Saturday, November 10, 2012


I received the following comments and questions regarding my post:  IS EVERYTHING IN THE BIBLE TRUE? :

“… how do I know when a writer is expressing his opinion and not a direct edict? I don’t care so much about the O.T. as I don’t live under that covenant. But how do I know in the New Testament? In Romans 7 and I Corinthians 7 it’s pretty darn clear. But what about places like I Timothy 2 where he says 'I want' and 'I do not' all over the place?

Naturally, I want 1 Timothy 2 to be just Paul’s opinion – those of a man who lives in a patriarchal society that greatly inhibited the roles of women – but I don’t want to force my opinion onto the text. I would look at it in light of other scripture but I don’t see Peter, James, John or even Jude addressing the role of women in the church.

So my main question is: when no one else discusses the subject, how do I know when it’s the writer’s opinion vs. God’s instruction?

And my secondary question is about the role of women in light of the above.
And last, in that vein, the woman who wrote about Biblical Womanhood in Sojourners mentioned that Jesus did not come to set up more laws which seemed right but is it?  I do find her comments about how the new 'laws' enforce the existing power structure at the time to be very compelling - we know the gospel is not about power by servanthood - any comments on all of this?"

Wow, there are two very different questions here:  one on hermeneutics or interpretation; and the other about the role of women.  The two are, however, inseparable.

The first regarding when a writer is expressing his own opinion, versus a direct edict:  I believe we are to take the apostolic writings as authoritative unless there is a qualifier, as I mentioned in the previous post.  I used 1 Corinthians, chapter 7 as an example, because Paul, in this chapter puts qualifiers on much of what he says:
·        “Now I say this as a concession not as a commandment” (verse 6).
·        “I don’t have a communication from the Lord, but I give advice as one shown mercy by the Lord as being faithful” (verse 25).
·        “… I suppose ...” (verse 26).
·        “… and I want to spare you …” (verse 28).
·        “Now I’d like you to be free of care …” (verse 32).
·        “I’m saying this for your benefit …” (verse 35).
·        “… according to my opinion; and I suppose that I too have the Spirit of the Lord” (verse 40).
In this same passage he also uses seven “but ifs” (verses 9, 11, 15, 21, 28, 36, 39).  He allows for exceptions.

He seems to be making clear distinctions between commands versus advice, opinion or exceptions.  Commands would be binding.  The others would not.

We should also notice that Paul’s opinions or bits of advice don’t contradict his authoritative remarks.

As far as Paul’s “I want(s)” in 1 Timothy 2, I’ll agree that when he does this he is giving non-authoritative advice.  He actually only uses the word once in this chapter – verse 8, although some translations add it in verse 9.  The verb he uses – boulomai – usually has the meaning of “wish,” “want” or “desire,” even “intend” and this is the way Paul uses it elsewhere:
·        “… I intended to come to you at first …” (2 Corinthians 1:15).
·        “I wasn’t vacillating when I intended this, was I?” (verse 17)
(Apparently Paul didn’t come when he intended.)
·        “Now I want you to know brothers …” (Philippians 1:12).
     Also see Titus 3:8 and Philemon 13.

He uses it twice elsewhere in 1 Timothy.
·        “So I want the younger (widows) to marry …” (5:14).
·        But those who want to get rich …” (6:9).

However, Paul uses a different word in 1 Timothy 2:12:
·        “… but I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man …”  The verb epitrepo always has that meaning – “permit” or “allow.”  See Matthew 8:21; 19:8.

Paul only uses it in two other places:
·        “… if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:7).

And in what is relevant to the passage in 1 Timothy:
·        “… for it is not permitted for them (women) to speak” (1 Corinthians 14:34).

I’m not going to get into all the questions regarding women’s roles except for a few attempts at clarification especially of some of the details of the 1 Timothy 2 passage.
·        The context of this passage seems to be of universal application.  Any attempts to interpret it as dealing with specific incidents in a specific church, run into a problem.  The word “all” is used six times in the first eight verses:  “First of all  all people … all those in authority … all godliness … all people … a ransom for all … in every place.”
·        The word translated “quiet” or “quietly” in verses 11 and 12 does not necessarily mean “silence” but an attitude of restfulness or stillness.  It is used in verse 2, not of women only, but of us all.
·        I believe the two verbs that Paul forbids:  “to teach” (didaskein) and “to exercise authority” (authentein) are linked together.  Paul is not forbidding women to teach altogether, but to teach men in an authoritative manner.
·        The related passage cited earlier (1 Corinthians 14:34) should be interpreted in light of the 1 Timothy passage.  Paul in this passage (1 Corinthians 14:26-36) is not demanding total silence of women.  He had previously (11:5) mentioned women “praying or prophesying” in the assembly.  Here he is speaking of the exercise and regulation of the various gifts in the assembly, in this case of a teaching/learning situation.  And as the 1 Timothy 2 passage, 1 Corinthians 14 appears to have universal application – “… as in all the churches …” (1 Corinthians 14:33); it is not directed merely to a specific problem in Corinth.

Yes, it is true that Jesus did not come to set up new laws, but there are other factors involved.  We must be careful that we don’t use this truth to discredit the authority of the New Testament.  This has been done many times to justify all sorts of behavior (i.e., “Jesus said nothing about gay marriage, therefore it’s permissible.”)

But Jesus did teach ethics and He based much of His ethical teaching on the Old Testament – and even tightened up some of its principles.  (See:  THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT.)  “You have heard that it was said … but I’m saying to you …” (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43).

The New Testament writers – Paul, James, Peter – also based their ethical and doctrinal teachings on the Old Testament and also on Jesus’ teachings.  See:  FORFEIT AND GAIN and PAUL AND JESUS.  I believe the reason we see more “laws” in the epistles than in the Gospels is that the writers were dealing with ethical, moral and governing problems of first generation, mostly  gentile Christians in the new churches they had planted.  The apostles had different functions from those of Jesus.  They were planting churches and seeking to establish them.

In conclusion, I believe that the New Testament gives women, along with men, the freedom to teach, preach, evangelize or whatever they feel led of God to do, with the one exception being that in 1 Timothy 2:12.  Its application today may be debated, but I would say that it certainly forbids women from a role as senior pastor in a church.

I feel a bit of irony here, as I at one time was considered by many of my other evangelical friends as being too liberal, (and still am by some), having women deacons or song leaders in my churches and being married to a woman church office manager (Uni).   I felt there was a line drawn, but saw no reason not to push right up to the line.

Today, however, I feel that many have crossed the line and left me behind and I am perceived by many now as being too conservative.


Uni said...

I told him he should have titled it "Her-Men-eutics and the ... "

His Servant said...

I have realised through God's instruction to me that women have equality with men in the Church through the Gift of The Holy Spirit.

God would not give a woman a spiritual gift and send her as His prophet or preacher, if she was not allowed to use that gift for God's purpose.

God is not sexist! Jesus, was not sexist! Jesus had many female followers, and He treated them with respect.

Jesus had male disciples as He had to operate within the structures and constraints and moral viewpoints of the times, to some degree, if He wanted to successfully achieve His main objective of being the Sacrificial Offering for the Sins of those who will accept His Gift.

My belief is that in the Times of the early Church, women were not educated and within their culture were not respected as having a right to opinions. I believe that the Christian fellowship allowed more licence to females and they were being allowed to have freedom to ask questions and share their understanding, unfortunately,not being used to this new freedom, some women got rather opinionated. It was likely that Paul perceived Church Time was being wasted, and He regarded not one of the women to be a prophet or even knowledgeable so He made his statement!

People have a natural ability and interest about Religion but not all Christians have the same degree of interest or scriptural understanding. It does not follow that a male person by birth will be deeply interested and seek to become profoundly knowledgeable about scriptures and that a female will not have a deep interest and insight and only desire to gain a foundational understanding!

There are artists or mathematicians who have great talents who have an innate ability that most people do not possess and we would not dream of insulting a female professor of mathematics by telling her she should go and take instruction in mathematics from her husband who has only a foundational knowledge and interest in the subject area!

His Servant