Was Paul a Misogynist?

Did the Apostle Paul really hate women? Did he teach that women were inferior or that their rights should be limited? Some people believe so. Should women read Paul as one hostile to their gender?

There are are places where Paul seems to put some guidelines to the church activity of some women. But there is a much bigger context to Paul’s attitude toward women. The purpose of this post is to share that context.

In Christ, there is no difference between men and women. They are equal in God’s eyes.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 ESV)

This passage is seen by many as being anti-woman. However, people neglect to notice that Paul actually addresses the women, something radical for the time. Also, Paul does not command men to make their wives submit. It is to be the woman’s choice.

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” (Ephesians 5:22–24 ESV)

Some see in this passage a bad attitude toward women. But what we need to see is that Paul expects women to be involved in public prayer and prophecy.

“Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:4–5 ESV)

If you read through Romans 16, Paul takes time to greet many women, some of whom seem to be involved in some sort of leadership. The most radical is the possibility of a female apostle in Romans 16:7 (you can read my post on this here).

I hope that you see that any accusation of Paul being a misogynist relies on a very shadow reading of Paul. Paul may not be where 21st century western readers want him to be, but he was very progressive for his age.

Introducing PaulIf you want to learn more about Paul, I recommend Introducing Paul by Michael Bird. I frequently use it as a text book for my students. (USA) (Canada)


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