Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Authentein" Again...

I spent this past summer working on my other blog, titled “Center for Theological Studies.” As I’ve suggested often, anyone who wants to see other theological research of mine, go to the link for “Center for Theological Studies” at the top of the page to the right. Click on the link, and it should take you to the main page of the blog itself. Feel free to read there and post if you just wanna see some other work of mine.

Now, back to the task at hand. I’ve been studying Calvinism and Arminianism this past summer, so all my reading (20+ books) involved that subject. Everything I could find with Calvinism and Arminianism in the title or the subject matter, immediately became a part of my book collection this summer.

While reading on the subject of divine sovereignty and human responsibility and how both concepts work together, I read something in the book titled “No Place For Sovereignty: What’s Wrong with Freewill Theism” by R.K. McGregor Wright that motivated me to return to my blog here at Men and Women in the Church.

Yes, it does involve the Greek infinitival verb “authentein” once more. If you’ve read my 20 posts on 1 Timothy 2, you’ll find that I’ve done quite an extensive subject on this verb. Most notable of the work I’ve done on “authentein” is my work on Rebecca Groothuis’s book, “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy.” In this book, I examine Linda Belleville’s word study of “authentein” and point out that, while her research is good, her conclusions are wrong. She shows that “authentein” in its earliest form often used an article (“ho”) in front of it, turning the infinitival verb into a subject (a noun). However, she then turns around and says that the infinitive (in everyday language) would have meant to domineer. The focus on the infinitive should be its appearance in literature, not necessarily its function in ordinary everyday use.

Just so we all know, an “infinitival verb” is a verb that functions as an infinitive. For instance, the word “authentein” serves as a verb in 1 Timothy 2:12. It also functions, though, as an infinitive. An infinitive in English is a verb that has the word “to” added to it. For example, “walk” is a verb. When you add the word “to” with the word “walk,” you now have “to walk.” The words “to walk” form an infinitive.

R.K. McGregor Wright writes the following on free will and its use in Scripture:

“Second Corinthians 8:3 (RSV) says that the believers of Macedonia ‘gave…of their own free will.’ The Greek word translated as ‘free will’ here is ‘AUTHAIRETOI,’ which simply means ACTING ‘OF THEMSELVES’ or ‘OF THEIR OWN ACCORD’” (R.K. McGregor, “No Place For Sovereignty.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996, page 164).

A light bulb went off in my head right away. If you notice, the word “authairetoi” has a prefix, “auth,” which is very similar to the infinitival verb of 1 Tim.2:12--“AUTHentein.”

This intrigued me greatly. All of a sudden, I wanted to study the other words in the New Testament that begin with this prefix and see if they had any linguistic connection whatsoever with “authentein.” There are two other words (in addition to “authairetoi,” and we will examine each of these words and the context of the verses containing them so as to see the connection between them.

Let’s look at the Greek word “authairetoi.” This word is found in the participle form (“authairetoi”) in 2 Corinthians 8:3—

3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability… (2 Corinthians 8:3, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In the context, Paul is writing to the Corinthians here, discussing how the churches of Macedonia have given from their small means “for the privilege of sharing (D) in the ministry to the saints…” (2 Cor. 8:4, HCSB)

The word for “authairetoi” here means “of themselves or of their own accord,” as R.K. McGregor Wright states in the quote above from his book. The word “authairetoi” is made up of two other Greek words: “autos” (self) and “hairetizo” (to choose). So the word itself, with a literal translation, means “to self-choose,” to choose something on their own. What we see here is that the prefix “auth” has something to do with “origin.” Here in 2 Corinthians 8:3, the Macedonians themselves are the “origin” of their decision to give—no one made them give, or forced them to. It was their decision alone. The Macedonians themselves were the “origin” of their decision.

2 Corinthians 8:17 brings us up and close with this word again, except this time, the word is in a noun form:

“For he [Titus] accepted our urging and, being very diligent, went out to you by HIS OWN CHOICE” (2 Cor. 8:17, HCSB).

We see a word similar to “authairetoi,” but the word here is “authairetos.” Since the word is in a noun form here, the word would be translated as “self-choosing.” Titus’s own “self-choosing” is the reason why he went to the Corinthians.

The next word we find related to “authentein” is the word “authade,” found in Titus 1:7—

7 For an overseer, (U) as God's manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money…” (Titus 1:7)

The word “arrogant” here is “authade” in the Greek. What does it mean to be “arrogant”? Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives us this meaning:

1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner

Notice the words “one’s own” in the definition? The prefix “auth” is responsible for such translations involving the concept of the self. So someone who is “arrogant” is “self-absorbed” and seeks to magnify themselves in the eyes of everyone else. To use biblical language, they “think more highly of themselves than they ought to think,” which is what the apostle Paul speaks against in the Roman church (Rom. 12:3).

So when we see this word in the context of Titus 1, we realize that being “arrogant” is not a good thing to be!! The word “authade,” in addition to meaning “arrogant,” can also mean “self-willed.” Once again, we see the word “self” as part of this definition as well. The “auth” prefix has everything to do with the “self.” This same word occurs in 2 Peter 2:10, referring to the false teachers.

All these words, starting with the “auth” prefix, have something to do with oneself as the starting point, or “origin,” of an action. Clearly then, “authentein” has something to do with the “self” as the “origin” of something. Much to the shock of many, the word cannot mean “dominate” or “exercise authority” (as defined in our day). If the women in 1 Timothy 2 are doing anything wrong in the church at Ephesus (which they are, since Paul prohibits their actions), then they must be saying something IN RELATION TO THEMSELVES, or ABOUT THEMSELVES. If Paul is writing for these women not to “exercise authority,” or “have authority,” as the NIV claims, then these women must have been in positions of leadership—for, until 1 Tim. 2:12, women are never given such a prohibition by the apostle. If women are dominating the church services, that would be a problem, but it wouldn’t fully explain Paul’s reasoning regarding the order of Adam and Eve’s appearance as well as the details of the Fall. However, if women are PROCLAIMING THEMSELVES TO BE THE ORIGIN OF MAN, then here, we see that the women are saying something ABOUT THEMSELVES, and they are saying something in relation to the Genesis account (the origin of mankind), which would match Paul’s response to the events in the church at Ephesus. This, then, would match Paul’s reference to “those desiring to be teachers of the law” in 1 Timothy 1:

3 As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, (F) remain in Ephesus (G) so that you may command certain people (H) not to teach other doctrine 4 or to pay attention to myths (I) and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God's plan, (J) which operates by faith. 5 Now the goal of our instruction is love (K) from a pure heart, (L) a good conscience, (M) and a sincere faith. (N) 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don't understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on. 8 Now we know that the law is good, (O) provided one uses it legitimately. 9 We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, (P) for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral (Q) and homosexuals, (R) for kidnappers, liars, (S) perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching (T) 11 based on the glorious gospel (U) of the blessed God (V) that was entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:3-11, HCSB)

Notice that the issue at Ephesus concerned “other doctrines” (v.3), “myths,” and “endless genealogies” (v.4), what Paul refers to as “fruitless discussion” (v.6).

Yes, I covered “authentein” again, and I will continue to do so from time to time should I find something that will help aid us in our study of this word. For now, though, you should know that my goal is to help us to logically and systematically approach the study of “authentein,” so that we will come away with an interpretation that best fits the context of the epistle of 1 Timothy (and matches the view of the remainder of the biblical canon itself). If 1 Corinthians 11 demonstrates that genealogy is nullified, then I doubt Eve’s appearance AFTER Adam would affect the right of women to exercise leadership in the church at any level.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Women Deacons in the East: Tomb Inscriptions, Part IV

I am back to give the last three references to women deacons that I will mention in our series on Women Deacons in the East (from the book “Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History” by Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek). These last three are a great bunch by which to end our archaeological study of tomb inscriptions with regard to women deacons.

First, there is Paula. The tombstone of her brother is from Laodicea Combustia, Phrygia. On the stone is written the following words:

“PAULA, DEACON MOST BLESSED OF CHRIST. SHE BUILT ME AS TOMB of her blessed brother Helladius, outside the homeland, constructed of stones as guardian of the body UNTIL THE TERRIBLE SOUND OF THE TRUMPET WAKES THE DEAD AS GOD HAS PROMISED” (OWEC, 87).

According to Madigan and Osiek, Paula is called a “diakonos” (masculine term for “deacon”) and “one can infer her high level of education and family loyalty, and her sufficient wealth to afford an expensive memorial” (87). In addition, the last words “until the terrible sound of the trumpet wakes the dead as God has promised” come from 1 Corinthians 15:51-52 (87)—

“Listen! I am telling you a mystery:
We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the LAST TRUMPET. FOR THE TRUMPET WILL SOUND, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.” (HCSB)

We discover that Paula built a tomb for her brother and the tomb itself tells us she was a “diakonos.” But, aside from that, we find that believers of the early church had firm convictions regarding their eschatology. Paula really believed that the Lord would return and that the Scriptures told her so. And I think we should all look at death in this way: whenever someone who loves us leaves us, we should remember that God has promised to raise them from the dead—and not just them, but all of us who love Him!

This next tomb inscription concerns a woman named “Sophia” and comes from the fourth century. According to Madigan and Osiek,

“the stone was found by workers below the Tomb of the Prophets on THE MOUNT OF OLIVES in Jerusalem on December 8, 1903, in five pieces, with the bottom missing. It is now in the museum of St. Anne’s Church, Jerusalem” (OWEC, 90).

On the tomb are the words as follows:

“Here lies the slave and bride of Christ SOPHIA, DEACON, THE SECOND PHOEBE, who slept in peace the twenty-first of the month of March in the eleventh Indiction…the Lord God…” (90).

According to Madigan and Osiek,

“The most surprising part of the description is her [Sophia] appellation as ‘SECOND PHOEBE,’ a reference to Rom. 16:1-2, where Phoebe, bearer of Paul’s letter to Rome, is recommended to the recipients as ‘diakonos’—THE EARLIEST USE OF THAT TERM, with Phil. 1:1, for an officer of a particular church—and ‘prostatis,’ patron or benefactor (see Phoebe). The comparison to Phoebe is probably not only to her diaconate, which was common to many women of the period, but to her position as patron and benefactor” (OWEC, 91).

We also find that Sophia calls herself the “slave” and “bride of Christ,” which means that she knew her eschatology. According to Madigan and Osiek, “calling oneself the slave or servant of Christ or God was common early Christian language (see Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 1:1; Gal. 1:10), and the use of bridal imagery…was also beginning at this period” (90).

The most important thing about Sophia’s tomb inscription is that she is labeled “the second Phoebe.” Since she is a “diakonos,” and the first Phoebe (Rom. 16) was a “diakonos,” we can infer that she believed she was following in the footsteps of the Phoebe Paul mentions in Scripture.

The fact that Sophia believed herself to be in line with the Phoebe of Romans 16 tells us that the church used this woman as an example for all women to follow and pattern themselves after. I’ve spent quite a bit of time here at the blog trying to rebut complementarians who attempt to remove this woman from having any importance in the early church at all—and make Phoebe out to be nothing but a “good assistant.” Phoebe was a woman of means, someone very active and trustworthy in the early church—and from now on, when complementarians attempt to discredit Phoebe, point to this evidence about a woman named “Sophia” who evidently believed that she was walking in the footsteps of the Phoebe who helped Paul! This is the goal of providing historical evidence at the site: so that you can inform others of the truth regarding women and their work in the early church.

The last reference I will make concerns a woman named “Zaortha”:

“Zaortha DEACONESS” (94).

Someone might be puzzled to see such a short tomb inscription and wonder, “Why is this here? Why would you even post this inscription?” That’s a good question, and I have a good answer: because she served as a deaconess in a Syriac-speaking church.

As Madigan and Osiek tell us,

“The word for deaconess that is transliterated into Greek as ‘samastha’ is Syriac ‘shamashta,’ not the usual Syriac word, which is ‘mshamshanita.’ The root meaning of the term is the same, ‘servant’ or ‘minister.’ Whether this is a regional or some other variation is not known. Nor is anything further known about the deaconess Zaorta. This is not a funerary commemoration but her dedication of a piece of the chancel screen as a pious offering to the church. She was therefore a person of means, PROBABLY A PATRON IN THE COMMUNITY. Together, with the deaconesses to whom Severus wrote, SHE IS EVIDENCE OF THE USE OF THE OFFICE IN THE SYRIAC-SPEAKING CHURCHES” (OWEC, 94).

This seems to be the only evidence of the existence of a female diaconate in Syriac churches. In any case, however small the evidence, the evidence still exists.

This will conclude our study of tomb inscriptions of Women Deacons in the East. We have one bit of business left—and that involves to show evidence of ecclesiastical texts that confirm the female diaconate as an ORDAINED office. Part Five is on its way…

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Show Me The Evidence!

“Untold harm has been done in the name of Christianity by people who have absolutized their relative interpretations of life or of Scripture. Presumptuous prophets who claimed to speak God’s word to people, without divine authorization, in the OT administration were subject to the most severe penalties. May God deliver evangelicals today from prophetic ministries not validly drawn from divine revelation. This case for revealed absolutes must not be taken to justify absolutizing merely human ideas, however good…We can be assured of our view of the major doctrines of Christianity and the realities to which they refer WHEN OUR INTERPRETATIONS ARE BASED ON NUMEROUS RELEVANT AND EXTENSIVE PASSAGES OF SCRIPTURE, supported by interpreters throughout the history of the church, and attested to us personally by the internal witness of the Holy Spirit to the teaching of the Word. Then we can confidently relate to the realities designated and preach the great doctrines of the faith with joy” (Walter Elwell, editor, “Relativism,” in “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition.” Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2001, page 1005).

I like Walter Elwell’s quote above. Elwell shows us the danger of placing our own views onto Scripture.

I was reading from Elwell’s dictionary because of my theology class. It’s amazing how reading for theology could bring me back to a subject I haven’t studied for some time!!!

Notice that I capitalized a phrase of Elwell’s quote above. The phrase I capitalized is the phrase that concerns the discussion of this post: how can a person tell when their interpretation of a passage is correct?

Here at the blog for the last nine months, I have tried to show that the complementarian view of women in ministry is one that is based on a presuppositional bias, NOT the Word of God. Scripture does not subordinate all women to all men, nor does it tell all women to submit themselves to all men! Instead, Scripture tells WIVES to submit to their HUSBANDS (Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1). And when Scripture tells wives to submit, it states that they are to do so “to THEIR husbands,” not to EVERY husband.

But this is where Elwell’s statement comes in: if God forbade women in positions of church leadership, such as the pastorate, eldership, deacon, teacher, preacher, and so forth, then why is it that NO EXPLICIT passages mention this? Have you ever wondered why there is no undisputed passage in Scripture that forbids women from having leadership offices in the church?

Well it is here that someone may object: “Well, Deidre, what about 1 Timothy 2?” In response I would say, “Yes, let’s consider this wonderful passage indeed. Notice that the ONLY letter that gives this prohibition is 1 Timothy 2. And why is that?" Having studied hermeneutics the last three years, I’ve learned that when something is mentioned in several places throughout Scripture, it is a universal statement—binding for all times in all places through all situations. However, when something is mentioned once (and only once), it is not a universal statement, but a LOCAL one—which means that the comment or statement applied only to a specific time period or situation. 1 Timothy 2 would fit under this umbrella. Paul’s prohibition is found nowhere else in the New Testament EXCEPT in the letter of 1 Timothy. In fact, as I’ve written about in a few posts here at the blog on “Junia or Junias?”, Paul even mentions a female apostle, Junia, in Romans 16, not to mention “Syntyche and Euodia” in Philippians 4 as “fellow workers” of his. These two women “contended” for the gospel alongside of Paul, and he credits them as his equals in the Gospel work!!

Let me play the role of “Devil’s advocate” for a moment: IF the Lord could be so explicit about wives submitting to their husbands, why couldn’t He be AS EXPLICIT about women not working in positions of leadership in the church? It seems that whenever the Lord wanted to be clear about something, the language of Scripture is precise and to the point. But when it comes to this so-called “universal” prohibition (as complementarians believe), we don’t find such a bold prohibition, but instead, many pieces of evidence that lead to the other conclusion. Why is this so? How can this be?

I think that you and I know the answers to these questions. We find the opposite because we all know that the opposite is true—that the Lord doesn’t forbid women to exercise their gifts for His glory.

Some people don’t consider the issue of women in ministry to be a “doctrine” of the church; but I think it is—for, think of all the Christians that are indoctrinated against women in ministry from the time they are old enough to know how to behave in church. It is a doctrine when believers are being taught that women are subordinate by nature and were never meant to assume leadership in the churches. It is a doctrine when little girls are being taught that all they can do is sew and knit and keep house and have children and work in the nursery, sing in the choir, and play an instrument at church. It is a doctrine when men are being taught that, by virtue of their GENDER, they are MORE FIT for leadership in the churches than women are. It is a doctrine, whether most conservatives like to think of it as such or not. I think it’s time the church call it what it is (a doctrine) and place it with the other doctrines as teaching that should be subject to examination.

Place the doctrine of “women’s subordination” on the table; follow the Elwell pattern and “Show Me the Evidence,” show me the passages that confirm the traditional view of women in leadership. Show me why Miriam, Deborah, and Huldah were all “out of place” and why 1 Timothy 2 was written. I’ll even allow the complementarian to take time explaining to me his “biological” argument for the domination of men in the home and the church. However, while the complementarian is doing this, I ask one thing of him: show me other passages that have the SAME prohibition as 1 Timothy 2. In other words, if Paul prohibits women to “teach” and “have authority,” as most conservatives believe, then show me the other passages that explicitly mention “teach” and “have authority” as prohibitions for women.

Complementarians can search for such passages—but they will search in vain. 1 Timothy 2 is the ONLY passage that gives such a prohibition. This “once-mentioned” prohibition, then, cannot be given the same weight as “wife submission” in Paul’s letters, for he mentions this three times to three different congregations!
Instead, 1 Timothy 2 is a particular letter written to address a specific situation in the church at Ephesus. But for those who still believe in the power of 1 Tim. 2, explain to me then why 1 Timothy 5 mentions women being “rulers of the home” (“manage the home,” the Greek word “oikodespotein”)…