Women in the Church is a dangerous book which should not have been published because, while it appears to be scholarly, it actually teems with historical and theological errors and also emotional subjectivity. Alan G. Padgett has provided a critical rebuttal to Women in the Church in the Winter 1997 issue of Priscilla Papers. I refer readers to his technical refutation of the key themes of Women in the Church. I will highlight other problems with the book and critique its basic tone.
QUESTION: I have no problem with Galatians 3:28 or with equality concerning salvation and spiritual gifts. I do have a problem with headship. Can you please tell me where any of the writers of the New Testament gave women the OK to be in authority over men?
Alan Johnson's work on 1 Corinthians is particularly engaging. His reference notes and bibliography provide an entry into further study if desired, all while maintaining an appealing readable style. He deftly bridges the two horizons of the Greco-Roman culture and American culture.
Rather than using the most common Greek terms for authority or oversight, like exuosia or proistemo, Paul uses the term authentein—a term that would have caught the attention of first century readers! Why? What does this word mean?
Many of us were raised in churches that taught that women should be silent in the church because of the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34. When we read the passage, sure enough, we see the following words on the pages of the Bible, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…” "If women want to inquire about something,” Paul continues in verse 35, “they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”
Paul is concerned with gender in 1 Timothy because the women at Ephesus were individuals whose leadership did not demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is objecting not to their gender, but to their leadership that domineered over men. We understand this because of the unique verb Paul selects for “authority” (1 Tim 2:12).
Some interpreters have argued that Paul himself considered his words limiting women directly applicable not only to the women of Corinth (in the case of 1 Cor. 14) and Ephesus (in the case of 1 Tim. 2), but to all women in his era.
Craig Keener's 1-2 Corinthians is a wonderfully engaging and easily read commentary on Paul's letters to the Corinthians. It is tightly packed with documented information from ancient sources on the historical/social/cultural setting of Corinth in Paul's time. This information enables the reader to understand more clearly the intentions behind Paul's letters to the Corinthians, underlining how the cultural emphasis on rhetoric in Paul's time shaped his writings.
In 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Paul is concerned that both men and women should exercise their leadership gifts—with appropriate authority—while presenting themselves in a manner that celebrates the uniqueness of their respective genders.