Eternally Unforgiven: St. Paul’s View of Women and Its Influence on the Rest of the New Testament

Apart from the four Gospels, Paul’s theology of women forms the main historical and theological reason women have suffered for their gender under conservative evangelical Christianity…a theology which has suppressed Christian women for two thousand years.

A case in point here is what has happened in the largest conservative evangelical Protestant body in the United States - the Southern Baptist Convention, which is, in all likelihood, going to elect the very conservative Dr. A. Albert Mohler, Jr. (Now president of their Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky.) as its next convention president this summer. Also, Under the leadership of Paige Patterson (President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dallas Texas) the Southern Baptist have forced out all women professors in their seminaries following the Biblical command drawn especially from the Pauline corpus in the New Testament that demands that women are to be second class humans and totally submissive to men. In light of this fact, it’s time to review this evangelical denomination’s view of women as they under stand their roll in the New Testament.

To understand the position of the Southern Baptist Convention on this issue, one needs to understand the Apostle Paul and his theology of women as drawn form the Old Testament; mainly Genesis 2: 21 – 3: 24.

For the Jewish Saul turned Christian and renamed Paul (Acts 13), only men are created in the image of God as a literal reading of Genesis 2: 21 – 24 makes clear. From this Hebrew text, we find that women were made, not in the image of God, but in the image of man from whose body she was taken. This creation story forms Paul’s bases for church order in 1 Corinthians 11: 7b “…he (the man) is in the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. 8. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man.”

As such, the man must have short hair to reveal the image and glory of God shown forth in him alone. For a man to have long hair, which might cover up this fact, it is a shame: “14. Does not even nature itself teach you, that if a man has long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Thus, for Paul, it is a shame or sinful for the man to cover up his face because only he alone is in the image and glory of God as the creation account in Genesis 2 states.

However, for a woman to have short hair and show her face in the assembly or church, it is to her “shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, but let her be covered.” (Verse 11: 6) For the woman, long hair is nature’s way to provide a covering for her face should she be found without a cloth veil: “but if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given as a covering.” I Corth. 11: 15. It is very important that the woman cover her face (again, with her hair if necessary) doing worship for, who knows, there maybe angels present (verse 10) in the assembly also who would be offended should they see the face of a non-Godly image; that is a woman’s face.

Paul continues this natural theology and builds it into a divine hierarchy (verse 3) “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

Again, Paul has Genesis 2 in his mind when he declares in I Corth. 14: 34 “Let your women keep silent in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also says the law. 35 And if they will learn anything let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”

For the deutero-Pauline author that wrote the Pastoral epistle of I Timothy, this is the doctrine that was to develop into what has come to be called “Original Sin”. This is the direct result of the woman speaking (Genesis 2: 6 & 16) as he restates it in I Tim. 2: 11 - 14 : “Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. 12. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. 13. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. 14. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression.”

Thus, for conservative denominations like the Southern Baptist, to allow women to teach men in religious studies (such as seminaries) would be in direct violation of each of the three natural and divine prohibitions: A. The divine order of creation. B. The divine hierarchy. C. The fact that women can be mentally shallow so as to mislead men (if given a place of leadership over men) just as Eve did Adam (verse 14).

However, all is not lost on the woman as I Timothy 2: 15 understood Genesis 3: 16. The woman can earn her salvation by bearing children, which may imply that male babies who are created in the image of God who will continue to fulfill the divine plan and will keep future women submissive.

This topic is again built upon in the deutero-Pauline letter of Ephesians 5: 22 – 24 which bases its reading on the divine hierarchy in I Corinthians 11: 3.

Finally, the New Testament closes with the apocalyptic book of Revelation were the 144,000 are celibate men who follow the lamb (Christ) where ever He goes because they are kept pure by not having defiled themselves sexually with women (Rev. 14: 3 – 4).

While Christians debate just what composes the “Unforgivable Sin” of Matthew 12: 32, one thing is for sure; women, who were created out of man will never be forgiven this fact as based on the story of Genesis 2 and expounded not only by Paul, but repeated in the deutero-Pauline schools and kept alive today in the Southern Baptist Convention by their complete elimination of all women professors in their seminaries and crushing any hope for women being ordained in this denomination’s ministry. It is indeed an unforgivable “sin” of gender.