1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

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Danny
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1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by Danny » Tue Jul 28, 2009 1:32 pm

1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited
By Danny Coleman

A few years ago I embarked on in-depth research into the topic of a woman’s role in the church. There were three reasons I undertook this study:

1. It occurred to me that the Body of Christ is about 2/3 female. What I mean by this is if you look at most church gatherings you will find that there are more women than men. Yet, in most church gatherings today and throughout history, the women--who make up the majority—are very restricted in how they can function.

2. I kept encountering women who were gifted teachers, pastors and theologians but who were not able to fully function in those gifts. That struck me as a bit of a rip-off—not just to those women, but to the church which was being deprived of the blessing of being edified by their gifts.

3. I was disturbed by the apparent contradiction in Paul’s writings in the New Testament:

On the one hand, Paul worked closely with Priscilla and referred to her on equal terms. Priscilla was very clearly a teacher. One of her students was Apollos. In his letter to the Romans, Paul singled out Junia, a woman, and Andronicus, a man, and called them “outstanding among the Apostles” which is understood to mean that the two were considered by Paul to be Apostles of note. Also in Romans, Paul commends Phoebe to the churches. Many historians believe it was Phoebe whom Paul entrusted to deliver the letter to the Romans. In it, Paul calls Phoebe a “diakonon”, which is the same word he uses elsewhere to describe himself and Timothy. In our English Bibles, diakonon is usually translated into English as “minister” when referring to a man but as “servant” when referring to Phoebe. Hmmm. Paul also calls Phoebe a prostatis. Although it appears only here in noun form, the verb form proistemi, occurs eight times and is translated as “rule”, “lead” or "manage". When applied to Phoebe, however, prostatis is translated into English as “helper”. Again, hmmm. There are other women that Paul pointed out: Euodia and Syntyche, whom Paul says “contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel”—which I think means they did more than just serve coffee and donuts. Then there was Nympha, Chloe, Stephana and Lydia; all of whom appear to have been house-church leaders
.
But on the other hand, in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul seems to be saying that women are forbidden such leadership and teaching roles. There appears to be a contradiction in Paul’s thought and praxis. There have been many attempts to explain or reconcile this apparent contradiction. Why did the man who wrote to the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” later write to the Corinthians that “…women must remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…” and instructed Timothy to forbid women from teaching or having authority over men?

It is these two scriptures in particular which I want to look more closely at, because it is these two scriptures—more than any others—that have been used to limit and marginalize women in the church. We live in a day and age where women are police officers and pilots and neurosurgeons and CEOs and leaders of nations, yet within the walls of many churches, they are still told they must be submissive followers of men.

1 Timothy 2:11-15

One of the most important lessons I ever learned about studying scripture is to ask this question: “What did it mean to the original hearers?” That simple question opens up a world of discovery. When Paul wrote 1 Timothy, he didn’t just sit down out of the blue one afternoon and say “Hmmm, I’ll think I’ll write some holy scripture.” No, he was writing to a particular person at a particular place at a particular time for a particular reason. When we read 1 Timothy we are, quite literally, reading someone else’s mail. And so it behooves us to understand what was going on in Timothy’s world and what Paul’s letter would have meant to him.

Timothy was in Ephesus. It appears that Ephesus was a tough place to be a Christian. It was in Ephesus, remember, that the craftsmen who made shrines to the goddess Artemis caused a riot because of the Gospel Paul was preaching (Acts 19). Paul later wrote about fighting “with beasts at Ephesus” (1 Cor 15:32), which probably refers to this riot. Of his time in the region where Ephesus was located, Paul would later write “…we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.” (2 Cor 1:8).

And now a few years later Timothy, Paul’s young protégé, is in Ephesus and appears to be under a great deal of stress. Paul is trying to encourage Timothy and also give him some specific practical advice. Paul even tells Timothy to drink some wine because of his stomach and occasional illnesses, which makes me wonder if poor Timothy was getting ulcers from the stress.

What is it about Ephesus that would make it such a difficult place? In New Testament times Ephesus was considered a major city and trade center of the Roman Empire. It was located in the Western part of a region called Asia Minor which is now Turkey. Ephesus was the gateway from the West to the East. The region of Asia Minor had previously been called Phrygia.

Phrygia was sometimes associated with the mythical Amazons—a nation of female warriors. Phrygia, and Ephesus in particular, had also been the center of worship of an ancient goddess name Cybele. Cybele was the great mother goddess—believed to be the mother of all the gods and of the earth. Long before the Greeks and the Romans expanded into Phrygia, Cybele had been the primary deity, worshiped for thousands upon thousands of years—all the way back to Neolithic times.

The story of Cybele centers upon her love for a beautiful young shepherd named Attis. Attis, being pure and chaste, resisted Cybele’s sexual advances. In a fit of rage, Cybele caused Attis to go insane. He ran screaming through the forest until he came to a great pine tree. At the foot of the pine tree he pulled out a knife, castrated himself, and bled to death. Where his blood touched the ground, beautiful violets sprouted up. Attis went to the underworld and Cybele mourned him, but after a short time she resurrected him and her mourning turned to joy. In the cult of Cybele the goddess was simultaneously the source of fertility, the Great Mother, a perpetual Virgin (she never consummated with Attis), Creator, Resurrector and sexual aggressor.

During rituals, pine trees would be decorated with flowers and taken into sacred caves (representing Cybele’s sexuality). Worship of Cybele was overseen by priestesses and priests. The priests, called Galli, were men who had castrated themselves in reenactment of Attis’ self-mutilation and surrendered their manhood to the goddess. Thereafter the priests dressed and acted as women. Worship of Cybele is said to have been a frenetic and orgiastic affair with drums and cymbals and flutes, wailing and chanting, whirling priests dancing before a statue of the goddess, devotees slashing their arms and splattering their blood on her statue, a bull being castrated and then sacrificed. As the ritual reached a frenzied climax, new initiates to the priesthood who had worked themselves into a state of religious ecstasy would take out razor sharp knives, emasculate themselves and caste their severed manhood to the goddess as a sacrifice. We can assume that some did not survive the ordeal. Cybele is usually depicted with two lions or leopards at her side. In later statues, a cluster of egg-shaped orbs protrude from her chest. Scholars argue about what these shapes represent. Some think they are breasts, symbolizing that Cybele was the universal mother, others think they are the scrotums of priests and bulls. Others think they’re just large beads. The priestesses of Cybele served as mid-wives to their communities and invoked the goddess’s protection during child-birth. Men could engage in ritual intercourse with a priestess or effeminate priest, thus enabling Cybele and Attis to vicariously consummate their love.

The cult of Cybele was powerful, pervasive and well-established in Phrygia by the time the Greeks took hold of the region.

Here is a link to images of Cybele/Artemis: http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&u ... s&aq=f&oq=

When the Greeks expanded into Phrygia, they brought their gods and goddesses with them. The Greeks tended to take local deities and absorb them into existing Greek deities. Thus, Cybele became Artemis. The Artemis worshipped in Phrygia was very different, however, from the Artemis worshipped in Athens. She was really just Cybele with a new name and a fresh coat of paint.

According to Greek mythology, Artemis was the moon goddess, the daughter of Zeus and the twin sister of Apollo, the sun god. As the story goes, Artemis was born first and then assisted her mother in delivering Apollo. As a result, Artemis was considered the protector of women during child-birth. Women in ancient times would make offerings to Artemis and ask her to protect them during pregnancy and labor. This probably accounts in part for the reason why little portable shrines to Artemis were a major industry in Ephesus. Artemis was also the goddess of healing and of hunting. She was believed to be a perpetual virgin, and would kill any man who approached her with wrong intentions. Artemis was a warrior. She was protective, capricious and dangerous.

When the Roman Empire arose and supplanted the Greeks, the Romans kept the Greek pantheon. Artemis became Diana. Same goddess, different name. During Paul’s time she was still commonly called Artemis. In Ephesus, Cybele became Artemis and Artemis became Diana. But the Artemis/Diana which was worshipped in Ephesus was very different from the Artemis/Diana worshiped elsewhere. In Ephesus, it was an amalgamation of Cybele and Artemis.

Ephesus was home to the Temple of Artemis, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It was not just a massive temple but also a repository of art and treasure. It was the largest bank in Asia. It was run by a huge staff of priests and priestesses who directed the affairs of the temple, conducted sacrifices, engaged in ritual prostitution, etc. This was the largest and most complex temple of ancient times. There had actually been a series of temples to Artemis on that spot going back to 700 BC. They had been rebuilt and expanded over the years. The Ephesians believed that Artemis had been born nearby and had founded the city. One historian has written that “…the principal force of her cult was upon the interrelated components of the city’s urban life, e.g., the civic, economic, educational, patriotic, administrative and commercial facets… There was no other Graeco-Roman metropolis in the Empire whose ‘body, soul and spirit’ could so belong to a particular deity as did Ephesus to her patron goddess Artemis.” By the time Timothy got to Ephesus, Artemis worship had been entrenched in Ephesus for nearly 800 years and Cybele worship for thousands of years before that. Christianity was a minority religion in Ephesus. It was the newcomer.

In light of this, you can imagine how Timothy might have been intimidated. But there’s more. Believe it or not, there was an even bigger threat in Ephesus. It was a teaching that had found its way into the church and it was trouble. Trouble with a “T” and that rhymes with “G” and that stands for “Gnosticism”.

Ephesus was ground zero for Gnosticism. Gnosticism got its name from the Greek word gnosis which means knowledge. The roots of Gnosticism can be traced back at least to 400 BC and Plato. Plato taught that the cosmos had two aspects: The world we see and an unseen world of “forms” or “ideas”. Plato posited that the unseen forms were perfect and unchangeable but that what we see in our world are only crude imitations of the unseen forms. Thus, a tree is but a crude representation of the ideal tree. Plato’s thinking led to a type of dualism where the material world was seen as flawed and inferior while the unseen “spiritual” world was seen as perfect. This dualism led to Gnosticism, which viewed the material world as not just flawed but as evil. The goal of Gnosticism was to obtain secret knowledge which would enable one to escape the prison of the evil material world and be reunited with the perfect spiritual world.

Gnostic teaching can be likened to a parasite which attaches itself to a host and grows within that host. At the time of Paul and Timothy, Gnosticism had found its way into Judaism. Ephesus was second only to Alexandria as a center of Jewish Gnosticism. There are variations, but the Jewish Gnostic story basically went like this:

Outside of our cosmos is a greater realm called the Pleroma, or region of light. The Pleroma emanates from twelve beings called Aeons. The Aeons can be thought of like angels but are paired in male/female couples. Beyond the Aeons and the Pleroma is the Monad (also known as “The One”). One of the Aeons, a female named Sophia (which means “wisdom”) decided to create something on her own, apart from her partner Aeon. Because she was essentially rebelling, her creation was deeply flawed. What she created was a being called The Demiurge. The Demiurge, according to Gnostics, is what we call God. However, Gnosticism taught that The Demiurge is not kind or just or loving but rather is a cruel tyrant--a sadistic and ignorant monster. Sophia, ashamed of her mistake, isolated The Demiurge and surrounded him in a fog. The Demiurge does not know that he is the child of Sophia. He thinks he is God and is alone above all else. Because The Demiurge is the creation of Sophia, he has within him some of her power. So he set about to create the world, as recorded in Genesis. But the world he created, like The Demiurge himself, is deeply flawed and evil.

The Demiurge created Adam, but could not give Adam life. Sophia saw the lifeless Adam and took pity. She sent her daughter Zoe (which means life) to bring Adam to life. Zoe gave Adam life and Adam called Zoe “Eve”. But now Adam and Eve were trapped inside of the evil Demiurge’s material world. They had within them the spark of life, from the Pleroma, but it was encased in crude bodies of flesh. The Demiurge sought to keep Adam and Eve, and the children they would eventually produce, as prisoners in his world. But a savior came, sent by Sophia. The savior was the serpent. He came to liberate and teach Eve and Adam and so told them about the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The serpent explained that it was through secret knowledge—gnosis—that they and their offspring could escape from The Demiurge and his evil world and ascend to the Pleroma.

You can see how Gnosticism would have made Paul and the other Christian leaders crazy. It essentially takes what the Bible teaches and flips it upside-down. Good becomes evil and evil becomes good. God is the bad guy. The serpent—Satan—is the good guy. Eve gave life to Adam and “original sin” is actually liberation. Yikes! Christian leaders for the first few centuries would contend vociferously against Gnosticism. Eventually Gnosticism died out. Some would say it was forcibly stamped out once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.

This is the religious climate into which Paul brought the Gospel and then into which Timothy came to nurture the Ephesian church. One can only imagine what was going on in the house-church meetings of Ephesus as former priests and priestesses and worshipers of Artemis--now new converts to Christianity, were bringing their religious baggage with them while at the same time Gnostic teachings were infiltrating and competing with orthodox doctrine. I can begin to understand why Timothy was overwhelmed.

Repeatedly in his first letter to Timothy, Paul refers to “false teachings”, “myths”, “endless genealogies” and “controversies”. At the end of the letter Paul tells Timothy “Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called gnosis (knowledge), which some have professed and in so doing have wandered from the faith.”

In light of all this background, let’s (finally) look at 1 Timothy 2, beginning at verse 11:

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

There it is. The Bible says it. I believe it. That settles it.

But what is it exactly that Paul said?

The quote above came from the NIV. If we look at the Greek text we find that the word translated “quietness” is hesuchia, which does mean quietness or harmony or agreement and the word translated “full submission” is hupotage which literally means “arrange under”—in other words, to voluntarily place oneself in subjection to someone or something. So Paul is saying that women should be in quiet agreement and place themselves under subjection. But to what? To men? Or to sound doctrine? I believe it is the latter.

Next Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” The word Paul used here, which is translated “to have authority over” is authentein. It is not the word normally used for authority in the New Testament. That word is exousia. The word authentein, in fact, is used nowhere else in the entire New Testament. When translators need to clarify what a writer meant when he/she used a certain word, they look at how that same writer used the word elsewhere. If that isn’t an option, they look at contemporaneous writings for how the word was used.

A remarkable thing has happened in the last 25 years or so. With the advent of computers, all of the extant ancient Greek writings have been gathered together into digital, searchable databases. This has opened new doors for researchers to see how particular words were used and how the meaning of words changed over time.

The word authentein, it turns out, was a somewhat unusual word even in Paul’s day. It was also a word which was rich with meaning and overtones. Paul seems to have carefully selected this word because of the meanings and overtones it would convey.

Just looking at the word authentein, and how it resembles certain words in our language gives us some clues: Authentic. Author. Authority. Authentein is a compound word made from the Greek word auto, meaning “self” and hentos, meaning “thrust”. Literally, it means “to thrust oneself forward”.

In the oldest examples we have, the word was used to describe someone who committed murder or suicide by planning the action and then carrying it out with their own hand (thrusting the dagger forward themselves). The word came to be used to describe the mastermind of a diabolical scheme to overcome and murder someone. It was not just the action itself, but the authoring of the plan also. To authentein was to originate and perpetrate. By Paul’s day the word was also used to describe a tyrant. To authentein was to completely dominate someone. This reminds me of a popular phrase used today by video gamers when they defeat an opponent: “I owned you!”

So what is Paul really saying here? Here are two possibilities:

1. “I do not permit a woman to teach or act in a way that utterly dominates a man…” This is close to how the verse was translated in the Latin Vulgate up through the King James Version – a period covering about 1200 years. If we think back about Ephesus with its Amazon legends, Cybele, Artemis, Diana, castrated priests and powerful priestesses, suddenly Paul’s use of the word authentein makes a lot of sense. There had been a religious culture of emasculation and female domination entrenched in Ephesus for thousands of years. It is also interesting to note that a couple of sentences later, in verse 15, Paul says “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” Here Paul is directly addressing the custom of pregnant women appealing to Artemis to save them during childbirth.

2. “I do not permit a woman to teach nor claim to be the author of man…” This interpretation directly addresses the Gnostic teachings about Eve being the one who gave life to Adam and received saving knowledge from the serpent. This would explain why, immediately following in verse 13, Paul says “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Paul is directly contradicting Gnostic teaching, which he rails against throughout the letter to Timothy.

Or perhaps Paul, inspired genius that he was, intentionally selected this obscure word authentein because it invoked a richness of meaning that would encompass both of these forms of aberrant teaching that the Ephesian church was wrestling with.

All the evidence put together strongly suggests that Paul’s statement to Timothy about women was very specific to the situation in Ephesus.

If we were to amplify 1 Timothy 2:11-15 with everything we’ve looked at in mind, it might say something like this:

“A woman should learn in agreement and submission to sound doctrine. I do not permit a woman to teach that they are the author of man or to tyrannize men. She must maintain harmony. For, despite what the Gnostics teach, Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. Women will be saved during childbirth, not by offering sacrifices to Artemis, but by continuing to follow Jesus in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”


1 Corinthians 14:33-40

As in the case with 1 Timothy, this letter from Paul to the Corinthian church was prompted by some specific and troubling circumstances. Chloe, the leader of a house-church in Corinth, had sent messengers to Paul with a report about multiple problems in the Corinthian house-churches. These problems revolved mostly around behavior rather than doctrine. The report from Chloe seems to have been in the form of a letter which contained specific examples of things people had been doing and saying in Corinth, as well as a series of questions. In some ways, reading 1 Corinthians is like listening to one side of a telephone conversation. Paul oftentimes responds to the letter he received, but we don’t have that letter from the Corinthians which would enable us to “hear” both sides of the conversation. Repeatedly, Paul responds to points or questions from their letter:

Now about the matters you wrote about…
Now about virgins…
Now about food sacrificed to idols…
Now about spiritual gifts…
Now about the collection for God’s people…
Now about our brother Apollos…

Sometimes Paul seems to quote back statements from the Corinthian’s letter:

“I follow Paul”; “I follow Apollos”; “I follow Cephas”; “I follow Christ”.
“Everything is permissible”
“Food for the stomach and the stomach for food”

The tricky part about this is that in Paul’s day correspondences were written in Koine Greek with no punctuation. The letters were all capitalized. Words and sentences were run together without spaces in between. There was no such thing as quotation marks. Here, for example, is John 3:16 written in Koine Greek: http://www.und.nodak.edu/instruct/cjacobs/John3.16.JPG

The Corinthians would have recognized which parts of Paul’s letter were their own words being quoted back to them, but we can only guess.

For example, in the NIV, 1 Corinthians 7:1,2 says:

Now for the matter you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband.

Some scholars believe that in verse 1 Paul was quoting the Corinthians and then in verse 2 offering his response:

Now for the matter you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.

The difference is subtle. In other places, however, the difference could be dramatic. At chapter 12 (we know of course, that Paul didn’t write in chapters--they were added 1,000 years later) Paul launches into a lengthy discourse on the topic of spiritual gifts. He pays particular attention to vocal gifts; especially prophecy and speaking in tongues. This discourse goes from the beginning of chapter 12 to the end of chapter 14. At the end of chapter 14, just as he is about to conclude his discourse, Paul makes the following statement:
As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.

Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
There are several difficulties with this portion of scripture. The first is the previously mentioned contradiction between this statement and Paul’s other statements and praxis. The second has to do with the placement of this statement in the overall discourse. Some scholars have even posited that it was cut and pasted in awkwardly from another letter by Paul. A third difficulty is Paul’s strange and pointed questions in verse 36 “Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached?” and then his return to the topic of prophecy and tongues. What prompted this outburst?

There is a solution to these difficulties which causes this portion of scripture to flow very naturally and eliminates the apparent contradiction: What if verses 33 and 34 are a quote from the Corinthian’s letter and verse 36 onward is Paul’s response?

It would read like this:

Quote from Corinthian’s letter
: As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

Paul’s response
: Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Someone in a Corinthian house-church has laid down a rule that women must remain silent. They have invoked the Old Testament Law to back it up (which is a clue that maybe the person is a Judaizer). A modern paraphrase of Paul’s reaction might be:

“What?! Do you think you’re the only one who can speak the word of God?! If you think you are a prophet or spiritually gifted, you’d better listen to what I’m telling you, otherwise you should be ignored: Be eager for prophecy and do not forbid anyone from speaking in tongues. But do everything in a genuine and dignified way.

There is no way to prove this hypothesis, short of discovering the original letter to Paul from the Corinthians. But it should give us pause, especially in light of what we know about Paul’s radically supportive attitude towards women in leadership. If the hypothesis is true, suddenly 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 makes perfect sense. He is incensed that someone is trying to use scripture to block women from functioning in their spiritual gifts and edify the church. I suspect that if Paul were alive today, his reaction would be very much the same.
Last edited by Danny on Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:42 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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steve
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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by steve » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:02 pm

Reserving this space. Will fill it soon.

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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by Danny » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:27 am

The suspense is killing me.
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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by Suzana » Wed Jul 29, 2009 1:21 am

steve wrote:Reserving this space. Will fill it soon.
Danny wrote:The suspense is killing me.
Just remember Danny, Steve is partial-preterist. By "soon" he probably means within hours; maybe tomorrow, or the next day. Next month, at the outside, I would think.
At least he doesn't mean in the next decade or two. 8-)
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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by steve » Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:40 am

The post was long. It takes time to respond. I am working on it off-line. Will post when finished.

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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by darinhouston » Wed Jul 29, 2009 8:13 am

I'm looking forward to it and am willing to wait. I'm hoping to have something to share with egalitarian friends.

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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by Danny » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:06 am

I'm just teasing, Steve. I did make a change after you posted your placeholder. I realized that in an effort to be concise I had mis-stated the case re prostatis so I went back and fixed it for clarification.

*11:43 PST - I made a few more changes, not of content but of awkward grammer. I'll try to stop tweaking now.
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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by steve » Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:13 pm

That's okay, Danny. I go back and tweak my posts all the time. My rather lengthy response, which I have decided to post below, rather than above, is to your original draft. I hope it may be helpful.
A few years ago I embarked on in-depth research into the topic of a woman’s role in the church.


This is a great topic and an intriguing one to study. It certainly is a worthwhile one, given the very practical implications of the subject. I have had a similar interest, and have read widely on the subject over the past 35 years.

I can see the influence of Catherine Kroeger in your conclusions. Apparently, either she, or someone who was impressed by her ideas, has been a significant influence in your research. If you read enough books by egalitarians, you will find (along with their contradictions of each other on certain important points) a high degree of repetition of favorite arguments about specific texts, key Greek words and alleged historical influences upon the biblical writers. If you read enough of these writers, and never have occasion to read the really agenda-free scholarship—i.e., the work of men and women who do not appear to be ideologues with a foregone conclusion that they are seeking to find in their research—it is easy to conclude that their theories have merit. Kroeger is an ideological feminist whose writings do not exhibit, in my opinion, the attitude of openness to the truth that one must bring to the study of such a volatile topic.

Much better (and corrective to Kroeger and her kin) are works such as Werner Neuer’s “Man and Woman in Christian Perspective,” or the compendium of essays (about 300 pages analyzing 1 Timothy 2:12 from every critical angle) entitled “Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” edited by Kostenberger, et al., or “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. These authors know Kroeger’s work and critique it very responsibly. I hope that you will not consider your research completed until you have had opportunity to examine some of these books as well.

There were three reasons I undertook this study:

1. It occurred to me that the Body of Christ is about 2/3 female. What I mean by this is if you look at most church gatherings you will find that there are more women than men. Yet, in most church gatherings today and throughout history, the women--who make up the majority—are very restricted in how they can function.
The idea that there are severe restrictions and limited opportunities for gifted women to serve in church ministry sounds like a complaint more valid a generation ago. Egalitarians still raise it as if they have not noticed that the 60s have passed, and there is a new situation in the churches—the one they dreamed of and worked for.

I am not aware of the situation, complained of above, accruing in any church I have visited, in any city or in any country, in the twenty-first century. The only restriction I have ever seen any church place upon women’s ministry is the forbidding of women to be pastors and elders—and there are fewer and fewer churches observing even this policy today. In almost every church I visit, there are women singing solos, testifying, praying, prophesying, giving announcements, teaching Sunday School, managing the church office, leading women’s fellowships, hosting small groups, spearheading outreaches, raising funds, and (in increasing numbers) sitting on the elder boards, and even preaching in the pulpit. I seldom visit a new church without there being some woman introduced as “one of the pastors” or elders of the group. In fact, the most noticeable thing in the modern church (besides its general carnality) is the conspicuous absence of male involvement in the leading of church ministries.

It should be a matter of grave concern to godly men that the gender demographics of the church are as they are (and to godly women, too! Where will they find husbands?). I believe that men are attracted to religion less than are women, because religion tends toward sentimentality, which offends women less than it offends men. It is a tragedy that the church has become a religious institution, rather than the militant subversive movement that originally called for such manly heroism in its early days.

If we want to reinforce the impression that most men already have, namely, that Christianity is primarily ”a religion for women and children,” then taking the final step, and placing the movement formally under female leadership would certainly seem to be the best policy to reach such a goal.

2. I kept encountering women who were gifted teachers, pastors and theologians but who were not able to fully function in those gifts. That struck me as a bit of a rip-off—not just to those women, but to the church which was being deprived of the blessing of being edified by their gifts.
I guess we travel in very different circles. I don’t frequently encounter either men or women who display exceptional gifting as spiritual leaders or teachers—nor, sadly, even exemplary Christians, which is the first biblical qualification for leadership. I would like very much to find such among both sexes, since the Bible calls mature Christian women to disciple younger Christian women, and men to disciple the men. How refreshing and rare it is, these days, to find a really qualified woman to teach the younger women the things that Paul said they should be taught (Titus 2:3-5). I can’t imagine such a woman not being able to find some avenue of ministry, either inside or outside the institutional church. When churches have women who are well-educated and loquacious, it seems to me that they very often give them ministry posts.
3. I was disturbed by the apparent contradiction in Paul’s writings in the New Testament:
This alleged “contradiction” is much more apparent in the egalitarian literature than in any of the actual biblical texts. It seems that Bible scholars for centuries were blind to this glaring problem in Paul (I myself have never seen it). It has become apparent to Bible students only under the influence of feminism in the secular culture. Since early Christian times, biblical scholars found no problem in harmonizing Paul’s statements about women with his recorded behavior. I still am not able to see any evidence for the thesis that such a contradiction exists.
On the one hand, Paul worked closely with Priscilla and referred to her on equal terms. Priscilla was very clearly a teacher. One of her students was Apollos.
If we were to assume that 1 Timothy 2:12 restricts women from positions of overseer in the church, as I do, then this example provides no contradiction to that thesis. In fact, while I do not think 1 Corinthians 14 literally consigns women to silence in all church meetings, even if it did, we would find no evidence that Priscilla ever violated such a rule. We never read that she spoke in church meetings, nor that she ever taught any men, apart from co-teaching alongside her husband on one occasion that was not in a public meeting. To call Apollos one of her “students” would no doubt surprise Apollos, since, to our knowledge, he only once even had communication with her, and that was not in a setting of formal instruction.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul singled out Junia, a woman, and Andronicus, a man, and called them “outstanding among the Apostles” which is understood to mean that the two were considered by Paul to be Apostles of note.


This example has been used for decades to make the egalitarian point, but it should be dropped by any who wish not to damage their own credibility as objective researchers. This is because the top scholars are not at all unanimous on two pertinent questions: a) whether Junia was a man or a woman (the name is found referring to both in the contemporary literature), or b) whether “of note among the apostles” means that they were themselves apostles, or simply that they were highly regarded by the apostles. These unanswered (and, by presently available data, unanswerable) questions render this argument valueless in determining whether or not the case of Junia contradicts Paul’s general teaching about women as overseers.
Paul calls Phoebe a “diakonon”, which is the same word he uses elsewhere to describe himself and Timothy. In our English Bibles, diakonon is usually translated into English as “minister” when referring to a man but as “servant” when referring to Phoebe. Hmmm. Paul also calls Phoebe a prostatis. Although it appears only here in noun form, the verb form proistemi, occurs eight times and is translated as “rule”, “lead” or "manage".


This argument seems to be more a problem in translations than one of substance. The word diakonon would be best translated “servant” in all of its occurrences. It is an unfortunate translation choice to use the word “minister” (an older word for “servant,” but which most modern people take it to mean “pastor”), and, in my judgment, should never have been done in any versions after the time of the KJV. Phoebe, Paul and many others could rightly be called “servants,” without the word suggesting the nature of the particular service that they performed. Not all servants perform the same service. Certainly, not all provide leadership for local churches.

As for the words “proistemi” and “prostastis,” it would be going too far to suggest that either word suggests the exclusive domain of the overseers. The former is a verb, which literally means “to stand before.” This can suggest presiding at a meeting, but it needn’t. It may mean to stand before others as a spiritual exemplar, and thereby to “lead” others by example.

Paul says that Phoebe had been a prostastis to many and to Paul himself. If he was talking about her occupying a position of eldership in the church, it would seem strange to say that she had performed this function “for many” (including Paul). Would not an elder have served the entire church in that capacity? It seems likely to me that she had served many in the church, including Paul, as an inspiring role model. I doubt that she was a leader over Paul in any official sense, and if not over Paul, then not over the “many” either. She was what any godly man or woman might be, but there is no suggestion that she was what Paul called an overseer/elder—which is the position to which Paul did not appoint women. In fact, if she held a formal position at all, it would have been that of a diakonos (a deacon), which is distinguished from that of an overseer/elder, in 1 Timothy 3. There is no evidence in scripture that deacons provided pastoral leadership in Paul’s congregations. That responsibility was assumed by the elders/overseers.
There are other women that Paul pointed out: Euodia and Syntyche, whom Paul says “contended at my side in the cause of the Gospel”—which I think means they did more than just serve coffee and donuts.
I think so too. They may have been evangelists—or even apologists! We know of no actual ministry that they performed other than what they did “at [Paul’s] side,” so they might not have conducted ministry in his absence. We know little about them or their activities. They may have been preachers, encouragers, or debaters. We may never know. One thing we do know about them is that Paul did not suggest that they were church overseers, and they do not provide an example to the alleged “contradiction” between Paul’s teaching and praxis.
Then there was Nympha, Chloe, Stephana and Lydia; all of whom appear to have been house-church leaders
In consulting four respected commentaries on 1 Corinthians, I have found none that believed that Stephana was a woman (including the massive NICNT volume by the egalitarian Gordon Fee). The “Analytical Greek New Testament” identifies Stephana as a masculine noun, meaning this name probably belonged to a man, and he is the only one of the persons named in the above sentence that can be said to have borne any leadership role in any church.

I think it safe to say these people (man and women) were probably house-church hosts. That is not the same thing as a leader. I have led gatherings in the homes of others, who hosted the meetings but who did not provide any leadership. Lydia began hosting the church in her home from the day of her conversion (Acts 16:15), but, being a rank novice, she is not likely to have served in a role of spiritual leadership. There is no reason to conclude that these others who hosted the church gatherings were necessarily involved in leadership either. It would be sheer speculation.
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But on the other hand, in 1 Timothy 2:11 and 1 Corinthians 14:34, Paul seems to be saying that women are forbidden such leadership and teaching roles. There appears to be a contradiction in Paul’s thought and praxis.
No evidence has been presented that any women in Paul’s circle assumed church leadership roles, so there is no contradiction.
There have been many attempts to explain or reconcile this apparent contradiction. Why did the man who wrote to the Galatians that “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” later write to the Corinthians that “…women must remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…” and instructed Timothy to forbid women from teaching or having authority over men?
This does not take much thought to answer. Is it not because, in Galatians, Paul was discussing the universal equality of privilege for all believers, whereas, in 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul was describing church order and functions? The juxtaposition of these passages does not really present anything like the difficulty that egalitarian writers are continually trying to generate from these statements.

All Christians share in the same spiritual privileges. However, not all share the same function in the church, as Paul’s famous discourse on the various members of the body in 1 Corinthians 12 so clearly illustrates.

There is no greater difficulty in harmonizing Paul’s teachings and praxis about women than there is in reconciling the attitude and praxis of Jesus on the same subject. Jesus clearly treated women as equals to men, in terms of spirituality and privilege. His esteem for certain women (e.g., Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene) sometimes appears to have exceeded His respect for His male disciples. Yet, in His appointment of twelve visible leaders of His movement, He conspicuously did not include any women. There seems no possible reason for this lack of female representation on the apostolate, if Jesus felt that women belonged in such roles. Those who say He was caving-in to popular sentiment by limiting His selection to males have not thought very clearly, have not paid much attention to the composition of the group that He selected, and have not learned much about who Jesus Himself was, and what motivated Him.

Those of us (you and me, at least) who do not identify the institutional church with the real thing should know better than to buy into the carnal notion (held by institutionalists) that church leadership is a “privileged role,” and that those restricted from it are being somehow “held down.” The church began thinking this way after it began to mimic the pagan institutions (Matt.20:25). Before that, being a church leader usually meant becoming a lion’s lunch. Your feminist writers are institutional church people. If they are not allowed to become “professional pastors,” they feel that men are hoarding all the “status” and “privilege,” and locking the women out. Good heavens! I would be horrified to be a part of a church where being “the pastor” was viewed as a profession and as a status symbol! Those demanding equality of "rank" have two problems: first, they mistake leadership for rank; and second, they have not the mind of Christ, who did not count equality a thing to be grasped.
We live in a day and age where women are police officers and pilots and neurosurgeons and CEOs and leaders of nations, yet within the walls of many churches, they are still told they must be submissive followers of men.
We live in a society where good is called evil and evil is called good. It is a society that has rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is in them? The proper relationships of husbands to wives, of children to parents, of church leaders to saints, of man-to-man and woman-to-man, have all been lost to our culture. The institutional churches are following hard after the world in this respect, hoping to totally release their grasp on the distinctive truths that the Bible affirms in plain language, but which our society despises. There are not many steps downward from where our society now stands. I do not see any reason to allow the norms of such a society to move us away from clear biblical standards of right and wrong. The church is supposed to differ from the world in at least one important feature—obedience to God.

1 Timothy 2:11-15
This is the religious climate into which Paul brought the Gospel and then into which Timothy came to nurture the Ephesian church. One can only imagine what was going on in the house-church meetings of Ephesus as former priests and priestesses and worshipers of Artemis--now new converts to Christianity, were bringing their religious baggage with them while at the same time Gnostic teachings were infiltrating and competing with orthodox doctrine. I can begin to understand why Timothy was overwhelmed.
It is good to have thorough knowledge of historical backgrounds and cultural pressures under which the original readers lived. Since the ancient societies were not monolithic any more than are modern societies, one can easily identify any number of independent movements, philosophies and subcultures in a given region at a given time. When someone is looking to prove a certain thesis by appeal to a particular scriptural passage, there are many items in the historical background from which he/she can pick and choose to make a novel interpretation appear to be tailor-made to fit the circumstances. I appreciate your honesty in using the phrase, "One can only imagine..."

I am not suggesting that the presence of the Cybele/Artemis cult (a mystery religion) and of Gnosticism (an entirely different philosophical system) had no impact on the Christian church, nor would I deny that some of their beliefs may have concerned Paul in writing to Timothy. However, there were many other religious factors in the culture that were also disagreeable with Christianity—e.g. statism, Judaic legalism, Christian heresies (teaching that the resurrection was past), etc., whose influence might as easily (and as arbitrarily) be invoked, if our agenda was to prove some alternative thesis, which required such an appeal. It is mostly speculative, in a passage that makes no direct allusion to any particular cultural factor, to suggest that Paul’s instructions should not be taken at face value, but should be informed and restricted in meaning by some cultural factor of our choosing. This is particularly unnecessary when Paul’s own reasons for giving his instructions are stated within the passage itself.
Next Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” The word Paul used here, which is translated “have authority over” is authentein. It is not the word normally used for authority in the New Testament…]Authentein is a compound word made from the Greek word auto, meaning “self” and hentos, meaning “thrust”. Literally, it means “to thrust oneself forward”.
I am hearing Catherine Kroeger here. In 1979, she theorized that authentein was an erotic term which meant “to thrust oneself.” Three years later, Carroll Osburn demonstrated that Kroeger’s claim was “more curious than substantive.” Then, in 1992, Kroeger and her husband Richard published an acknowledgement that this word has “a wide range of meanings,” including “(1) to begin something, to be responsible for a condition or action, (2) to rule, to dominate, (3) to usurp power or rights from another, (4) to claim ownership, sovereignty, or authorship.”

There has been much scholarly interest in authentein, since it is a hapax legomena (a term meaning “a word found only once in scripture”). In the extra-biblical literature, a large number of meanings have been attested. Rather than trusting the claims of one scholar, who has proved herself by her intellectual dishonesty to be a mere ideologue, one can consult the full range of lexical studies on this word (there is no general agreement as to its primary meaning). Here are some of the ways that various respected lexicographers have rendered its meaning:

Sophocles: 1. To be in power, to have authority over 2. To be the originator of anything 3. to compel 4. mid: to be in force.

Preisigke: 1. beherrschen (= to rule, control, dominate) 2. Verfügungsberechtigt sein (= to have legitimate authority to dispose of something) 3. Herr sein, fest auftreten (= to be master, to act confidently )

Lampe: 1. hold sovereign authority, act with authority 2.possess authority over 3. Assume authority, act on one’s own authority 4. Be primarily responsible for, instigate, authorize.

Moulton and Milligan: 1. From the word “master, autocrat.’

LSJ: 1. to have full power or authority over 2. To commit murder.

Mayser: 1. Herr sein, fest auftreten (= to be master, to act confidently)

BAGD: 1. have authority over, domineer

Louw and Nida: 1. To control in a domineering manner—‘to control, to domineer.’

DGE: 1. tener autoridad sobre andros [como algo prohibido a la mujer] (= to have authority over a male [as something prohibited to a woman])

After surveying 82 occurrences of authentein in the available literature of the period, H. Scott Baldwin concludes that, among the twelve possible meanings attested in that sample, only four could possibly fit the grammar and context of 1 Timothy 2:12. Those would be:

1) To control, to dominate
2) To compel, to influence
3) To assume authority over
4) To flout the authority of

It seems from this information that there can be no compelling reason to object to the rendering of the standard translations— “have authority over” ( NKJV, RSV, NIV) or to “exercise authority” (NASB, ESV).
In the oldest examples we have, the word was used to describe someone who committed murder or suicide by planning the action and then carrying it out with their own hand (thrusting the dagger forward themselves). The word came to be used to describe the mastermind of a diabolical scheme to overcome and murder someone. It was not just the action itself, but the authoring of the plan also.
The parts of this that are not demonstrably incorrect are mere speculation. There is one known instance of the word meaning “to murder,” but it is found only in a document from the tenth century AD. There is no evidence that the word had any such connotations in or near New Testament times.
So what is Paul really saying here? Here are two possibilities:
I accept your suggestions as genuine possibilities. However, in understanding the mind of the apostle on a subject of such vital interest to such a large number of believers, we need to beware of settling for “possible” meanings (of which there are myriad) and neglecting the “probable” ones.
1. “I do not permit a woman to teach nor utterly dominate a man…” This is pretty much how the verse was translated in the Latin Vulgate up through the King James Version – a period covering about 1200 years. If we think back about Ephesus and its Amazons, Cybele, Artemis, Diana, castrated priests and powerful priestesses worshiping the mother goddess, suddenly Paul’s use of the word makes a lot of sense.
The verse is intelligible without invoking reference to these local religious beliefs. I don’t think that appeal to such things causes Paul’s statement to “suddenly” make sense, as if it previously did not. I think the only thing that these considerations “suddenly” do to Paul’s words is to raise doubts about their relevance outside of first-century Ephesus. This is the intention of the egalitarians, who have come up with this (and several other, competing scenarios) to neutralize the impact of Paul’s teachings for modern Christians.
It is interesting to note that a couple of sentences later, in verse 15, Paul says “But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” Here Paul is directly addressing the custom of pregnant women appealing to Artemis to save them during childbirth.
On this view, there could be such an allusion. There is nothing that compels the paradigm, however. Historically, Bible commentators have seen these words as an allusion to the “pain in childbearing” that woman incurred through her involvement in the fall (an event prominently featured in Paul’s immediate context).
2. “I do not permit a woman to teach nor claim to be the author of man…” This interpretation directly addresses the Gnostic teachings about Eve being the one who gave life to Adam and received saving knowledge from the serpent. This would explain why, in verse 13, Paul says “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” Paul is directly contradicting Gnostic teaching, which he rails against throughout the letter to Timothy.
What is evident about these two possibilities (and becomes even more evident when additional possible scenarios are introduced) is that no one of them can make a strong claim to being the correct one. In other words, if Suggested Meaning #1 is correct then Suggested Meaning #2 is not, and vice versa. I know you raised the possibility that Paul may have ingeniously intended both meanings, but this is an unlikely suggestion, and only serves to obscure the fact that the existence of two alternatives strips both of them of any reason to be particularly trusted as unchallenged truth.

This illustrates well my earlier point about the selective (and opportunistic) use by some scholars of “historical backgrounds” in establishing the author’s meaning. The two suggestions each select a different cultural factor, and each uses its selected factor of choice to put its own unique spin on the passage. The really significant context of Paul’s instructions in any given passage—more than one or another aspect of the historical setting—is the whole corpus of Paul’s writings on a subject addressed in many settings. That Paul regarded the issue of male headship to be a divine institution is, frankly, indisputable (1 Cor.11:3/ Eph.5:22-23)—and the egalitarians' attempts to re-translate "head" (kephale) as "source" is an example of how far into blatant dishonesty an ideologue may go when the agenda is all that matters (see Grudem's excellent appendix on the subject of kephale, in "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood)! Neither Jesus nor Paul (both of whom esteemed women very highly) ever were known to appoint or acknowledge any women as primary leaders in the congregations. Add to these considerations the reasons Paul gives for his instructions in 1 Timothy 2:12ff, and you have a pretty good reason to stick with the most obvious and plain meaning of his words—at least until compelling evidence arises to favor some alternative.
All the evidence put together strongly suggests that Paul’s statement to Timothy about women was very specific to the situation in Ephesus.
In fact, almost all of Paul’s instructions to any churches were addressing specific situations or problems in their churches. This realization must never be permitted to obscure the fact that all of Paul’s instructions were, in those situations, simply the local and particular applications of larger principles of the kingdom of God that informed his theology. Since Paul speaks about women in numerous places and contexts—sometimes as virgin daughters, sometimes as wives, sometimes with reference to their roles in the community or in the church—we have more than adequate opportunity to discover his overall beliefs about male and female functions and relations. To take 1 Timothy in a traditional manner is consistent with Paul’s general teaching and behavior concerning women, and it is consistent with the attitudes and behavior of Christ as well.
There are several difficulties with [1 Corinthians 14:34-37]. The first is the previously mentioned contradiction between this statement and Paul’s other statements and praxis.
In this case, you are correct. There are many theories about the import of Paul’s statements here. Taken universally, his requirement that women “keep silent in the church” appears to contradict his words in the same epistle (chapter 11), where he seems to approve of certain vocal contributions of women to the meeting, under proper conditions of decorum. I think that most students of 1 Corinthians resolve the difficulty (as I would) by saying that the “silence” for which Paul is appealing is not absolute.

The universal recognition among scholars that these particular instructions are given as a remedy for a specific problem in the Corinthian gatherings should not, however, obscure the fact that there is a general conviction concerning the relationship of women from which Paul’s specific instructions spring—a conviction to which he makes an unusually severe application in the case of an unusually chaotic church.
The second has to do with the placement of this statement in the discourse. Some scholars posit that it was cut and pasted in awkwardly from another letter by Paul.
This difficulty has been acknowledged by traditional scholars as well as egalitarians. However, it is a problem of structure rather than of content, and need not detain us long in our consideration of Paul’s overarching theology of women’s function in relation to men in the church.
There is a solution to these difficulties which causes this portion of scripture to flow very naturally and eliminates the apparent contradiction: What if verses 33 and 34 are a quote from the Corinthian’s letter and verse 36 onward is Paul’s response?
It would read like this:

Quote from Corinthian’s letter: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

Paul’s response: Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.

Someone in a Corinthian house-church has laid down a rule that women must remain silent. They have invoked the Old Testament Law to back it up (which is a clue that maybe the person is a Judaizer).


I have never found this line of reasoning to be very convincing. The problem is that it requires us to view an entire paragraph as Paul’s summary of the position of an objector. It is reasonably uncontroversial to observe that Paul sometimes does quote the objections of others, and then answers them. However, in every other case, the quoted line is very brief, never more than a sentence, and usually only a few words. This would be a unique case if Paul were here to rattle-off three consecutive, lengthy sentences as representative of the view of an objector, without providing a clue that he is doing so—that is, without including some indicator like “Someone will say…” (1 Cor.15:35) or “some affirm…” (Rom.3:8). To me, it is counterintuitive.

I would be more inclined to accept the suggestion if there were not more plausible and adequate alternatives.
There is no way to prove this hypothesis, short of discovering the original letter to Paul from the Corinthians. But it should give us pause, especially in light of what we know about Paul’s radically supportive attitude towards women in leadership.
If Paul was simply trying to restore order in a tumultuous Christian assembly, there would be nothing in taking these instructions at face value that would contradict "Paul’s radically supportive attitude toward women..." (his view that women should be in leadership has not been established by any evidence, and is contradicted by all of his relevant statements and actions on record). We must observe that Paul flanked these instructions about the silence of women by appeals for orderly conduct in public worship (vv.33, 40)—and he also put similarly draconian restrictions upon tongues-speakers and prophets (whether male or female) in the same chapter. There were similar concerns about decorum in his related instructions in chapter 11. We have reason to believe that the instructions we are considering were simply an expedient to restore order.
If the hypothesis is true, suddenly 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 makes perfect sense. He is incensed that someone is trying to use scripture to block women from functioning in their spiritual gifts and edify the church. I suspect that if Paul were alive today, his reaction would be very much the same.
Perhaps he would. Nonetheless, I do not see a compelling case for the suggestion that this is what 1 Corinthians 14 is saying.

Those of us who have made a career of criticizing traditional and man-made aspects of institutional Christianity need to beware of the slippery slope. When we see real faults in the churches, and find validity in the criticisms of unbelievers against much of the institutional church’s policies, it is easy to acquire a default attitude of siding with the world against the church, without adequate discretion.

However, not every unpopular thing that Christians have taught throughout history has been wrong. Some of it has arisen from the most responsible possible exegesis of scripture. In sorting out the sacred from the profane in religion, we need to remember that the most authentic form of Christian faith and practice is still offensive to human egos and invites hatred, anger and persecution. We must not embark on a mission of smoothing over the genuine differences between the call to discipleship and the sympathies of the flesh and the world.

Christ calls every man and woman to deny themselves and carry a cross. The world will always object to this. The denial of hierarchical demands is a reaction that anyone could have predicted to arise from unbroken sinners. While we desire that no injustice come upon them, yet we must answer that sinners are not the best arbiters of what constitutes justice:

“Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the LORD understand all things.” Proverbs 28:5

I guess one reason I have little sympathy for the gripes of the “evangelical feminists” (as they call themselves), is that I am, in my own mind, also disqualified to hold the office of an elder, just as women are, but for other reasons. I'm not whining. I find that one who wishes to serve God (and whom God wishes to use in that capacity) will always find sufficient doors open to him/her for serving the saints and promoting the kingdom—if that's what they are really interested in doing. Those who are not satisfied with this, it seems to me, are more interested in promoting their own reputations and careers, at the expense of the church.

Jill
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Post by Jill » Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:28 pm

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steve
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Re: 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 revisited

Post by steve » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:12 pm

Steve, why or how you come to disqualify yourself as an Elder is a mystery.
It has nothing to do with fornication, for, as you say, if I were guilty of that, it would not only disqualify me for leadership, but also for inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor.6:9-10/ Gal.5:19-21).

My reasons for disqualifying myself from church leadership (it is no great sacrifice to me, since I have never desired a position of leadership), is that my family situation deteriorated and fell apart eight years ago. An elder should have an exemplary family, in order to demonstrate that he is a safe risk as one to lead the family of God (1 Timothy 3:4-5).

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