Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Old Testament Theology...and Women?, Part II: Assessing Waltke's Use of 1 Corinthians 11:8-9

In my last post on Bruce Waltke, I made the point that he seemed to affirm that men and women are on equal terms in the Old Testament regarding spiritual gifts (such as the case of Huldah the prophetess). However, Waltke decides to separate gifts and offices not for the purpose of demonstrating the will of God, but for the purposes of arguing against women in leadership:

“Paul gives governmental priority to the many BY THE SEQUENCE OF CREATION of man and woman and by the purpose for which the woman was created” (Waltke, “An Old Testament Theology,” page 242).

Since he cites 1 Corinthians 11:8-9 as his argument, let’s take a look at that here:

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9, NKJV).

This is Waltke’s proof text for why women should not be in leadership. However, what Waltke forgets is that there is a text after this passage. Let’s look at the following verses:

“Nevertheless, NEITHER IS MAN INDEPENDENT OF WOMAN, nor woman independent of man, IN THE LORD. For as woman came from man, EVEN SO MAN ALSO COMES THROUGH THE WOMAN; but all things are from God” (1 Cor. 11:11-12, NKJV).

Funny how Waltke’s interpretation looks skewed now, doesn’t it? What Waltke fails to do (as well as most complementarians) is read through the rest of Paul’s argument. If he had done so, he would see that Paul sets up the Genesis origin account, but nullifies it when he says, “nevertheless,” and “man also comes through the woman.” When he states that “neither is independent of each other in the Lord,” he states that there is an even keel in spiritual authority that does not mandate that a woman wear a “sign” or “symbol of authority.” Notice in the text, as I stated it in the last post, that both men (v.4) and women (v.5) are praying and prophesying in 1 Corinthians 11.

One could easily think that this would be the end of the post, right? Well...think again!! Our dear friend Waltke has a response to my interpretation (egalitarian):

“According to 1 Corinthians 11:11-12, THE MAN AND WOMAN ARE DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER FOR THEIR EXISTENCE. Their interdependence, however, does not rule out male priority in government. Likewise, the United States Supreme Court does not exist independently from the people, but the people are subordinate to its rulings” (“An Old Testament Theology,” page 243).

I have two responses to Waltke’s argument. First, notice that he affirms what I did above. However, what he does next, though, is he uses an argument from logic that nullifies the context and Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11. What he attempts to do is say, “even though man and woman are dependent on one another in the Lord, men can still be over women in the church.” However, if this was the intention of Paul’s letter, why would he tell us that both men and women are praying and prophesying (same activities and gifts, 1 Cor. 11:4,5), as well as use the word “nevertheless”? The word “nevertheless” used here is the Greek word “plen” (pronounced “plain”), which means “moreover, besides, but, except,” etc.

I looked up the word “moreover” in The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, and I found this definition:

“further; besides. Furthermore, not only that, MORE THAN THAT, WHAT IS MORE; to boot, into the bargain, IN ADDITION.” (The Oxford American Dictionary and Thesaurus, “moreover”)

The words in the definition of “moreover,” tell you that what Paul says after “nevertheless” (as the NKJV translates it) outweighs what Paul said in his previous argument. The word “plen” (“plain”) also means “however,” or “but,” which is a contrast with the material just before it. The word is a Greek conjunction; and conjunctions are “connective words,” which bridge sentences together. So if Paul is saying “however” or “moreover” here, he must be saying, “Listen up; what I am about to say contrasts with what I just said.” And if Paul is giving a contrast with his prior discussion of the man being above the woman, then he is not affirming such a hierarchy here---which puts Waltke’s interpretation on the sidelines.

Secondly, Waltke does not provide us with support from Scripture. All he does is give us a rational argument. When it comes to showing why women should not be in leadership, complementarians spend time “making inferences” instead of showing Scripture for what it is. Waltke’s argument breaks down, and all he can say is, “this still does not rule out my presupposition.” How does it not, when the text explicitly places man and woman in an equal balance in spiritual authority, when Paul does not mandate women to wear head coverings (which would have been the sign of a man’s authority over the woman, a sign of the husband-wife relationship)? Waltke doesn’t have an answer for this. Instead, he attempts to resort to logic. But that seems to be what the complementarians do these days...instead of finding explicit references from Scripture to support their points.

Anyone can read the English words like “nevertheless” and conclude that Paul is contrasting his next statement with his last statement. And this is the problem with Waltke and the complementarians: they make a mountain out of a mole hill. Why do this if the process of reading Scripture is so simple? Because they desire to uphold tradition...and they will do it at all costs.

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