The idiomatic expression “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” takes on full force in chapter 5 titled “1 Corinthians 7—The Equal Rights of Man and Woman in Marriage.” Although brief, it’s pregnant with implications for traditional roles between husband and wife.
In 1 Cor 7, Paul specifies exactly the same conditions, opportunities, rights, and obligations for the woman as for the man regarding twelve distinct issues about marriage (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 10-11, 12-13, 14, 15, 16, 28, 32, 34a, 33, and 34b). In each he addresses man and women as equals. His wording is symmetrically balanced to reinforce this equality. What he affirms for man, he affirms equally for woman, often with exactly parallel expressions…”
What struck me was that I’ve always understood Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives as mere repetition and have never seen it as “symmetrically balanced to reinforce…equality.” After listing the biblical texts noted above (which I highly encourage everyone to read through carefully) Payne asserts:
The strikingly egalitarian understanding of the dynamics of marital relations expressed in Paul’s symmetry throughout this passage is without parallel in the literature of the ancient world. It is all the more impressive because it is focused on the marriage relationship, a relationship that traditionalists regard as intrinsically hierarchical based on the “created order.” Against a cultural backdrop where men were viewed as possessing their wives, Paul states in 7:2, “let each woman have her own husband.” Against a cultural backdrop where women were viewed as owing sexual duty to their husbands, Paul states in 7:3, “Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife.”
It is hard to imagine how revolutionary it was for Paul to write in 7:4, “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does.”
In addition, Payne intimates that in cases where the husband is an unbeliever, the wife assumes spiritual leadership in the home (7:14), since she serves as sanctifier for her husband and her children.
The “symmetry” from the corresponding statements in the biblical texts is undeniable. It is not mere “repetition” as I once thought. Payne’s conclusion that “Paul’s vision of the equality of man and woman in marriage” is evident…at least to me.
I very much appreciate Payne’s commitment to the biblical texts. While he shows appreciation for the cultural and social backgrounds surrounding the relevant Pauline texts, he does not “foreground” them unnecessarily such that they eclipse God’s holy Word. His high regard for Scripture is obvious. And, in the introduction he fully adopts biblical inerrancy as stated in The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
The next post in this series will summarize chapters 6-13, which are a cultural, theological, and textual exposition of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16.