Women and Ministry: Paul

Women and Ministry: Paul October 10, 2006

In RT France’s Women in the Church’s Ministry, chp 3, France looks at the contested passages in Paul’s letters: 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:8-15. I’ve loaded the texts into this post to make life easier for us today. But, there are lots of disagreements and debates here so we’ll have to work at civility.
1 Cor 14:34-35:

34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.

1 Timothy 2:8-15

8 Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. 9 I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

In essence, here are France’s conclusions and, of course, your comments are welcome.
On 1 Cor 14:34-35:
1. There is a major text-critical issue here. FF Bruce, for instance, told me it was “textually suspect” and should not be used to construct our theories about women and ministry. Fee agrees. France takes it as Pauline.
2.France says, wives are being counseled to ask their husbands at home, they are not to interrupt prophets while they are speaking. There is not a blanket silencing of women, since women could prophesy in the church (11:5).
On 1 Timothy 2:8-15:
1. Very complex discussion. The background is sketched. Women were empowered in Ephesus; they were assuming teaching roles for which they were not qualified. The Christian women were assuming the liberation of the freedom-dominated worship of Artemis.
2. Paul encourages wives (not women in general) to learn before they teach; he encourages those who want to be ascetic to be married; he does not think this is “creation” ordinance but “couple” teaching — Adam and Eve stand for a husband and wife team when the wife got out of line.
3. He points to the connection of 2:11-15 and 5:11-15. Notice the similarities:

11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan.

This house to house meddling and chatter could be what Paul means by teaching in 2:11-15, and their need to be formed and taught before they become teachers. And notice also the exhortation to marry and have children, and that in 2:11-15 childbirthing leads to redemption.
4. He points to “authenteo” (“usurp authority/have authority”) being an odd term to choose had Paul meant only “no authority over.”
5. He asks, as so many have, if it is not the case that the wide-scale dispute about so much in this text leads us to a much more difficult situation of using this text to determine central issues in women and ministry discussions.


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  • Great summary. France, in my opinion is going the right direction.

  • Kim

    I’m not sure how to respond as the hairs rise on my neck. This is the exact Scripture that has been used to defend my churches stance regarding a woman’s ‘call’ or desire to serve.
    Probably what is more troubling than anything, to me, is women seem much more indoctrinated to this Scripture than many men (at least in my experience) and the debate about context, culture, etc. seem to be dismissed in the effort to submit and be a ‘good wife’.
    I continue to return to the source and what God tells me is MY truth.
    I am interested in reading what others think/know and have experienced/seen.

  • Nick

    maybe these passages are suspect. but maybe they are truly pauline, and reveals his sexist views obtained from his male-dominated culture. maybe paul wasn’t perfect after all.
    lets give up on trying to justify these passages to support what we know is right. the writers were products of a culture!! they were wrong in their views and treatment of women!
    the bible can indeed teach wrong doctrine, which we should reject. why do we insist that it cannot?

  • Nick, we believe it isn’t “wrong” because the writing comes from God. Your view has a low view of Scripture for those of us who do not believe God inspired the writing of Scripture to say what he wanted it to say.

  • Scot-
    I have an honest methodological question I am wrestling with (FYI – I’m a complementarian just to lay my cards on the table)…
    When we reconstruct a historical context and it redirects our thinking about a passage how can we be sure that we’ve accurately reconstructed that context?
    I mean that if we follow some sort of a historical-grammatical-literary hermeneutic, the one aspect of that we can “reconstruct” (ignoring textual criticism for a moment – b/c that would at least be bound by certain extant texts) is the historical context. Of course doing that can dramatically change meaning/interpretation. When we are relying on that so heavily (as I realize we probably always do) what precautions are in place to assure we’ve done that correctly? Should we be worried if that reconstruction leads us to understand a text far differently than those who precede us have understood it? What about if that reconstruction leads us to read a text in a far different way than we ever would have apart from that reconstruction (i.e. – with only the grammatical-literary aspects of the passage and other Scripture as historical context)?
    The other question I have is this…
    Could you help me understand, according to an egalitarian… If (hypothetically of course) Paul would have wanted to say that there is a God-ordained authority structure in the church/home that involves male leadership (in a unique way not shared by females) how might he have gone about saying it? I’m just wondering if there is any possible argument that he (or the NT) could have made which could not be deconstructed by a reconstruction of the historical context?
    I hope these questions don’t come across in a caustic manner, I’m just trying to explore how powerful and formative historical reconstructions are and what the bounds/checks are on them. Can they make any text say anything?

  • On 1 Cor 14:34-35:
    “There is not a blanket silencing of women, since women could prophesy in the church (11:5).”
    That to me is the critical observation. Whatever was intended by the passage it was not a universal ban on women speaking in the service.
    One theory I have read suggests that many of the women did not know how to conduct themselves in a worship environment and were being disruptive of the teaching and worship. Others suggest that Gnostic like usurpation of authority by women may have been in mind here. In either case they need to be silent(attentive) and learn rather than disrupt the proceedings.
    Another is that the “later insertion” idea argued by Bruce, Fee and others. (See “Fuldensis Sigla for Variants in Vaticanus and 1 Cor. 14:34-35” by Philip B. Payne in New Testament Studies, vol. 41, 1995, 240-262.)
    Yet another theory I have read that is not as widely attested to is the verses 34-35 are a quotation from the letter Paul received. Like I copied a quote from your post and then commented on it, Paul is doing the same with the letter received from the Corinthians. The idea is that there is a grave accent prior to verse 36, which would indicate that the preceding is a quotation.
    So Paul quotes from the Corinthian letter to which he is responding:
    34 women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
    After quoting he responds:
    36 Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? 37 If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. 38 If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. 39 Therefore, my brothers, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
    In other words, at the end of his discourse on orderly worship, which clearly includes women speaking, he quotes their statement about women not speaking according to the Law (Which raises a whole other question? What Law since there is nothing in the Torah that teaches this. Roman Law?) Then, he in essence, slaps them down (v. 36) for corrupting the community and then makes clear in v. 37-40 that what he has been teaching in this chapter is the real deal.
    This last theory was found in “10 Lies the Church Tells Women” by J. Lee Grady (page 63). Grady gives as source for this: Dr. Kenneth E. Bailey, “Women Leaders,” from the video-tape series Women in the New Testament, (Wichita, KS: Harvest Communications, Inc.). I haven’t seen this series but I know that he argues in Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern View for the “be attentive and learn” view. I would be curious to know if others have come across any scholarly work regarding this theory.
    Any way I think your statement “There is not a blanket silencing of women, since women could prophesy in the church (11:5)” is paramount.

  • Nick

    i enjoyed hearing about the numberous theories behind the strange passage of the silencing (submission to men, etc)of women. it is possible paul is quoting someone else, and then countering that treatment of women, and we just missed it by poor translation. my theory, which no one seems to entertain, is that paul is coming from a sinful, sexist attitude towards women (not surprising, given his culture), and we are buying into it since its in the “holy bible”, regarding it as “inspired” by God (God-breated). for the theory that he is addressing a number of women who are disruptive, that seems pretty implausible. paul addresses all women of that church, generally, and justifies it since they were deceived by the devil and created second. i find it unlikely that all the women were disruptive, while the men were not. this rhetoric is an example of classic patrarchial authoritarianism we witness even today. he then suggests child-bearing has something to do with their salvation. we have to conclude that paul was overtly sexist and suppressed women in the early church, and thought he was being righteous for doing so. i hope this truly isn’t from paul, but whether it is or not, taken at its word, it is enough grounds to reject it outrightly and deny the all-encompassing authority of scripture. we don’t have to blindly accept everything taught to the early churches. there is freedom in discerning what is truth, even within the bible. remember, they were fallen human beings just like we are. what say you about my theory?

  • Regarding Michael’s comment #6:
    “In other words, at the end of his discourse on orderly worship, which clearly includes women speaking, he quotes their statement about women not speaking according to the Law (Which raises a whole other question? What Law since there is nothing in the Torah that teaches this. Roman Law?)”
    The key point in this difficult passage is the question that you raise – where is the law that restricts women from talking in the church. Once one has found this law, the passage becomes much easier to understand.
    In my research on the hard passages of scripture on the women’s issue, I have found that the only law that was in operation during the time of Paul’s writing was the oral law of the Jews or the traditions of the elders and is today called the Talmud. Jesus often referred to these Jewish oral traditions and said that they invalidated the law of God.
    The question then that one must ask is why would Paul appeal to Jewish tradition? Paul no where else appealed to man’s tradition as valid for Christians. For Paul to force Jewish oral law which was soundly condemned by Jesus as a rule for the church would be unthinkable. It is only when one searches through 1 Corinthians to find that Paul is consistently answering questions and/or challenges that the Corinthians wrote him, is one able to understand that 1 Cor. 14:34, 35 is a quotation from the letter that Paul then promptly refutes.
    The Jewish oral law forbid women from learning the Torah and forbid them from teaching others. It even said that it is better to burn the Torah rather than handing it over to women. This is the attitude of some in the Corinthian church towards the women who were exhibiting their freedom in Christ. The Judaizers were ones who were seeking to bring the church into bondage with their man-made traditions and rules and their rules on women were certainly ones that the Judaizers would have tried to force on the congregation.
    In the context of 1 Corinthians 14 Paul consistently is allowing the gifts to be used by everyone for the edification of the church. In verses 34 & 35, there is no edification being given and the learning is said to be at home. No women learning in church and no women speaking in church. This is completely opposite to what Paul has been saying in the preceding verses. In verse 36 Paul uses the expression of amazement. What! He says. No women learning and no women speaking? His refutation of the view in verses 34 & 35 in verse 36 can only make sense if verses 34 & 35 are the view of some of the Corinthian church. Otherwise Paul is refuting his own view, which would be nonsense.
    I have done a complete exegesis of this passage on a teaching DVD series on the hard passages of scripture and to this date I have not had anyone who has been able to refute my research.
    A Calvary Chapel Pastor wrote me about his thoughts after viewing the series. He was especially impressed with the teaching on 1 Corinthians 14 and he said that it was a very powerful section. Now that is amazing since this Pastor is a complementarian and his denomination is complementarian.
    This is what he said:
    “I want to say from the start that I was very impressed with the quality of your production and the depth of reasoning present in Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free? This is a well thought out treatment of this controversial issue of women in ministry…. It would have been easy for you to fall into a derogatory and disrespectful and even an antagonistic tone in this production, but you did not stoop to this level and for that you are to be commended. The tone throughout was one of respectful disagreement and honorable treatment of those who differed from you in your position. That’s grace… I learned some interesting things from your teaching [for example](your handling of 1 Corinthians 14)… This was well done and your reference to Jewish tradition was powerful in making your points. Could Paul’s reference to “the law” in verses 34-35 be referring to a quotation from Jewish tradition? You make a pretty persuasive case that it is… Again I want to commend you on your work. It is well done, rational and reasonable, temperate, well organized, and of high technical quality… I want to say in closing, Cheryl, you and all those who worked on this project have done a magnificent job in presenting your case. I thank you for allowing me to review your work. It stretched me and forced me to dig deep and seriously consider what I believed about this issue.”
    I firmly believe that until one can find the “law” that was quoted in this passage, one will never be able to completely “connect the dots” on Paul’s hard passage.

  • Nick, I am unclear about which passage you are referring to but it seems like you are starting with 1 Corinthians and then morphing into a discussion of 1 Timothy.
    In the 1 Timothy passage, I think authenteo is one of the critical aspects of this passage. Why didn’t Paul just use exousia if that was what he meant? If, someone other than Paul inserted it why didn’t they use exousia to make it clear. This is the only place the word authenteo is used in scripture. Clearly something else other than straightforward authority is in mind.
    Richard and Catherine Kroeger point many several instances of Paul countering false teaching in 1 Timothy and build a case that the some of Paul’s warnings point to Gnostic-like heresy’s entering the church at Ephesus, the center of worship for the goddesses Artemis (Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.) There is no one transcendent Gnostic teaching but typically the Gnostics would take stories of surrounding religions and cast the esteemed figures of that religion as the villains with goddesses (like Sophia) as the true source of knowledge. Eve was a particular fascination among the Gnostics and various stories from Gnostic literature venerate Eve and the serpent, claiming Eve was created first and gave birth to Adam and then instructed him in the ways of truth. In other words, the teachings of the Old Testament are a lie and women needed to seize control of their rightful place as the repository of mysterious truths. Also, connected to some Gnostic cults was the condemnation of childbearing because in so doing you were bringing one more spirit into the evil material world. I am only touching on the surface of this but you get the idea.
    Since authenteo is not in the Bible we have to look to its use in other Greek sources. It always seems to have the connotation of seizing control, even by violence. By the Second Century it seems to even be connected with murder. So it the Kroegers are right what have is.
    12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authenteo over a man; she must be quiet.
    In other words, these Gnostic women are not permitted to seize authority or act as though they are in authority because of their female status according to Gnostic heresies. They need to be attentive and listen to the teaching.
    13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
    Since these letters were read publicly, this is Paul refutation and rebuke of the Gnostic circulating Gnostic heresies.
    15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
    The goddesses aren’t going to get you for having children.
    I haven’t done their presentation justice but you get a sense of what they are driving at.
    I think it is also important to note that the passage no where says that women are to be in submission to men. It says they are to “learn in quietness and full submission” with out stating to whom or what they are to be submissive. I think the context points to submission to teachers and the Word of God not men.
    Finally, in a post by Ben Witherington sometime back he wrote about this passage:
    “1) women were frequently priestesses and prophetesses in the religion they had come from; 2) if one already had an education, including some education in public speaking (rhetoric) one assumed that one was equipped to go ahead and speak or even teach, especially teach those less literate and of lesser social status. Notice that Paul has restricted what these women are to wear in worship. Clearly enough, he is correcting high status women who actually had fine clothes and jewels to wear, and could come to worship with high coiffed hair. It is these sorts of women he has in mind in 1 Tim. 2; 3) the verb here is ‘I am not (now) permitting’. As Philip Payne has shown, there is not a single instance of the use of this verb in Greek literature where this form means ” I am permanently banning women from teaching etc.’ This is a verb which implies a ban for a specific period of time until the problem is remedied or the proper conditions are met for women having learned enough to be able to teach. Paul could have said “I will never permit women to teach…” but he did not, and for a good reason. He is correcting a problem;…” Literal Renderings of Texts of Contention– 1 Tim. 2.8-15
    The bottom line for me is that there is ample evidence that this is not about authority between men and women but it is about orderly worship and combating heretical teaching and behavior.
    Nick, what I don’t get is why, you are so eager to read Paul so out of context (along with the more fundamentalist wing of the church) and throw him overboard along with scripture as the inspired authoritative Word of God?

  • One more comment on the hard passage of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, I believe that one cannot understand this passage until they can pin point who the “she” is in verse 15 as well as following Paul’s leading back to Genesis to find out why Adam was not deceived while Eve was. I believe that once one has the answer to these two questions, the passage is complete without contradiction and without error and is completely God-breathed. Paul is not contradicting himself in this passage nor is he making a law against women who teach the bible to men that would have been completely unknown to the New Testament believers who had only the Old Testament.

  • Okay, I forgot one other thing….Did you ever think that whatever Paul is forbidding in 1 Timothy 2 concerning “authenteo”, Paul nowhere else in scriptures allows a man to have “authenteo” over anyone? “Authenteo” is uniquely used this one time in the New Testament and it is used in a passage concerning a prohibition – a negative thing. For those who say that women cannot have “authenteo” over a man, I agree, but I respectfully ask, if they can show me that “authenteo” is ever allowed for anyone including a man? The answer is “no”. We must stop to consider why? Paul is stopping something bad, but he is never allowing this same “thing” to be practiced by a man or men. We must consider the complete context of this passage to find out why.

  • Women were empowered in Ephesus; they were assuming teaching roles for which they were not qualified.
    Of course, the context is that Paul is speaking about women teaching women, not women teaching men.
    Brad

  • Cheryl, I’ve to your site, viewed the demo, bought the package. Thanks! I look forward to viewing it.

  • Michael,
    Wonderful! Please contact me back after you have viewed the series. I would be very interested in your feedback. My email address is listed at my web site at http://www.mmoutreach.org
    Blessings!

  • Nick

    michael, i do consider context (as much as i can find out) when i read a historical document. i understand that there were pagan/gnostic heresies going around in those churches and apparently some women were being disruptive in some way. paul was right to combat these false teachings and bring order to the churches.
    considering the context, i also think the simplest, most straight-foward reading of the text is the best way to understand the author’s point. in my opinion, paul seems to make a distinction between men and women as far as their roles as teachers and general behavior in a christian meeting. if in fact some women were being disuptive, i find it strange that paul suggest a blanket silencing of all the women. why speak generally of women, as if they were all guilty of this behavior? if paul had been specific about certain female individuals, rather than all women, about being submissive and not teaching men, then i could understand how he probably was adressing a specific problem.
    it seems much more likely that paul’s words reflect a sexist bias in his thinking, rather than adressing a specfic heresy and conflict within the church. i do realize my opinion changes my view of the authority of scripture, but it has not paralyzed my faith. this does not mean i don’t think paul was a serious follower of jesus and had some good things to say or that i don’t think the bible is uniquely authoritative. but i no longer think the entire bible is the inspired Word of God, and i am open to the possibility that paul was not always inspired by when he wrote these letters.
    do you not think its possible that paul did not think of women in an egalitarian way, given his backgroud and the culture? do you honestly think paul was never (morally) wrong in his thinking/teaching? i think we all would agree that he probably was at times, since he was only human. then does it not make sense that it is likely that sometimes in our biblical account of his writings, some of his thinking/teaching was (morally, universally) wrong?

  • Scot,
    Do you think that there is a difference between “prophesy” (1 Cor. 11) and “teaching”? If so, what is it?

  • Nick,
    After a two year study on the hard passages of scripture on the women’s issue, I have concluded that Paul was not sexist, he was completely inspired and these hard passages, in context, do not contradict other very clear passages that promote women’s freedom to use their gifts. Part of my reasoning for publishing my results is to bring back those who have left scripture as inspired because they could not reconcile Paul’s hard passages.
    My attitude now is one of great gratitude to Paul for his high view of women. I have come to understand that God would never allow scripture to be tainted by an ungodly and sexist point of view from someone writing under inspiration and it is only our misunderstanding of Paul that makes us believe that Paul was sexist. I have such a love for Paul after my intense study into these passages and I would recommend that those who have left the high view of scripture because they have seen Paul in a bad light, rethink their view. Scripture is inspired and every part of it including the exact words that the Holy Spirit wanted to use in each passage as well as the exact grammar are important in scripture. After my two year study, my view of scripture is much higher than it ever was before, if that is possible. I now know without a shadow of a doubt that *all* scripture is inspired by God and profitable for our learning and for our correction.
    One of the first people I want to hug in heaven is Paul! He had the highest view of women than I could ever imagine!

  • Nick #15
    “if in fact some women were being disuptive, i find it strange that paul suggest a blanket silencing of all the women.”
    I don’t think Paul is giving a blanket silencing of women. Only women could exercise the type of Gnostic inspired attempt to usurp the authority becasue the heresy taught that women were the vessels of this mysterious knowledge. They would have provoked all women to the idea the ALL women don’t need to listen to men. Men are not the presenting problem. Again this follows “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission” and he might just as well have added “just as men do.” His problem is with women inspired by Gnostic heresies presuming to be in authority and not needing to be attentive to what is being taught. Again, the passage says submission but does not give a subject. I think it is a stretch to say that this is talking about submission to men.
    “i also think the simplest, most straight-foward reading of the text is the best way to understand the author’s point.”
    Agreed. But which is the most straight-forward reading of the text: A) an English translation read in a culture 2,000 years removed from the events when it was written and living in a very different culture or B) the Greek manuscript read in the light of the author, the audience, and the context of the issues they were addressing with their cultural assumptions?
    “i do realize my opinion changes my view of the authority of scripture, but it has not paralyzed my faith. this does not mean i don’t think paul was a serious follower of jesus and had some good things to say or that i don’t think the bible is uniquely authoritative. but i no longer think the entire bible is the inspired Word of God, and i am open to the possibility that paul was not always inspired by when he wrote these letters.”
    Your statment prompts serveral questions for me and I suspect they are going to eventually become your questions. If the Bible isn’t authoritative why waste our time examining documents about some distant ancient culture? If it is partially authoritative, which parts? Who decides? If the Bible isn’t authoritative then how do we know anything Jesus taught or said is authentic? The people who authenticated the gospels are the same folks who authenticated the epistles. I am not intending to be confrontive here but you wrote that this has not “paralyzed your faith” and I fear that is precisely what is ahead for you.

  • Nick #15
    “do you not think its possible that paul did not think of women in an egalitarian way, given his backgroud and the culture?”
    Paul had a experience on the Road to Damscus that converted him into the chief proponent of the cause whose adherents he had been killing. I absolutely believe he could have overcome his background and culture. I am persuaded he did!
    “do you honestly think paul was never (morally) wrong in his thinking/teaching? i think we all would agree that he probably was at times, since he was only human.”
    I think he probably was wrong at times. But I also believe in God’s power to inspire accurate witness and instruction in the writing of people. I also believe in those early church folks who testified to the authenticity and accuarcy of his teaching, thus making it part of the canon.
    “then does it not make sense that it is likely that sometimes in our biblical account of his writings, some of his thinking/teaching was (morally, universally) wrong?”
    Only if you believe that the creator of the universe is incapable of inspiring and preserving an accurate and authoritative witness about His work in history.

  • Nick

    God could indeed insipire and preserve an accurate and authoritative witness about his work in history, but only if he did it without human beings. i don’t think God violates our freewill, therefore no one’s (not even the apostle paul’s!) theology/writing/thinking is guaranteed to be 100% inspired and authoritative, as if directly from God himself.

  • Nick

    thank you for your challenge cheryl to rethink paul’s language and its implications for my view of scripture. and thanks michael for those questions that i do need to answer for myself.
    “If the Bible isn’t authoritative why waste our time examining documents about some distant ancient culture?”
    it’s certainly authoritative because it has historical credibility, which i don’t need to go into. there are no real good reasons to think the gospel accounts were made up or misinterpeted. it has tremendous authority because it is the documented story of jesus and of the early church (and the journey of israelites, who had a special relationship with God). no one today writing has more insight into the actual life of jesus than the new testament authors (i’m coming from a firm conviction that Jesus is Lord).
    “If it is partially authoritative, which parts? Who decides?
    we each decide. what speaks authoritatively in your life? no one can tell you what to believe, you have to decide for yourself with God as your guide. still, i hope we can all generally agree. for me, since i believe (for good reasons) the account of jesus’s life is historically accurate, whatever matches his words and life i accept as inspired and authoritative. whatever looks like jesus in scripture to me is God-breathed. whatever does not is a product of something else.
    “If the Bible isn’t authoritative then how do we know anything Jesus taught or said is authentic?”
    from what i know, they are historically reliable. also, everything about jesus the spirit confirms in me to be Truth. it just sounds too beautiful to be wrong. i guess we each decide by hearing from God what is from Him (inspired), so that God Himself is the ultimate authority.

  • Nick

    we sometimes want the bible to be the inspired word of god (because it does sound like a good thing and we are taught it is a given) so much that we always find ways to rationalize our way to convince ourselves and others. i now try to come at everything with blank slate and a critical eye, and proceed from there.

  • Josh,
    Good questions. First, we have to be careful that historical reconstruction doesn’t obliterate the “plain meaning” of some text. I’ve seen this alot. But, if we restrict ourselves to what we can know from context and from clear textual clues, we will more often than not be safe and not inventing imaginary contexts. Still, we have to let the text say what it says.
    Second, when a text says one thing that seems to contradict what is said elsewhere — as this text could be said to do by telling women to be silent when women were not silent in 1 Cor 11:5 — then we have to suspect historical conditions.
    Third, had Paul thought women should always be silent, he would have told the Corinthians praying and prophesying women to sit down and not do that in public. He didn’t. That says more than most permit.

  • Scott M

    Josh, I noticed Scot hasn’t had a chance to get to your questions, so I thought I would take a stab at the first one at least. First and foremost lexicography, an essential discipline for translation, is itself a function of history. Without the historical work to try to determine what the words meant at the time in order to correlate them with appropriate English words and phrases, we would not have any English translations at all. While I know many who read here actually have learned at least some of the Hebrew and Greek of the texts, most of us simply don’t have the time to do so. And as our historical understanding improves, so does our ability to translate the text into English. Your question seems to apply that the words of scripture somehow have a meaning that is independent of their historical setting and context. Not only does that appear odd to me (probably because of my admittedly postmodern perspective), but it seems to run counter to the nature of Christianity. Our faith is rooted in its essential ‘happenedness’. (I don’t think that’s actually a word, but it’s the only way I could think to convey the thought.) As Paul says in 1 Cor. 15, if Jesus isn’t raised from the dead, if it’s not an actual historical event, then we’re wasting our time and should be pitied. Ours is a faith deeply and thoroughly rooted in actual historical events or it’s not a faith at all. And so, the better we understand the historical setting and context of our text, the better we can understand what it says, and we can thus continue to return to its central teachings.
    Or at least, that’s how I see it. 😉

  • Josh #5
    I know you put your question to Scot but I thought I would stick my nose in and offer one perspective. 🙂
    I am a Midwesterner and my roommate in graduate school (Kansas State Univ.) was from South Carolina. He talked funny. I keep telling him I was going to help him with speech problem so he could speak English without an accent. The reality of course is that had I been in South Carolina I would have been the one with the accent. However, because I am in the Midwest my accent was so ubiquitous I could easily assume I didn’t have one.
    Similarly, to understand a scripture passage I have to understand the original speaker and the audience in the “language,” “metaphors,” and “context” they are speaking in. I have to learn their accent. There is no “accent free” or “contextually free” reading of the Word. I think the greater danger is to assume that we are coming at the Word without an accent or without a context. The choice isn’t between understanding the original context or a context free reading. It is a choice between contexts to read from. I think the greater danger is isogesis, blindly reading our context into the passage, instead of understanding if for what it says.
    “If (hypothetically of course) Paul would have wanted to say that there is a God-ordained authority structure in the church/home that involves male leadership (in a unique way not shared by females) how might he have gone about saying it?”
    Had Paul used the exousia (authority) instead of kephale (head) in the household code of Ephesians 5 I think that would have been a clear sign. Aristotle wrote, “The man has the rule of this [House] by nature. For the deliberative faculty in a woman is inferior, in children it does not yet [exist], and is completely foreign to slaves.” (David C. Verner, “The Household of God: The Social World of the Pastoral Epistles” p. 73) The household codes then gave instruction to the household head only, about how to rule his household and exhorting him to do so because the order of society depended on him keeping an orderly household. Paul was clearly drawing on the household genre with his household code but radically altered it by not telling husbands to rule their households. He does not even tell them to be the head of the household. He simply observes that they are the head (sustaining life-giving source) for the household. He is only instruction is to love his wife, not rule her or be her head. If Paul had wanted to maintain the hierarchy all he had to do was repeat the ubiquitous household codes of the Greeks to his readers and they would know exactly what he meant. But he didn’t. No where does Jesus or Paul direct men to be in authority (exousia) over women or wives which is very peculiar if this is a central aspect to the coming order in the Kingdom of God.

  • Daniel,
    Yes, there is a difference — one a spirit-inspired utterance, and the other (if I may use such a term) a routine matter of explicating and clarifying the faith.
    The issue is more than just “teaching” but “silence” in 1 Cor 14:34-35.

  • Nick #21,
    “we each decide. what speaks authoritatively in your life? no one can tell you what to believe, you have to decide for yourself with God as your guide. still, i hope we can all generally agree. for me, since i believe (for good reasons) the account of jesus’s life is historically accurate, whatever matches his words and life i accept as inspired and authoritative. whatever looks like jesus in scripture to me is God-breathed. whatever does not is a product of something else.”
    In other words each of us does what is right in our own eyes? There is no transcendent authority other than what we feel or think about the scripture? I am curious how you relate to 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
    From #22
    “i now try to come at everything with blank slate and a critical eye, and proceed from there.”
    This is not possible. There are no objective autonomous individuals. We all come from a context. The very language we are using right now shapes how we perceive and understand. I draw your attention to comments to Josh in #25 about “accent.” What I hear you saying is that you don’t speak with an accent. Your blank slate isn’t a blank slate it is an assumption that all or some of scripture isn’t inspired. Mine isn’t a blank slate either. I assume that it is all inspired. No one has a blank slate.

  • Scot-
    As always thanks for the answers & conversation – I always appreciate your careful and measured approach (even when we disagree). In particular your focus on the analogy of Scripture as a factor key in limiting our historical reconstructions is helpful. It seems your biggest concern is to explain the commands about silence (1 Cor. 14) and quiet (1 Tim 2) thru historical reconstruction. If I understand correctly your view that some (maybe most?) complementarians primarily focus on the words “silence” & “quiet” in the assembly as absolute in these passages. Here’s where I guess I differ from the complementarians you have in mind…
    My view of the passages mentioned (as a complementarian) is not that women would remain “silent” in the assembly for all situations/tasks, but rather in the authoritative weighing of prophecy in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (but not absolute silence). Similarly I tend to read 1 Tim 2 as specifically addressing the “teaching” of bible/doctrine (as Paul seems to consistently use the this word in the Pastorals) and “have authority” as the kind of spiritual authority exercised by a pastor/elder (a hapax here if I remember correctly so no parallels) – so women are “quiet” in regard to these tasks (yet not absolute quite). No doubt you’ve heard these arguments before (I’m following Carson on 1 Cor 14 & Moo on 1 Tim 2). So I would never argue unqualified silence in the assembly, rather silence in the weighing of prophecy and quiet in the teaching and exercising authority over men.
    If this is a tenable interpretation of these passages (I know not yours) it doesn’t seem like I would need a historical reconstruction to answer what was going on and why Paul would have to command “silence” in 1 Cor. 14 & “quiet” in 1 Tim 2. It seems that reconstruction is only needed if we I determine they are situationally-limited.
    So by my last question…
    “If (hypothetically of course) Paul would have wanted to say that there is a God-ordained authority structure in the church/home that involves male leadership (in a unique way not shared by females) how might he have gone about saying it?”
    …what I really had in view was the kind of interpretations I shared above (limitations on weighing of prophecy, teaching & exercising authority over men) – not with an absolute silence in mind (I’m sure there are some complementarians who might argue that, I just am following the CBMW folks).
    A quick apology if I’ve pursued a point which wasn’t your intent to explore (I recall at the beginning of this series you said something concerning avoiding egalitarian v. complementarian arguments). I really appreciate you letting me “get inside the head” of my egalitarian brothers and sisters to ask questions.

  • Josh,
    Your view, if I understand it aright, is quite similar to that of my friend and robust defender of complementarianism, Wayne Grudem. Not totally sure about what he says about 1 Tim 2, but I recall it being something like yours.
    I sense in your comment here that historical reconstruction is something done by those who are offering some kind of modification of what Paul seems to be saying. I think we all have some kind of reconstruction. Yours, for instance, of the kinds of silence Paul enjoins upon his readers.
    Involved for me is why in the world Paul can say that women (surely “wives”) will be saved through childbearing. And, if we filter 2:11-15 through 5:11-15, a slightly different set of factors rise to the surface.

  • Cheryl, I just ordered your dvd series too. You told me about it some months back, and I’ve had it on my, “I wanna get this” list, but then kind of forgot about it… Anyways, I’m looking forward to viewing it.
    Scot, Michael, and all,
    Thanks, as always, for the conversation in and of itself. I have been a fan of women’s-silence, having been raised that way and also finding it to be the most straight-forward reading of Scripture.
    It was a hard pill to swallow, to be sure, as a woman who likes to think and discuss theology and can’t help but teach animatedly… but it’s worth it to bring glory to God… right? So I took my behind-the-scenes role and did it for the Lord, stuffing any thoughts to the contrary (because they were from the enemy, they were because I was rebellious, etc)…
    Until I had to admit that women DID speak in the Scriptures and had the blessing of God on it.
    So then what?
    I, personally, would probably be in the pastorate had I been born male. Because I wasn’t, I did the next best thing. Married one. *sad smile* Either be a missionary or marry a pastor—these are the two options for a woman (in patriarchal circles) who feels called to one of the “five-fold ministries” (or whatever term you want to use for the more public speaking/teaching roles).
    Dealing with this issue…realizing that there are women in the OT and the NT who appear to have a public role AND are affirmed in it by God…realizing that there is a HUGE cultural background to these texts that I had previously ignored (thinking that only people who wanted to “get out” of the hard things would stoop to looking at the cultural background)…has been very hard for me. It has challenged not only my theoretical position, but my literal practices as a woman in a patriarchal home and a patriarchal church.
    But I will also say this. Like others have expressed, I cannot tell you how wonderful it feels to know that there is a GOOD chance that these chains I have thought were of God (and therefore quietly assumed, without grumbling)…are not.
    And that things in me that I’ve always thought were rebellious (why would *you* want to teach adults? Can’t you be satisfied with children’s ministry? What is wrong with you?) might actually be giftings of the Spirit.
    And that I am of equal worth and value to Him. Wow. Because though the patriarchal position says both genders are of value, it doesn’t take very long to get the distinct feeling that you really are the “weaker sex,” as in, inferior—not just positionally inferior, but that something in your very essence is somehow inferior to men.
    This whole search (that I am still very much in) has been unbelievably difficult—paralyzingly fear-filled, to be honest (so afraid of being decieved, and then of leading others into deception, of profaning the name of Christ, etc)…yet it has also been one of the most exciting, exhillerating, liberating, JOYFUL things that has ever happened to me.
    All that to say, I am reading with interest and appreciating the various thoughts.

  • I do not like to see woman discipling men,
    but I do not like to see men discipling women.
    Both situations are inviting trouble.

  • Molly,
    I appreciate your thoughts. I am sure you are going to enjoy the DVD series because there is much food for thought in it.
    I can relate to what you said about being a Pastor if you had been born male. I too would probably be in the pastorate if I had been born male. I tried the next best thing but couldn’t find a Pastor to marry. I always believed that my husband would eventually become a Pastor because surely I was called to be a Pastor’s wife, wasn’t I? The call was so strong on my life that I ended up not as a Pastor, but fulfilling pastoral duties as an apologist protecting the flock with my gifts in apologetics – the defense of the faith. I was especially gifted at helping former Jehovah’s Witnesses come out of the Watchtower by exposing the false doctrine that they had been taught and helping them to relearn biblical doctrine. I did that for over 15 years and the support group that I started for ex-JW’s grew and flourished under my leadership.
    Today both my husband and myself are in fulltime ministry to the cults and aberrant Christian movements, with my husband in a support/technical role. I am still teaching doctrine using my video editing skills as a tool. “Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free?” is my first video project that is fully start-to-finish my own work. Several years of research went into the project along with preparing the script, on-camera presentation and then the 14 hour days in the editing studio and working with graphics and design. The wonderful comments from Pastors concerning the quality of this project as well as what have been called “powerful” arguments for women’s equality have been very rewarding for me but none of the comments has touched me as much as the comments from complementarians who have had their view changed from viewing WIM. In addition to many who have written me, I also received an email this summer from a Southern Baptist Pastor who had his eyes opened. He said:
    “I did watch the video and thought it was very interesting. You made some very valid observations… Your points were well taken…I must admit that my eyes were opened away from some faulty traditions from viewing your DVD objectively and un biased. The question is how do we contend without being contentious? Many people, even women are steeped in tradition rather than educated in Scripture. Lord help us all!!!”
    Although I am not in the pastorate, I believe that God is fulfilling this call on my life through apologetics and shepherding the flock by protecting the flock from false doctrine. Thanks Molly for causing me to reflect back on my own patriarchal upbringing and how God can bring his calling to fruition in a woman’s life even though she has no idea that this is possible for a woman. My father was a pastor for many years and today he is proud of me and supports me in ministry. He too had his eyes opened when he read the script for WIM. He now fully believes that a woman can do anything that God has called her to including the Pastorate.

  • Nick

    “I am curious how you relate to 2 Tim 3:16-17 “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
    michael, you use scripture to validate that scripture is inspired. how does that work? it was long before the bible was cannonized anyway.
    i said i try to come at things with a blank slate, not that i am completely objective. i just know that from day one in church we are taught that the bible is god-inspired. i see no good reason to believe this is true. like i said before, anything (especially a book) done by humans cannot be perfectly God-inspired. it sounds like you think God overided their freewill to perfectly inspire everything in the bible. why should anyone who is an intelligent thinker (uses reason) believe this?

  • Nick

    “In other words each of us does what is right in our own eyes? There is no transcendent authority other than what we feel or think about the scripture?”
    we do what we feel is of God. God is our ultimate authority, not a book (bible), no person (paul), or persons (such as the NT authors). the view that the bible is completely inspired gets close to idolatry.

  • Nick,
    I think what several are getting at and you’re not quite responding to is this:
    If God is the authority — not the Bible, not the Church — then, is authority not linked directly to the individual person’s judgment?
    If this is the case, and I can’t see anyway from what you have said that it is not, then does the word “right” have any meaning other than “right for me and for me alone”? And if that is the case, have we surrendered community? Have we surrendered to solipsism?

  • Nick

    scot, yes what is right for a person must be decided by that individual in relationship with God. God is their authority, but they must decide what God is saying. this doesn’t abandon community, since it will and should help one decide what is right, but ultimately God has the final say for a person on what is “right”, or what makes up “Truth”. its not solipsism, since it is God-centered. its not based on the self, or one’s own feelings, but one’s own discernment in communication with God, considering a variety of resources (solitude, books, people, spiritual experiences, etc.). ironically, it is the inerrant, inspiration view of the bible that is man-centered, since it trusts in a book written by men as the ultimate authority.

  • Shawn

    “from day one in church we are taught that the bible is god-inspired. i see no good reason to believe this is true.”
    The first problem is that this view flies in the face of the catholicity of the Church, because throughout the last two thousand years and amongst all the branches of the Church, Roman, Orthodox and Protestant, the Bible has been considered Divinely inspired. Thus your placing your own subjective self above the authority of the Christian community in a way that strikes me as dangerously anarchic.
    But there is a more serious problem here, the authority of our Lord.
    Because Jesus considered it the Bible to be inspired. Jesus grew up in a culture which considered the Torah to be the direct Word of God. At no point does he repudiate that view, and if was not true he surely would have. Jesus also considered the OT prophecies conserning Him to also be true, which would have been difficult had he thought the Bible merely a fallible book written by men. After His ressurection he showed how the whole of the Law and the Prophets was all about Him. Now given that, in the purely human sense, the Law and the Prophets were written over hundreds of years by many different peoples, cultures and traditions and from many differing “points of view”, then Jesus’ claim that there is an inner unity that ties all these writings together is impossible if they were merely the product of men and culture, unless there was some kind of Divine intervention in the process.
    So your view does not stand any scrutiny. The Bible is on a purely surface level the words of men, but on a spiritual level the Word of God. And not because the Bible says so, but because Jesus says so.

  • Nick #34
    “we do what we feel is of God. God is our ultimate authority, not a book (bible), no person (paul), or persons (such as the NT authors). the view that the bible is completely inspired gets close to idolatry.”
    Nick, I feel like we are picking on you. Don’t mean to. I am truly trying to get a grip on how you see things and reflect back on it.
    I don’t believe that scripture was authored by God in the sense he dictated the books and the writers wrote them like scribes. I see the authorship of these books being an inseparable intertwining of the authors thoughts, values, cultural context, etc. with the God’s wisdom and vision. God breathed his wisdom and insight into their deliberations and writings. They are the author’s words accurately and faithfully revealing both God’s transcendent truths and how those truths were applied to people in specific time-space cultural contexts. What we have is not everything that was written.
    Of course God is behind, above and beyond scripture and is the highest authority. But that same God came in the form of human being that we might more fully know who God is and what his vision is for us for creation. Then he appointed apostles (messengers) to relate the story of Jesus to the rest of us. As those witnesses began to die out, their message, which was God’s message, needed to be carried on. God participated in the creation and preservation of that written witness or testimony (i.e., testament). I worship God, not the Bible. But because I worship I God I take the testimony he preserved about himself seriously and consider at an authoritative guide to life and faith. I consider the gathered community as the context where God has called me to work out the application of the authoritative witness he has left about himself. That community extends out globally and across time to include a great crowd of witnesses. The Bible is not the end of the journey it is the beginning and an important companion on the journey into knowing God more fully.

  • Nick

    shawn, although they are a minority, there have been many theologians over the years that deny the inspiration of the bible. maybe you haven’t been exposed to that. as far as jesus regarding the torah as inspired, it seems to me that jesus opposed a lot of the old testament, and his life reflected it. i grant that he certainly supported some of it, but wasn’t a major reason why jesus came that the jews weren’t getting it right? they were spiritually uninformed about what God was truly like. maybe thats why only a small crowd accepted his claims of divinity. if they had gotten it right, then why the “new covenant”, why the end of the sacrificial system and OT laws? why would they kill jesus, if the jews inherited a large record of “divinely inspired” scripture, you’d think they would recognize their long-awaited, prophesied messiah. any reader can see a stark dichotomy between jesus and the old testament, which only supports the truth that men, even god-seeking men, cannot and should not ever be fully trusted to be inspired in their speaking or writing.
    michael, yes the bible is an important companion on our spiritual journeys. but there is no reason (unless you don’t need a reason) to believe the authors were appointed by God or that their message accurately reflects God’s message. i’m sorry for suggesting you and others worship the bible. i know you don’t. but still i have nothing to back up a belief in the inspiration of scripture. i would appreciate a thread all about the theories behind divine inspiration. for many i think its about hopeful faith. but my faith is always backed up something strongly persuasive. my belief in god, for example, is backed up by very persuasive experential spiritual encounters with God and the bible’s account of Jesus. but what is there to back up a belief that the bible’s authors were never writing out of their own will (flesh, not in accordance with God’s will).
    sorry this is so long, and off the women in ministry topic, but could someone please address this statement:
    i don’t believe in sovereign control in any instance, so i don’t see how God we can be sure that God could inspire someone without their own will getting in the way. the biblical authors in theory could have been perfectly in tune with God (inspired while writing), but can we really know for sure?

  • Nick,
    What kind of evidence are you looking for? Paul says so — 2 Tim 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1 says the same sort of thing — they believed the writers of the Bible were shaped/inspired by the Holy Spirit.

  • Nick

    yea you’re right, there is no evidence. but i can still agree the bible is generally inspired.

  • “but i can still agree the bible is generally inspired”
    Just not the parts you disagree with or find difficult like say 2 Tim 3:15-16 and 2 Peter 1? 🙂

  • Shawn

    Nick:
    “shawn, although they are a minority, there have been many theologians over the years that deny the inspiration of the bible. maybe you haven’t been exposed to that.”
    Yes I have, but they are a tiney minority at best, are opposed by the rest of the Church both now and throughout history, and have produced no lasting spiritual fruit, so I see no reason to take them seriously.
    “as far as jesus regarding the torah as inspired, it seems to me that jesus opposed a lot of the old testament”
    Jesus claimed he was the fulfillment of the OT, and at no point do I see Him opposing it, but deepening it. Thats what the Gospels teach and show. But again, I see it as telling that you start that statement with “it seems to me”. What about what Jesus says? Or what the Church has said and held? I dont say this to attack you in any way, I appreciate your contribution to this discussion. But I think your stance on this issue is entirely too subjective and displays an unwillingness to submit to any authority except your own inner sense of God. Thats not to say that we should not question anything, or even oppose the Church when we truly think it wrong. But we need to so carefully and with self-examination of our motives.
    I’m not convinced that you have thought through the real implications of your approach to Scripture.

  • Shawn

    “i don’t believe in sovereign control in any instance, so i don’t see how we can be sure that God could inspire someone without their own will getting in the way.”
    If I am inspired by the Grand Canyon and paint a picture of it has my will been taken away by the canyon? No.
    Not a great analogy I know but I’m trying to point out that Divine inspiration and even the infallibility of Scripture does not require that the humans involved in its writing had their wills taken away. I dont limit God’s grace in that way or believe that for His grace to fulfill itself it has to overide anyone’s will. The Jungian idea of synchronicity is closer to how I understand both Biblical inspiration and the working out of God’s sovereign grace.
    “the biblical authors in theory could have been perfectly in tune with God (inspired while writing), but can we really know for sure?”
    Yes we can, because as I pointed out thats what Jesus Himself said. Thats the point I brought up that you didint address. Jesus said the whole of the Law and the Prophets, the Old Teastament, spoke of and prophisied about Him. This raises three issues. One, Jesus could not have said this unless the whole of the OT was divinely inspired in some way, otherwise it would be impossible for so many different authors over such a long time to just accidentaly prophesy about the coming Messiah. Two, He would not have said it unless He believed exactly that. And three His own words here, as well as His words saying that He was the fulfillment of the OT, contradict your view that He opposed much of the OT.
    So, you claim that the Gospels are reliable, and that Jesus is reliable, yet you contradict the very words Jesus spoke. There is a serious discrepancy here that makes no sense to me.
    Just out of curiosity, what Biblical scholars who do not beleive in inspiration are you referring to?

  • Nick

    one is clark pinnock. take a look at his book, the scripture principle. there are many scholars who believe the bible is fallible, and thus not completely inspired. i think most scholars believe this but are not willing to follow their denial of infallibility or inerrancy to their logical conclusion, which is a denial of exhaustive inspiration. fallibility and inspiration cannot be joined together, like many scholars attempt to do. others are probably afraid to come out of the closet. its not that we don’t regard the bible as generally ispired and authoritative, just that it is not a perfectly inspired and authoritative book. we take seriously the fact that fallible human beings wrote the bible. therefore it is wise to equate the bible with the Word of God.

  • Nick

    oops, rather it is not wise to equate the bible with the word of god.

  • “oops, rather it is not wise to equate the bible with the word of god.”
    Rats! I thought maybe we had coverted you. Or maybe your first version was divinely inspired! 🙂

  • Shawn

    So basically one and a lot of unsubstantiated conjecture about others. I dont see any evidence for a mass movement against Biblical inspiration here.
    Still waiting for you to explain Jesus’ own words on the issue.