In the Bible in the New Testament, what do you make of the passages that speak more negatively about women's participation and place in not only in the ministry, but wider society and culture, as well?
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It is vitally important to remember that the Pauline Epistles, which are normally cited as being "anti-women" and presenting women in a somewhat disparaging manner, also contain other sections where women's contribution to the work of the early church is recognised and praised by Paul. This can lead some to conclude that his approach to women is somewhat contradictory, because on the one hand he recognises in Romans 15 that Priscilla is a "deacon," and therefore had a position of leadership and authority in the church, but then on the other hand, passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 seem to indicate a very different kind of message:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must remain silent.
Taken directly, they seem to directly contradict each other. This must lead any student of the Bible to develop a more nuanced view in their understanding of the presention of women in the New Testament. Part of this can be considered in relation to the fact that Paul wrote specific ocassional Epistles, which meant that he wrote to a specific audience in response to specific problems that that audience were undergoing. Therefore, what Paul writes is not necessarily universally true, but may only be meant for the specific context of the letter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 33-34, Paul makes a seemingly very clear edict:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak.
However, when considered in context and especially given the way in which that particular section of the epistle is focused on tongues and conduct during worship. Apparently, some women were disrupting worship with their discussion about tongues, and Paul's command is thus to be seen as being specific and relevant to that situation only. To read it as a command for all time and for all people would be to profoundly misunderstand his writings. It is vitally important therefore to remember the context of the Pauline Epistles and to consider whether the instructions Paul gives to specific churches are based on the context of that church. It most clearly must be the case where such instructions are contradicted by Paul elsewhere in other letters, such as when he praises women for their work for the church and names them as "fellow co-workers in Christ."
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