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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Women in ministry and 1 Timothy 2:12

I am not a Greek scholar. I am a Sunday School teacher, in a denomination that, at least in theory, encourages females to seek pastoral roles. Our lesson for today includes 1 Timothy 2:12, "But I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness." (ASV). (The lesson is about more than that!)

The author of the lesson commentary is a (male) Greek scholar. He states that the word authentein, translated above as "have dominion over," occurs only this once in the New Testament. He further states that this refers to a particular heretical teaching, from outside the church, but affecting it, found in Ephesus at the time, and says that a better translation would be "'I do not permit a woman to teach that she has absolute domination over a man,' or 'I do not permit a woman to claim that she is the author (originator) of man.'" (Lee M. Haines, "Maximizing our Service to God," Lesson for June 12, 2005, Wesley Adult Bible Series, p. 15. Noblesville, Indiana: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2005)

His claim about the occurrence of authentein is correct. As would be expected, there is disagreement over the interpretation. Katherine Kroeger expands on Haines' argument, and probably was at least part of the basis for it. D. L. agrees with Kroeger. Panning defends the interpretation of women as subordinate. (Available as a .PDF document linked here.) I am sure that there are other scholars on at least two sides of this debate. The debate has implications for other areas. Bilezikian, in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, claims that mistakenly arguing for subordination of women has led to a mistaken view of the position of Christ. (March, 1997, issue, Volume 40, pp. 57-68. The Journal is available here. You can navigate to the specific article from that point.)

Bilezikian writes, about some interpretations of I Corinthians 11:3:

They insist that this text teaches the existence of an order of hierarchy between God and Christ on one hand and between men and women on the other. Of course they have no satisfactory answer for the fact that Paul’s ordering of the three clauses rules out a hierarchical sequence (BCA instead of ABC) and for the fact that the meaning of “head” in this statement, as well as in other NT passages where it is similarly used, is better rendered as “one considered preeminent but acting as servant-provider, or source (of life and growth).”

I recognize that I do not have the last word on this topic, and that it is controversial. Nonetheless, I think it is safe to say that there are some interpretions of 1 Timothy 2:12 that do not exclude women from leadership positions. There are other passages that indicate that women had such roles in the New Testament. (See here for another denomination's scriptural rationale for having women in the ministry.)

I referred to this topic earlier, but in ignorance of even this much Greek, in the comments to this post.


Adam said...

I was just reading on this very topic a few days ago over at Apologetics Press. What I took from the article was that their stance on 1Timothy precludes women from actively pursuing teaching roles in which they teach men.

I don't necessarily have an opinion, as it's a topic I haven't truly explored. But I thought I'd offer the link for further study:

They are very detailed in all of their discussions,a nd their articles tend to be weighty.

Martin LaBar said...

I have responded to the comment above, in

this post