New Light On Paul And Women?

Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul,by Craig S. Keener (Hendrickson, 350 pp.; $14.95, paper).I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11–15 in Light of Ancient Evidence,by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger (Baker, 253 pp.; $12.95, paper). Reviewed by Robert Yarbrough, associate professor of New Testament at Covenant Theological Seminary, Saint Louis.

In 1992, CHRISTIANITY TODAY’s readers chose Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood as Book of the Year. This pair of new studies is sure to send some of Recovering’s contributors scurrying back to the drawing board.

The Kroeger’s work is admittedly light- to welterweight compared to Keener’s. The Kroegers argue that in 1 Timothy 2:12 (“I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”) Paul was not laying down transcultural truth. Rather, he was opposing a local, false doctrine of gnostic flavor that “acclaimed motherhood as the ultimate reality.”

In other words, say the Kroegers, Paul prohibited women from teaching this particular doctrine only, not from informed ministry of sound Christian doctrine in general. They argue that Paul allowed—indeed, encouraged—women’s involvement in full parity with men in the apostolic, pastoral, and prophetic offices of the church. And churches should do no less today.

It is Keener who puts his finger on a fundamental problem with this. He points out that the Kroegers’ central thesis is based on evidence dating from well after the New Testament era. There is no sure proof that the gnostic myth Paul allegedly opposed even existed when he wrote 1 Timothy.

Since the general thrust of Keener’s arguments puts him in the Kroegers’ ...

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