Re: Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb

Introduction

A while ago, I received a response from someone linking to a 2014 article that attacks the idea that 1 Timothy 2:12 denies women church authority. The article is by Gail Wallace and is entitled Defusing the 1 Timothy 2:12 Bomb. As I wrote before, it attempts to present a counterargument to the use of 1 Timothy 2:12 as a prooftext against female preachers. I will give Ms. Wallace credit in that she has attempted to present a more coherent argument than the usual “You just don’t get the context!” excuse that is often thrown haphazardly in Charismatic and liberal circles. I also give her credit for not simply jumping to Galatians 3:28 and erroneously using it against the passage, thereby quoting scripture against scripture. (I discuss why Galatians 3:28 is irrelevant to the discussion of gender roles in church leadership here.) Nonetheless, as we shall soon see, her article still presents problems in its line of thinking and method of argument.

As I often do, all sections quoted directly from the article will be in purple text.

The Meaning of the Word “Authority”

Ms. Wallace opens up the main portion of her article by honing in on the Greek word often translated as “authority.”

Before we conclude that this passage is “clear” we must consider the limitations of our English translations. The most problematic issue is the rendering of the verb authentein as authority. This unusual Greek verb is found only once in scripture and rarely in extrabiblical texts, where it is usually associated with aggression. Authentein is translated as “domineer” in the Latin Vulgate and New English Bible and as “usurp authority” in the Geneva and King James Bibles.

A study of Paul’s letters shows that he regularly used a form of the Greek “exousia” when referring to the use of authority in the church (see 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 1 Cor 6:12, 7:4, 9:4-6, 9:12, 11:10, 2 Cor 2:8, 10:8, 13:10, Col. 1:13, 2 Thess 3:12, Rom 6:15, 9:21). So it is strange that some modern versions translate this simply as “authority”. Considering the context, it is likely that Paul was objecting to something other than the legitimate use of authority in 1 Timothy 2:12. […]

In regards to the Greek word αὐθεντέω, it is true that the word is only once used in the New Testament (here, in this very verse), and rarely used outside of scripture, in other Greek sources. It is true that it’s a word which, translated literally from its compound words, means “to unilaterally take up arms.” That it is translated as “authority” is not necessarily an incorrect translation, since it refers to authority, albeit one which is taken by one’s own accord. Greek scholar AT Robertson goes into detail on this in his commentary for the verse.:

The word auqentew is now cleared up by Kretschmer (Glotta, 1912, pp. 289ff.) and by Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary. See also Nageli, Der Wortschatz des Apostels Paulus and Deissmann, Light, etc., pp. 88f. Autodikew was the literary word for playing the master while auqentew was the vernacular term. It comes from aut-ente, a self-doer, a master, autocrat. It occurs in the papyri (substantive auqenth, master, verb auqentew, to domineer, adjective auqentiko, authoritative, “authentic”). Modern Greek has apente = Effendi = “Mr.” [source]

Some supporters of Ms. Wallace have opined that AT Robertson is not a proper scholar to cite, as he was (according to them) dealing with a limited amount of knowledge regarding Greek in Paul’s time. Despite this, even modern scholarly works on the Greek, such as the NET notes, explain the word, and its use, along similar lines:

According to BDAG 150 s.v. αὐθεντέω this Greek verb means “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to” (cf. JB “tell a man what to do”).

It’s also weird that Ms. Wallace says “considering the context,” given she hasn’t yet offered any exegesis or verse-by-verse explanation of what Paul is speaking about. (We’ll go over this briefly in a moment.)

There is also the possibility that the verb didaskein (to teach) is linked here to the verb authentein in what is called a hendiadys (two words joined by a conjunction to make a single point). “Don’t eat and run” would be a modern example. So a better interpretation might be “don’t teach in a domineering way”. [emphases in original]

The problem here is that Ms. Wallace plays word games by honing in on the word “teach,” and connecting the two words together to form the phrase “teach in a domineering way.” Even in the example she gives, such a construction wouldn’t be conceivable – can one “eat in a running way,” or “run in an eating way”? By ignoring the full wording of the verse, she’s played fast and loose with the wording to get the verse to say what she’d prefer it to say, and in doing so has presented an incomprehensible argument.

In verse 12, Paul, shortly after saying that women should learn “with entire submissiveness” (v. 11), begins the new phrase with the Greek conjunction δέ. Although δέ can be used as a connective conjunction, it’s being used here in a more contrastive way – in other words, Paul made a positive statement in verse 11 (women should learn), and is now presenting a contrast to it (women should not teach or exercise authority over men). In this contrastive statement, Paul first states διδάσκειν δέ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω (“but a woman teaching I do not permit”); he then connects this via οὐδὲ (the conjunction “nor” or “neither”) αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός (“taking authority over a man”). Therefore, while Paul does permit a woman to learn with entire submissiveness, he does not permit a woman to teach, nor to hold authority over a man.

This is probably why, in nearly every English translation of the Bible, the translators separate the “teaching” and “exercising authority.” The only exception might be The Voice, which isn’t even a translation, and which renders the verse “it’s not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man.” The point is, the vast majority of scholarly translations have seen, in the verse, two separate points made by Paul: women are not to teach, and women are not to exercise authority over a man. None of them interpret it as Paul saying women shouldn’t “teach in a domineering way”; neither does the original Greek even warrant such a translation.

Additionally, the grammar in this passage changes abruptly from the plural “women” in verses 9 and 10 to “a woman” in verses 11-15. Then it changes back to “women” in the next chapter, suggesting that Paul had a specific woman in mind, perhaps one that Timothy had written to him about. Furthermore, some scholars believe “I don’t permit” could also be accurately translated as “I am not currently permitting”. So while these verses are often used to defend male-only leadership, current scholarship suggests that the passage is anything BUT clear on the issue. [emphasis in original]

Two things to immediately note here:

First, Ms. Wallace appeals to “current scholarship” and “some scholars,” and yet doesn’t cite one single scholar on the issue. The funny thing is that, because of this, she received criticism in the comment section for the article, and some of her supporters had to come to her rescue by quoting scholars for her. Ms. Wallace quoted these supporters in a follow up post (hence quoting scholars from second-hand sources, something most academics advise you not to do).

Second, she argues in an appeal to vagueness rather than any coherent argument. Regarding the latter, what we mean here is that she argues something might “possibly” mean something, and that we aren’t really “clear on the issue.” This is ironic given the assurance given by her supporters in the previously cited follow up post. Like many liberal or post-modern arguments, the crux of it all seems to rely here on the idea of, “We can’t really know what the word means, but we can know for sure that you’re wrong.”

More specifically, Ms. Wallace enters into speculation here based on a loose interpretation of the grammar: namely that Paul goes from the plural “women” to the singular “woman” between verses, hence “suggesting that Paul had a specific woman in mind.” And yet Paul uses the singular “man” as well – did Paul have a specific person in mind for that? Was there a specific man the woman was usurping the authority of? Why would Paul not name her, or him? This is especially strange given that, in the previous chapter, Paul outright names Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom he says he has “handed over to Satan” (1 Tim 1:20). In the next epistle to Timothy, Paul also names Phygelus and Hermogenes (2 Tim 1:15). It is certainly true that Paul had used vague language for specific cases in the past (1 Cor 5:1), but he also gave enough details to let us know what specifically he was addressing, and that they were specific people he had in mind, even giving advice on how to handle the situation (1 Cor 5:2-5). We don’t see that here, in this circumstance.

The fact is, the larger context of the epistle tells us what Paul is saying. He is sending Timothy pastoral advice on how to assist in the growth and running of the church, as he tells Timothy later on: “I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God” (1 Tim 3:15). This is seen throughout the epistle: 1 Timothy 2:1-8 deals with prayer, and who to pray for; 2:9-15 with how women are to behave; 3:1-7 with pastor qualifications; 3:8-13 with deacon qualifications; 4:1-16 with the minister’s duty of defending the flock from false doctrine; 5:1-16 with the treatment of widows; 5:17-22 with the treatment of elders; and 6:1-19 with further instruction on ministry. Point being, the section dealing with women is meant to be seen regarding all women within the church, just as the other sections deal exclusively with elders, widows, deacons, etc.

Why then the change in number, from plural to singular? To simply speak about a subject on more specific, general terms, in a synechdoche sense, and via use of a generic noun. When George Patton said “No soldier ever won a war by dying for his country,” he was speaking about all soldiers by using the singular on a more personal level; he was in no way implying that he had only one, solitary, specific soldier in mind. When we use the phrase “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” does that mean there’s only one woman out there who will ever be scorned and react with fury, or that it only refers to a single woman?

This use is seen even in scripture. When Paul asked “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe?” (1 Cor 1:20), was Paul referring to a specific wise man and scribe? Did he have only one wise man or scribe in mind? Of course not – he was employing generic nouns in a synechdoche sense. Similarly here, Paul discusses the role of men and women in the church by using generic nouns: a woman cannot have authority over a man. He does this likewise to tie into the story of Adam and Eve, where Eve was deceived and fell with Adam, in essence presuming authority over him. Paul is saying that, just as it was wrong for Eve to presume authority over Adam, so too is it wrong for any woman to presume authority over any man within the church.

As for “some scholars” saying that Paul’s words for “permit” should actually be “I am not currently permitting,” it would be nice, once again, if Ms. Wallace could cite at least one scholar in that regard, or quote one. Daniel Wallace (no relation to our author), who is a scholar in New Testament Greek, and one of the foremost New Testament Greek scholars in our time, wrote on this very issue in great detail, and comprehensively refutes it:

If this were a descriptive present (as it is sometimes popularly taken), the idea might be that in the future the author would allow this: I do not presently permit… However, there are several arguments against this: (1) It is overly subtle. Without some temporal indicator, such as ἄρτι or perhaps νῦν, this view begs the question. (2) Were we to do this with other commands in the present tense, our resultant exegesis would be both capricious and ludicrous. Does μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ…, ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν Πνεύματιin Eph 5:18 mean “Do not for the moment be filled with wine, but be filled at the present time by the Spirit” with the implication that such a moral code might change in the future? The normal use of the present tense in didactic literature, especially when introducing an exhortation, is not descriptive, but a general precept that has gnomic implications. (3) Gramatically, the present tense is used with a generic object (γυναικὶ), suggesting that it should be taken as a gnomic present. (4) Contextually, the exhortation seems to be rooted in creation (note v. 13 and the introductory γάρ), rather than an address to a temporary situation. [pg. 525, Wallace]

There is nothing in the Greek to imply “This is something I’m only currently forbidding,” unless one wishes to stretch the present indicative form well beyond what it means.

The Historical Context of the Letter

Ms. Wallace continues her response by discussing the context of Paul’s epistle.

You’ve heard the real estate expression about property values, right? It’s all about “location, location, location”. Since the Bible is made up of a variety of genres (law, history, poetry and wisdom literature, prophetic messages, gospel accounts, letters), to interpret it correctly, we have to think about “context, context, context” . In the case of 1 Timothy, Paul was writing a personal letter instructing Timothy about how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus. This is spelled out at the beginning of the letter:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless geneaologies… They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm…” (1 Tim 1:3-4, -7).

Keener notes that while these false teachers were most likely men, much of the spreading of the false teaching was through women in the congregation. It is likely that most women in the Ephesian church had limited training in Christian theology and that their interest in false doctrine was proving to be dangerous. There is no evidence in the text that Paul was writing to establish a permanent restriction on all women for all time. [all emphases in the original]

Neither has anyone ever argued that the sole reason for Paul writing to Timothy was to dictate gender roles, therefore that’s a straw man.

More important is the connection made by Ms. Wallace between the mention of false teachers at the beginning of the epistle, and the possibility that there may have been women spreading false doctrine among the congregation. Certainly some learned commentators (eg., John MacArthur) have suggested that Paul may have been inspired to mention female church teachers because of the possibility of it happening in Ephesus. Nonetheless, there are a few problems with Ms. Wallace’s presentation here…

First, it contradicts Ms. Wallace’s earlier point. She had harped on Paul’s use of the singular “woman” to argue on the possibility that Paul was only attacking one woman, not collective women. Now, she’s arguing there might have been more than one woman in Ephesus on Paul’s mind. Which is it? One woman usurping a man’s authority, or several women? This sort of argumentation is similar to heretics who support “Gay Christianity” by presenting a shotgun approach for passages that conflict their worldview, and not caring if any of the explanations, when paired up with one another, completely contradict. Either there was one woman in Ephesus Paul had in mind, hence his singular use of the word “woman,” or there were more than one woman Paul had in mind, hence Ms. Wallace outright admits that her initial contention is completely erroneous. You can’t have both.

Second, that women might have been embracing false doctrine would make Paul’s point that women could not exercise authority over men meaningless, especially if the ones bearing authority (as Ms. Wallace cites Keener) were actually men, and the women were merely following those men, and spreading around what those men were saying. Even if one wished to argue the women were being used to spread that false doctrine allowing, following a false teacher is different than being that false teacher and using that teaching in an authoritative manner. When Paul attacked false doctrine, he generally targeted the teachers, rather than the lower echelon followers, in his attacks against authority (cf., 2 Cor 11; Titus 1:10).

Third, if Paul’s main purpose in writing to Timothy was to help explain “how to deal with heresy being spread by false teachers in Ephesus,” then a good chunk of the entire epistle would not make sense. We went over earlier on the various subjects covered by Paul throughout this epistle to Timothy, and while some of them do involve combating false doctrine or preaching truth, not all of them do. Ms. Wallace did not cover the entire context of 1 Timothy, and hence is just throwing out this argument in the hopes that it will be believed, whether by her or those who agree with her. This is especially ironic given she has argued that we should rely on context and the full purpose of a book.

Ms. Wallace continues:

Another interesting fact about 1 Timothy is that the myths and endless genealogies circulating in Ephesus included the idea that Eve was created before Adam and was superior to him. (Read this post for other facts about Ephesus and goddess worship and this one for detailed explanation of gnostic teachings about Adam and Eve.)

It is likely that Paul was writing to correct false notions that were circulating rather than suggesting that Eve’s deception should be the basis for banning women from teaching. This cultural context also helps us understand Paul’s mention of the creation order in verses 13 and 14 (more on Paul’s use of the creation narratives here).

This explanation would make Paul’s point disjointed. We must remember that, shortly after saying women should not teach or exercise authority over a man, Paul opens up verse 13 with: “for it was Adam…”, etc. The Greek word γάρ there is a conjunction which most often refers back to the precedent, hence its common translation of “for.” Paul is connecting the story of Adam and Eve back to his command that women should not teach and have authority over men. In other words, Paul is not saying, “Don’t teach or exercise authority. Oh yeah, and here’s a funny belief some have about Adam and Eve…” Rather, Paul is saying, “Don’t teach or exercise authority, for don’t forget that Adam and Eve…”

This is seen further in verse 14, when he says that the woman “being deceived, fell into transgression,” and then moves into women in general in verse 15. The Greek for “fell into transgression” is, according to the NET notes, literally “has come to be in transgression,” and places “an emphasis on the continuing consequences of that fall.” (Certainly Genesis 3:16 makes it clear that Eve’s transgression would continue on to all women.) Again, Paul is clearly not speaking about a specific misunderstanding of Adam and Eve that some heretics might have had, but rather is continuing his train of thought from verses 11-13. (I refer back to my earlier quote of Daniel Wallace, who likewise affirms this.)

Therefore, Ms. Wallace’s appeal to a speculative attack on Gnostic belief cuts up Paul’s words and only adds further confusion to the text.

Matters of Interpretation

Ms. Wallace now attempts to present some rules about interpretation of scripture as some preliminary conclusions to her post.

Doctrine should not be built on a hapax legomenon (a word that occurs only once in an author’s writings or a text). When a word is only used once it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the writer’s meaning, since there are no other examples of word usage to compare. The word “authentein” translated as authority in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a hapax legomenon. This fact alone is sufficient to suggest caution in using this text as a foundation for church doctrine.

And yet most scholars and commentators throughout the ages have had little problems attempting to understand what Paul was attempting to say in this verse, and with that language. Contrary to Ms. Wallace’s statement, it is not “impossible” to infer what Paul was driving at here. The only time people started having troubles interpreting this verse, let alone with that word, was when those same people decided they wanted women to preach.

Likewise, the idea that “when a word is only used once it is difficult, if not impossible, to infer the writer’s meaning,” and hence “doctrine should not be built” around such a passage, is a standard I doubt would be applied equally to other such moments in the New Testament. For example, another hapax legomena is found in this very same epistle, when Paul uses the word ἑδραίωμα in 1 Timothy 3:15. The word is translated either as “support” (NASB) or “foundation” (NIV; NLT), and though there is no other use of this word in the New Testament, there is likewise no misunderstanding of what Paul intended to say here (save for some abuses by Roman Catholics), nor has there been an outcry by many to avoid using this verse for church doctrine because of one single word in it alone.

Interpretation should be consistent with the rest of the passage under study. As Groothuis notes “It is inconsistent to regard the dress code in 1 Tim 2:9 as culturally relative, and therefore temporary, but the restriction on women’s ministry as universal and permanent. These instructions were part of the same paragraph and flow of thought.”

Similarly, if we insist that verse 12 is applicable today, to be consistent, that ruling should apply to the whole passage, including verse 15 (women shall be saved through childbearing). I find it concerning that most people who claim that 1 Timothy 2:12 is clear and applies today usually don’t have a clue as to what the verses that follow mean and how they should be applied.

I’m not aware of anyone arguing 1 Timothy 2:9 was only “culturally relative,” though I won’t deny such arguments may exist. Nonetheless, most people, I’m certain, would recognize Paul’s command for women to dress humbly as hardly temporary. (Many Christian women today would do well to learn from that passage.)

As for the “women shall be saved through childbearing” section, while this has been a difficult passage for many to explain, and has led to much conjecture, all the same, this passage has been dealt with over time. It must first be noted that τεκνογονία, the word translated “bearing of children,” refers to the entire process, and not merely the birthing itself.  The NET notes present a variety of options for interpretation, one of which I believe works best in the context:

“It is not through active teaching and ruling activities that Christian women will be saved, but through faithfulness to their proper role, exemplified in motherhood” (Moo, 71). In this view τεκνογονία is seen as a synecdoche in which child-rearing and other activities of motherhood are involved. Thus, one evidence (though clearly not an essential evidence) of a woman’s salvation may be seen in her decision to function in this role.

John Chrysostom seems to be of the same opinion; in his commentary for this verse, he says of women:

Let her not however grieve. God hath given her no small consolation, that of childbearing. And if it be said that this is of nature, so is that also of nature; for not only that which is of nature has been granted, but also the bringing up of children. “If they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety”; that is, if after childbearing, they keep them in charity and purity. By these means they will have no small reward on their account, because they have trained up wrestlers for the service of Christ. [source]

In other words, in contrast to the women attempting to usurp authority over men, and hence try to become men, just as Eve did, the women who accept their roles as women will be sanctified and blessed by God, and hence it is said they are “saved through child bearing.” This makes sense in context to Paul’s flow of thought from verse 12 into this section, discussing Adam’s primacy in creation over Eve (v. 13), then Eve, and hence women, falling into transgression through her being deceived (v. 14), which resulted in the curse against her that added pain to childbirth (Gen 3:16).

Interpretation should not contradict the rest of the author’s teaching. For example, 1 Timothy 2:1-10 provides instructions for both men and women to follow when praying in public. And in 1 Corinthians there are instructions for women praying and prophesying in church. Paul gives many other instructions about corporate worship and spiritual gifts that are not restrictive of gender. He also commends a number of women serving in leadership positions (Romans 16). So Paul is generally supportive of women’s participation, which contradicts the idea that women must be silent.

The appeal to 1 Timothy 2:1-10 is a category error: praying corporately is not the same as exercising church authority.

Her appeal to 1 Corinthians is problematic. She is most likely referring to 1 Corinthians 11:5, where Paul says: “But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved.” She also seems to have forgotten about 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul gives instructions on the order of worship in the Corinthian church (which includes praying and prophesying), and at the tail end of it writes:

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. [1 Corinthians 14:34-35]

While some might suppose a contradiction here, John Calvin explains, from his commentary for 1 Corinthians 11:5:

It may be replied, that the Apostle, by here condemning the one, does not commend the other. For when he reproves them for prophesying with their head uncovered, he at the same time does not give them permission to prophesy in some other way, but rather delays his condemnation of that vice to another passage, namely in 1 Corinthians 14. In this reply there is nothing amiss, though at the same time it might suit sufficiently well to say, that the Apostle requires women to show their modesty — not merely in a place in which the whole Church is assembled, but also in any more dignified assembly, either of matrons or of men, such as are sometimes convened in private houses. [source]

Looking at 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and comparing it with 1 Timothy 2:12, it seems more like it’s Ms. Wallace who is contradicting what scripture teaches elsewhere, not her opponents.

As for Romans 16, Ms. Wallace goes into further detail about what she means in another follow up post.

We know from the rest of the New Testament that Priscilla instructed Apollos, Phoebe was a deacon and Paul’s emissary to Rome, and Lydia oversaw the church at Philippi. Junia is called an apostle and was imprisoned for her witness. It seems unlikely that these things could have been accomplished while being quiet in church or without any church authority.

Priscilla (Prisca in Romans 16:3) did instruct Apollos, although Ms. Wallace conveniently forgets to mention that she did this with her husband, and privately (Acts 18:26). Explaining something to another person privately with your husband is not the same thing as a woman holding a specifically outlined position of authority over men in a local church.

It is true that Phoebe is described as a “servant of the church which is at Cenchrea” (Rom 16:1), and the word the NASB translates as “servant” comes from the Greek διάκονον, whose root word is at times translated as “deacons” (cf. Php 1:1), and in this case (being in the feminine form) could be translated as “deaconess.” However, this identity is not in and of itself certain. The root word simply means “servant,” and is often translated as such throughout the New Testament in its other uses, which are clearly not referring to the position of deacon (cf. Matt 20:26; 23:11; John 2:5; etc.). In fact, Ms. Wallace seems to have missed that Timothy himself is called a διάκονος in this very epistle (1 Tim 4:6), yet it’s quite obvious he’s not in the position of deacon. Because of this, the verse has led to much historical debate about whether or not Phoebe was in fact a deaconess, or Paul was merely referring to her as a general servant of the church. Obviously this leads us to conclude that Romans 16:1 is not strong enough to be a sedes doctrinae for women serving in the deacon role; the NET notes say that “the evidence is not compelling either way,” and that their translation of “servant” should not be “regarded as tentative.” Even if we accepted, merely for the sake of argument, that Phoebe was a deaconess, then this would still be irrelevant to the discussion: deacons carried a serving function, not a leadership or teaching authority; it would therefore not contradict the traditional reading of 1 Timothy 2:12.

In regards to Lydia, there is no evidence that she oversaw the church at Philippi in a leadership function. She was an early convert, and permitted the apostles to stay at her home – that is all which is said about her in scripture (Acts 16:15-16). She “oversaw” the church in her hospitality and support, but this is not the same as carrying church leadership as ascribed to presbyters and overseers.

In regards to “Junia,” most recognize that there has been great debate on whether or not Junia is a male or female name, let alone whether or not this was a proper name (Junia or Junias, etc.). There is also debate about whether or not Junias and Andronicus were “outstanding among the apostles” (NASB) or “well known to the apostles” (ESV). The NET notes go into greater detail about the word and grammar here:

The term ἐπίσημος (episēmos) is used either in an implied comparative sense (“prominent, outstanding”) or in an elative sense (“famous, well known”). The key to determining the meaning of the term in any given passage is both the general context and the specific collocation of this word with its adjuncts. When a comparative notion is seen, that to which ἐπίσημος is compared is frequently, if not usually, put in the genitive case (cf., e.g., 3 Macc 6:1 [Ελεαζαρος δέ τις ἀνὴρ ἐπίσημος τῶν ἀπὸ τής χώρας ἱερέων “Eleazar, a man prominent among the priests of the country“]; cf. also Pss. Sol. 17:30). When, however, an elative notion is found, ἐν (en) plus a personal plural dative is not uncommon (cf. Pss. Sol. 2:6). Although ἐν plus a personal dative does not indicate agency, in collocation with words of perception, (ἐν plus) dative personal nouns are often used to show the recipients. In this instance, the idea would then be “well known to the apostles.”

Therefore, it is ironic that Ms. Wallace should demand we not base our doctrine on something that isn’t quite clear in scripture, and yet, for her doctrine, appeals to a passage that has been a subject of much debate for a long time. Leftist interpretation seems to pick and choose which issues in scripture: they invent problems in passages which prove problematic to their worldview (eg., 1 Timothy 2:12), yet will seemingly ignore large debates for passages which they think prove their point (eg., Romans 16:1, 7). Certainly most people would recognize, even if there was an argument that Junia was a female, and indeed an apostle, there are two things to make citing her irrelevant to this discussion: 1) apostles were a temporal authority, not a permanent one as presbyters and overseers are; 2) the question over the identity and position of “Junias” in Romans 16:7 is enough for us to say that it cannot be a sedes doctrinae verse to bring up in regards to women in leadership. For feminists and leftists to continually bring up Romans 16:7 as an end-all-debate verse against the orthodox simply shows with how little seriousness they take sola scriptura.

Contrary to the claim that that Paul “commends a number of women serving in leadership positions,” few, if any, of those women mentioned served any leadership positions, and those which supposedly did are connected to verses that have been the subject of even more interpretive debate than 1 Timothy 2:12.

Interpretation should not contradict the overall teaching in the New Testament, especially the example and teaching of Jesus. As Brauch notes, “Christ is the center – the Logos, the living Word, and Scripture must be viewed through the Christ filter. Jesus’ words and acts are normative and paradigmatic and should be a critical filter for interpreting scripture” (pp. 248-9). In the gospels Jesus never suggests that women’s roles were to be secondary or limited in the community of faith, even when he had the opportunity to do so.

Here Ms. Wallace argues from silence: Jesus never said women couldn’t hold church authority, therefore you can’t say they can’t hold church authority. This is similar to leftists who fallaciously argue that, since Jesus never explicitly condemned homosexuality, Christians can’t consider homosexuality a sin.  On the other hand, all of Christ’s twelve disciples were men; yes, women traveled alongside them, but in a supporting function (Luke 8:1-3). On the other hand, one of Christ’s own appointed men, the apostle Paul, penned the words seen in 1 Timothy 2:12 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

Unless we’re going to engage in Red Letterism, to hold such an extreme view is hardly nonsensical, and is definitely not sola scriptura.

Concluding Thoughts

Ms. Wallace offers her conclusion to her post:

Once these issues of translation, context, and interpretation have been considered, it seems that 1 Timothy 2:12 only prohibits women who do not have rightful authority to do so from teaching and assuming authority over men. [emphasis in original]

And so, after relying upon speculation and appealing to uncertainty, Ms. Wallace suddenly gives us certainty. (Or, to be more fair, a greater degree of certainty towards one argument than another.) Her conclusion is that 1 Timothy 2:12 only “prohibits women who do not have rightful authority to do so from teaching and assuming authority over men.” How was this certainty of hers obtained?

1) By toying with the original Greek to reword the passage (Paul was saying “don’t teach in a domineering way”), thereby proving the old saying, “A little Greek is a dangerous thing.”

2) By providing an inconsistency about to whom it was Paul was referring. (A specific woman, later on a group of women.)

3) By reading Gnostic heresies into the passage, cutting up Paul’s words and his clear flow of thought (something she accuses her opponents of doing).

4) By appealing to verses of great historical debate (eg., Rom 16:7) while attacking her opponents for appealing to verses of little historical debate (1 Tim 2:12).

When one reads the constant attacks against the clarity of orthodox thought, followed by a presumption of clarity in a historically new explanation, one is reminded of the devil in Genesis 3:1-5, and can hear the snake whispering in our ear, “Did God say a woman should not exercise authority over a man…?” When scripture is appealed to, the snake replies, “Oh, but that’s not what God means…” Interesting how heresies and false beliefs often start out by questioning what God says, then add confusion and muddled thought into God’s word.

Earlier I made mention of how those who advocate female pastors – be they Charismatics or liberals – usually just fall back on shallow arguments. Ms. Wallace’s article shows why this is: when one does attempt to defend the doctrine in greater detail, their arguments cannot hold water under scrutiny. To the mind seeking a strong delusion, it may come across as an open-and-shut case, and yet to the careful mind, the inconsistencies and superficial nature will be plainly evident.

Certainly women are important in the church. Certainly women can serve and assist the church. Nonetheless, scripture is quite clear that, in offices of leadership, in particularly in regards to elders and overseers within the local church, this is not to be filled by women. If we seek to muddle the clear teaching of God’s word, we should not be surprised when our own thinking comes out muddled as a result.

***
Works Cited


Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008. Print.

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