Does the Apostle Paul Hate Women?
- Tuesday, February 07, 2012
When we put the entire body of Paul’s comments about of women into perspective, we see that far from hating women, Paul is doing all he can to set them free!
In the society of Paul's day women had little or no standing whatsoever. In the Jewish culture women were forbidden to learn. Women had no part in the Synagogue service; they were corralled outside in a place where they could not be seen nor heard. “I would rather have the roll of the Law burned than have it taught to a woman,” wrote Rabbi Eleazer in the Talmud. “To instruct a woman in the law is to cast pearls before swine.” Rabbi Megilla wrote: “It is shame for a woman to let her voice be heard among men.”
Greek culture was no better. The respectable Greek woman never appeared on the street alone; she never went to a public assembly—much less ever spoke in one. Can you imagine that the Greek language had a special word for almost everything—but there was no special word for “wife.” Imagine that! The same word, “gune” (γυνη), referred to either a woman or to a wife. Context was necessary to decide whether the discussion was about wives or just women in general. Talk about wives being unimportant!
Paul’s teachings regarding women were revolutionary to his women-devaluating society. According to Paul, women were to be taught and instructed. In Christ women were no longer muzzled! Yes, she was once deceived, so teach her! He invited women into the church service! As we see in the next passage, women were encouraged to speak, pray and even prophesy in church meetings! This was unheard of in Paul’s day!
Look at the liberation and equality Paul outlined in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5: “Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.” Imagine that, no longer outside the door! No longer forbidden to speak! Women are praying, preaching and prophesying along side men in the church!
Paul demonstrated his appreciation and value of women in a practical way in the number of women he greeted in Romans 16:1-32. Of the twenty-nine individuals mentioned, nine of them were women.
In Romans 16:1-2 Paul mentioned Phoebe as being a "great help” to him. This Greek word occurs in no other place in the New Testament. It is the feminine form of the Greek word “prostates.” According to Liddell and Scott's lexicon the literal meaning is, "one who stands before, front rank, leader, chief, protector, champion." It is most likely that Phoebe was the one entrusted by Paul with delivering the letter of Romans from Greece to Rome.
Pliny The Younger (AD 62-113) sent the following letter to the emperor in Rome as he tried to figure out how to deal with the new Judaic sect called Christianity. He wrote, “I thought it the more necessary to inquire into the real truth of the matter by subjecting to torture two female slaves who were called ‘deacons,’ but I found nothing more than a perverse superstition which went beyond all bounds….” I believe that Pliny chose these two “female slaves” to torture because they, like Phoebe, held some official position as deacons and could reveal what Christianity was all about.
In Romans 16:7 Paul wrote: “Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who were in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was.” Junias was commended by Chrysostom as being an early female apostle.
“Greet Tryphena (dainty) and Tryphosa (delicate), those women who work hard in the Lord,” wrote Paul in Romans 16:12. These two were likely sisters and he mentioned them with a smile. The Greek verb, “kopian,” means “to toil to the point of exhaustion.” “You two may be called dainty and delicate; but you have worked your tails off for Christ.”
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