This morning I was going through my old emails, and came across an entry from one of “Laine’s Letters“. I often enjoy her letters, and her recipes are killer – I use a bunch of them. Some of her homemaking entries have inspired me on difficult days. The entry that I came across was called “A Gracious Woman Retains Honor“. It sounded good, so I started reading it.
Laine goes on to list things she has learned about women from her Bible reading, and they include lots of great things and also some things that are completely out of context, like
“She learns in silence in the church with all submission.”
Luckily for me, I was reading a book that had nothing to do with women, as far as I knew. It is called What Paul Meant by Garry Wills. In today’s reading I came across his chapter on Paul and women, and I am so glad that he dealt with this issue so I can respond to Laine with a scholarly word, and not just my own ramblings, LOL. Here’s what Mr Wills said (after a lengthy discussion on the very important and egalitarian role of women in the early church)
Prophecy is now popularly thought to mean prediction of the future. But the Jewish prophets were inspired denouncers of those who lapsed from the Lord’s ways, reformers and purifiers. The faults at Corinth had their excoriaters, and some of the prophets were women. Paul writes that in the gatherings there a woman “should not pray or prophesy with her head uncovered” (1 Cor 11.5)… He is just as strict in saying that men should not have their heads covered when they pray or prophesy.
Well then, I suppose this was silent prophesy, no? Jewish prophesy does not align with learning in silence and sitting in full submission. I mean, it was submission in the way that all believers submit to one another, but not in the patriarchal sense of the term where women never speak up when they see something wrong. For the full debate, feel free to pick up this book, or any number of other amazing scholarly works. Email or comment and I’ll happily list some of my faves 😉 As a matter of fact, I was listening to a VERY conservative Christian podcast from some folks from Dallas Theological Seminary, and they agreed on some related issues. Its not just the crazy liberals saying this stuff. Laine’s list is SO long, and yet she doesn’t even address that one should cover her head while prophesying. Why is this? Why take away liberties that were given to women? The first century church was not like we think of church now. I’m guessing Laine may very well look at her links and pop over here, so if so, please comment 🙂
And just to close, a few more thoughts from Mr. Wills on Paul’s associations with women
Prisca even went to prison with him…Â Phoebe is his protectress.Â Another Sister is like his mother.Â Chloe’s establishment keeps him informed.Â His crack team assembled in Rome for the Spanish campaign includes ten women, at least three of them married.Â He knows a woman emissary (apostolos), a woman attendant (diakonos), and women prophets.Â He knows two women leaders in Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche, who have become rivals, and he begs for their reconciliation (not their condemnation) at Philippians 4.2-3.Â The later misogyny of the Christian churches would never have occurred if the spirit of Paul had continued in them.
…Still doesn’t feel right to me.
“Paul writes that in the gatherings there a woman ‘should not pray or prophesy with her head uncovered’ (1 Cor 11.5)â€¦ He is just as strict in saying that men should not have their heads covered when they pray or prophesy.”
It’s quite likely that paul is a bit misinterpreted by the ‘religious right’, and I think it’s important to be sure to account for sociological and cultural influences that are present in every manifestation of the church.
That said, with respect to the above statement and the sentiment being addressed: it’s not so much that I would have thought Paul was “more strict” about women’s roles than mens, but the very fact that they are mandatorily DIFFERENT that bugs me.
You posted your blog on the AO website, and I always look (and usually sigh and leave disappointed)… but this time, I think I’ve REALLY found a kindred spirit. WoW, astounding. Hope you won’t mind my stopping by here and there.