Originally Posted by Steven E. Webster
Isn't Paul human? Isn't he capable of inconsistency and self-contradiction?
We always need to bear in mind that Paul's writings are letters addressed to particular churches with particular problems that we don't have complete information about. What exactly was this head-covering business about? I don't think we really know. Probably the violation of accepted custom was creating discord in the Corinthian Church and Paul is coming down on the side of "good order" rather than avant garde fashion.
I went to my favorite study bible, the New Interpreter's Study Bible (hereafter "NISB") which generally incorporates up-to-date feminist scholarship. It notes that in I Corinthians 11:11-12 ("Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God.") Paul again affirms the unity and equality of men and women "in the Lord" while at the same time he supporting custom when it comes to head coverings in worship.
Paul was a man of his times. He was not a 20th century feminist. Nevertheless I believe Crossan and other scholars are not mistaken in seeing a radical equalization of women and men in the teachings of Jesus and Paul. After all, this whole head covering rant is premised on the fact that women DO SPEAK, PRAY AND PROPHESY IN PAUL'S CHURCHES. The verse which elsewhere is attributed to Paul that says "women should be silent in church" is generally understood to be written by someone other than Paul.
Of course, Jesus and Paul were immersed in a culture with rigid gender roles. And aren't we in almost the same situation? Aren't we still struggling with a cultural inheritance of rigid gender roles? Isn't Paul's prophetic declaration "there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" still a challenging (and encouraging) teaching for us?
I think you're right, Paul is capable of self-contradiction and inconsistency like all of us. I feel that Paul did hold to his culturally conditioned view of gender roles while still recognizing that before God all humans are equal regardless of gender and that woman have a place in his ministry.
If we revisit the original passage "male and female" ... this is Paul recognizing that before God all people are equal regardless of gender. I don't see him blending gender in any way.