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What Paul
did NOT write


Paul did NOT write this:

Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness.   I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men;  she is to keep silent.   For Adam was formed first,  and then Eve;  and Adam was not deceived,  but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.   Yet woman will be saved through bearing children,  if she continues in faith and love and holiness,  with modesty.       1 Timothy 2:11ff
Critical scholars are sure that Paul did not produce the letters to Timothy and Titus.   These came along much later than Paul,  probably near the beginning of the second century.   The strand of Christianity which eventually became dominant was concerned to conform to the ideals of the surrounding society.   Publishing the above sentiments in the name of Paul was some Christian leader's way of giving force to his own perception of how his community ought to behave.

(Critical scholars  are those who expect their work to be fully subject to rational criticism,  for the sake of drawing closer to the truth.   They do not feel an obligation to make their findings fit in with the accepted beliefs of a particular Christian tradition.)


Paul did NOT write this,  either:

Slaves,  be obedient to those who are your earthly masters,  with fear and trembling,  in singleness of heart,  as to Christ;  not in the way of eye service,  as men-pleasers,  but as servants of Christ,  doing the will of God from the heart,  rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men,  knowing that whatever good anyone does,  he will receive the same again from the Lord,  whether he is slave or free.        (Ephesians 6:5ff)
This,  too,  is later writing,  as is the whole letter to the Ephesians  (and 2 Thessalonians,  and probably Colossians as well).   Of course Christian slave-holders nearer our own time were delighted to find this text in scripture.   The idea that slaves should be content to be slaves,  and should do their work to the best of their ability,  seeking not earthly freedom but,  rather,  heavenly reward,  suited them very well.   Many arranged for this to be preached often to their own slaves.


Paul did NOT write:

As in all the churches of the saints,  the women should keep silence in the churches.   For they are not permitted to speak,  but should be subordinate,  as even the law says.   If there is anything they desire to know,  let them ask their husbands at home.   For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.       (1 Corinthians 14:33-35)
If later Christians found it reasonable to write whole letters in the name of Paul,  it is understandable that they sometimes modified his genuine letters to make them more acceptable.

Certainly Paul did write the letters to the Corinthians  (although 2 Corinthians appears to be a conflation of several of his communications).   But in 1 Corinthians 11:5 we find Paul speaking without condemnation about women who pray and prophesy.   He could not have said both things in the same letter.   Someone whose views agreed with those of the writer of 1 Timothy obviously wanted to claim that Paul held to such ideas from the beginning.   Incidentally,  the above verses appear at different points in different early manuscripts,  further evidence that they are a later addition.

Paul's argument about covering or not covering the head in worship has to be explored and understood against the wider background of religious practices in his time.   It is not a put-down of women.   Paul's genuine letters make it clear that in the churches of his experience women did hold leadership roles,  and that he had no problem about this.


Paul did NOT write:

You,  brethren,  became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea;  for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets,  and drove us out and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved  -  so as always to fill up the measure of their sins.   But God's wrath has come upon them at last!       (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16)
1 Thessalonians is a genuine letter from Paul.   But nowhere else in his genuine writings does he show this kind of animosity towards 'the Jews'.   Moreover,  the end of the quote is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem.   Paul was dead before that happened.   Again this is somebody else's insertion,  in the effort to use Paul as a warrant for opinions Paul would not have owned.


Maybe Paul did not write:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.   For there is no authority except from God,  and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed,  and those who resist will incur judgment.   For rulers are not a terror to good conduct,  but to bad.   Would you have no fear of him who is in authority?   Then do what is good,  and you will receive his approval,  for he is God's servant for your good.   But if you do wrong,  be afraid,  for he does not bear the sword in vain;  he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.   Therefore one must be subject,  not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.   For the same reason you also pay taxes,  for the authorities are ministers of God,  attending to this very thing.   Pay all of them their dues,  taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due,  respect to whom respect is due,  honour to whom honour is due.         (Romans 13:1-7)
In  2 Corinthians 11:23-25  Paul measures the quality of his service for Christ in terms of the dangers,  punishments,  imprisonments he has undergone  -  a significant part of his pain being at the hands of Roman authorities.   His own practice,  therefore,  certainly did not harmonise with the above prescription.   The more we work to put together a picture of the real Paul,  the harder it is to imagine him giving this kind of message.   Yet we have no significant early manuscript of Romans lacking these verses,  no textual sign that the letter ever existed without them.

It's a puzzle.   It's also a serious problem,  for this passage is regularly quoted by conservatives to 'prove' that religion should not enter into conflict with the state.   If we have come to the conclusion that Paul would have disagreed,  then either this was someone's very early amendment of Paul's letter,  or we are failing to understand it  (and translate it)  as well as we might.

For further discussion see our paraphrase and notes on Romans 13.


In sum:

Our primary sources for Paul's faith and life are his own genuine letters.   From these we learn that he honoured the ministry and leadership of women in the church,  and he did not direct women to conform to the social expectations of the Greek and Roman world.   He did not accept that two people could be brothers in Christ and still maintain a master/slave relationship  (Philemon).   He did not urge slaves to prove their Christian discipleship by simply accepting their situation as God-given,  and being the best of slaves.   Many in the later church leadership saw no problem in the rule of men over women and slaves,  as long as the men showed proper love and care for those beneath them.   That is not what the real Paul taught.

The pseudo-Pauline letters,  (along with Luke's imaginative story-telling in Acts)  have perpetuated what is a highly distorted view of Paul as conservative and conforming.   They have seriously misrepresented the heart of his teaching,  and made it very difficult for us to discern the real man behind the false image.   There is much to gain when we make the effort to know him better.

Evan Lewis



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