December 15, 2011

Women In Ministry VII: Complementarian View-Early New Testament Church

Having studied them in depth for a month I will state that the strongest arguments on the surface for either egalitarian or complementarian views are the two Scriptural arguments in defense of the complementarian argument from 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1Timothy 2:12 and 1 Timothy 3. If we look closely at 1 Corinthians 14 though we quickly find that what appears to be a dogmatic and definitive statement is actually uniquely quixotic. It is highly unlikely it is referring to women in leadership situations. To assume this is about women being forbidden from speaking in leadership positions looks less like exegesis and more akin to eisegesis.

1 Corinthians 14:34

“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” 1 Corinthians 14:34

Based in simple hermeneutics and commonsense I believe that this passage is not in reference to outright prohibition of women speaking (or prophecy and prayer for that matter) in the Church (Howe 1182). Paul could not have been referring to forbidding women to speak in church in this context having already stated the contrary in 1 Corinthians 11:5 (Howe 1182). Since we know the Bible cannot contradict itself, this is highly improbable.

“But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved.” 1 Corinthians 11:5

It is also noted in the Assemblies of God, Role of Women in Ministry that 1 Corinthians 14:34 must be placed alongside Paul’s other statements and practices. As such this comment can hardly be taken in isolation and maintain its true imperative nature for silent women. In context it is clearly not an absolute and unequivocal prohibition of the ministry of women at large in the entire church but rather it is site specific and dealing with specific, local problems that needed correction. What we should note is Paul uses a word to limit the speech of women (sigatō). It is a form of silence as to not reveal a secret and appears to be in reference to limiting the speech of those either speaking in tongues if there is no interpretation in 1 Corinthians 14:28 or women gossiping (idle chatter). Immediately after this statement about women being silent Paul then states:

“Therefore, my brothers and sisters, be eager to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.” 1 Corinthians 14:39-40

It certainly is not forbidding ministries like prophecies and speaking in tongues (both men and women) which Paul clearly permitted along with praying (1 Corinthians 11:5), as long as it is done in an orderly way (AG “Role of Women”). Other possible explanations of what Paul is forbidding that make more sense in this context of woman remaining silent besides not being allowed to speak as leaders in the Church are: Women “chattering” in public services (bickering, gossiping) and ecstatic disruptions. As Craig Keener notes in his essay on the egalitarian position:

"The problem seems not to be teaching, but rather that the women are learning-too loudly." (Keener 50)

I whole-heartedly agree with Keener’s assessment. It is not a stretch to imagine overly vocal congregant(s) whether they be male or female boisterously vocalizing an opinion in a study of Scripture or in a service.

1 Timothy 2:12 (v.11-15 in context)

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

According to the Assemblies of God a reading of the entire passage of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 suggests that Paul was giving Timothy advice about dealing with some heretical teachings and practices specifically involving women in the church at Ephesus. I concur with this assessment by the AG as it the one based most solidly in the evidence and context. As with other passages in Scripture, it is anything but clear due to the statement’s nebulous and unanchored nature. Paul is clearly referring to women here and asking them to “shut-up” but why and in what context may be lost to history (AG “Role of Women”).

To combine the two previous paragraphs about women prophesying and not being permitted to speak or to remain silent I would like to state the following. These events in the apostolic era, the coexistence of prophesying daughters and silenced wives are best understood in context of a transitional period politically, religiously, spiritually, ideologically, etc. Interpreters on both sides of this non-uniform and ill-defined issue sometimes treat single verse and passages of Scripture as it they were written in isolation from the momentous events and ideas that were swirling around them. I think, based on the historical precedence and cultural influence I outlined in the beginning, this is a rather biased and unrealistic hermeneutic. Thereby the interpreter(s) attempt to make their interpretation free from cultural relevance and that just cannot be done, no one lives in a cultural vacuum. The transition between Hellenized Judaism and Roman culture to Christianity was profound and far-reaching, probably more than we allow for in modern interpretation.

1 Timothy 3

“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”1 Timothy 3:1-7

To some extent I regard 1 Timothy 3 as a stand-alone passage that is on solid ground when it comes to taking it in isolation from other Scripture. I believe this because it directly addresses the office elders and leaders in the Early Church by an apostolic figure directly linked to Jesus Himself. Other passages used to defend or defuse the arguments for women in ministry are a stretch in terms of interpreting them in relation to their context (Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 11, Romans 16). When many of these other verses are read in and among their context their true meanings remain ambiguous and hard to base doctrine and dogma on but 1 Timothy 3 breaks that mold. Paul addresses exactly the issue/topic the messages address and they are all concerning leadership/eldership in the Church. What could be a possible misinterpretation elsewhere due to the myriad of topics being addressed en masse is greatly reduced here as Paul presents the topic or thesis of church leadership and then addresses it directly. As such this is Complementarianism’s strongest defense of their position.

Right within the Assemblies of God’s “Role of Women” position paper they state, “This entire passage has been held by some to confirm that all leaders and authorities in the Early Church were supposed to be males. The passage deals primarily with male leadership, most likely because of majority practice and expectations” (AG Role of Women). It is within this very statement that I again build an argument based on/in Scriptural pattern. Since many passages in the Bible remain unclear about Women in leadership roles, it behooves the believer to build as solid a precedence of pattern to build a doctrine or dogma around. Even the AG acknowledges in the case of 1 Timothy 3 acknowledge that male leaders and authority figures were a “majority practice” and were due to “expectations” as they termed it. My question is “expectations” of what? Logic would tell us a combination of Biblical interpretation, interpretation of oral/aural tradition and of course the surrounding culture. All of which pointed to male leadership in the Church or in religious/spiritual roles (minus praying, gifts and prophecy). As I stated in my section on the book of Acts, I do not view praying or prophesying as exclusively a role of leadership within the church as we understand it for the 1st century or today. If they are exclusive criteria for becoming a leader in the church, then I probably should’ve been a leader in my church a long time ago because I have done both.

First-hand experience leads me to believe that prophets are not leaders per se but rather intermittent “speakers” for God that deliver their message then can remain silent for long periods. Their authority or “guidance” is periodic and erratic at best. Prophets and prophecies speak for God or are revelators but the “vehicle” (people) for these prophecies do not necessarily maintain their authority after having prophesied. No prophet that I am aware of either now or in the Bible prophesied 24 hours a day/ 7 days a week and herein lays the difference. Every time a prophet speaks does not a prophecy make. No more than a microphone amplifying the President of the United States voice has authority over a crowd after the president leaves. The same could be said of a pastor or pastor/teacher with one distinct difference: Pastors/teachers generally say “Thus sayeth me”, Prophets on the other hand generally say, “Thus sayeth the Lord”. Different sources or orientation of authority. The office of prophet to me depends more on direct revelatory actions from God and they act more as discontinuous divine advisors whereas pastor/teacher is more dependent or human reasoning and revelatory aspects of gifting on a regular basis (hourly/daily). If anything Prophets, when they speak, seem to speak with more authority but do not do so as often. As such I do not view them as a church “office” of leadership. If we compound this with other/additional regulations and demands on the office in 1 Timothy 3, a more definitive picture of a leader in ministry seems to take shape.

In 1 Timothy 3 the very words (v.1) [ἐπισκοπῆς /episkopes] (v.2) [ἐπίσκοπον/episkopon] are masculine case endings as is the case endings for the associated verb [ἐπιθυμεῖ/epithumei/he is desiring] and adjective [ἀνεπίλημπτον/anepilepton/blameless]. This is then reinforced with a specific statement that “he” must be the ἄνδρα/man/husband of one γυναικὸς/wife/woman. We then see in (v.3-10) a rapid string of adjectives, nouns, direct articles and verbs… πάροινον, πλήκτην, ἄμαχον, ἀφιλάργυρον, τοῦ, οἴκου, προϊστάμενον, ἔχοντα, ἰδίου, νεόφυτον, τυφωθεὶς εἰς, Διακόνους, etc… all of which are masculine. Then again we revisit a statement in (v.11) about the wives of these men must also be faithful and sober in all things. In (v.12) we see the mention of the διάκονοι/diakonoi (male plural) also must be the husbands/ἄνδρες of one γυναικὸς/wife. It continues this way throughout the chapter. Paul is very careful to make masculine gender distinctions here and never deviates from the pattern. This is a product of intent based on a thesis, idea or intended pattern of thought. To me there is no equivocation here on Paul’s behalf. Furthermore, what supports these unequivocal statements even more is the fact that Paul is also the one that writes the passage in Galatians 3:28, 1 Corinthians 11, 1 Timothy 2 and a majority of the other passages cited outside of Acts that those in favor or female leadership in the church use to defend their argument. Paul clearly would not have written this 1st letter to Timothy towards the end of his life purposely contradicting Himself. Paul knowing what he had written earlier in his own letters would’ve been cognizant of the contradiction and have avoided it. It stands to reason that the last letters of Paul like 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus are a culmination of Pauls’ thinking and theology, not a contradiction of previous thinking. He is trying to clarify not further convolute. The fact that Paul is trying to clear-up the issue of leadership and eldership in the church is evident by the very fact that Paul is writing this letter to address it! As a letter summing up Paul’s thoughts and theology on the issue of church leadership, the clarity of gender and gender distinction is compelling in its clarity when he says (v.2) “μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα” “of one-woman-man” and (v.12) “διάκονοι ἔστωσαν μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες” “servants let them of one woman/wife men/husbands”. Never once does Paul mention women in this passage except as a wife in genitive. Paul is addressing the men about women not the other way around

The flip side of the entire masculine case ending gender distinction can be chalked up at least partially to a rather simple explanation. The rules of grammar and syntax in Greek when writing to or about a group as is the case in Timothy, the masculine gender is the “default” grammatical gender in Greek. This of course does not preclude Paul’s specific usages of ἄνδρα/husband/man and γυναικὸς/wife/woman though but it does weaken this argument quite a bit.

What we also need to look at in more detail are the other specific list of qualifications. according Keener’s background commentary. The list of qualifications for offices appear dependent both Jewish and Gentile sources affirming that they are at least mildly prescribed by surrounding culture not necessarily divine decrees. Some of these lists were applied both to political or military offices and religious ones so there again is categorical overlap both intertestamentally and socio-culturally (Judges, Jewish).

The term "episkopes/overseer" was used in ancient writings for leaders. Paul uses it synonymously with “presbuterous/elders" (Tit 1:5, 7) Keener. According to Keener it is also leadership title used in "synagogues” (Keener 612). But common understanding of Jewish practices leads us to conclude synagogues were under male headship. Keener goes on to state that the office of overseer (1 Timothy 3:2-3) was open to all, but some qualifications needed to be observed, especially in view of the heresy in Ephesus. The qualification of being "above reproach" frames the other qualifications (3:2,7). This presupposition then framed the other requirements that all the other requirements be free of slander. Keener notes that polygamy was not practiced in the Roman world outside Palestine, therefore it means “a "Husband of one wife" means a husband must be faithful in his marriage.” Here Keener denotes and acknowledges clear gender distinction. The problem lies in the fact that he is wrong about polygamy not being practiced at the time of writing of 1 Timothy. A perusal of Josephus’ writings expose that fact that polygamy (and levirate marriage) was indeed still being practiced among certain priestly families at the time of Paul’s writing (Antiquities 17.1, 2, 14) (Evans 681). This though does not preclude a “validly” divorced people from eldership.

To be as fair as possible I will present some of the egalitarian argument even within the complementarian section as balance because this is probably complimentarianism’s strongest Biblical evidence. The entire passage of 1 Timothy 3 has been held by some to confirm that all leaders and authorities in the Early Church were to be males. Even the Assemblies of God “Role of Women in Ministry” position paper acknowledged this passage deals primarily with male leadership. They claim though that there is also significant support for female leadership. They then go on to state that he NIV and other dynamic equivalent translators translated it incorrectly from the Greek. They stated that, “the NIV translators arbitrarily decided that the verse refers to the wives of deacons…even though there is no reference in the preceding qualifications of elders to their wives.”

“In the same way, their wives are to be women worthy of respect”. 1 Timothy 3:11 (NIV)

The word translated “wives” is the plural γυναῖκας which can be translated as “woman” not just “wife” depending on the context. The NASB translates this “women.” The AG position papers then chose to interpret this literally and conclude this passage addresses the qualifications of women in spiritual leadership (AG “Role of Women”).

The unconvincing nature of this interpretation by the AG does not lay in their translation of their Greek, it lies in the contextual gymnastics they are performing to “massage” the context the verse lies within. According to this hermeneutic, the first “exegetical unit” begins in 1 Timothy 3:1 (perhaps as far back as 1 Tim 2:12 depending on you hermeneutic) and then goes to verse 10. It is addressing men/males in a sustained manner here as the accusative antecedent in the unit is ἄνδρα/husband and the genitive antecedent γυναικὸς/wife based on the context. The flow of thought would then need to abruptly change direction by changing gender to make verse 11 address women as leaders, rather than wives of the leaders that have been referred to at least for at least the last 10 verses. Perhaps more considering this is the same theme (irrespective of what initiated this premise from Paul) continued from the very end of 1Timothy 2. The direction would then have to abruptly change directions / gender again back to male in verse 12. This makes absolutely no sense grammatically or syntactically. It makes Paul and the Holy Spirit look nearly bi-polar or schizophrenic. It is difficult to determine with certainty whether this is an injunction about women as deaconesses but I find it unlikely in light of the fact that Paul would essential drop a non-sequitur in verse 11 and will later go on to make a rather lengthy discourse about women and their roles in the Church later in this epistle in chapter 5 which would’ve been in the center of the very same letter. I terms of the construction of the letter it makes little sense. Irrespective of who it is addressing, the importance is in what it is addressing: the issue of impetuous speech or slanderous gossip, soberness and faithfulness in all things.

Although the first-century culture produced a primarily a pattern of male church leadership, this passage along with other biblical evidence (Romans 16:1–15 ; Philippians 4:2,3) does demonstrate the possibility that female leadership was not prohibited. The problem lies in the fact that it does not argue too strongly for it either. As I have shown in numerous cases previous...this passage to me is another weak argument for the Egalitarian view but a rather strong one for Complimentarianism.

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