Using Commentaries by Women: John Piper’s Response

At Desiring God, Episode 56 of Ask Pastor John is about whether reading and quoting from a commentary written by a woman violates John’s reading of 1 Timothy 2:12.

Here’s the link.

I’ve heard other hiearchicalists respond to this question as John Piper responds and I would call what I have heard “exegetical gymnastics.” There is no way to find consistency between the hierarchicalist view and any kind of permission to learn from a woman, regardless of format of teaching (verbal or written).

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  • Steve

    The passage reads: “I do not permit a woman to teach or express authority over a man.”

    I probably fall under the umbrella of “hierarchicalist” (I think). I’ve seen this as Paul saing he doesn’t want a woman to teach in an official, authoritative capacity. But a commentary that a woman makes is not innately off limits.

  • Phil Miller

    So I suppose that per Piper’s response having a woman teach a man in a classroom setting is off limits. Certainly that requires personal interaction. I’m sure there’s some exception he can find on that, too.

    This is my whole problem with the complementarian position. It’s simply not realistic in the world in which we live, and those who claim to hold to it are forced to find more and more outs to prop the system up.

  • phil_style

    The passage reads: “I do not permit a woman to teach or express authority over a man.”

    To which I reply, thanks St. Paul (or whoever wrote that); but I do.

  • Brandon

    As Scot says you have to be quite limber to accomplish Piper’s position here. This doesn’t line up with how he says he “does” his theology and how he “allows” others to do theirs.

  • scotmcknight

    Steve, where do you see “official, authoritative”?

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    I am definitely not in sympathy with those that would take a set of scissors toward those bible passages that they don’t like. On the other hand, pulling one passage out of context and wielding it as a weapon doesn’t seem to have much to commend itself either.

    We need to interpret scripture by scripture, and look at Paul’s I Tim 2:12 passage in light of everything else that scripture teaches. On the one hand, the Gospel is offered to all, and the church is to be inclusive of all who respond to it. There is a place of service for everyone in the church. On the other hand, we are to avoid placing obstacles and distractions that prevent people from responding to the Gospel, or that make their Christian walk more difficult. I believe that a good case could be made that the context of Paul’s comments in I Timothy were mostly out of concern for the latter: not needlessly creating a problem and distraction in a traditionally patriarchal, or even misogynist, society. A case could also be made that we should not allow ourselves to feel so rigidly bound to a literal application of Paul’s words where such a cultural context no longer exists, especially if to do so has the opposite effect of creating an obstacle or distraction that prevents people (women, in this case) from responding to the gospel or living the Christian life or taking up an appropriate venue of service in the church. This does not mean that the doors are wide open for female leadership of any sort in any church at any time and place. Neither, on the other hand, does it nail those doors totally shut at all times and places. Just as this one passage must be interpreted within the broader context of scripture, so this passage and the rest of scripture must also be applied within the broader cultural context of each society at each point in history.

  • EricW

    1 Timothy 2 is fraught with interpretive and application difficulties, some of which aren’t apparent in English translation.

    Of course, you could just slice the Gordian Knot and reject Pauline authorship and be done with it and its problems. 😀

  • DJ

    @ Phil Miller: You say “It’s simply not realistic in the world in which we live” While I am still working through my theology on the subject what I do know and what you ought to be careful of is what does scripture say. It does not matter what is realistic or not, but what is right, True, and Biblical. Culture should not guide our theology, but the scriptures.

  • “Exegetical gymnastics”, eh?

    Methinks you give too much poetic credit to what he is doing here. 🙂

  • Joel Black

    So, it seems like John Piper is saying . . . if the female author came to your church and read her commentary out loud directly to you, that would be wrong. But reading it on your own and quoting it from the pulpit is OK. Is this not what he is saying?

  • orton1227

    Paul says “I do not permit a woman…” Does the ‘I’ in the verse make it more of Paul’s opinion/preference? Is it possible that there’s no damage at all done in many cultures by allowing a woman to teach? Not trying to play games with the text, but I know in many of his letters Paul distinguishes sometimes between his own thoughts and God’s.

  • Jodi Fondell

    SO, let me get this straight…preachers are like drill sergeants but writers are like city planners…preaching is an inherently masculine task while writing is neither masculine or feminine. Women can write it down and as long as a man reads it aloud from the pulpit it’s OK, but if the female writer were to share it from the pulpit it somehow undermines God’s great plan of creation for women and men? Seriously…how can you get there? As an ordained pastor of 17 years, who writes her own stuff and preaches it week after week, I find this conversation absurd. And my ministry is thriving and my congregation is growing. Is there no room for the efficacy of giftedness in this conversation or do we just take I Timothy 2:12 as a blanket statement about women, teaching and authority? What say ye about gifted women preachers who are actually having a positive impact for the Kingdom of God? Do some of you really think I should write down my thoughts and simply hand them to my husband to preach to our church? With humility, I must say that I just don’t get this conversation in light of my calling and my giftedness and my effectiveness in the pulpit. Could I and God have gotten this so wrong that I should be relegated to only writing and not use the speaking gifts I feel I’ve been given?

  • JRH

    It isn’t Piper’s exegesis that is so unacceptable (basically I take him to be correctly interpreting the passage as pertaining to the intra-ecclesial social order, not some abstract essence of “teaching” or “authority” that can be applied to any and every instance), but his reasoning about what it is that constitutes our gendered-ness. It seems that, for Piper, particular styles of interpersonal expression and certain personality traits are, de jure and de facto, essential to being woman or being man. Even brief encounters with anthropological research will reveal the *deep* contingence of gender appropriate modes of address and expression. Moreover, its really hard to demonstrate that, even if patriarchal (which I will insist on employing with a strictly descriptive connotation in this context) social organization is more *common* than matriarchal or egalitarian forms, that patriarchal forms are *normative*, even from biblical evidence. Piper may be right about what Paul meant (I’ll leave that to NT scholars), but his anthropology of gendered communication doesn’t stand up.

  • It seems clear to me that Piper understands Paul’s restriction on women teaching in the church as being based on what he sees as the God-given relationship of men and women in general. In that context his explanation makes sense.

    It would be nice if people who disagreed with him simply disagreed with him, instead of feeling the need sneer about it, or about how inconsistent he is in his positions.

    Now I know that folks on his side of these issues also sneer and are less than charitable, but anytime we descend to retaliating for the deficient behavior of others by doing the same things, we have lost the moral high ground, haven’t we?

  • Phil Miller

    Piper’s comments remind of something I heard a pastor say from the pulpit once. This pastor was talking about male/female relationships in the context of marriage, but it seems to be coming the same place. He said that he thought in a marriage the wife should never be in the place of holding her husband accountable for his actions because it would make the husband feel like his wife was trying to be his mom. This pastor also had a tendency to project a lot of his own insecurities onto the congregation.

    Whenever I hear these sorts of things I always the thing that’s revealed most of all is how these guys view women and their own personal issues more than anything else. I think a lot of men simply resent being told what to do by a woman, and now they have a Scriptural passage to hide behind. I find it kind of sad, really.

  • scotmcknight

    Wolf Paul, my problem is invented, casuistic categories: direct and personal vs. indirect and impersonal. Is the Bible, because it is written, “indirect and impersonal” too?

    On top of this the view that a writing can be disembodied or, in Piper’s case, de-gendered denies the personal nature of all words, words spoken or written.

  • phil_style

    @Wolf Paul,

    I think you might be right that Piper is consistent here.
    I think Piper’s position, is that a man may make use of a woman’s teaching, but a woman may not teach it direct to a man, herself. That seems internally consistent with the idea that a male preacher may use a commentary written by women. That is, all teaching written by women, must be “vetted” by a man before it can be used in “authoritative teaching”. On the face of it, this seems consistent (even if I think it’s idiotic).

  • Val

    Acts 18:26
    26 He (a Jew, Apollos) began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.

    So Priscilla is teaching Apollos (a man) right there in the Bible. Hmmmmm.

  • Val

    I should also note, Apollos was an apostle, so here we have a woman – listed first, so the leader of this teaching episode – teaching a male apostle. So, whatever to John Piper and his cherry picking of verses.

  • scotmcknight

    Val, Apollos, an apostle?

  • phil_style

    Scott, #16,
    in my comment at #17, I added the proviso which I thought could make Piper’#s position consistent. That is, a male must “vet” any teaching sourced from a female.

    However, in light of your comment at #16 I see there is a problem with my attempt to exonerate Piper. And here is the problem,

    If a man must “vet” a woman’s material, then what’s to stop men from simply vetting it all and allowing women to teach? The issue of “vetting” is therefore, on its own not enough, and we’re back to trying to use these direct & indirect categories which, as you show, force us into more sloppy mud.

  • Val

    Scott #20 – 1Cor. chapters 3 & 4 – indicate Apollos and Paul are apostles – if it was a different Apollos, wouldn’t they say something like, Apollos from Alexandria and Apollos from Corinth?

  • From my friend Dr. Brad Jersak in conversation with the Dean of Westminster Theological Centre, Dr. Lucy Peppiatt:

  • scotmcknight


    As I hear you you are saying since Paul connects Apollos to Cephas and to himself, and since the latter two are apostles, so also is Apollos. Some would make that connection through 1 Cor 4:9, but not so sure I would. I see what you are saying but there is no explicit evidence that Apollos was an apostle. Your point loses strength since his status as an apostle is uncertain.

  • Miggity

    Why waste all of this time and energy, generation after generation, reconstructing a mystical text in order to make it relevant today? I guess if people don’t argue about irrelevant viewpoints from centuries ago they’d just be arguing about diets or politics. Whatever floats your boat. Or you can just use common sense and have respect for other humans and realize there’s a lot of very smart people out there, women included.

  • Stephen Gonzalez

    I’m just going say I’m complementarian, just reading the scriptures from the beginning of the story to the very make up of how God did things in the story convinces me of that truth. I won’t lie isn’t always simple to live it out though. To reject it based on that would be to rule a lot of what we are called to walk as disciples.

    I won’t say I absolutely agree w/ piper with how he sees it fleshed out but I love his humility to honor the scriptures as consistent as he can.

    I could read a commentary from a female just as much as I learn from my wife & sisters in my community.

    I think Paul is speaking to the context of a local community where men are given the primary call to instruct and lead the body.

  • If a person takes all of the verses in the New Testament that talk about a woman’s role vis a vis a man’s role, and adheres to them consistently, women should never teach over men in either religious or secular settings, especially if her husband doesn’t want her to. The problem in this becomes: when does a male child become a man, and thereby unteachable by his mother? Is there an age at which this happens? Does the mother then lose “control” over her son because he’s a man and doesn’t have to listen to her anymore

    It is ridiculous to think a woman may not teach a man directly, but a man can choose to learn from a woman’s written words. In order for a woman to write a commentary that gets published and widely disseminated, she has to have degrees from institutions that train people for ministry. Most likely she will have had to preach to obtain such a degree, and she may have even served as a pastor. Likely she is also a professor who teaches men on a regular basis. In my opinion, not only is a man submitting himself to a woman’s authority by reading and making use of her commentary in sermon preparation, he is also tacitly agreeing to and supporting her continued teaching over men by buying her books. He is, in some way, saying it was a good thing for her to get those degrees and teach over men because it allowed her to write a commentary that will be used in the preparation of a sermon that will be spoken to an audience with men in the room.

  • John

    #3 Phil_Style: +1

    The old guard continues to implode on itself.

    I recently read about a gathering of Xn religious leaders – “world changers” or some such self-promotion. Of something like 20 speakers at the event, they invited 2 women. And IIRC their board had zero women, or maybe one token.

    Gays, head coverings, women leaders, snake handling … the NT is not without its ancient cultural relics. We need the courage to abandon 2,000-year-old social rules posing as timeless-universal truths, while embracing the NT’s truly timeless spiritual realities.

  • EricW

    So in the New Creation, the New Human(ity) – in which we are to judge no one according to the flesh – in which the Spirit has been poured out on all flesh, giving gifts and abilities as S/He wills – in which there is not Jew or Greek, slave or free, or male and female – in which all the members, who are members of one another and who all partake of the one loaf and the one cup and are joined and knit together, are to hold fast to the same head, Christ – in this One Body of Christ we are to maintain the same patriarchical hierarchalism and misogyny that characterized the old fallen creation and that continues to characterize most human societies in the world today?

    That is NOT the Gospel.

  • Scot, you might be interested to read an article coming out in JETS this summer called “Apostle Apollos?” Or then again, you might not … 🙂

  • Phil Miller

    That is NOT the Gospel.

    Agreed. Thinking about it some more, I guess the thing that amazes me is that someone felt it even necessary to write John Piper about this question. And beyond that, it took Piper five minutes to answer it. Really?!?

  • scotmcknight

    Andrew I’d be happy to read that… just not so sure we can hang “apostle” on the word “us” in 1 Cor 4. Paul clearly includes Apollos into the circle of influence in 1 Cor 3-4, standing next to himself and Peter. But “apostle” has a definition, and we don’t know Apollos fits the definition, and on top of that he’s not explicitly called an apostle.

    Did you write the piece? (I assume you did.)

    I have no dog in this fight, but if he is an apostle he was taught first by a woman and her husband.

  • Kristin

    All the more reason for pastors to cite the sources of their sermons!

  • Larry Kalajainen

    This whole discussion is an example of the reasons why I wrote my latest book on the nature of biblical authority “The Bible Says. . . How Good is the Good Book?” (Cascade Books)

    If you don’t start from a common understanding of what the Bible is, or how it has authority, then all such arguments are simply a gigantic waste of time, and end up in absurdity or mutual contradiction.

  • PJ Condit

    I agree with a number of posts here, with the basic idea of Paul’s writing (I do not permit…) to be descriptive rather than prescriptive. Paul, with his great verbiage, has much to say, but I find myself looking to apply what’s prescriptive and seeking to understand what’s descriptive.

  • Val

    Apostle or not (I always thought he was, but anyways), Apollos was taught by a woman, so women teaching men is not a problem in the earliest (Acts) church. The main point is, we can throw one line verses back and forth all we want, the NT is not clear on this issue – but every complementarian I know states “the Bible is clear…” yet can’t give an adequate response to Priscilla teaching Apollos, Junia being an apostle or Phoebe being a deacon (and likely teaching the epistle Romans to the church). Complementarians then accuse everyone else of not taking the Bible seriously. That undermines their argument completely – if they can’t deal with the conflicting texts about women, then can’t claim to be handling the Bible “as is” better than anyone else. What I find so difficult in on-line discussions is, this is the complementarian’s final argument – “I’m just following the Bible”. My response is; “No, you’re cherry picking select verses, and undermining the ones that inconvenience you – then accusing others of doing that.”

    It is from the Bible I know there is a place of strong leadership over men for some women, not from secular feminism – Deborah, Hulda, Junia, etc. don’t line up with his (and other’s) view of women not directly leading men.

  • pepy

    This is nothing but “John”foolery!

  • I’m so confused. I thought my wife was a minister but it turns out she might actually be a drill sergeant. If she was a city planner thought that would be alright.

  • In 1 Corinthians, we find a verse about women being silent in the church…but it is in the context of worship services being orderly and not chaotic. We see people being asked to be silent if someone else stands up to prophesy. We also read shortly before that section that Paul seems to be OK with women praying and prophesying publicly. He is just concerned that it is done decently and in order.

    Anyway…this thread isn’t meant to prove an egalitarian reading of Scripture. It is meant to show inconsistency in permitting a man to use a commentary written by a woman while also not permitting the woman to preach publicly.

  • Steve

    Mr. Mcknight, I’m responding to your question on #5

    Where do I see the words “official, authoritative”? Well, the phrase “have authority over” does appear at the end of the sentence, so I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here.

    Taken to its absolute extreme, this verse would mean we cannot have women relaying any information to men – as that would constitute “teaching”. But I think we can both agree the verse doesn’t mean that. On the other hand, we cannot act like this verse isn’t there. So we’re left with the task of figuring out what setting Paul had in mind when he wrote the word “teaching”.

    Since Paul is giving instructions for behavior at Christian gatherings and worship, my mind immediately goes to that context. That is to say, teaching in an official, pastoral way at Christian gatherings in a way that has authority over a congregation. But as we see in the case of Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos, it wasn’t bad for women to teach in other settings.

    So I think this view does justice to what Paul said, tries to put it in the right setting, and avoids extremes in both directions. I don’t know… am I doing gymnastics?

  • scotmcknight


    There are some impositions that we read into the text when we begin talking about official and authoritative — church setting? Sure, but what did that mean? To whom is he speaking? Widows who were teaching what they didn’t know? As 1 Tim 5 makes clear? Yes. What does authority mean here? Why such a strong word? Are we talking here about the new Roman women? Probably so. If so, the whole set of categories changes… this isn’t about ordinary teaching in ordinary settings but about one group of women usurping and teaching before they are formed. So, all that has to be factored in before we can talk about “official” and “authoritative”… and it can’t be equated with pulpit teaching we so easily assume.

  • Phil Miller

    I’m so confused. I thought my wife was a minister but it turns out she might actually be a drill sergeant. If she was a city planner thought that would be alright.

    That’s it! We can just change the title of all women who are ministers to “city planner” and everything will be kosher…

    I just have a mental image of a bunch of young women going into city planning careers now… “Well, I was called into the ministry, but John Piper said I’ve have too much authority, so I decided to be a city planner.”

  • I think we need to be careful that we do not gloss over the fact that Paul is using the present tense. For example: I am sitting at my desk right now. I am not walking. If you interpret this as me saying that I am never going to walk again, you would be quite incorrect. Furthermore if you think that I intend it for all people in all places for all time, you would be even more incorrect.
    Yet somehow people interpret Paul who is using a negative of a present tense, and wanting to apply it universally for all time. I am not walking. Paul is not permitting. Same verb formation, same application.

    By the way, if both Paul and I intended the application to be beyond the present we would have used the future tense. I will not walk. I will not permit.

  • JoeyS

    Regarding the 1 Timothy 2 passage, I’ve seen the case made that Paul’s switch from plural in vs 9 and vs 15 to the singular in vs 11-12 was his way of gently rebuking somebody specific (“a woman”) without using their name directly as he does in other of his writings. As Paul was usually quite specific in his language it makes sense that the differences between plural and singular should be considered.

  • kent

    Just an opening caveat – I did not listen to the podcast thingy from John Piper. I also do not know much about Mr. Rev. Piper. But honestly this whole subject gives me a headache.
    I think I am egalitarian because I believe if you are gifted and called by God then you ought to be in ministry regardless of gender. I know great women pastors and great men pastors, and mediocre ones as well. I have been in ministry for over 30 years and this topic just keeps erupting. It is hard for me to believe that this has not been settled. In our denomination – the Evangelical Covenant we ordain women. If you do not like that well then there are only about bazillion other organizations for you work with. The women I know are earnest, hardworking, Christ honoring, talented and gifted people. I find it incredulous that the interpretation of a handful of verses will exclude them from serving the Lord they confess and love.
    Dealing with this issue is falling into a rose bush. It is pretty but you get stuck every which way you turn. I rarely say anything about this but this will be my last. If you are adamantly against women ministry – okay we will disagree, see you later. You will not change my mind and I am not changing yours. But there is too much that needs to be done, so drop it and let us get back to work.

  • Has anyone here ever considered Dr. Deborah Gill’s translation of the 1 Timothy 2?

    “ I (Paul) do not allow a woman to teach nor to represent that she is the originator of man.” (Gill, 1233)

    Gill, Deborah. Life in the Spirit Commentary to the New Testament
    Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing Group, 1999

  • Jordan L.

    Scot (or someone else),

    Could you comment on Dan Wallace’s case that grammatically Paul’s comment in 1 Timothy is a gnomic present – something is true everywhere and everytime. Without addressing the other pertinent arguments, his grammatical case seems pretty clear cut; at least by the classification of a gnomic present.

  • scotmcknight

    Well, Jordan, I’ve not read Dan’s piece so I don’t want to talk about his theory without knowing the nuances, but I am an aspectual theorist so the notion of time simply isn’t at work for me at the top level. Paul uses the present tense to make it particularly present and vivid to his audience.

  • Steve

    Mr. Mcknight, I’m responding to your question on #41,

    Your proposition that this referred to uncatechized Roman women is something I’d not heard. It also strikes me that Paul’s next statement about the relationship between Adam and Eve points us in a broader direction than just Roman women. It seems he might be pointing to something in the nature of women as a whole.

    I suppose either of us could be right. My goal was to show that view required no gymnastics. I wouldn’t have guessed that the non-gymnastics interpretation would have involved limiting this to non-catechized Roman women, but I’m no scholar. I am, however, satisfied in what I set out to do.

  • OK, I listened to the Piper bit. My goodness! Such contortions! Drill Sergeants vs. City planners. Can we cite women-penned commentaries in pulpits? Oh, brother!

    (Not to mention the problem of turning Paul into Torah!)

    Christ is the Word of God.

    Jesus obviously challenged conventional taboos about women. Jesus clearly considered women full participants in God’s new social order (the kingdom of heaven). Jesus’ egalitarian view of women is reflected in Paul’s theology of Christ:

    “In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourself with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s family, heirs of the covenant promise.” (Galatians 3:26–29)

    (Yes, I subordinate the cultural issues of 1 Timothy 2 to the Christology of Galatians 3. Of course!)

    In the light of Christ Paul understood that our relationship to one other is radically reworked. In Christ there is no ethnic superiority, no class superiority, no gender superiority. Paul understood that Abraham’s family reaches its fullness in Christ—a new kind of family where no one is superior because of ethnicity, class, or gender. Of course it takes time (centuries!) to work this out. Not that long ago “conservatives” were citing chapter and verse to maintain ethnic and class dominance. The last bastion for the “I’m-Inherently-Superior-To-You” game is gender.

    But it’s the 21st century! And we know better. Of course we do! Everyone knows women are as qualified to teach (whatever and whoever) as men. Everyone knows this! Unless they are men so paranoid of progress and so clumsy in parsing ancient religious texts that they feel compelled to keep women IN burkas or OUT of pulpits.

  • ft


  • norman

    I’ll quote Jesus on the coming Kingdom and resurrected life while speaking of women and men and the marriage relationship. So shall it be on earth as it is in Heaven.

    Mat 22:30 for in the rising again they do not marry, nor are they given in marriage, but are as messengers of God in heaven.

    This is a more complex section than meets the eye as anyone who follows some of Jesus difficult passages would recognize. But it’s interesting that ultimately and spiritually men and women are on equal footing in Jesus eyes. So many revolutionary ideas find their way in the patriarchal period of civilization and are continuing to break forth. We simply live in a time where women’s skill sets are becoming more obvious than in hunting, farming, shepherding and warfare periods. It took me a long time to get over my male chauvinist ideas but I now work and support a department of about 100 people and the vast majorities are high level women managers and I must admit they are good at what they do.

  • scotmcknight

    A beautiful statement by Kent Berghuis at my FB account: “But I keep coming back to some very redemptive words of Pete Briscoe who said some years ago that behind every successful woman in ministry there will be a courageous man helping make a way for her, and I decided I wanted to be that kind of man.”

    I want to be that kind of man, too.

  • SM

    Piper asks, “What is the dynamic between how men flourish and women flourish as God designed them to flourish when an act of authority is being exerted on a man from a woman?” In response, he says he, “distinguishes between personal, direct exercises of authority.” He explains this “direct exercise” as being “directly pressed on in an authoritative way.” Regarding that, Piper asks, “Should I be experiencing that? Should she be doing that?” He says, “No.” He further qualifies being “directly pressed on by a woman in an authoritative way” by giving the drill sergeant example. He says, “A drill sergeant that gets in the face. Hut one! Hut two! Keep your mouth shut! Turn around like I said!…” He says about this exercise of authority, “It’s direct. It’s forceful. It’s authoritative. It’s compromising something about the way a man and woman were designed by God to relate.”

    I agree with Piper. This personal exchange to a man from a woman that is direct, forceful, and authoritative compromises something about the way a man and woman were designed by God to relate. Moreover, if a woman is being “directly pressed on in an authoritative way” such that the personal exercise of authority is get-in-your-face, drill sergeant-esque (“Hut one! Hut two! Shut your mouth! Look here!”), that, too, is contrary to the dynamic between how men and women were designed by God to flourish. That, too, compromises something about the way a man and woman were designed by God to relate.

    I do not believe the only alternative to “direct, forceful, authoritative”, “confrontational”, get-in-your-face, drill sergeant-esque “personal” authority, leadership, or influence is indirect, impersonal, “put out of sight,” “city planner” type.

  • brad

    “There is this interposition of this phenomenon called ‘book’ and ‘writing’ that puts her out of my sight and, in as sense, takes away from the dimension of her female personhood.” I’ve learned a lot from Piper over the years, so I’ll always have a good measure of respect for him . . . but, wow! When we take away the voice/authority of someone solely because of their race, we call it racism. When we discount someone’s voice/authority solely because of their economic status, we call it snobbery. And when we discount someone’s voice/authority solely because of their gender, we call it misogyny. I appreciate that he asks male leaders to lead with humility and kindness. But, it’s still misogyny.

  • I’m pretty sure Deborah, Huldah, King Lemuel’s mother, Priscilla, and other Bible women were facing men when they gave instruction and direction.

    I’m adding the link to John Piper’s response to my article on Complementarians and Women Bible Commentators.

  • Karen Spears Zacharias

    Well I’d rather sit under the teachings of Lillian Daniel than John Piper any day of the week.

  • Nancy L.

    Responding to #53: I am blessed to be married to ‘that kind of man’ who recognized my call to ministry and has done everything he could to make a way for me. This he has done perfectly. This is such a painful discussion to read. The incongruence of the comments as I read through them is evidence of the weakness of the debate. Hierarchical positions are ones that ignore the historical stance of the church that only changed when money, power, and lording it over others came into prominence, all things clearly condemned throughout Scripture. I consider this false battle between men and women to be the last great one to be shattered. If it ever were to be destroyed, imagine how effective the church would be if the Eikons finally came together and did the work originally intended for the Kingdom of God on earth. I dream of that day.

  • Phil Miller

    What if John Piper was pulled over by cop who was a woman and a Christian? Would she be sinning in exerting authority over him? Also, at what age does it become wrong for a female to be teaching a male? I imagine there were women Sunday School teachers in Piper’s church… Nonsense… all such freakin’ nonsense!

  • I’m still confused. Is John Piper saying that it’s OK for a man to act like a drill sergeant type when leading a church whereas woman can’t as that is contrary to the way God has designed things? Because if he thinks that I will best flourish as a Christian with a church leader (male or female) acting like some type of authoritative drill sergeant over me he has got that wrong.
    He doesn’t believe that a woman should be acting like a drill sergeant over a man. I don’t believe that any man should be acting like a drill sergeant over me either as that doesn’t strike me as a particularly Christ like

  • Phil Miller

    I think he’s saying that only men can be drill sergeants…

  • Val

    #40 Steve:
    “Since Paul is giving instructions for behavior at Christian gatherings and worship, my mind immediately goes to that context. That is to say, teaching in an official, pastoral way at Christian gatherings in a way that has authority over a congregation. But as we see in the case of Priscilla and Aquilla teaching Apollos, it wasn’t bad for women to teach in other settings.”

    The Verse being talked about by Piper: “12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”

    Actually, I don’t see anything in this verse, or larger context, that restricts it to a congregation, an official gathering or about a pastoral role. In fact, in vs. 11 (right before it) it talks about women learning – hardly something that would mean leading, officiating or leading a gathering. If Priscilla can teach a man one-to-one, then it contradicts this verse, where women can’t. If this doesn’t address official church positions on women, then what does? Junia was an apostle, Phoebe was a deaconess, Debora was a judge, and so on.

    That verse about Adam and Eve – Adam wasn’t deceived? Are you serious? Adam was as much a sinner as Eve – and if, IF, you are taking this whole Garden story literally, Adam was told not to eat the fruit of that tree, it never says Eve was. She is created after that instruction is given, so Adam is a double failure, since he didn’t really explain it to her properly (“surely if you touch the tree you will not die”), um, who said anything about touching the tree anyways? Likely Adam was exaggerating to try and scare her – and look how well fear-based lessons work on humankind!

  • Andrew

    Does it matter to anyone here that a WIDE MAJORITY of biblical scholars regard the Pastoral Epistles, including Timothy, as not written by Paul but by an anonymous Pauline Christian decades after Paul was executed?

    Such a fuss made over the contents of a pseudepigraphical letter!

  • scotmcknight

    Andrew, how do you count NT scholars? Seriously… when you say “wide majority” in all caps you’ve got to have numbers. Who counts? Who gets counted? There are 5000 or so scholars at ETS and I’d be willing to bet 90% think Paul wrote the Pastorals. Numbers mean nothing…

    What matters is evidence and argument, and frankly when it comes to authorship questions from the 1st Century the evidence simply isn’t compelling.

  • Does the “how men and women were designed” argument really hold any weight after the Fall? What about Genesis 3:16? Is it design or curse?

  • norman


    I likely come down on your side regarding this argument but you’ve got to quit using that “consensus” of biblical scholar’s button. It only carries weight for beating people down in a discussion and I think the jury is still out on trying to pin these late dates and pseudepigraphical authors to some of Paul’s letters.

    Again introduce yourself to some “other” serious biblical scholars like John A. T. Robinson and his book “Redating the New Testament” and learn; what are the serious arguments against the “consensus biblical scholars”. There are good arguments on both sides and it’s problematic to be too dogmatic either way. You probably need to meet this argument head on as if Paul was the author and provide a backup one to discuss the possibility that it isn’t Paul.

    Every side could be accused of reading their presuppositions into their arguments. There just isn’t good enough external data and so the internal evidence gets sliced and dice every way imaginable.

  • laiju

    Was reading “How to read the bible for all it’s worth” by Gordon.D.Fee. In chapter 4, the author was using the same example while explaining the need to understand cultural contexts while applying such texts. Also the same issue was mentioned as one of those where the Bible is not consistent by giving examples or early church leaders as Junia [who is mentioned as an apostle by Paul himself – Romans 16:7], Phoebe [who is mentioned as a Deacon – Romans 16:1] and Priscilla [who is mentioned as a co-worker – Romans 16:3]….On a side note – In these days just after Easter, isn’t it fresh in our minds that it was to women that Jesus first revealed himself after his resurrection and weren’t they the first to proclaim this good news 🙂 ?

  • Amanda B.

    I heard this broadcast on my local radio station and have been chewing over it since. The drill sergeant/city planner thing is straight out of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, so that in itself was nothing new to me.

    I disagree with the complementarian position in most respects. But as someone who once believed the subjection of women was simply a hard biblical truth I had to accept, I can understand where Piper, etc. are coming from. I honor their desire to uphold biblical truth, and I cannot ask them to grieve their own consciences on this issue.

    But it would be one thing to say, “From my reading, I believe the Bible forbids women from holding the office of an elder. I don’t know all the reasons why, but this seems to be what God wants, and so I am compelled to stand by it.” It’s another thing entirely to develop complex, extra-biblical arguments to try and prop up a principle that has trouble standing up on its own.

    What bothered me most about Piper’s response was his assertions about what will and won’t strain people’s humanity. He stated pretty openly that men are offended when they have to listen to and follow a woman. Nevermind the sweeping generalization–why should this serve as proof that biblical manhood can’t submit to women? Do humans in general not naturally resist submitting to others? How could a godly virtue *cause* us to be offended at another? What godly impulse could possibly prompt someone to refuse to hear truth, simply because the one proclaiming it has the “wrong” physical characteristics?

    Even if we were to assume that there is a mantle of leadership on men in a way that there isn’t for women, consider: is it godly for an elder to be “strained” by hearing the Word from a deacon? Is it godly for an older man in the Church to resist being instructed by a younger man, or an older woman by a younger woman? If not, why is it okay–and even *good*–for men to feel affronted when hearing the Word from a woman? If the problem is not with the information being taught, and if the problem is not that a person of higher authority would be (at least in a certain context) under the leadership of the lower–doesn’t that leave the only objection as, “I just don’t like listening to women”? And isn’t that a textbook example of sexism?

    As a final note, I recently saw an angry post on the internet about how women who posted anything using the phrase, “As a woman, I…” were clearly only begging for attention, trying to get men to pay attention to them. As such, the rest of their content should be ignored. These women either needed to deliver the goods (i.e. explicit photos) or not make any reference to their own gender, because on the internet, it doesn’t matter if you’re female. Most (though sadly, not all) of the comments on this castigated it for the piece of misogynist nonsense it was.

    This is why it bothered me so much to hear Piper’s response faintly echoing this sentiment, essentially saying, “Once the words are in print, it doesn’t matter that a woman said it. So long as her physical presence is not there to agitate the men, we can just pretend like her voice is the same as any man’s. The only time it’s acceptable to hear from a woman is when we have first made her invisible.”

  • RJS


    Beautiful response. You have put into words many of the thoughts I had listening to this.

    The problem isn’t church leadership and ministry, or even exegetical gymnastics. The problem first and foremost is Piper’s view of personhood, both male and female. This is just so deeply wrong it should make us cry in repentance for the evil in the church.

    … As long as I am not there to agitate you it is OK for me to teach, sort of. I’ve been made invisible and don’t then destroy male dignity.?? As Christians, dignity and self as concerns here should be the furthest thing from our mind.

  • This is all very revealing. Piper says that problems arise when a woman’s influence is “personal” and “direct” and he couches it in the language of power and force. Does this reveal that our discussions of gender relations are often primitive expressions of control and domination? Do we really need to protect men from the “personal” and “direct” influence of women? This does not sound like male strength, but male weakness. A woman’s opinions trapped in a book are safe, just don’t let her express them in person and directly. Huh?

  • Fish

    My girlfriend’s daughter left the church when the pastor told her she wasn’t allowed to lead Sunday School one day. That was when she was 15 or 16, and ten years later she still walks apart from organized religion.

    Score: Jesus 0, Man 1

  • EricW

    @70. Mel Lawrenz:


    What I took away from Piper’s explanation/response is that the real reason people like John Piper are complementarians and use 1 Timothy 2 to prevent women from teaching or having positions of authority in the church like men can do is that they’re afraid of women.

  • DMH

    Perhaps another aspect to this discussion is the whole concept of authority. The top-down, drill sergeant type authority seems to be assumed by many. The NT seems to paint a different picture, a servant picture. How might this change the conversation? I’m wondering if the person who brings their expertise of the subject and writes a commentaty- to serve another persons proclamation of the Gospel- doesn’t hold a “greater” sense of authoity than the proclaimer?

  • Phil Miller

    What I took away from Piper’s explanation/response is that the real reason people like John Piper are complementarians and use 1 Timothy 2 to prevent women from teaching or having positions of authority in the church like men can do is that they’re afraid of women.


    My wife has a PhD, yet in many churches she’s told her opinion is literally worth less than a man in the congregation who never finished high school. I’m not saying that we need to have a hierarchy in churches based on education, but we do need to stop treating women like they are like children.

  • Amy Buckley

    Technically, Paul never uses the word “authority” (exuosia) in this much-debated passage (2 Timothy 2:11-15); rather he employs the word “authentein” that is only used this one time in the NT. Obviously, Paul chose “authentein” instead of “exuosia” although most of our translations do not note this, and according to classical evidence “authentein” prohibits “licentious behavior that seeks to use sexuality to overpower another. A more accurate translation is “I do not permit a woman to teach a man in an dominating way”… This makes sense in light of cultic goddess practices from the Dionysian temple that were creeping into the church in Ephesus. My mentors Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Dr. Richard Clark Kroeger (no he did not take her name in marriage; that was his middle name) wrote a great book addressing this topic. See “I Suffer Not a Woman” (Baker, 1992). Dr. Catherine Kroeger used to say that many do not “avail themselves of the sources” (Greek classic studies) with regard to this matter and applies to inappropriate ways many (including Piper & Grudem) translate head/kephale. On that note, Dr. Kroeger’s book “Making Sense of Metaphor” will be a great resource. Wipf and Stock is slated to publish that sometime soon…

  • I listened to the Pastor Piper’s podcast answer and was appalled. His answer had nothing to do with explaining 1 Tim. 2:12, but some innovative mystical meanings of maleness and femaleness that do not stand up under any biblical texts of which I’m aware.

    I appreciate the lament of RJS #69 and her call for repentance in the church on behalf of women subjected to this exegetical (?!) cr*p. To think that some people actually believe Piper’s answer is both biblical and brilliant is scary to me.

  • For what it’s worth, I don’t think Jesus is too keen on the “drill sergeant model” of leadership for MEN either!

  • Marshall

    Is it OK if the Wimin ask questions?? And follow-up questions? (Is it OK if other non-authorities do?)

  • Phil Miller

    I think the fact that Piper decided to use the drill sergeant as a model of a woman in a leadership role says more about Piper and his own hang-ups about women than it does anything else. Why go there in the first place?

  • Daniel Fiester

    I think that the rationale behind Piper’s interpretation is that 1 Tim. 2:12 concerns teaching within the ecclesia. Here ecclesia is defined narrowly as a local assembly of believers. (Paul generally uses the term ecclesia to refer a local assembly. Only in Ephesians is the term used to describe the so-called universal church). So, this is why a commentary or a Bible college setting is different. A Bible college is an academic setting. It’s not a local assembly with sacraments and leaders. And the readers of a commentary will never gather as a local assembly. I’ve read several of Scot’s commentaries. I’ve never had communion with him. So, I don’t consider us to be a part of the same local church.

  • John
  • I hate to be getting in on this so late, but in our culture authority is so often misused and abused that it is almost a natural instinct to rebel against it. This says a lot about the drill sergeant analogy, which immediately insinuates a certain arbitrary overbearing presence. If we can remember back just one week, Christ set the tone of proper church leadership by the humiliating act of foot washing. Now, do not misunderstand what I am saying. Try this thought out. In the garden episode, men and women ended up going to war against each other. In the death and resurrection of Christ, the reconciliation of all things under his rule has begun and there is (or should be) an increasing peace between men and women. Competition, arrogance, ambition, and abuse have no place among people who would serve in the Household of God.

  • Steve

    Thank goodness Jesus didn’t send Mary to tell John P. he was ascending to the Father that Easter day – he’d have had to been like the disciples — hunkered down in fear, bless his heart.

  • Andrew

    #64: Scott, no offense, but that 95% of a body whose mission statement affirms the inerrancy of the Bible and is established with a clear apologetic focus, confirms that Paul wrote the Epistles doesn’t mean much. This isn’t a debate about Colossians in which one cannot steadfastly affirm one side of the authenticity coin or the other; this debate for most was settled a long time ago. I’m not going to sit here and say it’s settled 100% as nothing regarding early Christianity can make that claim, but one CAN talk about probabilities, and the number of factors challenging claims of authenticity pile on and render it being an authentic letter rather improbable:
    -Not included in Marcion’s canon
    -Descriptions of an established hierarchal Church structure that didn’t exist in the 50s-60s (based on Paul’s authentic letters)
    -Clear difference in literary style and vocabulary, and I’m not swayed that this is because it’s a “personal” letter
    -Complete reversal of stance about the imminence of the parousia
    -Mention of generations of Christians having already passed
    and other arguments found more succinctly here:

    #66: Norman, see above. I understand and concede that delegating to “the majority” is sloppy argument but IMO the authorship of the Pastorals has been questioned by so many for so long I was surprised that none of the comments here were even bringing it up. Outside of conservative Christian apologetic circles you’ll find very few support their authenticity (where something like, the date of Luke-Acts is much more varied in terms of when scholars think it was written)
    And yes I know Robinson’s work well: he made logical points but ultimately in my opinion (and this correlates in my opinion with why his arguments didn’t produce a larger shift in academic opinion) is that he really grasps at straws in too many places and is forced to rather ridiculous justifications for many of his claims. For example, his reconstruction of Paul’s journeys to make the Pastorals make sense are rather fanciful and unrealistic.

  • Joel Kessler

    So, it seems like John Piper is saying . . . if the female author came to your church and read her commentary out loud directly to you, that would be wrong. But reading it on your own and quoting it from the pulpit is OK. Is this not what he is saying? . . . So it has something to do with her higher voice, and her physical presence, and her feminine soul, “infringing upon” a masculine soul, right? . . . No, so Paul wanted to warn us that a woman, although equal, is somehow not how the gospel should be led, except if she writes it.

  • Norman


    I always enjoy your responses because I appreciate people who use effective logic. Something I’m still working on. 🙂

    So if we take your conclusion that Paul may not have penned the problamatic quote that causes consternation then are you saying that letter is just another person’s opinion in effect? If Paul said it then we supposedly would have to wrestle with it but if not then we can discard it. Or can we discard what we percieve is an inconsitent cultural application even if Paul did authorize it. Or do we rationalize it away by some other contrivance as we see many examples used here in this postings thread. Bottom line; do we consider it as superior wisdom or not. Would it be ok to make that judgment even if Paul authorized it.

    It appears to me that in todays world its wisdom is problomatic unless there is something that is hidden from view contextually we are not aware of. In other words as People of God and followers of Christ are we authorized to make sound judgments for ourselves and our times. Do we have a living breathing covenant or is it a rigid one like the one it replaced.

    Perhaps God created us to use our thinking talents He gave us to figure out between wisdom and things not so wise anymore.

  • Janet

    According to the passage most are referring to here, 1Tim 2:11-15, I am not saved because I have not born children. Sounds absurd, no? Yet complementarians have used this in their arguments to support what a woman’s role is/should be, etc., according to scripture -I am thinking of Doug Moo’s comments in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (unsure if that is the exact title). I find as a Christian woman who desires to live her life according to God’s will all of these arguments perplexing. What is one to think or believe? I know what my experience tells me (i.e., that i agree with egalitarian viewpoints) but there are many places in scripture, especially the Pauline texts that seem to put women in less than equal positions with men where ministry is concerned. Also, w/ re to one question asked above..does Piper think it’s appropriate for a man to relate to a woman as a drill sergeant? I confess that i did not listen to the linked video Scot referred to…but if that is the case i think Piper is dealing with some personal issues that have no basis in scripture.

  • Andrew

    Norman, I completely agree! We are called to use our God-given brains in dealing with Scriptural issues. To answer your question, even if Paul did author the letter, I would not use his words as “law” since his letters were never meant to institute a new “Law” as they have often been used . . I believe he would have thought such an idea rather perplexing!

    But I do regard (the actual) Paul as being a man of insight and wisdom, as he was instructed first-hand by the Apostles, and had a profound experience that led him from persecutor to evangelist. So it makes sense to me that some of the more troublesome Pauline Epistles like Ephesians and 1 Timothy are generally regarded as written by others. Doesn’t mean the man was infallible; he was wrong about the imminence of the parousia after all.

  • norman


    HaHaHa!! You said … “Doesn’t mean the man was infallible; he was wrong about the imminence of the parousia after all.”

    You do realize that I’m a full Preterist regarding the Parousia. 🙂

    I believe Paul was right on concerning the Parousia but the church simply lost their ability to decipher Hebrew messianic eschatology after it happened. Parousia simply means “coming” and reflects the OT idea of God coming in Judgment which undoubtedly happened shortly after Paul’s martyrdom. Titus was the instrument of judgment against Jerusalem, the Temple and old covenant animal sacrifices which were brought to an end. The typology was the First Temple judgment.

    Christ wasn’t expected to come back in visible form as that language is simply apocalyptic type that is used throughout the OT and NT and confuses the dickens out of us because we lost the art of reading Hebrew literature which we called Jewish Midrash in its application.

    That’s the reason I keep an open mind on some of this language where I often believe we simply don’t understand the nuanced context as it was intended. Even the scholarly consensus could be off track if their presupposition is built upon a misunderstood concept which is a real possibility as it has historical validation 😉

  • Martin

    “Where do I see the words “official, authoritative”? Well, the phrase “have authority over” does appear at the end of the sentence, so I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb here.”

    The word is authenteo and is used once in the NT. It is a sinister sort of compelling and in this context of 1st Century Ephesus with the Temple of Artemis and the false teaching as we see explained with the “Eve was created first” bit which was part of the pagan Temple belief in that fertility cult. That is why Paul mentioned a play on words “she will be saved in the childbearing”, a reference to Messiah the 1st Century readers would catch because they lived close to that wonder of the world….the Temple of Artemis (Diana) every day. I certainly hope there are no readers here who think women are actually saved by bearing children? I would hope that right there would compel folks to dig deeper on this very confusing to our Western eyes passage!

    I find it interesting that Chrysostem wrote that it was a bad thing for a man to “authenteo” his wife. I cannot remember exactly but I think it was in Homily 10. And he is closer to the time of authenteo than we are in usage/definition.

  • Somebody help me out with the logic on this one. I’m quoting directly from the podcast, where Piper explains that the interposition of the book between himself and the female writer “puts her out of my sight, and in a sense takes away the dimension of her female personhood.”

    The complementarian viewpoint is predicated on the concept that we are inherently different in our genders – inherently men, inherently women, and that these intrinsic differences determine our relative roles. The fact that a female cancer survivor may have no breasts, no uterus, no ovaries, and no children does not change or mute her female-ness – she would still be female, and thus still subject to the gender roles Piper teaches.

    So how on EARTH does she lose the “dimension of her female personhood” just because Mr. Piper can’t see her?! If female or male personhood is intrinsic, how can it be negated (in relation to the complementarian view of gender roles) simply by going into another room? This bothered me more than anything else in the whole podcast – the implication that femininity or masculinity can be “taken away”, when their entire viewpoint rests on the belief that it can’t.

    (I agree with them that gender is intrinsic, by the way. I just disagree that it restricts leadership roles.)

  • littlepanchuk

    I’m just waiting for some young man who listens to Piper to fail one of my classes and then dispute the grade on the grounds that my “direct” and “personal” teaching put too much strain on his masculinity for him to perform well. I’m sure glad my Chair isn’t a complementarian!

  • Sharon Letchford

    Is it just me or is Piper getting weirder and weirder every time he opens his mouth? It’s like he’s dragging his audience down the thin edge of that wedge that fundies are so quick to blame egals of doing. You could set up a cult with “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” as a sacred book!
    BTW, I would have called Apollos an ‘apostle’ no problem: just not ‘one of the twelve’ or ‘one of the seventy two’, although I can’t really see that whether he was an apostle or not has any bearing on whether or not he can be taught by a woman. What is the ‘definition’ of ‘apostle’ you referred to, Scot?