Chauvinist Or Feminist? Paul’s View of Women

Written by Richard and Joyce Boldrey Reviewed By Dody Taylor

Evangelical Christians face a crucial issue—the biblical role of women. Richard and Joyce Boldrey stand firmly believing both in the equality of the sexes in the ministry and the home, and in the truth and authority of Scripture. Though this position is becoming less uncommon, it is still a hard row to hoe exegetically.

The Boldreys explain their hermeneutical base carefully. Consistency is a prime emphasis, as they attempt to account for all the biblical data and not just certain sections of Paul’s writings. Culture, too, is an issue that must be dealt with:

Is the subordination of woman to man a part of revelation, or a characteristic of the social setting in which revelation occurs, or are the two so interwoven that the effort to separate them would destroy revelation itself? (quoting Gibson, p. 25).

Though it is hard to draw the line between what is cultural and what is not, we have no choice but to take it into account. The Boldreys interpret 1 Corinthians 11 and 14 and 1 Timothy 2 as reflecting Paul’s acceptance of cultural situations, but not necessarily his eternal endorsement of them. He wanted, not to define roles, but to point out opportunities for submission in Christ which were provided by life at that time.

On the other hand, the Boldreys refreshingly think that although all of us want freedom from the bondage of roles, true freedom is to be in bondage to Jesus and his law of love. This could entail slow and gentle change rather than radical demolition of cultural values. Our main problem is not that we will not give up traditional roles, but that each of us wants God’s role—to be in control. So we choose cultural definitions to preserve our interests.

The Boldreys believe that Paul spelt out his vision for mutual submission and love in Christ (cf. Phil. 2:3–4; Rom. 12:10; Jn. 13:14, 34) in bold terms, but that he cautioned Gentiles, slaves, and women against a too zealous exercise of their Christian freedom. His main concern was for the reputation of Christ’s gospel.

Careful and logical exegesis comprises the body of the book, and the interpretations fit consistently with Paul’s vision. The authors do not claim to have the final answers, but even for difficult passages such as 1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2 there are succinct and scholarly interpretations, presented with patience and sensitivity.

The book is a provocative beginning for some more serious study on an exegetical level. One can see a true desire to be faithful to the Scriptures, and a consistent application of theology to real life situations. Open interpretation such as this can free us from the restrictions we may have unknowingly placed on ourselves, within which we stagnate. I hope that the Boldreys’ input will help us as students of theology to accept and praise God for the mutual responsibilities and privileges that we have as children of God.

Dody Taylor

Dody Taylor is a campus worker at the University of Colorado, Boulder.