Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters. By Philip B. Payne. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009, 511 pp, $29.99 paper. Published in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 54.1 (2011), 177–79.
Israel never had female priests. Jesus did not name any females as apostles. Peter instructed wives to submit to their husbands, as did Paul (repeatedly), and Paul expressly forbade women teaching or exercising authority over men. The history of the people of God has largely reflected the Bible’s clear teaching on this point. Male leadership is a given in the OT, and with few exceptions, the Christian church of all denominations has been led by males. Has the church been wrong about this for the whole of its history? Both Israel and the church have failed spectacularly at points—is this one of them? Put simply: no. Male leadership in the home and the church is taught in the Bible. Even a brilliant use of the evidence and an airtight logical argument would fail to stop the rising of the sun, but unfortunately Philip Payne mishandles the evidence and multiplies logical and rhetorical fallacies.
Payne begins with chapters on the backgrounds of Paul’s teaching, the women Paul names (begging questions by calling these women “ministry leaders”), and theological axioms Payne takes to imply his definition of equality. Payne then breaks Paul’s statements on women into two parts: “earlier” and “later” letters. Beginning with a chapter on Gal 3:28, Payne follows with a chapter on 1 Cor 7, then eight chapters on 1 Cor 11:2–16, a chapter on 1 Cor 14:34–35, another on Eph 5:21–33 and Col 3:18–19, eight on 1 Tim 2:8–15, another on 1 Tim 3:1–13 and Titus 1:5–9, and then concludes with “Paul Consistently Champions the Equality of Man and Woman in Christ.” Several reviews of this book have already appeared [see Blomberg’s and Schreiner’s]; therefore, because of space limitations, I will focus on Payne’s campaign against 1 Cor 14:34–35. Perhaps this focus will suffice as an example of the type of argumentation found in Payne’s book.
Payne makes a desperate attempt to show that 1 Cor 14:34–35 should be relegated to the theological dustbin as a non-canonical interpolation. He claims that “its suppression of a weak social group” counts as “evidence that 14:34–35 is an interpolation” (p. 262), and he explains that “Male chauvinist editorial patterns evident in the Western text demonstrate that these attitudes pervaded the church as well as society in general” (p. 264). Countering these injustices, Payne goes to war to prove that the text deserves no standing in Scripture. He writes, “If 1 Cor 14:34–35 is a non-Pauline interpolation, it does not carry apostolic authority and should not be used as such to restrict the speaking ministries of women, nor should it influence the exegesis of other NT passages” (p. 267). What, however, if it is not a “non-Pauline interpolation” and thus does “carry apostolic authority”? Should Payne continue to regard it as “restrictive”? Is there a way to view 1 Cor 14:34–35 as something other than an expression of male chauvinist suppression of a weak social group? Obviously complementarians are convinced that there is. Payne needs an unassailable case if he is going to evict 1 Cor 14:34–35 from its scriptural stronghold. He needs real evidence and convincing argumentation, and he has neither.
We have no manuscript that lacks this passage—not one. Payne so badly needs a text that lacks 1 Cor 14:34–35 that he invents several and then uses these imaginary witnesses to testify on his behalf. Payne has a long discussion (pp. 232–46) of the “distigmai” in Codex Vaticanus. These distigmai are “two horizontally aligned dots in the margin at mid-character height, by the last line of 1 Cor 14:33” (pp. 232–33). Payne’s view is that “the distigme by the last line of 14:33 is positioned appropriately to mark the absence of verses 34–35” (p. 233). Payne’s interpretation of this evidence has been analyzed and rejected by both Curt Niccum and Peter Head [see summaries of Head’s work by Tommy Wasserman, Part 1 and Part 2]. I simply observe here that this interpretation of unexplained features of a manuscript is very tenuous evidence, and if it is to help Payne’s case he needs everything to go his way. If the scribe did not put the distigmai there to mark an interpolation, as Payne believes, these distigmai do not support his edifice. What if the scribe put the distigmai there not because the text was lacking from a manuscript in his possession but because he was aware of several variants of the existing text? In addition, if it was not “the original scribe of the Vaticanus NT” who put them there, as Payne holds (p. 245) but someone after ad 1400 who added them, as Niccum and Head think, Payne’s claims collapse. So in order for the distigmai of Vaticanus to support Payne’s view, we must add the hypothesis of the date of the distigmai to the hypothetical reason the scribe put them there, and thus we arrive at the sum total of a hypothetical conclusion that these verses originated as an interpolation. This gives us one manuscript that hypothetically attests to the omission of these verses. Meanwhile, 1 Cor 14:34–35 remain clearly inked on the leaf of the manuscript in question. The verses are comfortably in the text of Codex Vaticanus, not as a hypothetical explanation of mysterious little dots but as a clearly written, universally attested reality.
Undaunted, Payne layers on more theoretical possibilities in his discussion of Codex Fuldensis. This manuscript is a sixth-century copy of the Vulgate that, like every other surviving manuscript, contains the text in question, 1 Cor 14:34–35. In Fuldensis verses 34–35 follow verse 33, neither dislocated nor in the margin but in the body of the actual text. In the lower margin, however, verses 36–40 have been re-copied. On this basis, Payne posits that “St. Victor, Bishop of Capua, ordered the text of 1 Cor 14:34–40 rewritten and corrected in the bottom margin of Codex Fuldensis with verses 34–35 omitted” (p. 246). Payne’s explanation is possible, but verses 34–35 are still in the body of the text of Codex Fuldensis, and the recopied portion begins with verse 36 and goes through verse 40 rather than beginning with verse 33, skipping to verse 36 and continuing to verse 40. Payne thinks that “the most natural explanation” is that Victor saw “a manuscript that did not contain 14:34–35,” then ordered the scribe to rewrite verses 36–40 in the lower margin. If Victor had checked any other manuscripts, however, the evidence indicates that he might not have concluded that verses 34–35 are an interpolation, since all the manuscripts in our possession have the verses—as did, evidently, the exemplar from which the body of Fuldensis was copied. Payne nevertheless makes an astonishing claim: “FuldensisVictor mg. thus fulfills the criterion C. K. Barrett posed, ‘If any significant MS omitted the verses altogether it would probably be right to follow [the view that] . . . verses 34f . . . were added later as a marginal note’” (p. 248, bracketed note and ellipses Payne’s). Yet Barrett’s criterion has not been fulfilled: Fuldensis is a sixth-century Latin manuscript that hardly registers as a “significant manuscript,” and in its case verses 34–35 are not “a marginal note” but are in the body of the text. The only manuscript that omits the verses altogether is the one that exists in Payne’s mind, which he thinks Victor saw. Payne also thinks that the twelfth-century manuscript 88 was copied from a text that did not have verses 34–35. The fact that we do not posses that manuscript does not diminish Payne’s confidence in his hypothetical reconstruction (pp. 249–50).
In light of the manuscript evidence, Payne’s argument against 1 Cor 14:34–35 fails. It simply will not do to excise evidence that goes against our conclusions. The removal of this passage is not even an acceptable “working hypothesis” for those who would regulate their conduct by Paul’s teaching. Those who desire to understand and embrace everything Paul taught will need to look elsewhere for an explanation of all he wrote. I do not have space to discuss Payne’s interpretations of the other Pauline texts, but in my view they are no more successful than his attempt to show that 1 Cor 14:34–35 is an interpolation. Payne lacks evidence for his conclusions and marshals arguments riddled with fallacies to advance them.
Payne holds that “the biblical evidence” for his position “is as strong as an avalanche” and that “the totality of the avalanche is inescapable” (p. 462). It is fitting that Payne chose the metaphor of an avalanche, which is a destructive disaster. Indeed, the adoption of Payne’s conclusions would cause a moving away from safe paths and solid ground toward calamitous consequences.
The publisher sent me a review copy I did not ask for. I skimmed the section on 1 Tm. 2 then put it down. Your review confirms my decision to let it collect dust. There are too many other things for me to read, but I am very thankful that you read it and posted this review.
Thank you Dr. Hamilton for your critique of Payne’s work. I wrote a pastoral op-ed for our state paper recently on this subject (http://pastorjimlaw.wordpress.com/). I believe so much is at stake in getting gender roles right. These texts are not scribal glosses or the rants of a misogynist. They are God’s authoritative word on how we are to conduct ourselves in the household of God. Rejoice, Jim Law
It is hard to deny that scribes created textual variants that put women down, and that this process began very early. Also, the disputed letters exhibit this same tendency, don’t they? So isn’t it likely that 1 Cor 14:34-35 is also a latter addition? You have engaged with some of the arguments against the authenticity of these verses, but any thoughts on the arguments that Fee offers?
You’re going to have to provide some evidence for your claims.
The case that this is an interpolation is incredibly weak.
Jim, I think that the case for an interpolation would be a little weak if it were not for the evidence that there was a pattern of misogynist corruptions of Paul’s letters. You are right to ask for evidence. Does this help? See also here and here.
Well, I think Paul wrote all the NT letters attributed to him, and I don’t think that in any of them he’s “putting down” women.
As for what the scribes did, how would you prove that these aren’t inadvertent errors?
Those scribes lived in a pre-sexual revolution world. Did they need to “put down” women? I think it would be assumed by everyone in that world that certain things were inappropriate for women, so much so that they wouldn’t need to engage in the kind of malicious behavior you’re suggesting.
I think this kind of argument would be terribly difficult for you to prove . . . and you’d need a lot more evidence for it than you have.
JMH, I think it’s interesting that before you wrote your review of Phil Payne’s book, you not only assumed that it’s wrong, but you were totally unwilling to change your mind no matter his evidence and argumentation. This is revealed in your first paragraph, in which you said, “Male leadership in the home and the church is taught in the Bible. Even a brilliant use of the evidence and an airtight logical argument would fail to stop the rising of the sun.” So, how do you expect to give a balanced review of a book if your express intent in reviewing that book is to tear it down, since you are self-professedly incapable of being persuaded by it, and think that, by definition, to advocate the thesis of that book is to use bad logic and mishandle the Biblical evidence?
In a broader sense, at what point do you think we as Christians should be so persuaded about an issue being the Biblical view that we stop listening to those we disagree with? I have found it very useful to engage with those with whom I disagree with an open mind, even when I don’t think they’ll ever win me over. If I may allowed to ask a personal question, when were you so persuaded of the complementarian view that you became no longer able to consider seriously the egalitarian view?
You’re begging the question as to whether I evaluated Payne’s argument with an open mind, which I did. You’re also making assumptions about my intent, and perhaps it’s ad hominem for you to claim that my “express intent in reviewing that book is to tear it down.” No, my express intent is to read it carefully, think about it, evaluate it by the standard of the Scriptures and the relevant evidence, and give my assessment.
My statements about the rising of the sun were made to make the point that (1) Payne is arguing against the teaching of the Bible, and (2) his logic is fallacious and his use of the evidence is objectionable at many points.
I think that we should never stop listening because we are called to love people. So we want to know the Scriptures, love people, and be ready to give instruction in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict it (Tit 1:9).
I read Payne’s book carefully. I’ve read lots of egalitarian arguments carefully. I thought through his arguments, as I’ve done with all egalitarian arguments I’ve considered. I don’t reject them because I haven’t seriously considered them. I reject them because they’re unconvincing. I think my way into the position, then I look at the evidence from that perspective, and the evidence cannot be handled from that perspective. So I leave that perspective for one that will account for all the evidence.
Jim, I didn’t assume you reviewed Payne’s book with the express intent to tear it down; I came to the conclusion based upon the content and structure of your review. That’s not question-begging, that’s inference to the best explanation.
I get suspicious when a review of a book on Paul’s letters begins with a sentence on priests in the OT. The whole first paragraph was an argument that egalitarians are wrong, with the evident intent to discredit Payne’s conclusion before we even took a look at it. The rest of the review non-stop hammered Payne’s position and didn’t have a single positive thing to say about his book. The concluding sentence is less a critique of the book and more a warning against (unarticulated) consequences of egalitarianism: “the adoption of Payne’s conclusions would cause a moving away from safe paths and solid ground toward calamitous consequences.” This seems an oblique reference to the “slippery slope” argument made by Wayne Grudem in his Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, than the ordination of women leads to gay ordination and theological liberalism generally.
Looking at the context and structure of your review, it was clear your review was not to just a critique of Payne, but a barrage against egalitarianism. How is a reader supposed to interpret that except to say you’ve got an axe to grind, and reviewing another egalitarian book is a way for you to grind that axe? Your review has “agenda” written all over it. In addition, you were asked to write that review for JETS with the self-evident purpose to provide “balance” against the positive review by Aida Spencer, an egalitarian; very few books get the double review treatment in JETS, and it is generally to provide “balance.” Your conclusion was assured before you read the first page, just as Aida’s was.
Granted, I think you’ve sincere in your position, you genuinely find every single egalitarian argument unconvincing, and you have every right to say that. But I find it incredible for you to say that you approached Payne’s arguments with an open mind. How can you say that when you can’t find a single good thing to say about Payne’s book? You could have at least noted how long it took Payne to write the book, as Blomberg did, or conceded some of Payne’s minor points, as Schreiner did (btw, your link to Schreiner in the review didn’t work for me; CBMW links do that sometimes). Academic courteousness, not to mention Christian charity, demands at least some respect for the people we disagree with, but I didn’t see that at all in your review. Instead, I saw a reviewer who saw Payne’s book as nothing more than pernicious teaching that needed to be put down.
This book was hands down the worst book I’ve ever read. The logic was bad, and I have real doubts that the evidence was handled honestly.
I think Zondervan should be ashamed of themselves for publishing it (they never should have put something this bad into print), and I think Payne needs to repent of slandering brothers in Christ, repent of his desperate abuse of text critical arguments, and repent of his rejection of the Bible’s teaching on gender roles.
But I insist that I read the book with an open mind. I evaluated the claims, sifted the arguments, and looked at the evidence for myself.
And look around. The slope is slippery.
Jim, your over the top comments of “worst book ever” and accusations of slander against Payne just confirm the thesis that you have an axe to grind against egalitarians and can’t see Payne’s argument clearly.
For Pete’s sake, even Blomberg and Schreiner had some good things to say about Payne’s work, various reputable evangelical scholars say Payne’s book is one of the most meticulously argued books on the subject, and I personal know of several complementarian scholars who once loudly opposed egalitarians and have since changed their positions due to Payne’s book. You don’t have to agree with Payne’s argument, but I just don’t see how “worst book ever” is a defensible claim.
Didn’t say “worst book ever,” just “worst book I’ve ever read.”
Payne cites some examples of articles getting rejected by journals, and he alleges abuse of editorial privilege. How is that not slander?
I have no axe to grind about egalitarians, but I am calling them to repent of their rejection of the clear teaching of the Bible on gender roles.
I stand by my statements. Zondervan should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this book, and I think if they’re not before then, they will be on the great day.
I suppose accusations of editorial abuse would be slander if they weren’t true. But if they are, I think someone else need to repent.
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