Thursday, March 19, 2009

Still Waiting

I took some time earlier this year to pay a visit to Dr. Kostenberger’s blog, titled “Biblical Foundations,” to see what he wrote on his personal blog. As I expected, he had some posts set up on the issue of women in ministry. Actually, he has about 10 discussions devoted to gender issues.

In any case, what struck me was a response provided by a visitor to the blog (named Michelle). This is what she wrote:

"Dr. Kostenberger,
I’ve read your book titled “Women in the Church” (2005 edition), as well as Grudem’s book “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth” (2004) and am grateful to you and other scholars who pour over this research everyday.
Having had three semesters of Koine Greek myself as an MDiv student, it is my observation that, while the Greek word “authentein” is an important word in determining the meaning and application of this passage, isn’t context key to any passage? I was always taught within my hermeneutics passage that “a text means what it means in its context.” Greek study is important to any passage, but first, in order to read a passage, we have to read it in its context.
It seems to be the view of Thomas Schreiner, Wayne Grudem, and other scholars that the reason why Paul prohibits women from the teaching position or any other “authoritative” position (if that’s how you interpret it) is because Paul appeals to the creation order. However, not only does Paul argue a creation order, but also the deception of the woman (”the woman was deceived”). Is it possible that Paul could be reaffirming the Law (since, in 1 Timothy 1, there are some “desiring to be teachers of the law,” 1 Tim. 1:7 who entertain “myths and endless genealogies”, 1 Tim. 1:4)?

It has been the result of my study of this text (and I’ve read books from both sides of the argument), that, if Paul is reaffirming the Law, then the word “authentein” will be interpreted according to Paul’s reference to Genesis. Paul here argues Adam’s creation first, then Eve’s deception. But both of these concepts are addressed in Genesis already. Paul is not quoting a passage from Genesis, but referencing it.

As a result, “authentein” will have something to do with Paul’s maintenance of Adam being created first and his affirmation that Eve was the one who was deceived. In your book, it is stated that Eve’s mistake was by responding to the serpent. But does God punish Eve for responding to the serpent, or for her sin (read Genesis 3:16)? Eve is punished for her sin, not because she “took authority” from her husband by responding to the serpent. Finally, your book also states that the serpent violated the principle of male leadership when he went to Eve– but the serpent isn’t punished for this, either in Genesis 3. He is punished for deceiving Eve.

In light of reading Genesis for what it is, there seems to be no principle of male headship violated by Eve. In the context of Ephesus, however, it seems that the women are claiming that Eve came before Adam– otherwise, why would Paul write “the woman” was deceived, and not “Eve was deceived”?

Last but not least, what do we do with the references of “authentein” in the Apocryphal books such as Wisdom of Solomon 12:6 and 3 Maccabees 2:29? In both cases, the word refers to either “murdering with one’s own hand” or “former status”. You rule out the possibility in your book of the word “authentein” being translated as “to be primarily responsible for,” but, if you place this definition within the context of Genesis (the passage Paul references in his response in 1 Tim. 2), you will see that Adam is primarily responsible for the Fall, as God states to him, “cursed is the ground becauase of you…” (Gen. 3:17, ESV). It seems then, that, Paul is telling women not to teach that the woman is the origin (or lord) of man, since “Adam was first formed, then Eve…” Adam was responsible for creation’s fall.

I think the evangelical community has also missed the earlier portions of 1 Timothy 2. Verse 5 states, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” It is here and only here in the canon of Scripture that Christ is referenced as “the man, Christ Jesus.” This in itself is telling as to what the problem at Ephesus is here. If Paul is having to state “the man, Christ Jesus” and argue that “the woman” was deceived, then surely, endless genealogies are responsible for this false teaching.

I think context, grounded with the story in Genesis, gives us the definition of this Greek word. The word “authentein” refers to the meaning “to author” a man, or “to be the origin” of man.

Context will help us determine what this word means in the future. But nowhere in chapter 2 is there a reference to church leadership– that comes in chapter 3. Paul is concerned with correct doctrine here in chapter 2. The woman was not to be the lord over man (Adam, and men, were appointed “lord” over the home in Genesis 3)."

What I find most fascinating about this post (although long) is that Michelle made some great points. She clearly seems to know her Greek, is preparing to receive a Master of Divinity Degree, and has had some significant time in Greek studies. She poses some good questions, and even seems to have done some work in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) with the references to 2 Maccabees and the Wisdom of Solomon. However, it’s been a little over two months since Michelle posted this response, and she has yet to hear from the distinguished Dr. Kostenberger.

What can be said about such an absence? Dr. Kostenberger regularly checks his site, and, if you visit his blog, you’ll notice that he often responds to requests, questions, comments, etc. quite regularly. With the case of Michelle, however, Dr. Kostenberger fails to address the concerns over the text that she has. Maybe he doesn’t think his stance is as strong as hers.

This is a good case in point of what often happens in the Complementarian/Egalitarian debate. Whenever someone responds to the Complementarian blogs and sites, they receive little response (unless they are as famous as Ben Witherington). If they aren’t, however, Kostenberger has no time for them.

So, until Michelle hears from the distinguished Andreas Kostenberger, she’ll just keep waiting…and so will we.

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