NEEDLESS APOLOGIES FOR PAUL'S LOGIC.
346. Now what alternative have we to this view that Paul is giving advice suited to a great emergency,¾and that he is not arguing for the perpetual silencing and subordination of woman? We have, according to expositors, the statement that the very Apostle who spent so much time combating the "Jewish fables" of the Judaizers, was himself very deeply dyed by the same school,¾for it is impossible to escape from the representation that Paul indulged freely in frivolous Jewish sophistries here, unless we conclude that someone else has interlined Paul’s teaching with interested sophistries. For instance, Calvin says of the argument, “Adam was formed first.” “Yet the reason which Paul assigns, that woman was second in the order of creation, appears not to be a very strong argument for her subjection, for John the Baptist was before Christ in order of time, and yet was greatly inferior in rank,”¾and Calvin might have added: “Every man has a mother who was made before himself, and yet she is held to be his inferior.” Or, if Paul referred to the primary act of creation, “Cows were made before men¾even before theologians,¾men must be subordinated to cows.” For our part, we should sooner believe that the expositor has made use of unworthy sophistries than that Paul has done so.
347. According to the view that Paul is enforcing rabbinical teachings, as Kalisch says, “The New Testament is . . . even more rigorous than the Old; for whilst it commands the woman ‘to learn in silence with all subjection but not to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,’ she was in the Old Testament, admitted to the highest office of teaching, that of prophets, as Miriam, Deborah and Huldah.” But we would rather believe that the expositor is mistaken, than that the very term “Gospel,”¾“Good News,”¾proclaims oppression to women, such as was not enforced under Old Testament Law.
348. Sometimes the expositor, content with Paul’s ruling but uneasy over Paul’s reasonings, as he represents them, attempts to apologize. Says Prof. Reynolds of verse 13, “This may sound to our ears a far-fetched argument, when used to discountenance female usurpation of intellectual supremacy. It was, however, a method current at the time to look for and find in the Scriptures the concrete expression of almost all philosophical judgment.” That sounds very wise. But we are accustomed to believe that the Holy Spirit prompted Paul’s writings; and we do not believe the Spirit needed to study rabbinical rubbish to suggest a reason for silencing and subordinating women. Dire indeed must have been the want of a reason, before Paul could have contented himself to produce those attributed to him!
349. The Apostle who wrote the sustained logic of the Epistle to the Romans, and who either wrote the lucid arguments of the Epistle to the Hebrews, or was instructor of the one who wrote them, did not need to resort to what he himself spoke of with utter contempt,¾“Jewish fables”¾and warned Timothy to shun, to find a pretext for silencing women. If he did silence them, he had an honest reason for doing so, and could have found proper language in which to express that reason. A grave responsibility rests upon those who subject Paul to ridicule, and the Bible to suspicion as to its worth, by trying to support sophistries by lame apologies for Paul. We do not admit for one moment that either the Apostle or the Bible in general needs any apology. Let the expositor consent to give up the attempt to prove egotistical and foregone conclusions, and Paul’s language becomes perfectly lucid and consistently Christian. We have shown that Paul did not argue for the subordination of woman to man; he did not argue that Eve was more guilty than Adam. He only recommended temporary “quietness” on the part of women in the Church because there was special peril to the Church and to woman in contrary conditions. The Neronian persecutions were on, and the virtue of Christian women threatened.
350. Yet, still persisting in the inference that Paul silences and subordinates all women, for all time, Prof. Ramsay, in The Expositor, in the year 1909, pronounces Paul’s language in this place, “A quaint example of the way in which the Jews were wont to derive arguments from Scripture, and to twist and torture its words, in order to support the opinions which they were stating. Even where Paul is expressing a truth which he sees clearly with direct and unerring intuition, he sometimes draws from the Old Testament arguments which to us seem tortuous special pleading and quite valueless as reasoning. The Jewish mind reasoned in a totally different way from us; and by its line of reasoning often offends us. But we must not identify the truth of the opinion with the validity of the reasoning, or conclude that, because the argument is so unconvincing, the opinion is therefore untrue. Accordingly, we may set aside as not appealing to our minds, and barely intelligible to us, the argument drawn from the conduct of Adam and Eve. So far as it is intelligible, it fails to strengthen Paul’s case in the judgment of modern readers. But his case is quite independent of the argument.”
351. We are very glad that “in the judgment of modern readers” the case for the subordination and silencing of women, has not been strengthened by the arguments attributed to Paul, for we now take hope that the expositor will presently perceive that such flimsy arguments are not Paul’s at all, but the work of manipulators of Paul’s language. Paul has not twisted Scripture; rather, men have twisted Paul’s arguments out of conformity with Scripture. But there is hope, if expositors once begin to acknowledge the twist in the language. Prof. Ramsay assumes that Paul’s argument is bad, but his conclusion from the bad argument is true. But a bad tree cannot bring forth good fruit. When once the fact is recognized that man’s dominion over woman is a piece of property vested in a faulty title deed, men cannot struggle against a guilty conscience; and woman has God on her side of the contest. Hence we conclude that between the two courses, either to admit that Paul was arguing for something else, or to contend that Paul was arguing dishonestly, by twisting Scripture (for the silencing and subordination of woman), it is far more honoring to Paul and reverent towards God and His Word, to repudiate the latter view of the case and to accept the former.
352. We have shown that a consistent, worthy sense can be found in Paul’s words to Timothy about women, quite apart from the idea that he is upholding rabbinical sophistries. But Prof. Ramsay, not to quote others of like views, accuses Paul of “tortuous special pleading” in order to support the teaching (which belongs to rabbinism) that woman is subordinate to man. No one can deny that tortuous special pleading has been employed in enforcing such teaching by means of this Timothy passage. That fact is self-evident: but we deny that Paul is the guilty party, who has handled the word of God deceitfully. We lay the charge at the door of the “Judaizers” of the early church; and masculine interpreters, for (perhaps unconscious) self-interested reasons, have adopted that ready-made tortuous special pleading of the “Judaizers,” whose mischievous influence in the church, Paul himself contended against daily throughout his entire ministry. He warned and prophesied against them as follows: “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). He denounced them and their teachings a score of times in his various epistles; and after Paul’s day, Peter wrote warning the Christians against those who wrested the words of Paul’s epistles “unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15, 16).
353. Paul declared himself, in 2 Corinthians 4:1, 2: “Seeing we have this ministry . . . we . . . have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully.” In order to accept the view that Paul fell into “tortuous special pleading” such as characterized the “Judaizers” of those days, we must believe, then, much more than merely that Paul “twists and tortures” (to use Prof. Ramsay’s words) the language of Scripture. We must believe that the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul’s writings, has given way to a lying spirit, and that when Paul makes this declaration concerning himself, he was not truthful; and we hold no such opinion of Paul.Lesson 47 Home