Did Paul hate women?

If you ask some people who read his writing, they will say yes. They want to throw out his teaching because of their application of modern sensibilities to the New Testament writer’s words. Take the following bit of controversial writing as an example:

Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or expensive apparel, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness. A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a wrongdoer. But women will be preserved through childbirth—if they continue in faith, love, and sanctity, with moderation.

1 Timothy 2:9-15

Let’s address modesty first: you will note that the modesty required here is not the covering up of the body to prevent “showing some skin”. Modest and discreet conduct here was a prohibition of ostentatious displays of wealth through jewelry and expensive hair styles. Knowing that detail, we can draw a direct line to a practice in ancient pagan religions, specifically, religious leaders would be lavished with riches and other gifts. That status would be reflected by their expensive garments worn during their role as religious figures in worship.

Paul here is not creating an absolute rule of superiority of men, either, or a universal rule of silence on the part of women in worship. Indeed, in another controversial text (Ephesians 5:24-30) Paul makes clear that the male-female relationship of a marriage is reflective of the way Jesus, the man, died for the Church, his wife. Jesus served the Church and the Church reciprocates. And yet another controversial passage about women (1 Corinthians 11) states outright that women were praying and prophesying publicly in the assembly.

Finally, the last bit about childbirth also requires a bit more than a surface level reading; Paul uses a small but profound part of the life experience of a woman to represent the Earthly experience of womanhood. There is nothing so unique to women as childbirth after all. A woman would be saved, through any and all of her experiences in life, even childbirth, if she remains faithful in the Lord, not that bearing children saves a woman’s soul.

But enough about what Paul was not saying. What he is saying is all the more important; people must not be allowed to use their Earthly wealth and influence to exert power over others in the Church! Unlike the women in the pagan religion these Ephesian converts were familiar with, the richest person in the room was not the most Godly or worthy to lead. Indeed, the poor are blessed and the rich are humbled before God. Let us not forget that it is the death of a man with no home, no riches and no political power that set us all free. Jesus has made us all equal.

Ethan Kirl

Originally Published February 11, 2021