Paul, the Original Misogynist
Paul, the apostle of Christ, had some misogynous ways about him. Though he may not have been an actual misogynist, or sexist man, some of his statements, recorded in the Bible can easily be considered offensive to women. And it is on these statements that arguments for Paul’s misogynistic nature are based. Paul was a man from Tarsus, who became a believer in Jesus Christ as the savior when he had a vision as he was on the road to Damascus. This vision was of the resurrected savior, and it was on this image that he based the rest of his life.
After this incident, Paul spent his days teaching the word of Christ. But in his teachings there is a noticeable, antifeminist bias. Some, however, have speculated that some of these writings, which are included in the Bible attributed to Paul, may have been written by another. This, though unlikely, because in numerous books where his writings are recorded his biases are shown, would be the only scenario that would save Paul from his apparent sexist views. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.
I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. -1 Timothy 2:11-15. Paul undoubtedly exhibits misogynistic qualities with quotes like this, but he is exonerated only by some error that mistakes him as the author of this passage.
This is actually little more than an observation of the order of God’s original creation, detailed in the book of Genesis, but Paul uses it to justify a theme that is exhibited in much of his writing. Paul also uses this line from 1 Timothy to demonstrate hierarchal ordering of families: The man (patriarch) is at the head of the family, and everyone else, including “woman,” is intrinsically subordinate. 1 Timothy 2:11, the first sentence of the quote, seems to summarize a view that often appeared in Paul’s writing.
It is backed by other passages that support women as subordinate, or second to men. The gender as a whole is justified as second by Paul because God created man, and then, second, woman. 1 Corinthians 13:34 documents a similar attitude expressed by Paul, who says “the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home.
” Simply identifying a difference based on sex, as women are not allowed to do something that men are, allows that Paul cannot believe wholly in equal civil rights for women and men. From simply noticing a difference based on gender, Paul has opened the door for views of women as inferiors to men, and servants of their husbands whose primary existence is to fulfill their domestic duties. Pamela Eisenbaum, a professor of Biblical studies at the Iliff School of Theology contests that Paul’s line in Galatians 3:28 seeks to eliminate differences based on such trivialities as race, or gender.
“‘Neither Jew nor Greek’ ought not be read as Paul’s attempt to transcend ethnic and cultural difference so that we might all live in one equal but homogenous society,” she writes in her article, Is Paul the Father of Misogyny and Anti-Semitism? But she does not jump to any conclusions that regard Paul as an everyday misogynist. Eisenbaum addresses both sides of the argument. She stresses that particular interpretations of the apostle’s words can decide whether he is viewed as a sexist anti-Semite, or someone who simply stresses the importance of certain traditions of family life.
And although some of Paul’s teachings may allow for views of a male-dominated world, other passages attributed to him, such as Galatians 3:28, which Eienbaum discussed, where he says “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus,” seem to support tearing down social barriers and uniting people rather than emphasizing differences. J. R. Daniel Kirk writes that Paul seems to be inconsistent when it comes to his views of women.
In some passages, such as 1 Corinthians 13:34, Paul allows that women are to follow particular restrictions when in church, but in others he contradicts some of his sexist guidelines. “In striking contrast to 1 Corinthians 14, based on which we would anticipate finding a consistent moratorium on women speaking in Corinthian church, 1 Corinthians 11 indicates not only that women were speaking, prophesying, and praying, but that they were welcome to do so just as long as everything was handled properly,” Kirk notes in his article entitled Was Paul a Misogynist?
Kirk’s view cannot be wholly contested, as Paul is never consistent in his teachings that are concerned with women. In some passages, Paul clearly seems to be stating that women should respect their superior husbands and not break rank, but in others his message is one of family unity, with themes that seem to express a view where as women cannot exist without men, men rely on women just as much.
Although he commonly contradicts himself in his writings, it is difficult to overcome passages like 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul starts off by stating, “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. ” This seems to overrule particular statements that stress family or class unity, and it emphasizes difference in gender and status. Why would he have included anything about the women standing under their husbands if he did not have some underlying misogynistic views?
He never seems to say anything similar to “and men shall respect their wives, whom they are to answer to,” or anything else of the sort, but the Bible includes may of Paul’s lines that honor social rankings where men are ordered above women. Nancy Forest expresses the obviousness of Paul’s misogynistic views in her article St. Paul and Women. She stresses the importance of 1 Corinthians 11:8-9, in which Paul writes, “For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man: for neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
” But Forest explains that Paul was perhaps misinterpreted, as he does not seem to be a true misogynist, when she writes, “But is it fair to pin this all on St. Paul? Was he really a misogynist? Perhaps not. First of all, he seems to have had great respect for women. After all, if he really had hated women so much he would have directed everything in his letters to men alone and would have spoken of women as if they were locked away in a closet. ” However, Forest here seems to undermine that Paul does make plenty of distinctions based on gender, that serve to separate men and women, and their duties, rather than draw them together as equal.
It is true that Paul did not specify that all of his teachings were to be absorbed only by men, and he did not prohibit women from attending church, but it does not appear that these extremes are necessary for a simple misogynistic view, which, at least at times, Paul certainly exhibited. There is also speculation that Paul wrote some of the gender-biased passages in the New Testament that are not even attributed to him. Some passages in 1 Peter are intended to regulate the actions and behavior of women, but no restrictions are placed on men anywhere in these lines.
These passages do not seem to fit well with Peter’s ideology, but their message would be commonplace in the writings of Paul. The issues surrounding Paul as a controversial figure because of is apparent misogynistic biases are numerous. Though it is easy to view the apostle as a sexist man based on some of his writings which clearly designate the duties of women, which are not up to par with those of men, he seems to at least allow exceptions to some of the restrictions he places on women (after allowing that women are to remain silent in church, he later describes scenes where women are participating in song in church.
Also, after stating that women are made for men, and men are not made for women, he comes around to say that women are the glory of men, as if they are what men live for). Ultimately, it is too difficult to overcome some of the passages written by Paul, so he must be at least some sort of a misogynist. Contradictory passages relieve him of this status temporarily, and only in certain instances, but after shouting a racial slur, no one can be looked at the same, no matter how much apology or reparation he or she offers.
Misinterpretation of some of his passages is unlikely; they seem to be very straightforward. Paul is biased in a misogynistic fashion unless (and many of the writings from this time may have been incorrectly patented) some of his passages in the Bible were actually written by another. Bibliography Eisenbaum, Pamela. Is Paul the Father of Misogyny and Anti-Semitism? (paper for conference of Association or Religion and Intellectual Life, 1 November 1999). Forest, Nancy. St. Paul and Women. (paper presented at Sourozh Diocesan Conderence, Oxford University, 2 June 2002).
Kirk, Daniel. Was Paul a Misogynist? 12 August 2008. Reclaiming Paul. No pages (cited 31 March 2009). Online: http://www. reclaimingpaul. org/? p=174 Truth Seekers. 2009. The Misogyny of Paul. No pages (cited 1 April 2009). Online: http://www. truthseekers. co. za/content/view/198/45/ West, James. Was Paul a Misogynist? 28 December 2008. The god above God. No pages. (cited 1 April 2009). Online: http://www. thegodabovegod. com/index_files/Jim%20West%20Articles/Was%20Paul%20a%20Misogynist. htmSample Essay of PaperDon.com