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Topic: Book Reviews

Schreiner reviews important book on Paul and Gender

August 9, 2018

Cynthia Westfall’s book, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ, aims to provide a fresh reading of the issues surrounding important passages in Paul’s letters, and in so doing the book makes a significant scholarly contribution to the gender role debate.

Such a book deserves substantive interaction, and New Testament scholar Tom Schreiner has done just that in his recent review in the August edition of Themelios.

Schreiner says that the “distinctiveness of [Westfall’s] approach and the wide lens by which she approaches the matter makes her book a significant achievement.” Ultimately, however, “her own interpretation of key texts fails to persuade,” he writes.

The review features a chapter-by-chapter summary of the book, and interaction on issues surrounding key texts like 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15.

I have the highest respect and regard for Westfall and consider her approach constructive and correct, in many respects. Placing the discussion in its larger historical, cultural, literary, and theological context is illuminating and insightful. Her reading of veiling in 1 Corinthians 11 is fascinating and quite creative. I also found her interpretation of the role of the husband in Ephesians 5 to be fresh and stimulating. I have taken time to sketch in her book because it represents in many ways a fresh reading, and complementarians must not ignore what she says.

Schreiner concludes, however:

Sometimes her reconstruction of the text overrides the flow of argument in the text and departs from the text to make her case. Traditional readings have sometimes been used as a power play, but she wrongly concludes that this is the only motivation. Even if complementarians are wrong, many of them (probably most of them) want to faithfully obey what they understand scripture to teach. And they are persuaded that there are role differences in the church and in the home between men and women, and that such role differences do not deny that women are equally created in God’s image (Gen 1:26–27), that they have equal worth, value, and dignity, that they have equal access to salvation (Gal 3:28), and that they are equally coheirs of the grace of life (1 Pet 3:7).

Schreiner’s review is – in typical form – thorough, charitable, and clarifying. We encourage you to read it in its entirety.

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