Philip Payne on Familiar Ground -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 15:1 (Spring 2010)
Article: Philip Payne on Familiar Ground
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner

Philip Payne on Familiar Ground

A Review of Philip B. Payne,Man and Woman, One in Christ:
An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters
. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009, 511 pp., $29.99.

Thomas R. Schreiner

James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Associate Dean, Scripture and Interpretation
The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Louisville, Kentucky


Philip Payne has studied and worked on the issue of the role of women in the home and the church for thirty-six years. It can be said, then, that this work is the culmination of a lifetime of study and represents his magnum opus. Those who are familiar with Payne’s work will know that he is an egalitarian, and here he argues forcefully for an egalitarian reading of all the major texts in Paul. Payne’s approach differs from William Webb’s, for the latter endorses a complementarian reading of the major texts but argues on the basis of his trajectory hermeneutic that the application of the biblical text must go beyond the scriptural word. Payne never mentions Webb and contends instead that the biblical text from the beginning to the end supports an egalitarian reading. In Payne’s view, then, there is no need to go beyond the Bible. In that sense he is an old-fashioned egalitarian, for he thinks a straightforward reading of the Bible supports his interpretation.

Much of what Payne says in the book is not new, representing arguments that he and others have made for many years. A multitude of arguments are given in support of the proffered thesis. It not surprising, then, that Payne concludes that the evidence supporting his view “is as strong as an avalanche” (462). Since most of the arguments made by Payne have been rehearsed many times, I will interact with him throughout the review as I present his interpretation.

Influences on Paul

Payne begins the book by contrasting Paul to the Hellenistic and Jewish culture of his day, maintaining that Paul’s view of women was more progressive. According to Payne, a progressive view of women was already present in the OT where women functioned as political leaders and prophets. They did not serve as priests, for female priests in pagan religions were associated with prostitutes and the Lord desired his people to be pure. Payne gives twenty (!) reasons why men and women were equal in both essence and role in Genesis 1-3. He rejects typical complementarian interpretations of Genesis 1-3. For instance, the creation of man first does not designate male authority because then animals would have authority over humans since they were created first. Woman being c...

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