Friday, August 8, 2008

1Tim 2:12 terrific discussion

I'd like to recommend to people interested in the issue of 1Tim 2:12 they head over to Theological discussion and read the excellent debate between Sandy Grant and Suzanne McCarthy regarding the use of the term "authority" in this verse. Its a fantastic discussion based on evidence on real evidence for both sides. Suzanne is defending the belief that "exercise authority" here means illegitimate authority and so a good translation would be something more like N.T Wright’s Translation of 1Ti 2:9-15

9 In the same way the women, too, should clothe themselves in an appropriate manner, modestly and sensibly. They should not go in for elaborate hair-styles, or gold, or pearls, or expensive clothes; 10 instead, as is appropriate for women who profess to be godly, they should adorn themselves with good works. 11 They must be allowed to study undisturbed, in full submission to God. 12 I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; they should be left undisturbed. 13 Adam was created first, you see, and then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass. 15 She will, however, be kept safe through the process of childbirth, if she continues in faith, love and holiness with prudence. (Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis)

8 comments:

Will said...

I am always amazed at the creativity that is displayed in avoiding what the scripture actually says.

CD-Host said...

I wrote a whole series addressing historicity of these claims. Do you think that 1Cor 14:33-5 bans women singing psalms or making prayer requests. If not why not?

Will said...

Hi CD,

Being a seminary student at a egalitarian seminary, I deal with these questions all the time. I have had extensive discussions with egalitarian professors and I know that many of your arguments would never be advanced by any honest scholar. I find it interesting that you use heterodox gnostics to make your historical argument (you will not win points with any evangelicals doing that).

I have written exegetical papers on most of the passages used in this discussion and am willing to go through verse by verse if you want.

To answer your question directly, I do not think that it can be concluded that 'any' verbal activity on the part of women in church is banned. Elsewhere in the Pauline corpus, Paul appears to allow women to pray, prophesy and read (e.g. 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Romans 16). Instead, I think that the passage is speaking more of governance and leadership of the church body than it is about absolutely defining the exact extent of female participation in the service. So, in modern application, it would be inappropriate to view the passage as a statute against all talking on the part of women but it would be inappropriate to ignore the command altogether. In modern ecclesiastical language, it would appear that the passage clearly excludes the possibility that a woman should be made a “lead pastor” or a “teaching pastor” but other roles are not forbidden.

Will said...

My question to you would be the following: If you became convinced that Scripture did preclude women as pastors, would you submit to this?

In other words, what defines what is right and wrong for you? Do you come to scripture with a sense of right and wrong and then judge scripture? Or do you come, recognizing that you are a finite individual who is frequently wrong and that your opinion on any given subject may be culturally conditioned or based on personal assumptions that might be wrong?

Bryon said...

Just focusing in on 1 Cor 14:33-35, I believe that’s actually speaking of wives instead of women in general. I base that on what it says in v35, “they should ask their own husbands”. Also, there is a manuscript discrepancy where verses 33-34 might be placed.

I'm just adding my 2 cents, this isn't something I want to "war" over.

CD-Host said...

Will --

I know that many of your arguments would never be advanced by any honest scholar.

That is very strong. Which arguments in defense fall under that?

I find it interesting that you use heterodox gnostics to make your historical argument

You didn't read the argument carefully. The point is not that their opinions in the 2nd century were hetrodox but rather that their practice was indistinguishable from the practices in the early church. Evangelicals make constant claims about what the early church did (generally based on very little evidence), they consider early church practice as highly binding on them. Take the whole debate around the book Pagan Christianity for example. What the argument shows is that the practice of the early church with regards to women was indistinguishable from the practices of groups that worshipped a female deity and had female priests.

Instead, I think that the passage [1Cor 14:33-5] is speaking more of governance and leadership of the church body than it is about absolutely defining the exact extent of female participation in the service.

That is to say the passage does not mean what it "actually says" (women should not speak in church) but rather has to do with political structures and roles. Roles that in fact a mute man could perform. You see it isn't just one side that doesn't think those passages are so obvious in their intent.

Will said...

What I mean is that the tendency for liberal scholarship to take fringe Gnostic Christianity, paint it as modern egalitarians (which it is not) and then suppose that somehow the Gnostics and the Orthodox were all worshiping side by side until mean old Irenaeus changed everything, is dishonest and factually incorrect. I have spent much time reading the early Fathers and there is no hint of women bishops (I will discuss further below).

Here is the problem with your argument, you jump from Didache (which you claim doesn’t mention the subject although I will argue below that it at least hints at a masculine pastorate) to a Heterodox theologian. Those are the data points you provide. Let me provide some more data:

First off, as an evangelical, I would argue that the only truly necessary data is in the New Testament so let me start there (although, as you will see, I feel there is plenty of extra biblical evidence to corroborate my understanding). I believe that, both in example and explicit command, the elders (the early church held a Presbyterian model) were male. It should be noted that the male presbyter model was what the Jews would have known (this is what the Jews of Jesus’ day practiced) and to change it would have required explicit expression – the default was male presbyters (presbyter means ‘elder’ which is the biblical role of pastor). By example, we see Jesus choosing males as his 12 disciples. In Mark 3:14-19 he appoints twelve people to teach and to have authorities over demons. All of them just happen to be men. When Judas fell and the disciples had to replace him they considered two MEN. Now we are up to 14 apostles that were chosen/considered and all of them were men. Are you suggesting this is a coincidence? If we follow this up with the rest of the narrative of Acts we see that all the people chosen to be elders are men. There are many elders mentioned in the New Testament but not one woman mentioned. When Paul gives his prescription for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Paul describes the roles of Elders with exclusively masculine terms and makes not I don’t think this is a coincidence (especially considering that the default would be a male presbytery).

This brings us to the prohibitions in scripture. I say prohibitions because that is technically what they are but I think that in the context of Paul, he is actually assuming that the prohibition is in place already and simply noting that he is not overturning the default. I think that the purpose of 1 Timothy 2:12 is to prevent people from misunderstanding what he was saying in verse 11. In verse 11, Paul does something that was against the default. He permits women to learn. In the Jewish tradition, women were not allowed to learn from the Rabbi’s but Paul states without reservation that this is not the Christian model. But in verse 12, he is quick to qualify that he is not saying that a woman should be able to teach and exercise authority (descriptions of a presbyter). NT Wright is correct to note that the pagans did not have the same restrictions so Paul’s clarification was needed. Verse 14-15, are a clear indicator that Paul is discussing a set of principles that are not cultural/temporal but are rather timeless in their application. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 again echo this sentiment (although in less detail).

So, scripture maintains the praxis of the Palestinian Jews with regards to women in the presbytery (and this should be all we need). But what about the early church? Do we see women as presbyters in the early church? Clement of Rome (circa 95 AD) describes the process of presbyterian succession. He starts by saying that the Apostles appointed elders and then describes the second generation: “Therefore for this reason, since they [the Apostles] had complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid personas and later made further provision that if they should fall asleep, other tested MEN should succeed their ministry. Therefore, when men who were appointed by the Apostles, or afterwards by other MEN of repute….” (Epistle to the Corinthians xlii - xliv) Ignatius of Antioch (circa 110AD) emphasizes the importance of submission to overseers and elders and uses masculine language throughout. The Didache (100 AD) does follow this consistent language of exclusively masculine elders. “Appoint therefore for yourselves overseers and deacons worthy of the Lord; mild MEN…..they are your MEN of rank along with the prophets and teachers.” (xv) It is notable that in all these examples, there is never a mention of a feminine bishop/elder.

This consistent language takes us right up to Irenaeus who you claim changed everything from an egalitarian Christian world. Irenaeus gives us a full list of the succession of elders and lists male followed by male going all the way back to the apostles. There is not one woman listed. I think given the biblical and historical evidence that the truth is much closer to Tertullian’s telling (that Valentinus was a theological innovator) than to what liberal theologians would claim (that Valentinus was reflecting mainstream Christian thought).

CD-Host said...

I've started responding to this post back on the original thread since it involves the text from that thread and not 1tim 2:12.