Over TGC, John Starke reviews the books on gender and ministry by Keller, Bird, and Dickson.
It’s a critical but non-polemical review, though I do have a few points of contention against Starke’s criticism:
- The fact that I use language like “infer” or “speculate” at times, while it might diminish my rhetorical appeal, was done out of pure honesty. Some arguments are inferential or lead us to imagine a certain situation that the texts either assumes or creates. Given that Paul’s letters are like reading one side of a conversation about a situation to which we know almost nothing, we have to infer and speculate to some degree in order to join the dots together. The real question is the plausibility and explanatory power of the arguments I muster as a whole and how it explains the phenomenon of the texts when situated in their context.
- I am aware of the works that Starke mentions like Schreiner and Kostenberger, in fact, I put them in the bibliography. The problem is that it is impossible to mention and interact with the huge morass of secondary literature with Paul and gender in a short booklet.
- Also, on why women apostles but not women bishops, that is because I think Paul’s use of “apostle” in Rom 16:7 means something akin to “missionary.”
- Also, I very, very, very, very explicitly urge caution against relying on reconstructions of a hypothetical feminist cult in Ephesus as a background to 1 Timothy 2. Instead, I try to reconstruct details of the Ephesian heresy from the text of the letter itself, precisely because I am aware of the danger of reconstructions without historical evidence projected onto the text. So Starke’s appeal to S.B. Baugh’s article as an antidote to my appeal to postulation of a hypothetical heresy left me baffled. Strangely, Starke implies that it is illegitimate to appeal to the social, cultural, or religious environment of Corinth to account for anything that Paul says about women in even in 1 Corinthians. If I’m reading Starke correctly, he is not only denying the relevance of background, but insinuating that it’s wrong to attribute anything that Paul says about women to the social, cultural, and historical context of Corinth and Ephesus. That is more mystifying than the mystery cults! Anyone who knows what the names “Serapion” and “Dionysius” meant in Corinth will find Starke’s views hard to take seriously. I think a study tour with Bruce Winter through Corinth and Ephesus might be a good idea here! Either that, or read John Dickson’s TGC piece on the importance of historical background for biblical interpretation. I can appreciate Starke’s concern about the perils of background and parallel-0-mania, but his criticism demands that we deny that Paul’s letters were in any way contingent on their context or circumstances.
- While Starke nips at the heels of several of my arguments, and yes, some parts are more persuasive than others, he avoids the more compelling elements: women could prophesy, there was a woman apostle, there were women household leaders, and the problem of complementarians having to believe that women are really saved by believing in patriarch (whose patriarchy at that?) as their take on 1 Tim 2:14!