The Apostle Paul is generally considered to have been central to the early development and spreading of Christianity in the first century. Although he was at one point a persecutor of Christians, he later changed his tune after supposedly being knocked on his fanny by a brilliant light and having a short pow-wow with Jesus. After spending 3 days blind, Paul reversed engines and became the driving force in shaping the fledgling Christian religion.
Paul eventually began establishing the earliest churches from western Asia Minor to Rome. His letters to these churches are among the most quoted text from the New Testament.
As a young Christian, I studied Paul’s letters carefully. While undertaking this study I stumbled across some verses that troubled me. I discovered that Paul apparently didn’t think very much about the judgment of women and didn’t care very much for women dressing up. This troubled me because it seemed to contradict the behavior of women in our church. Paul said that women shouldn’t wear expensive jewelry or clothes and that they should be silent in church. In my church however, there were women dressed to the hilt with all kinds of dangling diamonds, pearls, gold, and the fanciest beauty shop doos not only speaking and singing in church, but leading prayers, testifying, edifying, prophesying, teaching, and even preaching to the congregation.
Naturally I thought there was something wrong somewhere but I was told that, Oh no… Paul only meant those particular words for particular churches he had founded because particular women in those particular churches were getting particularly out of hand.
But this didn’t seem to jive with what Paul was actually saying.
Paul seemed to be indicating that *all* women have inferior judgment. Why? Paul takes us back. Back a few churches? No, back further. Back to the first church he founded?? No, all the way back to the very first woman.
(1 Tim 2:13-14 NRSV) For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was *not deceived*, but the woman *was deceived* and became a transgressor.
So according to Paul. Adam was “formed first” and when it came to devouring the fruit, was blameless. It was Eve’s poor judgment concerning the fruit consumption that was to blame for everything going into the dumpster.
Again, note that this reasoning appears to apply to all women, not just some women in some early churches. Paul is obviously making a general statement about all women by using Eve as an example.
So what are the consequences of Eve’s poor judgment?
Well according to Paul, because Adam showed outstanding judgment in the fruit incident, apparently men are supposed to be at the helm running everything and conversely according to Paul, women need to put a lid on it and learn from men at home.
(1 Cor 14:34 NRSV) women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says.
(1 Cor 14:35 NRSV) If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.
(1 Tim 2:11 NRSV) Let a woman learn in silence with full submission.
How about teaching Sunday school??
(1 Tim 2:12 NRSV) I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent.
What about dangling jewelry, mood rings, designer dresses, corn rows, bee-hives, reverse mohawks, etc…??
(1 Tim 2:9 NRSV) also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, …
Paul’s a hard taskmaster.