Rethinking The Female Status/Function Question: Jew/Gentile Relationship As Paradigm -- By: Stephen D. Lowe

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 34:1 (Mar 1991)
Article: Rethinking The Female Status/Function Question: Jew/Gentile Relationship As Paradigm
Author: Stephen D. Lowe


Rethinking The Female
Status/Function Question:
Jew/Gentile Relationship As Paradigm

Stephen D. Lowe*

The different positions regarding the role of women in the Church can, according to Hoch,1 be categorized into three distinct groups: the nonevangelical egalitarian approach, the evangelical egalitarian approach, and the hierarchicalist approach. Other terms are used in the literature (traditionalist, Biblical feminist), but Hoch’s three are as good as any and are less pejorative. It is important to maintain our civility in the debate, even in terms of the labels we use to characterize each other’s positions.

A basic tenet of the hierarchicalists’ view regarding the role of women in the Church is that a distinction must be maintained between one’s status or position soteriologically and one’s function or role sociologically. They insist that equality in the spiritual realm does not require or demand equality in the social/ministry realm. Hoch summarizes the hierarchicalist view: “Hierarchicalists firmly reject the thesis that Gal 3:28 teaches complete functional equality between Jews and Gentiles, slaves and masters, or male and female. They believe that Paul is affirming soteriological equality.”2 Although Hoch does not cite any examples of those in the hierarchicalist camp who hold such a view, several espouse this position.3 Evangelical egalitarians would argue that there is some correlation between one’s status in the body of Christ and one’s function or role in the smaller society of the Church and consequently the larger society of the culture.4

* Stephen Lowe is assistant professor of Biblical studies at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.

It is the question of the relationship between status and function that I would like to make the focus of this study. Which of these positions can we affirm from the text? Are we to agree with House that the apostle Paul in Gal 3:28 is only arguing for an equality of “position” but “not social equality between the pairs”?5 Or are we to side with Jewett that this passage is the “magna carta of humanity”?6 Another similar proposal is that of Stendahl:

The social and practical implications of the preceding statement about Jew and Greek could not be neutralized in the chur...

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