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The Non-Pauline Oppression of Women

In my previous post I argued that the view of women in 1 Timothy 2:12-15 does not coincide with Paul’s own teachings, and that it therefore is probably not something that Paul wrote.  (This is a standard view among scholars, that Paul did not write 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus; there are compelling reasons for this view, which I could go into if anyone really wants to know….)  But doesn’t Paul say something similar in his undisputed letters, in the harsh words of 1 Cor 14:34-35?

Indeed, this passage is *so* similar to that of 1 Tim 2:11-15, and so unlike what Paul says elsewhere, that many scholars are convinced that these too are words that Paul himself never wrote, words that were later inserted into the letter of 1 Corinthians by a scribe who wanted to conform Paul’s views to those of the Pastoral epistles.  The parallels are obvious when the two passages are placed side by side. (AND if I knew *how* to place them side by side in Word Press, they would be placed side by side.  So, well, here they are in sequence, and *imagine* each of the four numbered parts of the first passage is standing next to the corresponding numbered part of the second):

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Male Domination in Antiquity
Paul, the Pastorals, and Women



  1. Avatar
    capsaxcat  July 31, 2013

    Was Paul’s preference for the “celibate life” because he thought the churches lived in some sort of “end times” or other abnormal circumstance that called for an abnormal lifestyle of devotion?

  2. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  July 31, 2013

    The parallels between the two scriptures are amazing. Moreover, it is odd that Paul says that women can pray and prophesy and then turns around and states that women are to remain silent. Thanks.

  3. Avatar
    BrotherGA2  July 31, 2013

    Great series of posts– this subject is all too important, especially considering how little historical criticism seems to be considered by those studying these texts.

    It seems to me that the Historical Paul probably had theological views that paralleled somewhat Jesus’s views of gender; that is, equality in the (not yet fulfilled) Kingdom, but that in the now, their followers should take steps towards this equality at least in religious life in various ways.

    I wonder how their views were shaped by their Jewish backgrounds and social contexts, and then how people in those contexts would have reacted to these views. What about the Roman/Gentiles/Pagans? How would they have reacted to this, with the culture’s focus on gender roles having to do so much with who was subservient to whom?

    Also, just want to note that a post (or series of posts) on the authorship of the books in the NT would be very interesting (in response to your comment about Paul’s authorship of 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus). Thanks for the consistently interesting and educational material.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 1, 2013

      Good questions — and involved! On the posting: I’ve done some on this in the past, but I’ll think about doing some more….

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    LoganM76  August 1, 2013

    Do scholars have an idea of what Paul meant by referring to Junia as an apostle. I used to think “apostle” meant one of the twelve until I learned that Paul never met the earthly Jesus, and he is referred to as an apostle. I guess the term is defined somewhat loosely? More importantly, do we know what Paul himself considered the word apostle to mean? Perhaps just someone who spread the gospel? Or someone who had had contact with Jesus either in the flesh or in a vision?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 1, 2013

      Paul evidently means “someone who saw Christ after his resurrection and was commissioned as a missionary by him” — or something like that.

      • Avatar
        LoganM76  August 2, 2013

        Interesting. So apparently there were other people who, similar to Paul, were experiencing visions of Jesus and were using these experiences as a catalyst to spread the gospel, and furthermore that other Christains were recognizing those experiences as legitimate. Too bad we’ll never know the details, but it paints an interesting view of those early communities.

    • Brad Billips
      Brad Billips  August 2, 2013

      Logan, listen to Mark Goodacre’s NT Podcast (ITunes) about Paul the apostle. He does a great ten or so minutes on the subject. He debates whether the writer of Luke’s gospel or Acts would call Paul an apostle. Hope it helps. If you need more, please feel free to ask.

  5. cheito
    cheito  August 1, 2013

    “Moreover, it is interesting to observe that these harsh words against women in 1 Cor 14:34-35 interrupt the flow of what Paul has been saying in the context. Up to v. 34 he has been speaking about “prophecy” and then does so immediately afterwards again in v. 37.”

    “It may be, then, that the verses were not an original part of the text of 1 Corinthians at all but originated as a marginal note that later copyists inserted into the text after v. 33 (others inserted it after v. 40.”

    I’m not a scholar but I’ve arrived at these same conclusions: I absolutely believe that 1 Corinthians 14:33-38 were interpolated and they do ‘interrupt the flow of what Paul was speaking about, “tongues and prophecy.” I believe the flow of Paul’s teaching goes from 14:32 and begins again at 14:39, which is of course he same thing you said.

    However I do believe that Paul wrote the Pastoral Epistles and they were later altered by someone.
    Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna, at the beginning of the second century, alludes to 1 and 2 Timothy and also 1 Corinthians according to BRUCE M. METZGER in his book the CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
    These Pastoral Epistles have been around as long as the undisputed ones of Paul the Apostle of Christ.

    I’ve read these Pastorals many times and the only verses that seem out of place to me are the one’s you mentioned above. I believe Paul wrote Pastorals. What are your reason for not believing Paul wrote them?

    As for Paul’s celibacy. He clearly says in 1 Corinthians 7:6-8. That he’s not teaching that Christ commanded him to instruct the Church to remain celibate.

    Paul also says in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that we believers have a right to take along a believing wife, just like Peter and the rest of the Apostles.

    Paul further says in 1 Corinthians 7:26-28 that he’s giving his opinion because of the persecution of the church in his time and he wanted to spare believers that were not married already from trouble, but he concludes by saying that if believers got married they were not sinning.

    My point is that I don’t see the difference of what Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians to what he teaches in the pastorals. Paul never taught abstention from marriage as I already pointed out in 1 cor 7:26-28

    Also 1 Timothy 4:3 Paul clearly warns against ascetic teachings of severe self-discipline and abstention from marriage and foods.

  6. Brad Billips
    Brad Billips  August 1, 2013

    As with 1 Corn. 14:34-35, are there anymore scholarly information on the topic? Meaning does other ancient sources ( not in the NT) have similar quotes? You wrote a great article on John 7-53, Pericope Adulterae, in which you mentioned the Didascalia and Papias had similar stories. Anything more documents on 1 Corn 14:34-35? Thanks.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 1, 2013

      Great question. I’m afraid I haven’t researched the use of these verses in the writings of the church fathers. But it would be an interesting topic!

  7. Avatar
    Scott F  August 2, 2013

    Is the placement of verse in different spots in different manuscript traditions considered a smoking gun for verses promoted from marginal notes by later scribes?

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