The Apostle Paul And The Greco-Roman Cults Of Women -- By: Catherine Kroeger

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:1 (Mar 1987)
Article: The Apostle Paul And The Greco-Roman Cults Of Women
Author: Catherine Kroeger

The Apostle Paul And The Greco-Roman Cults Of Women

Catherine Kroeger*

Few issues create such bitter contention in contemporary Christendom as that of the interpretation of the Pauline mandates on women. The Pauline epistles tell of Phoebe, a deacon and church official (Rom 16:1–2); of Junia, an apostle (16:7); of Euodias and Syntyche, co-workers of the apostle Paul (Phil 4:2–3). The church at Philippi was developed from a nucleus of women (Acts 16:12–15, 40), while other women gave direction to churches that met in their homes (12:12; Col 4:15; I Cor 1:11; 16:19; Rom 16:2–5; 2 John). Priscilla, Paul’s missionary traveling companion, gave instruction to the learned Apollos (Acts 18:26) at Ephesus, the very city to which is addressed the famous directive: “I suffer not a woman to teach nor to usurp authority over a man” (1 Tim 2:12). The women of Corinth had silence enjoined upon them (1 Cor 14:34–35) only three chapters after having been granted permission to pray and prophesy, properly attired, in the Christian assembly (11:5–6).

Denominations and individual congregations split over the issue, and many gifted women turn their backs on the Church altogether. I should like to consider the same subject that has already occasioned so much debate, but I should like to do so as a classicist. As such I shall address myself to a reconstruction of the ancient Greco-Roman world, particularly the socio-religious world of women. It is not an easy task, for history is written by, for and about men. Nevertheless there are many bits of evidence here and there that can be put together from many different sources.

To present even a brief overview I must strip the Victorian patina from the glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome. Some of the evidence I shall present is not pleasant and certainly not pretty. Yet I believe that the Pauline restrictions must be seen against this background. To soft-pedal, to be vague rather than explicit, is to be less than truthful. The Scriptures say, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is with the hope of in some small measure offerin...

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