William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: A Review Article -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 06:1 (Spring 2002)
Article: William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: A Review Article
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner

William J. Webb’s Slaves, Women & Homosexuals:
A Review Article1

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is a professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has also taught New Testament at Azusa Pacific University and Bethel Theological Seminary. He is the author of Romans in the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament and coauthor of The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology of Perseverance and Assurance. His most recent book is Paul, the Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. In addition, he is serving as the preaching pastor of Clifton Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky.


Sometimes I wonder if egalitarians hope to triumph in the debate on the role of women by publishing book after book on the subject. Each work propounds a new thesis that explains why the traditional interpretation is flawed. Complementarians could easily give in from sheer exhaustation, thinking that so many books written by such a diversity of authors could scarcely be wrong. Furthermore, it is difficult to keep writing books promoting the complementarian view. Our view of the biblical text has not changed dramatically in the last twenty five years. Should we continue to write books that essentially promote traditional interpretations? Is the goal of publishing to write what is true or what is new? One of the dangers of evangelical publishing is the desire to say something novel. Our evangelical publishing houses could end up like the Athenians in Paul’s time: “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21, NASB).

Nevertheless, we should be willing to consider new interpretations. As complementarians we do not want to become unthinking and hardened conservatives. Perhaps we have misread the scriptures for many years. Still, some of the books promoting egalitarian interpretations are “fantastic” in the original sense of the word. One thinks here of the work of the Kroegers on 1 Timothy 2. Their interpretations were certainly new, but they lacked credibility and were frankly a scholarly embarrasment. William Webb’s work, fortunately, is of a much higher quality than the work of the Kroegers. He investigates the whole matter of the role of women hermeneutically, suggesting a method by which we can determine whether a command or practice in the scriptures is normative today. Since Webb’s book is a significant argument supporting egalitarianism and is a serious work of scholarship, I will devote the first half of my review to describing his position...

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