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Women and Saint Paul

The Letters of Saint Paul

The apostle Paul's letters are controversial or troublesome to many women. They have been frequently used by people in the church usually men to prevent women from taking leadership roles in the church. What many lay people do not know is most Biblical scholars today do not think Paul wrote all the letters attributed to him. Most Scholars also understand each letter was for a very individual audience and was written to specific cultural inferences. Since these books are letters they need to taken in that context that they were written for a very specific audience. Each was crafted for a individual church or group often existing in very different cultural circumstances. The letters frequently spoke to specific problems and often to internal strife in these churches. Over the years they were no doubt edited as they were copied by scribes. I am fairly certain Paul did not think his words would be used for thousands of years to dictate every single thing people did or did not do. I think he would be disappointed to know how they have been misused. The Pauline epistles are the fourteen books in the New Testament traditionally attributed to Paul the Apostle, although many dispute the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews as being a Pauline epistle. Christians who believe every word in the Bible to be the exact word of God are becoming more rare and this is a good thing. Gay Christians and women have been particularly harmed by people who use Paul's letters to persecute. The unschooled and the fundamentalist readers of these letters frequently quote Paul when they want to condemn others for behavior they personally detest and seldom do they consider the context in which these letters were written. “There is nearly universal consensus in modern New Testament scholarship on a core group of authentic Pauline epistles whose authorship is rarely contested: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Several additional letters bearing Paul's name are disputed among scholars, namely Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. Scholarly opinion is sharply divided on whether or not Colossians and 2 Thessalonians are genuine letters of Paul. The remaining four contested epistles – Ephesians, as well as the three known as the Pastoral epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus) – have been labeled pseudepigraphical works by most critical scholars. Some scholars have proposed that Paul may have used an amanuensis, or secretary, in writing the disputed letters. There are two examples of pseudonymous letters written in Paul’s name apart from the New Testament epistles, the Epistle to the Laodiceans and 3 Corinthians. The Epistle to the Hebrews is actually anonymous, but it has been traditionally attributed to Paul. The church father Origen of Alexandria rejected the Pauline authorship of Hebrews, instead asserting that, although the ideas expressed in the letter were genuinely Pauline, the letter itself had actually been written by someone else. Most modern scholars generally agree that Hebrews was not written by the apostle Paul. Various other possible authorships have been suggested.” Those who quote scripture out of context to support their own prejudices should stop the madness now. If one truly is a student of the Bible and actually loves scripture one must understand this use of the scriptures goes against what Christ teaches and is legalistic and highly destructive. We must always be motivated by love of the other not motivated by ego or the desire to condemn others we do not like. It is time to stop weaponizing the Epistles of the apostle Paul. -Beth Maxwell Boyle

Painting by Caravaggio

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