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Theological Discussion on Women in the Church
(Part 3 of Shall A Woman Keep Silent?)
Rev Dr George Byron Koch
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the One who redeemed each of us.
Doug White posted a critique of my second sermon on women in the church, "Shall a Woman Keep Silent? Part 2" from Tom Wells. Tom is a Reformed Baptist pastor from Cincinnati who has written extensively in the area of soteriology and has had several books published by the Banner of Truth.
I thought I'd take just a minute to respond to his analysis, especially where he takes issue with what I've said. My earnest prayer is that we tackle issues like this, as fellow believers, with a common goal of understanding God's will in our lives, and not as a contest of scholarship or argumentation. What I've seen from all sides thus far indicates that this is true, that it is our norm. May it ever be so.
Let me also repeat what I said in the sermon: I consider the traditional reading of First Timothy 2:11-12 to be a legitimate translation, especially of the difficult word authentein, which appears only once in any form in the entire New Testament. I respect people who translate it this way, and who order their church lives in obedience to it.
However, I also believe there is another legitimate translation, accepted by other orthodox evangelicals like myself, and that fits well the whole counsel of God. I gave some resource references in the sermon which you are all welcome to follow up if you wish; they are all from respected evangelical writers, not from a revisionist or modernist point of view.
That said, let me respond point by point to Tom's comments. His comments are bracketed with >>> <<
>>>1. The preacher does have a keen sense of how our culture may affect Scripture. … That's good, of course.<<<
>>>2. I'm afraid that a good deal of the force that some may feel in his presentation stems from his obvious grasp of historical theology and things like the geography of Ephesus. While these things are relevant he says (comparatively speaking) very little about the text.<<<
My intention, as I said, is to use an understanding of history and culture to help us comprehend the passages, the heresies that Paul hoped to refute, and his counsel to Timothy (and not, of course, to emend the Scripture).
>>>3. By his own admission, the English Bible versions are against his understanding. That doesn't prove he is wrong, but it does suggest extreme caution. This is especially true of NRSV, which, as Wayne Grudem has shown, bends over backwards to accommodate the interests of feminism.<<<
I agree completely about extreme caution, and I have many of the same complaints (and more) about the NRSV. To its credit, it attempts to correctly translate Greek words that include both men and women into English words that do the same, when previous translations have simply used "brother" or "men." I'll also point out that the editors and theological review committee for the NRSV include highly respected, orthodox, evangelical scholars, not a bunch of advocates of politically correct speech. I still don't like everything they've done (there's a new NIV, published by Hodder Stoughton in London, which I think is an improvement), but there is value in their work. In any event, this issue is irrelevant to the translation of First Timothy 2:11-12, because none of the "inclusive language" issues arise here at all.
>>>4. He also understands that what these other translators suggest is that, in his words, "we should prohibit women teaching in the church." Notice the last three words. This eliminates the relevance of Priscilla and Apollos.<<<
No, it doesn't. What is the church? It is emphatically not the building or the institution. It is the Body of Christ, the believers, whether they happen to all be gathered in assembly and standing in Peter's house, or in a catacomb, or whether they are scattered around the city in work or service. It is not destroyed by distance, nor made by the walls of a building. Priscilla taught Apollos (Acts 18:24-26). Did they both cease to be the church, the Body of Christ, when this was occurring? No, they did not. Priscilla taught Apollos in the Body of Christ, the church.
I dealt with much of this (women keeping silent in church) at length in the first sermon on women in the church, so I won't repeat it all here. Suffice it to say that the Greek means that women are not to "chat" during worship; it does not mean that they must be utterly mute. See the first sermon for details.
>>>5. The author is probably right that Junias is a feminine name, though this is not fully certain. But Paul uses "apostle" in more than one way. … See 2 Cor. 8:23 & Phil 2:25 where "messenger" fits nicely..<<<
Yes, Paul uses "apostle" in more than one way, including "messengers" of the churches, and "in a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers" (Strong's). Should I conclude from this that he means to honor men as "eminent Christian teachers" but Junias as a letter-carrier? Romans 16:7 says, "Greet Andronicus and Junia (Gk Junias), my relatives who were in prison with me; they are prominent among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was."
This seems clear: "they are prominent among the apostles." "Messenger" in the sense of one who simply carries letters, doesn't fit the context of this passage. "In a broader sense applied to other eminent Christian teachers" does fit.
>>>6. The word translated "deacon" in the NT seldom refers to the office of deacon. It usually has the sense of servant, though the service in view is often what we would call ministry. Phoebe, then, may serve or minister in some capacity without holding the office called "deacon."<<<
She might, but let's consider the text:
NRSV Romans 16:1 "I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a DEACON OF THE CHURCH AT CENCHREAE, 2 so that you may welcome her in the Lord as is fitting for the saints, and help her in whatever SHE MAY REQUIRE FROM YOU, for she has been a benefactor of many and of myself as well."
(my emphasis) or even the New King James Version:
NKJV 16:1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant (Gk deacon) of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and ASSIST HER IN WHATEVER BUSINESS SHE HAS NEED OF YOU; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.
The sense in which it is used here (from Strong's) is: "a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use." This usage is evident from what Paul says in the text about her being a benefactor of him and others, about her role at the church in Cenchreae (deacon), and his instructions for the people of Rome to help her as she requires. She is doing just what the office of deacon is described as being about. She is a deacon.
>>>7. Women may have been allowed to prophesy in the congregation, but we mustn't pit Paul's recognition that it happens (1 Cor 11) against his prohibition, if it be such, in 1 Cor 14.<<<
I don't believe that women are prohibited from prophesying in 1 Cor 14.
>>>8. The discussion of authentein is slightly confused by his giving "authority," obviously a noun, as a translation of this verb. But he no doubt means to refer to the translations that have something like "have authority" or "exercise authority."<<<
Or, "AUTHOR," as a verb. Tom is right that I'm striving here to give a sense of the usage and meaning of the word, not its part of speech.
>>>9. We have not the slightest evidence that domination of men by women in the sense he suggests existed in the Ephesian church. He shows that by saying "if this had begun to infect the church."<<<
There are many things we don't have explicit evidence of in Scripture but are still true. We can't claim scriptural authority for them, but we can try to understand the forces affecting a culture or a young church. For example, divorce is rampant, across generations of families, in the town where my church is located. We evangelize the town, and draw in many unbelievers who become Christians. Still, the culture of divorce in which many of them were raised still affects them: they struggle with it as they are confronted with biblical norms, and they are hurt by it in their extended families, and in the effects that their pasts have on their ongoing sanctification. It is not at a wild notion to assume that an ethos which was prominent in some sectors in Ephesus (domination of men by women — remember the city's god was the goddess Diana), would affect or infect the church there, anymore than it is a wild notion to think that the ethos of divorce in West Chicago would affect and infect a church in West Chicago, even more so if we were allowing heresy (e.g. "God blesses it") to be taught.
>>>10. More confusion comes in adopting two more nouns as synonyms of this verb. The verb means neither "author" or "creator." Therefore the next sentence, "All three of these meanings are equally valid renderings of authentein," is patently false.<<<
Tom's assertion that my statement is "patently false" doesn't make it so. See after entry 11, below. Also, "author" is both a verb and a noun. The verb for of "creator" is "create." The point is that there are other meanings to the Greek word authentein, and I'm simply trying to help my listeners understand the sense of them.
>>>11. The standard Greek secular dictionary by Liddell, Scott and Jones [abbr. LSJ] offers two and only two definitions for authentein: 1. to have full power over or authority over, and 2. commit a murder. The standard NT and early church dictionary by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich [abbr. BAG] offers "have authority" or "domineer" as its only meanings. Moulton and Milligan [abbr. MM] cites usage in the everyday Greek of the early centuries. They find it as a vulgar (=common word) that would be better replaced in the eyes of the rhetoricians of the day with autodikein, which means to have jurisdiction.<<<
Other resources and authorities than these three Tom cites offer more definitions that were in use during this period, both of the verb form, and other parts of speech from the same root. One first-century Gnostic writer in Ephesus, Cerinthus, used authentia for the "primal deity." Cerinthus is referred to by Hippolytus in 7.21 of "Refutation of All Heresies." (Also see Tom's point 12, below.) Consider also what the fathers of the church had to say: The verb form was used by Athanasius in "Testimonia e scriptura" to say "the Father ORDAINS, the Son commands, the Spirit brings into being," to describe the creative activity of God. Epiphanius, in "Panarion," used it to say "the son who MADE AND ORIGINATED all things." Basil used it to mean "to take initiative" (see Letter, 69.1,3). Even one first-century secular papyrus has it used to mean "stick to the original" in debating a price for ferrying services. There are literally dozens of other early examples of the word, outside of Scripture (where it only appears once), where it means MANY different things besides "1. to have full power over or authority over, and 2. commit a murder."
The Kroeger book I cited (I Suffer Not a Woman) in the sermon has a fine review of these and an extensive bibliography of works on the topic of this word from all points of view. Once again, I repeat, "usurp authority," "dominate," and "author" (as a verb) are all equally valid renderings of authentein. There are many others as well (such as those I cited above).
For what it is worth, there is a large body of literature on the subject of this word authentein, and its meaning. We know far more about the period, and this word, than can be reasonably captured in a Greek dictionary, even a very good one.
>>>12. Though Gnostics may have been "prevalent in Ephesus" (author's words), most scholars are agreed that Gnosticism does not arrive until the second century and so would be irrelevant to Paul's interests before AD 68 or earlier.<<<
Quite the contrary. See note on point 11. By neat coincidence, we have a first-century Gnostic writer in Ephesus who used a noun form of this word to mean just what I said it could mean, and this same writing was condemned by none other than Hippolytus in his "Refutation of All Heresies." Therefore, there were Gnostics in Ephesus in the first century, promoting a heresy just like the one I said Paul was refuting in First Timothy 2:11-12.
>>>13. Finally the author's translation "I do not permit a woman to teach that she is the author of man," depends on authentein meaning something it never means as far as I can determine. More than that, it depends on the author's Gnostic reconstruction, which appears to be an anachronism. <<<
See 11 and 12 above. The translation I prefer is legitimate, and I believe better fits the circumstances of the letter, and the whole counsel of God in Scripture, than that which is the more traditional English rendering.
>>>In view of all these things, the author may be a very objective man but in this case he has not made his point and one has to wonder whether it is 20th-century culture and not first-century culture that has led him to his conclusions. His concern about Mother Earth, etc., is worthy of commendation, but was it Paul's concern. That's the question. Tom <<<
It is of course possible that my reading is the product of my being captive to my culture. The same danger threatens us when we are captive to an intellectual and theological culture that derives in part from Aquinas and Aristotle. This is where I believe much or our misreading of Paul originates (I talked about this in my first sermon on women in the church. If you'd like a copy, drop me a note via e-mail).
My hope and prayer, however, is that I be ever faithful to understand God's Word as He intended it, not as either I or any culture would hope or deem it to be.
May the Holy Spirit open our eyes and hearts to understand more fully the redemption and freedom given us by the Son. May we be kept in His Word and sanctified by it.
Your brother in Christ,
George Koch +