Sunday, January 25, 2009

So Historical Context, DOES Matter, Huh?

“…Thus the theological and contextual questions posed earlier [in the chapter] remain. If women are saved by bearing children, then is this not salvation by works and a contradiction of Pauline theology? UNDERSTANDING THE HISTORICAL SITUATION will aid us in answering this question. The false teachers, in trumpeting an overrealized eschatology, prohibited marriage and certain foods (1 Tim. 4:1-5). If marriage was banned, then bearing children was probably also criticized. Childbearing was selected by Paul, then, as a specific response to the shafts from the false teachers. Referring to childbearing is also appropriate because it represents the fulfillment of the woman’s domestic role as a mother in distinction from the man” (117, 118).

I’ve been working my way through Andreas Kostenberger’s and Thomas Schreiner’s book, “Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.” The last time, I talked about how Schreiner claims that Adam was deceived, similar to Eve—but the problem is that this claim is a DIRECT VIOLATION of the text. 1 Timothy 2:12 says, “And Adam was not deceived…” Although this doesn’t totally annihilate Schreiner’s thoughts, when a contradiction to Scripture is employed as part of an analysis of a BIBLICAL text, it should make us stop and question whether or not the analysis is right. Schreiner’s work, then, at the very least, is scripturally questionable.

In this post I am concentrating on the statement Schreiner makes above regarding historical context.

Schreiner believes that when Paul wrote 1 Tim. 2:15, he was trying to persuade the women to do the OPPOSITE of what the false teachers were urging them to do: “the false teachers, in trumpeting an overrealized eschatology, prohibited marriage and certain foods.” He then goes on to talk about childbearing and that this act, too, was to turn the women away from the false teachers.

However, what does Schreiner do with the first 6 verses of this 7-verse text? Not much. When Schreiner writes about the prohibition on women, he says, “The proscription on women teaching men, then, does not stem from the fall and and cannot be ascribed to the curse. Paul appeals to the CREATED ORDER, the good and perfect world God has made, to justify the ban on women teaching men” (105).

I see a problem with Schreiner’s statement: where in Scripture are we told that Adam was made head of his home BEFORE the Fall in Genesis 3? Nowhere. Therefore, we must ask ourselves this question: why would Paul write something here that FLATLY CONTRADICTS what we read in Genesis 3? Paul wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, would not have written CONTRARY to the Word of God that already existed (which was the Old Testament). Paul, having studied the OT vigorously as a Pharisee, one who knew it both inside and out, would not have come to his first letter to Timothy and attempted to impose a NEW EVENT on the events of Genesis. Complementarians who argue that the created order CHANGES when the husband was made the head of the home are the ones who seem to liberal, changing Scripture to fit their own ideas. If Paul is arguing the created order, then, he must be hinting at something else EXCEPT the rule of the man in the home—in other words, his argument must involve defending the events of Genesis as Moses recorded them.

Schreiner then presents the various views of egalitarians, and, once discussing them, moves on to present a plausible reason to believe the COMPLEMENTARIAN view: “It seems that unclarity is in the eye of the beholder, for the thrust of this verse has been deemed quite clear in the history of the church” (106). Now, to add to his view, Schreiner appeals to history to justify his (and the complementarian) belief; but the problem with this is that there are lots of things that have happened in history (such as mass killings and dictatorships) that were wrong. History, then, doesn’t justify anything; it only presents a belief or view that can be observed. Therefore, when Schreiner appeals to history, what he is saying is merely that “the belief that women were not to serve in positions of leadership has been a consistent belief in the view of the church.” And this statement in and of itself is incorrect: there is archaeological evidence of tombstone and monument inscriptions from the third and fourth centuries (time of the Patristic Fathers) that shows otherwise. Many of the church councils of the first SIX centuries fought against women being in places of leadership, but the churches themselves promoted women in such positions. There were even bishops who were allowing women to serve at the altar, a practice that was ONLY allowed for the ordained! Women also served as deacons (one woman, named Sophia, actually called herself “The Second Phoebe”), widows, and even presbyters! I will post on this archaeological evidence in the days to come; but for those who wanna read up on this subject, I highly recommend the book “Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History” by Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek (done by Johns Hopkins University Press). The book was written just a few years ago (no earlier than 2000) and provides the most recent up-to-date research on the positions of women in the early church. Contrary to Schreiner, history has not shown a consensus on this subject.

If Schreiner’s ideas on Adam being formed first are detestable, it gets better: this is what he writes to sum up the discussion on Eve’s deception:

“Paul’s purpose is more restricted here. He wants to focus on the fact that the serpent approached and deceived Eve, not Adam…in approaching Eve, then, the serpent SUBVERTED THE PATTERN OF MALE LEADERSHIP…the Genesis temptation, therefore, is INDICATIVE OF WHAT HAPPENS WHEN MALE LEADERSHIP IS ABROGATED” (115).

Here, Schreiner doesn’t even present sufficient evidence to come to this conclusion. He mentions the serpent coming to Eve, but that is not what Paul is getting at here. In 1 Tim. 2:12, Paul is not analyzing the Law; he does not tell why Adam was not deceived, but Eve was! He does not tell that the serpent by-passed the male authority to wreak havoc on the human race! Paul does what Moses does in Genesis—he simply DEFENDS and REITERATES the events of the Fall. And when writers such as Schreiner attempt to take this verse and add some SUPER ANALYSIS to it, they do the text a disgrace. The text doesn’t analyze—the text only CLAIMS! It upholds the events of the Law as Genesis states them—NOTHING MORE!!

Notice that with 1 Timothy 2:13-14 that Schreiner has given little evidence to explain these verses. His exegesis has been poor and he spends most of his time combating the ridiculous ideas of egalitarians. However, not all egalitarians are liberal (even Wayne Grudem mentions this) and not all egalitarians share their ideas. I am a theological conservative, but I disagree with liberal ideas such as certain texts of Scripture have no necessity for the modern-day Christian. ALL TEXTS are important for today, but we have to find what they meant originally before we can determine what they mean contemporarily.

While Schreiner has poor exegesis of verses 13 and 14, he tries to make up for it with his HISTORICAL CONTEXT of verse 15. Finally, Schreiner decides that context plays a role!
But there is a problem with this, too. Verse 15 does have a role to play with the historical context of false teaching and false teachers; however, the previous 6 verses are written in the same section as verse 15, with no break in between (or no time indicator to signify a different subjection being discussed). If women were to be “preserved” (to be saved) through the bearing of children,” doesn’t this preservation have something to do with falling sway to the false teachers? After all, Paul constantly mentions the tragic effect that the teachers have had on the believers at Ephesus:

(a) “certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion…” (1 Tim. 1:6, ESV)

(b) “By rejecting this, some HAVE MADE SHIPWRECK OF THEIR FAITH, AMONG whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander…” (1 Tim. 1:20)

(c) Regarding overseers: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become PUFFED UP WITH CONCEIT AND FALL INTO THE CONDEMNATION OF THE DEVIL…he must be well thought of by outsiders, SO THAT HE MAY NOT FALL INTO DISGRACE, INTO A SNARE OF THE DEVIL” (1 Tim. 3:6, 7)

(d) “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared…” (1 Tim. 4: 1-2)

(e) “So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some HAVE ALREADY STRAYED AFTER SATAN” (1 Tim. 5:15).


I think it’s quite obvious to those who read this chapter in the book “Women in the Church” that Schreiner performs what I’d like to call “Partial Exegesis”—he picks the verses he wants to talk about with context while ditching the others. But, he does the exact same thing with the verses of Genesis! The fall happened not because male leadership was averted, but BECAUSE GOD’S LEADERSHIP WAS! When Adam and Eve decided not to listen to God anymore, and made THEMSELVES the authority, the serpent’s lies were accepted as truth and God’s truth as lie; and, as a result, sin entered the world and all the sorrow that came with it. Eve was allowed to make an individual choice, just as Adam was. But they made the wrong choice based on their own willingness to sin. Human decision is what is to be blamed for the Fall. And, sadly enough, on this subject, humans still fail today: we STILL tend to believe that we call the shots, that we determine who’s gifted and who isn’t, who can use their gifts and who can’t. But, as in the Garden, once again, God’s leadership is in the shadows; and all we have to do is get out of the way and watch God work…

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