Opinion: Was St Paul a chauvinist ... or is there more to the story?

By Fergus King

In his latest article for the Melbourne Anglican, our Director of the Ministry Education Centre at Trinity College, the Revd Dr Fergus King, calls for a fresh examination of the writings of St Paul.

Fergus King
The Revd Dr Fergus King

St Paul has, in some circles – both critical and popular, earned a reputation for misogyny, which seriously tarnishes his stature as a major figure in the emerging Christian movement. Even his apologists concede this, as the title of E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien’s Paul Behaving Badly: Was the Apostle a Racist, Chauvinist Jerk? (Downers Grove IL: 2016) suggests. When attention turns to the Pastoral Epistles, particularly 1 and 2 Timothy, the chorus of complaint becomes louder.

Sometimes, more critical eyes will introduce a distinction: that Paul was more enlightened than his reputation suggests, and that the strongly chauvinistic elements of his writing come from other hands. Thus, the vexed question of Pauline authorship provides a Marcionite salvage operation for the apostle’s legacy. But will this really wash? Simply excising portions of the New Testament on the basis of authorship does not resolve the question either from this perspective, or from that of canonical criticism – even for the more hotly contested Pastoral Epistles.

A different approach is needed: what if the problem is not so much with the texts, as with how they have been read and interpreted? 


To keep reading, visit the Melbourne Anglican.

The Revd Dr Fergus King is Farnham Maynard Lecturer in Ministry Education and Director of the Ministry Education Centre, Trinity College Theological School.

24 Feb 2020
Category: Chapel