Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1 Timothy 2

Hi everyone: sorry I missed posting yesterday. Finally had a full day off with my wife (first together in several weeks) so we spent the day together.

1 Timothy presents one of the toughest challenges for the biblical interpreter. The classic problem is in verses 11 and 12 where women are ordered to "learn in silence with full submission" and "I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent." and so forth.
     Using good principles of Biblical study: remember 1) understand the specific from the general; 2) no verse stands alone but must be understood in context; 3) understand that all translations have difficulties and examination of the original languages may help with understanding; etc.
     Question 1: are there examples of women teaching men elsewhere in the New Testament and are there examples of women in authority in the New Testament? The answer is that there are. Priscilla (with her husband Aquila) take Apollos aside and "more correctly explain to him the Way (see Acts 18:24ff)." Note that in the Greek linguistic tradition the most important person is always listed first and here it is Priscilla who is listed first before her husband -- this is not Emily Post correctness it is how they did it. Are there women in authority in the New Testament? -- yes. One example (not the only one) is in Acts 21:9 Philip the Evangelist's four daughters are identified as prophets (Ephesians 4:11ff cites the office of prophet as the 2nd highest in the church -- Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers). The "authority" passage seems to be in contradiction to other passages in the New Testament.
     Question 2: What is the passage mean in its context? Notice that most of the discussion in chapter 1 and the section that follows our verses in question are arguments regarding gnosticism and some key gnostic teachings. The critical one at play in Ephesus was a teaching that EVE was created before ADAM and was considered to be most revered. Because the gnostics valued a special knowledge over all else, EVE is revered because she sought knowledge from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
     Two biblical scholars from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in Massachusetts, Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger have written an excellent study of this passage. The book is titled I suffer not a woman and is published by Baker book house. The Clark Kroegers contend that the word "authority" is mistranslated (has been since King James' time). The word in question is a Greek word that only appears once in all of the New Testament (here in 1 Timothy). In their study of Greek literature of the time they found that the word in question is usually translated "Preeminence" rather than authority. The authors argue that the passage in question should read "I do not permit it to be taught that a woman has preeminence over a man" (Paul correcting the Gnostic error in reading Genesis). That understanding puts verse 13 in proper light "for Adam was formed first then Eve. . ." This book (I suffer not a woman) is a book of excellent scholarship and is a must read for any who would honestly like to unpack this biblical passage in its fullest context.
     As for "listening in silence with full submission" the question is: submission to what or whom? When I read the passage I read that the women (AND THE MEN) should be in full submission to the Word of God . . . to the teaching of the Word.
     When we read 1 Corinthians in a few months we will run across another of these passages that a male dominated society and Christian fundamentalists have used to not allow full participation in the ministry of the Gospel for men and women.

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