New Testament

Paul’s Letters

Did Paul think that men and women were equal?

Yes—sort of. In that era, most women were second-class citizens. They did not have as many rights as men. Paul confirmed this bias with such statements as: “And man was not made for woman’s benefit, but woman was made for man.” (NLT, I Corinthians 11:9) And: “Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have questions to ask, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.” (NLT, I Corinthians 14:34–36)

Still, he wrote also of how the genders complemented each other equally with such statements as these: “The husband should not deprive his wife of sexual intimacy, which is her right as a married woman, nor should the wife deprive her husband.” (NLT, I Corinthians 7:3) He also repeatedly addressed the recipients of his letter as “brothers and sisters.” So there were some apparent contradictions in Paul’s views. It is possible that because the church was still forming, contradictions and changing views among its leaders were inevitable.


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