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Paul’s Views of Women

In this week’s mailbag I take up a very interesting question about whether there are other passages in the New Testament that are found in all of our manuscripts but that appear not to have been originally written by the author.  That is, they were (possibly) passages inserted by a later editor, before any of our surviving manuscripts were made, so that they are universally attested, but probably not original.  That is what I argued for 2 Corinthians 6:14 (it’s a standard scholarly view).  And that prompted the following question:   QUESTION: I hadn’t noticed the oddness of the 2 Corinthians 6:14 passage before, but it does seem out of place. Kind of like the woman-caught-in-adultery story in John 8, where the narrative flows smoother without that insert. Are there any other major examples of significant insertions into the NT books?   RESPONSE: It is important to note the difference between 2 Cor. 6:14 and the passage in John 8.  The latter is missing in our oldest and best manuscripts; the former is found in [...]

How Women Came to Be Silenced in Early Christianity: A Blast From the Past

Time for a blast from the blog's past.  Here is a question I get asked about a lot by my students: Why did women come to silenced, their voices muted, in the early Christian tradition -- especially if, as the evidence suggests, women were even more attracted to this new faith than men in the early years? When I dealt with that issue exactly four years ago on the blog, this is what I said (it came at the end of a thread on women in the early Christian church): ********************************************************************** I come now to the climax of this thread: how is it that women came to be silenced in the early Christian tradition? Of all my posts in this thread on women in early Christianity, I think this is the most important. Again, I give my reflections on it from my Introduction to the NT: The first thing to observe is that women may have been disproportionately represented in the earliest Christian communities. This at least was a constant claim made by the opponents [...]

Were Paul’s Views of Women Oppressive?

In my post yesterday I discussed the first debate topic assigned to my undergraduate class on the New Testament, on the relationship of Paul and Jesus, and the question of whether they represented fundamentally the same religion or not.   Of all the debate topics that I assign, I think that one is the most central to the understanding of the New Testament and the history of Christianity, as it deals with the root of the very problem of Christianity itself as it developed into a new religion, separate from Judaism. But the other debate topics are really important too – extremely important – and a bit more, well, controversial.  The students enjoy that first one well enough – but not perhaps as much as they could, since they don’t really yet see what an enormous issue it is. (And because since it is the first debate, students tend not to prepare for it as much; once the rest of the class sees what a big deal these debates are, they tend to prepare a lot [...]

Women at the Tomb

Here I’ll continue my thread on topics that I changed my mind about or came to see in doing my research for How Jesus Became God.   One of the most important things I changed my mind about was the idea that Jesus’ tomb was discovered empty three days after his death. When I was a Christian, of course I thought that was the case.   But even when I had become an agnostic I thought it was probably a historical tradition: it’s found in all four Gospels, for example, and the fact that the stories indicate precisely it was *women* who found the tomb did not seem like something Christians would want to make up.  (And so, as an agnostic, I had to come up with alternative explanations for why the tomb was empty.  But…) I changed my mind.  Most of my change came from my investigation of Roman practices of crucifixion.   As it turns out, standard policy appears to have been to have left the bodies of corpses on the crosses to decompose, as part [...]

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