When discussing gender roles, one passage is often played as a bit of a trump card. It’s the magnificent statement by Paul in the third chapter of Galatians, where he affirms the equality of every Christian:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek,
slave nor free,
male nor female,
for you are all
one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
There it is, for all to see. Gender differences are wiped out, they claim. I definitely agree. As far as access to salvation is concerned (Paul’s concern in this context), there is no difference between the genders.
Most scholars consider Galatians to be one of Paul’s earliest writings, if not the first. Some place the Thessalonian letters earlier. The vast majority agree that the following come later:
- Paul’s discussion of gender roles in 1 Corinthians 11
- Paul’s description of gender differences in Ephesians 5
- Paul’s specification of male-only elderships in Titus 1 and 1 Timothy 3
- Paul’s discussion of gender roles in Titus 2
- Paul’s teaching about widows (and not widowers) in 1 Timothy 5
I’ve intentionally avoided “the two passages,” though there’s no valid reason to ignore the fact that instructions are given considering the different genders in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2.
Let’s discuss the extent to which there is to be a differentiation between genders today. Let’s discuss how men and women can each function within the modern church. But let’s not pretend that Galatians 3:28 did something that Paul never intended it to do: obliterate the differences between men and women. (And please stop saying that there are only two passages that discuss limiting what women do in the church)