Editors’ note: 

This review was originally published in Themelios.

Philip Payne has studied and worked on the issue of the role of women in the home and the church for 36 years. It can be said, then, that this work, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters, is the culmination of a lifetime of study and represents his magnum opus. Those who are familiar with Payne’s work will know that he is an egalitarian, and here he argues forcefully for an egalitarian reading of all the major texts in Paul. Payne’s approach differs from William Webb’s, for the latter endorses a complementarian reading of the major texts but argues on the basis of his trajectory hermeneutic that the application of the biblical text must go beyond the scriptural word. Payne never mentions Webb and contends instead that the biblical text from the beginning supports an egalitarian reading. In Payne’s view, then, there is no need to go beyond the Bible. In that sense he is an old-fashioned egalitarian, for he thinks a straightforward reading of the Bible supports his interpretation.

Much of what Payne says in the book is not new, representing arguments that he and others have made for many years. On the other hand, a multitude of arguments are given in support of the proffered thesis. It not surprising, then, that Payne concludes that the evidence supporting his view “is as strong as an avalanche” (p. 462). A sampling of some of the arguments presented should be helpful. In contrast to the Hellenistic and Jewish culture of his day Paul’s view of women was more progressive. Therefore, Paul appropriated, according to Payne, the egalitarian vision enunciated in Gen. 1–2 and the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures. Galatians 3:28 proclaims the equality of men and women in Christ, and the text cannot be restricted to soteriology. Social and cultural implications follow from Paul’s bold declaration in Galatians. The fundamental equality of married couples is confirmed by 1 Cor. 7. Ephesians 5:22–33 in no way contradicts this since the text teaches mutual submission (Eph. 5:21). Furthermore, the word kephal? is understood to mean “source” instead of “authority over.”

Probably the most significant contribution of the book centers on Payne’s study of 1 Cor. 11:2–16 and 14:34–35. What stands out is Payne’s long discussion on whether Paul refers to a veil/shawl or the need for women to wear their hair bound up on their heads. Payne supports the latter option with an array of arguments. When it comes to 1 Cor. 14:34–35 Payne maintains that it is an interpolation. According to Payne, the text must be interpolated because the Western text tradition would not have placed the verses after verse 40 if they were part of the original text. Furthermore, the distigme (“two horizontally aligned dots in the margin,” 232) in Codex Vaticanus support an interpolation. Payne also detects support for an interpolation from Codex Fuldensis and MS 88.

Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters

Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul's Letters

Zondervan (2009). 511 pp.

Does Paul teach a hierarchy of authority of man over woman, or does he teach the full equality of man and woman in the church and home? In Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip Barton Payne answers this question and more, injecting crucial insights into the discussion of Paul’s view of women. Paul’s theology, instruction, and practice consistently affirm the equal standing of men and women, with profound implications for the church today.

Zondervan (2009). 511 pp.

Payne’s reading of 1 Tim. 2:11–15 does not break new ground, though he again rehearses some of his former work. The present tense “I do not permit” in 2:12 refers to a temporary prohibition. The oude linking “teach” and authentein signifies a single coherent idea. Paul prohibits women from wrongly assuming authority that was not delegated to them. The “for” in 2:13 does not provide a reason that women should not teach but is illustrative. Most important, Eve’s deception is related to the women in Ephesus who were purveying the false teaching (2:14). Paul’s restrictions on women were never intended to be comprehensive but address a particular situation in which women were promulgating heresy. The promise of salvation through childbirth refers to the salvation that is ours through the incarnation (2:15).

Payne valiantly defends the egalitarian cause. Much of what he says could be accepted by complementarians. For instance, complementarians also believe that men and women are equal in Christ and fully share the divine image. One could endorse the notion that there are social implications to Gal. 3:28, though complementarians would differ from Payne regarding the nature of those implications. I found Payne’s long defense of a reference to “hair” rather than a shawl or a veil in 1 Cor. 11:2–16 quite fascinating. One’s view on that matter, however, says nothing about whether one is a complementarian or an egalitarian. Complementarians could even agree that 1 Cor. 14:34–35 is an interpolation (though see below) and derive their view of male/female roles from other texts.

Payne hopes that his book will bring consensus, but that is highly doubtful. His “avalanche” approach sometimes has the feel of throwing in everything but the kitchen sink to support his view. I suppose all of us in the debate are partisans, but Payne’s frequent listing of all the reasons that support his view often smacks of overkill, particularly because some of the reasons given are not terribly strong. Payne falls prey to lexical, grammatical, and interpretive mistakes in his interpretation of 1 Tim. 2:11–15, so it seems to me that the objections raised against an egalitarian reading in my earlier essay still stand (“1 Timothy 2:9–15: A Dialogue with Scholarship,” in Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, pp. 85–120, 235–57).

Perhaps one other issue should be addressed briefly. Readers might think that the evidence supporting an interpolation is quite impressive after reading Payne’s discussion of 1 Cor. 14:34–35. But the evidence is scarcely as strong as Payne suggests. The unwary reader may fail to recognize that the verses are not missing in any of the manuscripts. Peter Head has recently suggested at SBL (New Orleans, 2009) that the distigmai were added in the sixteenth century. In any case, the verses are included in Codex Vaticanus. Payne’s reading of Fuldensis and MS 88 is debatable. Whatever one makes of such evidence, it is hardly overwhelming. Payne and others think it is impossible that scribes would move the verses, but I would argue that a scribe may have done this very thing to keep the discussion on prophecy together.

Payne is to be thanked for the tone of his book, for he is fair and respectful (even though he feels very strongly about this matter!) with those with whom he disagrees. Furthermore, complementarians will be gratified to see his high view of Scripture. I suspect that Payne’s book will not have a great impact. Most of what he says is not new, and his egalitarian readings are unpersuasive. Surely he will convince some, for many in our culture today ardently desire egalitarianism to be true. But it will not hit the scholarly world like an avalanche. It is closer to being another drizzly day in Portland, Oregon.