Buried Talents: Gal 3:28, “There is neither male nor female” — Cottrell’s objection

Of all the authors that I’ve chosen to disagree with, Cottrell is my favorite — because he’s the most honest. He admits that weak arguments are weak. He doesn’t accuse his opponents of bad faith or question their salvation. See his Gender Roles and the Bible: Creation, the Fall and Redemption.

Cottrell spends considerable effort dealing with Gal 3:28. Ultimately his argument is based on Jewish laws of inheritance. He points out that under the Law of Moses daughters did not inherit unless there was no son. Thus, for a female Christian to inherit the “promise,” that is, the promise of salvation by faith rather than works that God gave to Abraham, some mechanism must be found to get around this rule.

Paul deals with this by declaring that at baptism Christians “put on Christ” (3:27 KJV), and so God only sees Jesus when He looks at us, thereby allowing us to claim the inheritance of the promise.

Cottrell also points out that Gentiles and slaves don’t qualify to inherit from Abraham either — only male, free Jews. Thus, the commonality of the three pairs is the contrast in ability to inherit.

I’m inclined to (somewhat) agree with Cottrell to this point.

But then he concludes that therefore inheritance only applies to a Christian’s initial salvation — not to other aspects of our relationship with God. Thus, while men and women have equal access to salvation — clearly the subject at hand — they don’t necessarily have equal access to other elements of the Christian life. And here I must disagree.

Yes, it’s true that salvation is the issue. But among the many points Paul makes in Galatians is that whatever gets you into Christ is the same as what keeps you in Christ. Thus, not only do I not have to circumcised to become saved, I don’t need to be circumcised to stay saved.

Take, for example, 3:3:

After beginning with the Spirit are you now trying to attain your goal with human effort?

and 3:5

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?

In verse 3 Paul declares that because we were saved by grace and faith at the outset that we must understand that we remain saved by the same means. In verse 5 Paul speaks in the present tense, saying that the Galatians presently have the Spirit because they presently believe (not because they believed when they were first saved).

The point is that the faith and repentance that allow us to become saved are the very things that allow us to stay saved. There is not one doctrine of how to become saved and another of how to stay saved. It’s all salvation and it’s all faith. Countless other passages are to the same effect.

And this is why Paul declares in Galatians that the gospel — salvation by faith — affects how we deal with our fellow Christians. For example, at the end of chapter 2, Paul rebukes Peters for refusing to associate with the Gentiles. Why? Because discrimination contradicts how we are saved. Paul reminds Peter,

We … know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ.

In short, Paul declares that the process by which we are saved tells us how we are to treat one another. God accepts Jews and Gentiles both based on faith. Therefore, we may not discriminate between the two. Of course, the same argument addresses how men and women are to relate to one another in Christ. Indeed, if God only sees Jesus when he looks at a woman, then who are we to see anything less?

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: Gal 3:28, “There is neither male nor female” — Cottrell’s objection

  1. Alan says:

    For example, at the end of chapter 2, Paul rebukes Peters for refusing to associate with the Gentiles. Why? Because discrimination contradicts how we are saved.

    Paul rebuked Peter because he was failing to take a public stand for salvation by grace apart from the law. He was acting as if the Gentile Christians were unclean and thus the Jewish Christians should not eat with them — or at least he was behaving in a way that supported others who did believe that. Thus he was not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.

    God accepts Jews and Gentiles both based on faith. Therefore, we may not discriminate between the two.

    God accepts both apostles and non-apostles (or elders and non-elders; evangelists and non-evangelists; etc…) based on faith. But we rightfully make a distinction between the two, because they have different roles. We don't say that every non-apostle has the same authority as an apostle merely because both were accepted by God based on faith.

    "Discriminate" has a negative connotation. But where the scriptures define differences, it is absolutely right to recognize, to respect, and to live in accordance with those distinctions.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    My most recent comment at http://oneinjesus.info/2008/06/05/buried-talents-… further responds to Cottrell.

    I would add that Alan is right in that some distinctions are created by God and to be honored. And some distinctions matter in some contexts and not in others.

    But Paul didn't leave us to speculate. In the church, among Christians, we are not allowed to distinguish among Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, and males and females.

    We readily see that, therefore, we cannot deny a slave the right to speak or to be in leadership because he is slave. But we apply the rule differently when it comes to women.

    The justification for treating women differently from Jews, Greeks, slaves, and free is found in other passages, quite outside Galatians. But if we read those passages as I've suggested, Galatians makes perfect sense as I've suggested.

    On the other hand, if we read those passages as imposing a permanent subordination of women to men, Galatians 3:28 becomes problematic. No longer may we argue that the gospel tells us how to treat one another, only who gets to be a Christian.

    And yet, throughout the NT, Paul argues that the gospel teaches us how to treat one another, as explained in these posts —

    The Only Thing That Counts–The Faith Part

    The Only Thing That Counts–The Love Part.

    And, ultimately, this is why I feel as convinced as I do. The way Paul argues from the gospel over and over tells me that how we are justified tells us how to treat each other.

    Thus, Cotrell's distinction, that Paul is speaking of how to get saved but not how to live is saved, is utterly foreign to Paul's thought and just can't be right.

  3. Alan says:

    On the other hand, if we read those passages as imposing a permanent subordination of women to men, Galatians 3:28 becomes problematic.

    Not really — as long as you don't extrapolate from the topic under discussion in Gal 3, to areas not under discussion in that passage.

    Thus, Cotrell’s distinction, that Paul is speaking of how to get saved but not how to live is saved, is utterly foreign to Paul’s thought and just can’t be right.

    Or more accurately, it doesn't seem right to you, though you could be mistaken. Didn't you say elsewhere that this is just a theory?

  4. Jay Guin says:

    Alan wrote,

    Or more accurately, it doesn’t seem right to you, though you could be mistaken. Didn’t you say elsewhere that this is just a theory?

    Yes, my view on "no male and female" in Gal 3:28 is just a theory. As I tend to read the NIV, this information was hidden from me until just a few days ago. I've not thought about it all that long. I'm open to alternative explanations.

    But it'll take some serious explaining to persuade me that it doesn't mean anything more than "neither male nor female." Paul had to have used that turn of phrase, negating Gen 1:27, for a reason.

  5. Alan says:

    I think the reason is supplied in the text — that both men and women are saved in the same way and will receive the same inheritance.

    If you think the reason is NOT supplied in the text, then you are left with nothing more than theories and inferences. Each person can choose the explanation they like best. In all likelihood the resulting doctrine will drift with the prevailing culture, since that is what will seem best to the most people.

    As this series of articles illustrates, there are quite a few passages that create difficulties for your view, each requiring an imaginative interpretation to conform to the presumed (inferred, theoretical) meaning of Gal 3:28. It seems obvious to me that it would be better to take a more literal, text-based interpretation of Gal 3:28, enabling all those other passages to retain their natural meaning, as it has been understood for generations.

  6. Mike Nance says:

    It has been understood for generations that human beings can be owned, bought and sold and that women are inferior and have not right to vote. Neither is condemned by scripture of course. What is the "christian" view on these? It appears that it really took nonchristians to move this forward with the church catching up only after much kicking and screaming. Natural meanings, being understood for generations, may not be THE hermaneutic trump. (granted, what happens outside the church may not be what Paul had in mind, but I fail to see how christians are to be the salt and light of the world if we are the ones playing catch up.

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