Review Of Cynthia Westfall’s “Paul And Gender” -- By: Casey B. Hough

Journal: Eikon
Volume: EIKON 01:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: Review Of Cynthia Westfall’s “Paul And Gender”
Author: Casey B. Hough

Review Of Cynthia Westfall’s “Paul And Gender”

Casey B. Hough


Cynthia Westfall is an assistant professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College in Ontario, Canada. She has presented and published broadly on topics related not only to the New Testament, Greek exegesis, and hermeneutics, but also discourse analysis, linguistics, and sociological criticism of the New Testament. In this book, she argues that Paul subverted the contemporary views of his day on women and gender roles through his instruction to the churches.


On page ix, Westfall states, “This book is an attempt to explain the Pauline passages that concern gender and to move toward a canon-based Pauline theology of gender.” She continues by defining her method of “canon-based theology,” stating, “Biblical texts that claim to be written by Paul demand that they should interpret, and be interpreted by, the other writings that claim to be by Paul.” Though concerned with contemporary ethical issues regarding the “role of women in the church, home, and society,” Westfall intends to initiate a “paradigm shift from God” (iii) within biblical studies regarding how Paul understood and appropriated gender for his missiological purposes. Westfall gives four reasons for her work: 1) the present importance of gender studies, 2) her own scholarly proficiency with newer methods of analysis, 3) her own personal experience as a female biblical scholar, and 4) her hope of contributing to future debates in gender studies. Throughout her book, Westfall makes a case for re-reading Paul in light of his cultural context (chapter 1) and the gender stereotypes of his day (chapter 2). Additionally, Westfall explores the concepts of creation (chapter 3), fall (chapter 4), and eschatology (chapter 5) in Paul’s writings, giving due attention to theological formulations and ethical instructions regarding gender. Westfall thoroughly considers Paul’s teaching about the body (chapter 6), calling (chapter 7), and authority (chapter 8) before concluding her work by tackling 1 Timothy 2:11–15 (chapter 9).

Critical Interaction

Readers should commend Westfall for her attempt to be faithful to the text, her linguistic sensitivity, and her pursuit of a theologically coherent Paul. One of the greatest strengths of her work is how she successfully undermines narrow gender stereotypes. By demonstrating how Paul subverted the stereotypes of his day, Westfall shows that the essence of one’s identity is not bound solely by cultural expectations or expressions. If the apostle Paul can speak of his pastoral ministry in terms of a nurturing mother...

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