Jesus And Paul On Women: Incomparable Or Compatible? -- By: Todd D. Still

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 27:3 (Summer 2013)
Article: Jesus And Paul On Women: Incomparable Or Compatible?
Author: Todd D. Still

Jesus And Paul On Women: Incomparable Or Compatible?

Todd D. Still

Todd D. Still (PhD, University of Glasgow) is William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Waco, Texas. This article had its beginnings at the CBE Houston Conference in April 2012.


Several years ago, a book that I edited appeared in print under the title Jesus and Paul Reconnected: Fresh Pathways into an Old Debate.1 In that volume, six noted New Testament scholars (John M. G. Barclay, Markus Bockmuehl, Beverly Roberts Gaventa, Bruce Longenecker, Francis Watson, and Stephen Westerholm) compared various aspects of Jesus’s thought and practice to those of Paul. One comparison not explored there that I will address in this article pertains to the views of Jesus and Paul with respect to the role of women in ministry and mission.

For some, skeptical curiosity or even unbridled incredulity best describes their initial reaction to such a topic. George Bernard Shaw, for example, would have thought a comparison along such lines to be a complete waste of time, thinking that there is no need to compare the incomparable. On one occasion, the Irish playwright depicted Paul as the “eternal enemy of Woman.”2 Furthermore, Shaw asserted:

[Paul] is no more a Christian than Jesus was a Baptist; he is a disciple of Jesus only as Jesus was a disciple of John. He does nothing that Jesus would have done, and says nothing that Jesus would have said. . . . He was more Jewish than the Jews, more Roman than the Romans, proud both ways, full of startling confessions and self-revelations that would not surprise us if they were slipped into the pages of Nietzche.3

Shaw’s presumed misgivings notwithstanding, in what follows, I will seek to compare the role of women in the work and witness of Jesus and Paul. In doing so, I will likely confirm one view that most readers of this journal already hold—women in general and women in ministry in particular have a friend in Jesus. I will also attempt to challenge herein what I regard to be a common, albeit mistaken, notion—that Paul is the “eternal enemy of Woman.” Indeed, I will contend women have a friend in Paul as well.4

My aim is straightforward, though not simple: to demonstrate that women played a pivotal role in both Jesus’s earthly ministry and in Paul’s Gentile mission. Having done so, by way of conclusion, I will ask a question whose answer will, I hope, be obvious enough by then: If ...

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