The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture

By Julie Roys

I’m convinced one of the most misquoted verses in all of Scripture is Galatians 3:28. Biblical feminists call this passage “The Magna Carta of Humanity.” And, they use it to argue that, in Christ, all gender distinctions are abolished.  Yet, this interpretation of the verse is fundamentally flawed.

The verse states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Taken alone, I can see how someone might understand this verse to be advocating a social order in which race, class and gender cease to exist. But, taken in context, the verse clearly is addressing salvation, not social organization.

The Apostle Paul wrote Galatians to confront so-called “Judaizers,” who were teaching that faith in Christ is not sufficient for salvation; observing Jewish laws is also required. Before the verse in question, the Apostle Paul states that “all are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” And, immediately after the verse, Paul writes, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.” Clearly, Paul penned Galatians 3:28 to show that salvation is available to all, regardless of earthly status.

But, some argue, Paul’s statement had a secondary meaning. In addition to teaching equal access to salvation, he was also removing racial, class and gender distinctions. Yet, this doesn’t jibe with other things Paul said and did. For example, Paul circumcised Timothy, who had a Jewish mother, so he wouldn’t offend other Jews. Clearly, he believed Timothy retained his Jewishness. Paul also gave gender-specific instructions to husbands and wives – as well as to men and women serving in the church.

But, these contradictions don’t deter biblical feminists. They simply negate them by elevating their dubious interpretation of Galatians 3:28 to supremacy over other Scriptures. So, biblical scholar F.F. Bruce writes that “if (gender) restrictions are found elsewhere in the Pauline corpus… they are to be understood in relation to Galatians 3:28, and not vice versa.”

This is absurd. There’s nothing within the text of Galatians 3 to suggest that Paul wanted to abolish sex roles.  Plus, there’s ample evidence elsewhere indicating the exact opposite. So, I suggest we stop misquoting Galatians 3:28 and start being faithful to the author’s intent.

Julie Roys is a Christian speaker, journalist, and host of national talk radio show Up for Debate. Follow Julie on Facebook or Twitter.



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4 thoughts on “The Most Misquoted Verse in Scripture”

  1. Egalitarians do not use this verse to say that “all gender distinctions are abolished”. The verse clearly means that the old exclusions based upon ethnicity, class, and gender that existed under the old covenant no longer exist under the new covenant.

  2. Julie, I was surprised to see the egalitarian position so misrepresented in this post. As you noted, F.F. Bruce writes that Paul is making a point about “gender restrictions” in the body of Christ. But I don’t think it’s fair to equate that to a desire to abolish sex roles, which is not the point at all. Most egalitarians acknowledge there are important gender differences. We just don’t believe that gender differences mean that God intends for one sex to be always under the authority of the other, especially for those who are one in Christ. As “anonymous” says so well in the previous comment, the old exclusions no longer apply. To us what seems “absurd” is to think that Jesus would ever endorse a gender hierarchy that seems to be more about rank than role. As for discerning Paul’s intent, I think it’s helpful to look at his practice as well, since he endorses women in a variety of leadership roles. We also need to consider the context and structure of the early church, as this post does so well:

    I would also like to point out that “biblical feminists” are not the only ones who believe in an egalitarian reading of this passage. I’m thankful for the many conservative Protestant denominations who take the position that Galatians 3:28 has practical implications for how the Body of Christ operates, not just spiritual ones, and would never self-identify as feminist.

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