Public Roles For Women In The Pauline Church: A Reappraisal Of The Evidence -- By: James G. Sigountos

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 26:3 (Sep 1983)
Article: Public Roles For Women In The Pauline Church: A Reappraisal Of The Evidence
Author: James G. Sigountos


Public Roles For Women In The Pauline Church:
A Reappraisal Of The Evidence

James G. Sigountos

Myron Shank*

Much literature has recently appeared on the role of women in the Church. Despite the variety of viewpoints, they represent three basic approaches. The first of these, the traditional, maintains that there are culturally transcendent and normative Pauline prohibitions against women occupying certain roles in the Church. Another, the hermeneutical, is to assert that generally accepted herme-neutical principles indicate that these prohibitions were specific for Paul’s culture and not normative. The third course, the critical, is to assign one or more texts to deutero-Pauline authorship so as to save Paul from the charge of “male chauvinism.”

These approaches fail to account for all of the data. The traditional approach does not adequately explain the fundamental distinction, which it requires, between prophecy and teaching. Hermeneutical arguments deal with this by ad hoc attempts to explain away culturally embarrassing material. The critical approach saves Paul but constructs a “Paul” who, ever so conveniently, is a feminist. None of these sufficiently explains the exegetical problem that results from permission for women to prophesy but not teach. We propose that reconsidera-tion of the exegetical question provides a key to consistent understanding of public roles for women in the Pauline tradition.

To define the exegetical problem we will first examine the three major texts concerning public roles for women in the Pauline Church (1 Cor 11:2–16; 14:33–36; I Tim 2:15.)1 We will further pursue the nature of prophet, teacher, and priest and a study of Greek standards for women in public. This, we believe, will lead to a coherent understanding of permissible roles for women in the Pauline Church.

*James Sigountos teaches in the philosophy department at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; Myron Shank is a doctoral candidate in physiology at the University of Health Sciences/The Chicago Medical School and is currently a student at the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

I. The Three Major Texts

Public prayer and prophecy by women were permitted in 1 Cor 11:2–16. While some traditionalists have asserted that Paul is speaking hypothetically, this is inconsistent with the grammar of the passage. One would expect a condition contrary-to-fact, w...

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