Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Apostle Paul and women

At the Anxious Bench Beth Allison Barr offers "It's Time to Stop Using Paul Against Women: A Short Reading List." So far the list contains only two items but she will grow it. Barr writes "Today, at the age of 42, Paul no longer frustrates me. I have realized, as one of my very astute students once said, that when we are confused about God, it is never God who is wrong. The fault always lies in our own understanding."

The first item on the reading list is an essay by Charles H. Talbert considering the correct interpretation of 1 Corinthians 14:34-36:
34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 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. 36 Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 But if anyone ignore this, they will themselves be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
Hopefully you already notice an awkward transition from vs. 35-36. Here is what Talbert argues about it: “verse 36 begins with a particle (e in Greek) which is translated “What!” in the RSV. The force of that particle indicates that what has come before is rejected or refuted by what follows [which is the same as the particle functions in 1 Cor. 11:22]…if verses 34-36 are read together, then verse 36 is a refutation of verses 34 and 35, not a conclusion drawn from them. This leads naturally to a reading of this passage as an instance of the diatribe: verses 34 and 35 are Corinthian assertions, reflecting cultural values like those of pagans and Jews; and verse 36 is Paul’s response, rejecting the Corinthian stance about women. Paul’s position here would then be in harmony with that taken in Gal. 3:27,28 and 1 Cor. 11:2-16. Whereas some Corinthians rejected the participation of women in the leadership of worship, Paul responded with horror.”

Talbert, in other words, suggests this reading:
“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. What?! Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.”
Instead of a command for women to be silent in the churches, Paul is instead rebuking those who are silencing women. ....
Interesting.

It's Time to Stop Using Paul Against Women: A Short Reading List