Book Review: “ Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ” By Cynthia Long Westfall (Baker Academic, 2016) -- By: Nicholas Rudolph Quient

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 31:2 (Spring 2017)
Article: Book Review: “ Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ” By Cynthia Long Westfall (Baker Academic, 2016)
Author: Nicholas Rudolph Quient


Book Review: “
Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ” By Cynthia Long Westfall (Baker Academic, 2016)

Nicholas Rudolph Quient

In the often-heated evangelical debate concerning the ordination of women, one struggles to find a coherent and exhaustive work that covers more than the relevant Pauline texts. For example, the respected works by Philip Payne and Craig Keener provide concentrated exegesis on the significant Pauline texts.1 Cynthia Long Westfall’s recent book offers a larger interpretive framework for the evangelical gender debate, a framework that is lucid, compelling, and profoundly refreshing, and one which does not miss the theological forest for the exegetical trees.

Westfall begins with Greco-Roman views of gender in ch. 1, which includes patronage, honor and shame, and the domestic spheres of women in the ancient world, concluding with an extended exploration of “head” (kephalē) and the “veil” in 1 Cor 11:2-16. Regarding the veil, she posits that it was not a symbol of submission; rather, “Paul’s direction for all women to veil was countercultural and favorable toward women” (43). Contrary to some recent arguments, Westfall concludes that Paul is referencing a veil as opposed to hair, although she does not see the two as mutually exclusive. She concludes that Paul’s multifaceted and contested use of “head” in 1 Cor 11 ought to be understood as “source” in 11:3, in relation to kinship, “where it will refer to a parent or ancestor/progenitor” (40), as it does in Philo’s On the Preliminary Studies. This understanding fits well with the broader context of 1 Cor 11, for the reciprocal nature of the source metaphor comes to fruition as both genders are taken from one another (vv. 7-9, 11-12).

Chapter 2 concerns gender stereotypes and the depth of Paul’s use of metaphors which apply to all believers, such as describing Christians as spiritual warriors, athletes, or the bride of Christ. Paul’s general disregard for social conventions is significant in his use of metaphors, especially when applying feminine metaphors to men. For instance, a man’s depiction as “Christ’s bride” (58-59) in Eph 5 “reverses the shame that was directly connected with the female’s sexual function in the Greco-Roman culture” (59).

Chapter 3 delves into the creation narratives, and We...

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