member

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    I would just like to add as a little tidbit here: women and men are entirely equal, and there is no arguing that. They DO however, have different roles both in life and in the Church, even if the super liberal masses of today would have you believe that both men and women can do everything. God did not make two sexes so that they could... be the exact same. They have different roles. Although, I would add, in the secular world, they can and do both do just about everything.
     
  10. Majikthise

    Majikthise Guest

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    In the times that book was written about , sexism was the norm for everyone.
     
  11. Original Freak

    Original Freak I am the ORIGINAL Freak

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    I pointed this out to a fundamentailst friend of mine. She said she didn't know why they didn't follow this and have since continued to ignore it.
     
  12. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Oldest Heretic

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    This is True Paul had views similar to everyone else, and had the law and scripture to back him up.
    I can't help but feel that Jesus was not so hide bound. His attitude to women seems to have Given rise to questons on a number of occasions. (i'll let others look them up).

    When Christ returned to God. all seems to have returned to tradition. Paul might have had the spirit on him But he was a man and all mmen err.

    Terry
     
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  13. Finnyhaha

    Finnyhaha Member

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    I once heard an explanation of Paul's one comment that women shouldn't speak in church that made at least some sense and sounded less sexist. The gist of it was that the women of the Corinthian church (and just that specific church, which Paul was writing to in that particular letter) were loud, obnoxious, and didn't pay attention to the service, but instead spent their time at church gossiping with one another and ruining the men's concentration.

    Personally I don't think it really matters whether Paul was sexist or not, everyone back then was. But if Paul's opinions about the subservience of women made it into scripture, then either its not divine truth or God has the same opinions, which I highly doubt.

    I have a few relatives who are extremely fundamentalist and who attend a church which teaches (in what they believe to be following this verse) that women are not allowed to teach the church. They go so far as to set an age limit for whom women can teach, I think it's up through age ten. After that the kids get taught by men. I think its bogus and I'm furius with any woman who would put up with such an insult. As if we're not capable of teaching/understanding things of the spirit as well as men simply because we don't have a y chromosome.
     
  14. TheGreaterGame

    TheGreaterGame Active Member

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    Well if this is true throw out everything Paul ever wrote.
     
  15. Majikthise

    Majikthise Guest

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    Best idea I've heard all week.
     
  16. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Oldest Heretic

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    Are you saying one needs to be' perfect ' to EVER preach the truth.

    as I said all men err, some more than others, but I am quite prepared to learn from them. But we should always use our God given brains.

    Blessed are the pure in heart.
     
  17. Jayhawker Soule

    Jayhawker Soule <yawn> ignore </yawn>
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    And this "made at least some sense" to you? This "sounded less sexist" to you?

    Well, of course it makes sense. We all know how women are. And what could possibly be sexist about presuming a bunch of obnoxious gossips ruining the contemplation of the poor men who were stuck with them? Good grief! - talk about obnoxious! :rolleyes:

    In order to rationalize backward scripture, the backward apologist does what he or she always does: blame the victim.
     
  18. Finnyhaha

    Finnyhaha Member

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    The part that sounded less sexist was that it may have been refering to only THOSE women, and not to women in general. I didn't say I agreed with it. . .
     
  19. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Oldest Heretic

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    I am the owner of what some say is a deformed X chromosome(i.e. a Y). I have gained a lot from the wisdom of Women, May they continue to both teach and lead.


    ---------------------------------------------------------
    Blessed are those who hunger and thirs for justice. The Justice of God shall be theirs.
     
  20. njcl

    njcl Active Member

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    what a disgraceful thread,throwing slurs on st paul,st paul was not sexist but taught that women should be good wives,love their husbands,bear children,keep a good house,women are inferiour to men as even nature teaches that,,my interaction with non believing women is that they are worse than unbelieving men for resisting christ and obsessed with sexual gratification,hence the parable of the chaste wife who keeps her mouth shut and being as priceless as a pearl holds true
     
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