St. Paul "woman-hater" was stated as fact by one of the lovely ladies at my Bible study and I'd like to find out 1) where the idea comes from in scripture, if at all, and 2) what defenses of Paul might be proferred?
My experience is there are quite a few Catholic women over 60 of the FDR liberal Democrat persuasion who believe the Bible (particularly Paul) is hateful toward women. I wonder where this comes from? Is it part of the femi-nun movement of the 1960s? Is it the ongoing grievance over women not being ordained priests? Does the same meme exist among liberal Protestants?
Answer by Amy Schley
The best rebuttal to this idea I've come across can be found in "What Paul Really Said About Women" by John Bristow. (http://www.amazon.com/What-Paul-Really-About-Women/dp/0060610638/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1329432068&sr=8-1) I'll give a "brief" summary, but unfortunately, I loaned out my copy years ago and it was never returned, so this is from memory.
The cornerstone of Paul's ministry is found in Ephesians: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free in Christ." Bristow examines the main problem verses and explains how traditional translations and interpretations of several well known verses may be misogynistic, but Paul's actual words were not.
1 Corinthians 14:34: Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.
First, there is some dispute among scholars whether this verse is actually Paul's writing. It doesn't appear in some early texts, and could have been an accidental inclusion of a marginal notation citing Timothy that was later inserted into the text. But for the sake of argument, let's assume it's Paul. Again, we run into translation and cultural problems. The Greek is more properly translated "Women shouldn't chitchat in church." The next line is how if they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home. This would be an important instruction for the church, as unlike the men, the women of the church had never attended school. The notion of sitting quietly and listening to a lecture would have been quite alien. The whole point of First Corinthians is Paul lecturing a church in how to behave (speaking in tongues should be translated, stop trying to one-up each other with more impressive spiritual gifts).the passage should not be taken as Paul disqualifying women from ministry.
Ephesians 5:22-23. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.
The word "head" is poorly translated. There are two Greek words that can be translated "head." The first is "archae," which means "first" or "greatest." (e.g. archaeology, archangel, etc.) Plato used this idea that men are to be the "archae" of their wives. This is not the word Paul uses. Paul uses a second word that doesn't carry the same connotations of command and authority. A better translation would be "spearhead," as in, the person at the front of a battering ram, or "scout." That is, men are to ride ahead, survey the horizon, take the worst of the damage, but not necessarily be "the boss." Sadly, many of the translators of the New Testament, from St. Jerome on, used their Platonist training to completely miss the point of Paul's word choice here.
Answer by Grendel
All I can do is add a bit to Amy Schley, whose answer I read with interest and appreciation.
It's a liberal cliche. They might cite 1 Cor 11, where Paul says women should cover their heads at the Lord's Supper, and 1 Cor 14, where he discourages women from speaking out during services.
My formerly Episcopalian (and Wellesley grad) wife thought that, until we actually began to study Paul at Bible study. He's actually quite pro-woman and pretty sexy (but maybe that's just me). As Amy notes, Paul explains the relationship of Christ to the Church by referring to marriage, and conversely explains the marital union by comparing it to that of the Church with Christ in the Mystical body.
And we know how the Bride of Christ has been such a model through history for the demure, milque-toast, passive, submissive wife of liberal mythology.
For an eye-opening view of just how degenerate a society Paul was dealing with, see Sarah Rudin's Paul Among the People. Also see the chapter on Paul in Thomas Cahill's Desire of the Everlasting Hills.
Answer by Tom Lindholtz
Adding here to avoid word count. A couple further comments to Amy's excellent answer.
The 1 Corinthians 14:34 is definitely a cultural proscription. Paul's instruction comes in the middle of a long passage about how to "do church". And He closes with the instruction, "But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way." So, his concern is that outsiders coming into the church should not be shocked at people using their freedom in Christ in ways that were culturally shocking and off-putting. In Christ, we have freedom. But the highest application of freedom is the relinquishing of it for the good of others; ultimately for the good of Christ's church.
WRT Ephesians 5:22-23, I note that this is almost always quoted out of context. And taken out of context it is jarring to modern ears. But in context it is actually rather "ho hum". The larger context is Paul's istruction on how to live the Christian life in very practical terms. The immediate context is how to live the Christian life in very practical terms in the home. The First Principle in this regard is v. 21: "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." IOW, submission is a mutual obligation for both husbands and wives. Paul then goes on to explain how this principle is to be put into practice in daily life.
Verse 22, ff, says women are to submit to their husbands in a responsive way; as the Church submits to Christ. Verse 25, ff, says men are to love (submit to) their wives in a proactive way; as christ submitted Himself (in incarnation and in His physical death) to the Church. I used to think this meant I should be willing to take a bullet for my wife. I now think it means I should be willing to turn off the football game and help her do the dishes. "He would would be first among you must be servant of all."
Answer by C. U. Douglas
An important thing to remember regarding the 1 Cor. verses is the audience as well. The church in Corinth, as we learn from reading Paul's letter, was rather problematic from squabbles about who's got the best teacher down to tolerance of immoral behavior within the church body. Paul here is trying to rein in problematic behavior. Generally we in our life tend to rein in problems by being more restrictive.
Context is everything in Biblical passages as well, see Tom's answer on Ephesians, for example. We human beings tend to like to take sentences and phrases out of context to prove our personal points. As conservatives, then, we shouldn't be too surprised when progressives take our comments out of context; they've been doing this for millennia.
Next time your study partners make this claim about Paul again, I would ask for specific examples -- especially specific chapter and verse references. If they have unspecified quotes, politely ask them to get the specific location. Look at it as an opportunity to explore the passage in general with your study group, I'd say. Though I suppose this is beginning to be off topic here.