Review of “Man and Woman, One in Christ”

Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip B. Payne
(Zondervan 2009)
Book review by Jeanette Fogarty (BBus, BTh, Student MTh, CBE-Sydney Committee Member)

Man and Woman, One in Christ is an exegetical and theological study of Paul’s letters.  A quick look at the opening pages listing the abbreviations for Secondary Resources, Classical Works, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Jewish Literature, Apostolic Fathers, Church Fathers, Versions and Modern Editions of the Bible, will give the reader some idea of the extensive array of sources utilized by Payne in this scholarly work.   The select bibliography contains nearly three hundred books and articles.  The indexes include significant Hebrew and Greek words studied in the text, Scriptures, subjects, and authors referred to within the book.

Payne preludes his book by affirming his belief in the inerrancy of Scripture and sharing his ‘odyssey’, the journey that led him to publish his findings on the equality of men and women.  Previously holding to an assumption of male-headship, his thirty-six years of research have led him to the conclusion that such a view is not only an incorrect interpretation of Scripture but is also detrimental to the life of the church.

Before moving into an exegesis of Paul’s letters, Payne presents pertinent background information to Paul’s teaching regarding man and woman, the women Paul names as ministry leaders, and the theological axioms used by Paul that imply the equality of man and woman.   His exegetical study is then presented in two parts – first Paul’s earliest letters, which contain statements about woman (Galatians and 1 Corinthians), then his later letters (Ephesians, Colossians, 1 Timothy, and Titus).

Payne contends that the theological axioms found in Paul’s letters ‘provide the framework for understanding his teachings about man and woman’ (p.69).  These include such things as: male and female equally created in the image of God and mandated to rule, authority and leadership tied to the work and gifting of the Spirit, mutual submission, unity in the ‘Body of Christ’, and the priesthood of all believers.  He also explicates the inclusive language used by Paul – ‘in Christ’, ‘everyone’, ‘all’ – and the manner in which Paul affirms an inaugurated, yet still to be consummated, eschatology, one which is characterized by love and mutual service (pp. 69-76)

In his exegesis of Gal 3:28, Payne addresses the argument that confines the meaning of the passage to spiritual standing.  In doing so, he highlights the inconsistencies of the theology of some scholars who contend for equality yet deny, or restrict, its outworking in the praxis of the church and home.

On 1 Cor 11:2-3, Payne contends that the majority of recent scholarship interprets the meaning of ‘head’ in verse 3 as ‘source’, rather than ‘authority’.   He explains how and why ‘authority’ became the popular interpretative meaning and gives fifteen reasons why ‘source’ better reflects the meaning of the text.    He bases these reasons squarely on the evidence of ancient writings, consistent application of Paul’s metaphorical use of ‘head’ throughout his letters, textual criticism, and the ramification of subordinationist doctrine to Trinitarian theology.  Refuting Grudem’s conclusions that ‘authority’ was well established as the Greek meaning for head, Payne references theologians who disagree with Grudem’s assertions and calls into question the evidence Grudem presents for such assertions (pp.120-121).

On the often controversial topic of head coverings (1 Cor 11:4-6), Payne makes a convincing argument, drawing on Greco-Roman customs, archeological evidence, art, literature, and Scripture (particularly 1 Tim 2:9 and 1 Pet 3:3), that head coverings do not refer to any garment but rather to hairstyles (pp.147-173).

In Paul’s later letters, Payne shows that Paul’s statements concerning woman are consistent with that of his earlier letters.  For instance, in discussing the interpretation of Eph 5:21-33 and Col 3:18-19 Payne explains that the appositional phrases used by Paul indicate that the intended meaning of ‘head’ is not ‘authority’ (pp. 283-290).  In order to avoid reading into the text the English meaning of ‘head’, Payne suggests that translations include side notes to reflect the Hellenistic Greek.  For example, ‘The note for Eph 5:23 could be, “Paul explains that ‘head’ means ‘savior’ here, for Christ is the source of life, love, and nourishment for the church as husbands should be for their wives’ (p. 290).

Significantly, in the interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12, Payne contends that the manner in which Paul uses oủdέ,his choice of αủθεντεîν, and the context of women being deceived by false teachers and taking it upon themselves to spread such teaching, indicates that Paul is giving a ‘single prohibition of women teaching with self-assumed authority over a man’ (p. 359).   Furthermore, from his textual work on the pronouns in 1 Tim 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9, Payne argues that English translations have incorrectly interpreted the Greek pronouns as masculine (p. 445), thereby falsely implying male church leadership.  Such attention to Greek grammar, cultural appreciation of freedoms and dignity achieved in Christ, as evidenced in Scripture, brings Payne to conclude that ‘Paul repeatedly affirms the equal standing and privileges of women and men in the church and in marriage’ (p.461).

As the aim of this book is to ‘help bring a truly biblical unanimity to the church in rejecting the view that God established “separate but equal” leadership roles for men and women in the church’ (p. 463), Philip Payne invites readers to ask questions or make comments on his book through the website  The site also contains supplemental information and studies, and free downloads of relevant articles.  For scholars looking further into the issues raised in this book, the updated, more extensive, bibliography listed on the website is well worth a look.

Man and Woman, One in Christ is essential reading for those on both sides of the gender debate.  It is very readable, full of in-depth textual analysis, and theological reflection.  The fact that Payne’s conclusions stem from a rigorous exegetical and theological study of Paul’s letters, rather than philosophical or libertarian factors, make it a book that has the potential for honest, open dialogue in the pursuit of understanding the message of God’s Word; holding on to biblical inerrancy and letting go, where warranted, views that are shaped more by tradition than sound hermeneutics.

© 2012 Jeanette Fogarty

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