“Paul has been much maligned for his many criticisms of women. He is often seen as the primal male chauvinist, responsible for the anti-female attitude of Christianity.
My aim is not to exonerate Paul.
My aim is to find out why – why did Paul occasionally find it necessary to downgrade women in some congregations?
What I hope to show is that in fact, Paul’s attitude to women varied from congregation to congregation, from area to area within the Roman Empire. I believe Paul did not have a consistent structure for male-female status and roles in the church as a whole.
If I am right, then we have been wrong in universalising Paul’s statements about women in the letters he addressed to particular congregations in particular social and religious settings.
What we need to do is to find out as much as we can about the religious and social settings of Paul’s congregations, and then relate Paul’s statements about women to these specific settings. What will emerge will be the basic principles from which Paul made his statements in each case. One important factor may be that gender had little to do with the way Paul made his decisions.”