This blog, by Richard Fellows, discusses historical questions concerning Paul's letters, his co-workers, Acts, and chronology.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Misogynist corruptions of Paul

Did early copyist and writers alter Paul's writings to reduce the authority of women in the church? It seems to me that this question can be answered only by evaluating the cumulative case, rather than by looking at individual pieces of data in isolation. So here I bring together some of the relevant passages and recent discussions.

In the undisputed texts Paul sees an equality, or at least symmetry, between men and women (Gal 3:28; 1 Cor 7:3-5, 10-17; 32-34; Phil 4:3). In the disputed letters, in contrast, women are put down (Col 3:18-19; Eph 5:21-33; and 1 Tim 2:11-15, which is discussed by Emily Gathergood here). This raises the possibility that early interpreters of Paul were quite misogynist.

1 Cor 14:34-35 is found in different places in different texts and this is explicable if these verses were added to the margin of an early copy of the letter and were latter incorporated into the letter by later copyists. Philip Payne argues the case here, and Matthew Malcolm discusses it here.

Dominika Kurak-Chomycz argued here that some copyists may have amended their texts to put down Prisca.

It is now almost universally agreed that interpreters and translators changed Junia of Rom 16:7 to a man. This is discussed by Rena Pederson in her book "The Lost Apostle", and by Dianne McDonnell, Patrick McCullough, Bernadette Brooten, and Mark Goodacre.

Concerning alterations to Acts, Ben Witherington writes, "In view of the above evidence, it appears that there was a concerted effort by some part of the Church, perhaps as early as the late first century or beginning of the second, to tone down texts in Luke's second volume that indicated that women played an important and prominent part in the early days of the Christian community.' (The Anti-Feminist Tendencies of the 'Western' Text in Acts', JBL, March 1984).

I have not studied these issues in great detail, but, for now, I am convinced by the cumulative case, as is Bart Ehrman here.


  1. I am leaning toward, though haven't yet convinced myself to my satisfaction, that 1 Cor 14:34-35 was a marginal note in the archetypal collection of Paul's letters.

    Be aware, however, that some of the main evidence for Payne's argument, the so-called "umlauts" or distigmai in Codex Vaticanus, has now been shown to be of 16th century origin (according to Peter Head's presentation at the 2009 SBL meeting).

  2. What is your stance on the ineranccy of scripture?

  3. Ben, your question is a valid one, though it is somewhat off-topic for this blog.

    I am certain that Paul did not write the Pastoral Epistles. So either scripture is in error, or the Pastoral Epistles are not part of scripture. You choose.

  4. It's not up to me to make that choice.

    Who is it up too? Who initialy chose the Pastoral Epistles to be canon? Why did they have the right to choose, and through the rest of history why does anyone have the right to choose?

    Everything has been called into question...

  5. "though it is somewhat off-topic for this blog" -Fellows

    Really? How so? I think it has a lot to do with your blog.