Is Paul the eternal enemy of women?
Still, Todd D.
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In his essay “Preface on the Prospects of Christianity,” Irish playwright, critic, and political activist George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) roundly criticizes the Apostle Paul. In addition to contending that Paul “does nothing that Jesus would have done and says nothing that Jesus would have said,” Shaw adjudges Paul as “the eternal enemy of Woman.” Shaw is not alone in his assessment. Any number of Bible readers would concur with him, including not a few feminist interpreters of Paul. The purpose of my presentation is to raise and to respond to the following question: What has given rise to this not uncommon perception? Arguably, the primary reason that some people perceive Paul to be chauvinistic, if not misogynistic, is due to certain passages found in Pauline Letters regarding women/wives and their interpretation and appropriation over the sweep of Christian history. In this short paper, I will identify and treat such troubling texts in Paul, not least 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33b-36. I will also note, however, a number of passages where Paul affirms women/wives in marriage and ministry. The upshot of this study will be the challenging of Shaw’s facile assumption that Paul is “the eternal enemy of Woman.”