Posts Tagged ‘women deacons’

I’ve been a bit busy with a number of things. Time to resume my brief interaction with Women in the Church (2nd edition). It is a compilation of essays on 1 Timothy 2:9-15 edited by Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner.

We pick up with chapter 3, which is A Complex Sentence: The Syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12 by Kostenberger. In some ways this is an admission that the passage is not easy to understand, at least not as easy as some people pretend. Grammar and syntax don’t make for exciting reading, but without them were are awash in a sea of subjectivism. Even with them, things are not as clear cut as we’d like (enjoy the mess of sola scriptura, which is another post I’m thinking through).

12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man;1 Timothy 2

He summarizes the syntax as:

(1) a negated finite verb + (2) infinitive + (3) oude + infinitive + (4) alla + infinitive

That settles it, right?

The syntactical battle is about whether “teach and exercise authority” are talking two separate activities, both of which are prohibited, or if they refer essentially to an office which encompasses teaching & authority: being an elder?

He notes that Payne argues that the oude “connects the two infinities” teach and exercise authority “in order to convey a single coherent idea” or a hendiadys. Payne seems to take this as “I do not permit a woman to teach in a domineering manner.” But he’s not the only one who believes it is a hendiadys, and others take it in a manner focused on the teaching office (like Kathy Keller). You can hold to Payne’s grammar but still hold to a strongly complementarian view instead of relativizing it away as culture or addressing a problem particular to Ephesus.

Moo argued against Payne’s view, concluding that while closely related, the teaching and authority are distinct. Much of the “blood” spilled in complementarian circles is over this difference. The grammar is not as clear as we would like, perhaps.

Kostenberger does mention some weaknesses in Payne’s argument. For instance, “Payne only studies Paul” and a more comprehensive study of NT authors would have been helpful. Kostenberger mentions this, in part, because the authorship of 1 Timothy is in dispute (by some). I don’t think this is a good reason, and gives some ground to liberal views of authorship. Payne also studies its use even when joining nouns, not just verbs. Here he wants Payne to narrow his focus, where before he wanted him to broaden it. So, more biblical authors but only when joining verbs. 3rd, Payne didn’t study uses of the negative, just the positive. More importantly, as noted above, he assumes that the 2nd infinitive means “to domineer” rather than to exercise authority. As a result of this assumption, he thinks they are too far apart in meaning to be used in a coordinating manner. So, one is subordinate to the other. Teaching becomes subordinate to authority. (I suspect it is, but not with the meaning of domineering- consider the women in 1 Cor. 11 who prophesied in public worship which Kostenberger doesn’t seem to bring into the discussion). It is important to note that none of the common translations use domineer, but rather to exercise authority or have authority.

21 They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” Acts 16

The closest parallel to the syntax is Acts 16:21 which uses the same construction. He notes 2 patterns: either both activities or concepts are viewed positively, or they are viewed negatively. They are not mixed: one positive and the other negative.

“‘Accepting’ and ‘practicing’ do not carry negative connotations in and of themselves. However, due to circumstances indicated in the context, ‘being Romans,’ the exercise of these otherwise legitimate activities is considered ‘not lawful’.”

Similarly, to teach is considered positive generally. There is nothing in the context to indicate it should be negative. Therefore, to have/exercise authority is also positive. Payne’s argument for “domineer” has some serious problems.

“Framed by the inclusio … at the beginning of verse 11 and at the end of verse 12, there are two corresponding pairs of terms: “learning” in verse 11 corresponds to “teaching” in verse 12, and “full submission” in verse 11 relates to “having authority” in verse 12. The writer first expresses his desire for a woman to learn in full submission. Conversely, he then registers his prohibition of the opposite, a woman’s teaching or being in authority over a man.”

Kostenberger then pummels us with a series of extrabiblical examples. It got wearisome here. In his summary he notes how other scholars have interacted with the syntax. His bottom line is that these 2 infinitives are to be taking positively and as separate ideas.

The 4th chapter is by the other editor, Schreiner, entitled An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship.

It should be appreciated that Schreiner (who advocates for women deacons in another setting) admits how emotionally charged this issue can be. “Those of us who support the complementarian view on this question must bend over backward to love those with whom we disagree, and to assure them that we still hope and pray that God will bless their ministries…” We should not, however, “leap over the evidence of the text” to justify any practice.

He notes that 1 Timothy is not intended to be a doctrinal treatises but is correcting abuses introduced by false teachers in Ephesus. Egalitarians take this to mean there is nothing normative here. As Schreiner notes, “If we were to claim that documents written to specific situations are not applicable to the church today, then much of the New Testament would not be applicable to us either…”.

He interacts with the Kroegers and Sharon Gritz who think the instruction in view is limited to an influx of women who were influenced by the cult of Artemis and exalted Eve. Their views seem to require a large amount of reading into the text. Philip Towner proposed a type of over-realized eschatology similar to that in Corinth. This would mean women are completely emancipated from men, not only in terms of the curse but also in terms of creation. These women were influenced by various heresies.

“They may have believe that the resurrection had already occurred, and thus the distinctions between men and woman were erased since the new age has dawned.”

But we recognize that the false teachers in Ephesus were at least partially men, this theory begins to crumble. Paul would just be addressing them with the other false teachers he tells Timothy to silence and warn. Something more is going on here.

He then addresses their adornment in verses 9-10. Men and women are different, and different issues appear when they gather. The men are apparently prone to anger and arguing in prayer. The women were apparently prone to adorn themselves in an inappropriate way and try to teach the men. He recognizes, unlike Kostenberger, the role of women in 1 Corinthians 11 during public worship services. They were able to pray out loud (and not simply reciting prayers with everyone), though he doesn’t mention prophesying. This leads him to wonder if this refers to women in general or wives in particular. Gordon Hugenberger argues that it refers to wives. Schreiner notes the use of these terms for husbands and wives in Ephesians, Colossians and 1 Peter. He forgets that they are also used at least some of the time in  1 Timothy 3.  I do agree with Schreiner that while possible, their use for husbands and wives here in 1 Timothy 2 is unlikely.

He notes that some egalitarians like Alvera Mickelson tie the clothing with the teaching. In 1 Cor. 11, we see that women are to pray or prophesy with their heads covered. They seem to argue that here in 1 Timothy 2 the problem was that women were teaching men without the proper clothing that was linked to submission to their husbands. This doesn’t seem to fit the instructions about either the clothing (avoiding extravagance) or teaching/authority. The issue there is not revealing clothing, but clothing and hair that displayed their wealth and created boundaries between economic classes which should see themselves as one in Christ (see James 2). This was actually a common issue addressed in the Greco-Roman world. In light of other admonitions against sexual immorality, women (and men) should not dress in ways meant to stir up lust in others (and express their own lust). This doesn’t mean we have to have rules about hem length and all that jazz.

“Virtually every word in verses 11-12 is disputed.”

We should affirm that women are to learn. Women should not be indifferent to theology or discouraged from its study. They will also teach in a variety of contexts. The controversy is about which ones they cannot. Paul addresses the manner in which they learn “quietly and with all submission” rather than stirring up a ruckus. “We should not separate submission to what is taught from submission to those who taught it.” He thinks 11 and 12 are chiastic in structure as did Kostenbeger.

A Learn

B Quietly and in submission

A’ Not teach

B’ Nor exercise authority

“It is clear from the rest of the Pastoral Epistles that the teaching in view is the public transmission of authoritative material.”

He thinks the prohibition is not absolute, but was probably given because some women were teaching both men and women when the church assembled. Timothy being taught by his mother and grandmother doesn’t violate this, nor did Priscilla teaching Apollo along with Aquila. Mutual instruction is not excluded. What is prohibited is “the authoritative transmission of tradition … such authoritative teaching is usually the function of the elders/overseers, and it is likely that Paul is thinking of them here.”

Paul’s rationale is not the fall, but creation. It is not an aspect of the curse which is reversed in Christ’s redemption. Unfortunately, on page 106, there are some statements that need to be clarified regarding the Son’s submission. It is unclear if he is advocating the Eternal Submission of the Son or recognizing Christ’s submission as Mediator. Those are very different.

Schreiner then delves into the “saved by childbearing” passage. He notes that child bearing is transcultural as well, and rooted in creation. It is a permanent difference between men and women. Redemption affirms rather than denies or throws off ordained roles. It doesn’t mean that women must be married to be saved. Or that they must bear children. It would mean that they not reject these roles unnecessary (rather than by providence). So he offers a slightly different understanding of this passage then I am used to.

He concludes with some caveats, While he stands by his interpretation he recognizes it is not the “definitive and final interpretation of the passage.”  He summarizes it this way:

  • Women should adorn themselves with good works, not ostentatious or seductive clothing.
  • Women shouldn’t take a teaching role to themselves when men and women are gathered at corporate church gatherings.
  • Women should learn quietly and submissively.
  • Women are prohibited from teaching with authority because of the created order.
  • The events of Genesis 3 confirm the necessity of male leadership.

“Our problem with the text is in the main not exegetical but practical. What Paul says here is contrary to the thinking of the modern world.”


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I was reading Tom Schreiner’s review of Scot McKnight’s book The Blue Parakeet tonight. In his attempt to develop a hermeneutic he uses women in ministry as a case study.  This review is found on The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s Gender Blog.  Schreiner is a complementarian.  He does a good job of pointing out some weaknesses in his friend’s arguments.  But I found his comments on women deacons to be interesting.

 Similarly, Phoebe, in my judgment, served as a deacon (Romans 16:1-2; cf. 1 Timothy 3:11), but the office of deacon must be distinguished from the office of elder. Elders are distinguished from deacons in that they must be able to teach (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; Titus 1:9) and are required to rule (1 Timothy 3:4-5; 5:17). Significantly, Paul insists that women should not engage in teaching men or ruling the church in 1 Timothy 2:12. Hence, women serving as deacons does not mean that they should occupy the pastoral office. Certainly women served in a variety of ministries in the NT: Romans 16 almost serves as a roll call for such noble women. And we must not forget the evangelistic ministry of Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2). Still, the example of Priscilla does not mean that women can teach men publicly since she and Aquila instructed Apollos in a private setting (Acts 18:26). The pattern of the NT is more complex than the “all or nothing” approach of McKnight. Yes, women may serve in ministry as deacons, prophets, and missionaries, but they are not to serve as pastors/elders/overseers. 

What surprised me was that this stalwart complementarian, on Gender Blog no less, states that he believes women may be deacons.  I don’t think people can accuse him of being a closet feminist.  Or capitulating to culture.  This is an area where honest complementarians disagree.

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