Earlier tonight I decided to flip through a book called “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament” by editors Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Daniel J. Treier, and N.T. Wright.
Yes—as you can imagine, I flipped through the section of 1 Timothy to see what the writer of the commentary on the book (I. Howard Marshall) had to say about the controversial passage of 1 Timothy 2: 8-15. And I found that Marshall shows us (as all commentaries do) both parts of the prohibition against women teaching:
“It [Scripture] has a twofold argument that Adam was created prior to Eve (and therefore is superior), and that it is Eve who was deceived by the serpent (with the implication that women are still more likely to be deceived than men)” (“Theological Interpretation of the New
Testament,” pg. 166).
What I. Howard Marshall presents to us is the traditional argument—that women can’t teach, preach, or pastor because the woman was born SECOND to the man; and secondly, women can’t lead in the church because “Eve was deceived”—which means women are naturally more deceived than men.
We can see this argument of deception in Grudem’s work “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth” (a quote from Thomas Schreiner”):
“God’s order of creation is mirrored in the nature of men and women. Satan approached the woman first not only because of the order of creation but also because of the different inclinations present in Adam and Eve. Generally speaking, women are more relational and nurturing and men are more given to rational analysis and objectivity…appointing women to the teaching office is prohibited because they are LESS LIKELY to draw a line on doctrinal non-negotiables, and thus DECEPTION AND FALSE TEACHING WILL MORE EASILY ENTER THE CHURCH…” (pg. 71; quote itself taken from Thomas Schreiner’s “Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, pp. 145-146).
Grudem, after quoting Thomas Schreiner, takes up this line of thought himself in “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth”:
“God gave men, IN GENERAL, a disposition that is BETTER SUITED TO TEACHING AND GOVERNING in the church, a disposition that inclines more to rational, logical analysis of doctrine and a desire to protect the doctrinal purity of the church, and God gave women, IN GENERAL, a disposition that INCLINES MORE TOWARD A RELATIONAL, NURTURING EMPHASIS THAT PLACES A HIGHER VALUE ON UNITY AND COMMUNITY IN THE CHURCH (v.14)” (pg. 72).
So now, it seems, according to Schreiner and Grudem, women are the ones who preserve the church, while the men just teach and preach in it! It’s funny to think, though, that Paul would actually write the entire Philippian church in Philippians 2 if unity was just a “woman” thing! It’s also another thought that Schreiner and Grudem credit men with preserving the doctrine of the church—but if this is so, why does Paul write Galatians to attack Judaizers? And why does Paul tell Timothy to deal with the false teachers of 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy (which, Grudem and other complementarians will tell you, where ALL MEN)? The only ones in Scripture stirring up major trouble in the church in regards to doctrinal purity were the men!
Marshall responds to such statements on the subject of women with the following:
“The argument that women are for all time more likely to be deceived than men because Eve was deceived is GROUNDLESS. In any case, there is no way of knowing whether, if the serpent had spoken to Adam rather than to Eve, he would not have fallen just as readily as she had” (Theological Intepretation of the NT, 167).
Marshall is right: who can say whether or not Adam would have fallen had he been given the choice first? I mean, look at the choice he did make in the end. It doesn’t sound to me like Adam would have reacted any different had he been given first choice. In Genesis, God first gave Adam the command he was to give his wife—so he was in the same position as in the ideal state to make the right choice. He didn’t because He CHOSE to disobey.
Marshall then goes on to list two possibilities on how to deal with the prohibition against women:
“One possible interpretation is that, even if a woman should not have authority over a man, the exercise or teaching or the holding of ministerial office in the church SHOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS INFRINGING THIS PRINCIPLE IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY” (Vanhoozer, 167).
This is the theologically-liberal position: that it was binding for the first century, but not today.
Let’s proceed to the second and final possibility:
“Another possibility is that there may have been women teaching that women were superior to men on the basis of a faulty interpretation of Genesis, and the author is concerned simply to refute this and to stop the women giving false teaching. Hence, nothing more may be involved than a CORRECTION OF A FALSE INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS IN A SPECIFIC SITUATION” (Vanhoozer, 167).
Marshall’s listing of this final possibility is one to consider: after all, in verses 13 and 14, Paul is upholding the events as recorded in Genesis: according to Genesis itself, Adam was formed first, and then, because God thought it bad for man to be alone, made Eve from Adam’s rib (Adam’s side). Next, notice that Paul writes in verse 14, “And Adam was not deceived, but THE WOMAN was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Tim. 2:14, ESV). Why would Paul have to defend Adam NOT BEING DECEIVED and “the woman’s” deception—unless the genealogy were being twisted the other way around to where Adam was formed SECOND and being deceived by the serpent? With Paul’s reference to “the woman,” he goes to an awful lot of trouble to argue which GENDER was deceived. Why would he do that UNLESS there was a sort of GENDER responsibility for the fall being reversed?
Marshall writes (regarding the complementarian position):“…there is at least SUFFICIENT DOUBT concerning the validity of the patriarchal interpretation as a RULING FOR PRACTICE TODAY to make it VERY UNWISE to impose it upon the churches” (Theological Interpretation of the NT, 167).
Even Marshall and Vanhoozer disagree with the traditionalist (complementarian view). My response? First, gifts have NOTHING to do with anyone else, but with the Lord and how He chooses to grace a person! When did a woman receive a spiritual gift based on whether or not she was married? Next, look at the second choice they offered—that Paul was refuting false doctrine. Most of the churches were dealing with false teachers (at least Judaizers), who still believed you had to be circumcised or do different things.
I think that complementarians have a lot of holes in their argument because of their traditionalist view. If they intend to be the master exegetes anytime soon, however, they better do their homework…