This post is long overdue, but just in case any of our readers have not heard, our friend Cindy Westfall has recently written a comprehensive monograph on Paul’s view of gender (Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016]).
Westfall, a leading New Testament scholar who has written on discourse analysis and Hebrews among other topics, not only focuses on the common topic of the roles of women in the church, home, and society but provides a holistic paradigm of Paul’s view on gender (both men and women). She notes five principles guiding her study (p. ix):
- The results will attempt to be faithful to the texts and contexts in the Pauline corpus.
- The interpretations will seek to be intelligible within a reconstruction of the narrative of Paul’s life.
- The specific interpretations will attempt to be understandable within the context of language, culture, and situation in which the texts place themselves.
- The interpretations will strive to be coherent within the general context of Pauline theology if possible, given the text, context, language, and culture.
- Contemporary theological constraints and applications should strive to be consistent and coherent with an interpreter’s contemporary (biblical) worldview.
Her goal is not just to address certain key passages in Paul that relate to gender—the role of men and women in the above-mentioned contexts—but to reconsider the whole paradigm of how Paul views gender in a Christian context, in light of the world he lived in.
The Table of Contents is as follows, including an introduction before and conclusion after, touching on various areas related to Paul and gender:
- The Fall
- The Body
- 1 Timothy 2:11–15
In her conclusion, she writes: “A number of issues that face Christianity and the church in contemporary society are embedded in the issue of gender… As has often been the case, the focus of the debate about gender misses the mark. The sexualization of Western culture, the general confusion about identity, and the impact of developments such as industrialization and technology on gendered behavior—all these require our careful attention” (p. 315). I agree. The issue of gender, especially as a follower of Christ, is not only important but one that requires all of us, especially in privileged positions, to think over our positions. And this book is just the right place to start.
— David I. Yoon