Cynthia Long Westfall – Paul and Gender

Episode:  In this episode, Cynthia Long Westfall talks with Erin about her new book on gender in Paul’s letters, which emphatically is not just a conversation about women’s issues in Paul’s letters. Tune in as Cindy and Erin discuss veiling, masculine and feminine stereotypes, what it’s like to be a woman in the academy, and the superiority of Minnesota hockey.

Guest: (from the publisher’s website) Cynthia Long Westfall (PhD, University of Surrey) is assistant professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario. She is the author of A Discourse Analysis of the Letter to the Hebrews: The Relationship between Form and Meaning and has coedited several volumes, including The Bible and Social Justice. Westfall is currently on several steering committees: the SBL Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics section, the ETS Evangelicals and Gender section, and the ETS Hebrews section. She is also a member of the editorial board for the Common English Bible.

The Book: Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Baker Academic, 2016). Publisher’s Description: In this volume, respected New Testament scholar Cynthia Long Westfall offers a coherent Pauline theology of gender. Westfall interprets passages on women and men together and places those passages in the context of the Pauline corpus as a whole. Her inclusion of the entire Pauline canon enables her to address the issues effectively, and she reads the texts in light of their own claims of authorship, recipient, and circumstances. She also gleans new insights by making sense of the passages in the context of the Greco-Roman culture.

Paul and Gender includes fresh perspectives on the most controverted texts, offering viable alternatives for some notorious interpretive problems in certain Pauline passages. The author reframes gender issues in a way that stimulates thinking, promotes discussion, and moves the conversation forward. As Westfall explores the significance of Paul’s teaching on both genders, she seeks to support and equip males and females to serve in their area of gifting, regardless of social status, race, or gender.

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3 Replies to “Cynthia Long Westfall – Paul and Gender”

  1. Reuben Anderson

    This was amazing. Immediately bought the book. The piece about veils has changed my mind about the hijab. Previously I considered the hijab as dehumanising – if you cover your face, your obscuring your humanity and barring any possibility of me forming a relationship with you. But I can see that using a hijab is a radical way of declaring “I am not available for you to take what you want from me”. That’s something I can respect.

    I just want to voice disquiet with the “men do male theology” stuff… as if there’s only one way for men to do theology. Yes, there’s been a lot of men controlling the conversation about gender and gender roles. At the same time, much theology is simply not about gender at any real level. It’s about salvation, resurrection, atonement.. it’s universal in ambition. Even if patriarchal assumptions have crept into the text.. Paul’s declaration – “in Christ there is no longer… male or female…” is still a powerful force in the history of Christianity. Not least, Jesus has shaped the lives of countless men down the ages.

    Personally, I’ve never been interested in gender. I’ve never sought out a gendered perspective. I’ve always been taught that God is male and female. I’ve never received any kind of female scapegoating.

    Obviously, I have a male perspective.

    However this does not mean that I cannot also be sensitive to the female viewpoint, welcome and learn from female theological voices.

    So overall I would say;
    – yes, there’s been much bad teaching, bad theology and faulty translation of gender.
    – yes, we need far more female voices in theology (to say the least, let alone everywhere else in society).
    – please don’t then go too far and assert that all theology by men is intrinsically masculine.
    – I’m celebrating the (seeming) rise of female theology..

    In the past few days alone, I’ve been introduced to Wil Gafney –

    and to Danielle Shroyer –

    and to Barbara Brown Taylor –

    All of which have completely bowled me over with their genius.

    With love and peace,

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