Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the editor


Paul's Interpretation of Genesis

From: JASA 28 (September 1976): 141

F.F. B ruce was once asked if a church should exclude someone who, having accepted Paul's doctrine of justification by faith as apostolic, thus excluded the book of James from the canon for its teaching on justification by works (Answers to Questions, p. 220). Bruce's reply notes that even such a one as Martin Luther depreciated the epistle of James for that very reason, and it was doubtful that many would wish to excommunicate him (i.e., among Protestants!). But as Bruce replied, the teachings of Paul and James on the subject are not incompatible. I bring this up in connection with Ms. Nancy Barcus' review of All We're Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women's Liberation by Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty (JASA, March 1976) who regard Paul's interpretation of Genesis concerning women to be in error, a left-over rabbinical argument short of the Biblical ideal of Gal. 3:28. Certainly many Christians have come to this conclusion-Paul Jewett, Man as Male and Female, to name another-and with them I hope to remain amicable. However, I consider such a view, as I also consider Luther's view on James, to be definitely sub-Christian. It does not seem to take seriously the doctrine of inspiration, and it would seem to deny the first item in this Journal's statement of faith.

But statements of faith must not be held against Reason. If the conclusion that Paul was definitely in error in some of his teachings is the only intellectually acceptable conclusion based on careful study, then it must be accepted. But I suggest that there are other solutions. Since Ms. Betty Bube went to the trouble to fill nearly two pages of this Journal with Ms. Hardesty's and Ms. Scanzoni's interpretative arguments, it seems also appropriate to list some which seem to me more in congruence with the Journal's statement of faith.

1. Gal. 3:28. This is indeed a key verse for understanding male/female relationships.

2. 1 Timothy 2:11-15. Why then does Paul not allow women to teach? It should be noted that he did allow them to pray and prophesy (I Cor. 11:5). One answer is that in the creation stories, the order of Creation (v. 13) does in fact indicate a secondary status for women, as also does the curse from the Fall (v. 14-Gen. 3:16). But these are transcended in Christ through whom equal status will ultimately be procured. As for the present, however, a tension existed between the old order and the new creation in Christ. Paul had to make allowances for an interim period from the Creation/Fall ordinances to the new regime of Grace, in which it was not practicable to give immediate and complete effect to his insights on social questions like slavery and the place of women.

3. 1 Cor. 11:2-16. The tension between old and new is also here. In wearing a veil, the woman recognized the hierarchy order shown by Creation (v. 3-9), being consistent with nature's endowment to her of faster growing hair (v. 14-15), and consistent with public seemliness and general Church practice (v. 13, 16). But above all, the veil was a symbol of AUTHORITY (v. 10, see NIV, NEB, NASB or RV; many other modern translations obscure this verse). It is not a sign of submission to her husband, nor of social dignity; it is a sign of her authority. "In the synagogue service, a woman could play no significant part: her presence would not even suffice to make up the required quorum of ten.... In Christ she received equality of status with man: she might pray or prophesy at the meetings of the church, and her veil was a sign of this new authority." (F.F. Bruce, I& IICorinthians, p. 106).

1 submit this as a possible scheme of interpretation which does not require attributing to Paul erroneous teaching. I hope this can be of help to someone.

Joe M. Sprinkle
Student, The University of Oklahoma
Norman, Oklahoma 73069