Thursday, November 11, 2010

"No Longer Binding"

“In the first-century situation with its generally patriarchal society, where women played little part in public affairs, teaching by women could be regarded as an unacceptable breach of behavior patterns, whether among Jews or also among some Gentiles. ACCORDINGLY, THE RESTRICTION CAN BE INTERPRETED AS A CULTURALLY SHAPED PROHIBITION THAT IS NO LONGER BINDING IN A DIFFERENT SETTING. The difficulty is in the appeal to Scripture that is used to back up the prohibition. It 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). THIS SEEMS TO BE A DOCTRINAL RATHER THAN A CULTURAL CONSIDERATION AND IS DECISIVE FOR THOSE WHO BELIEVE THAT THE AUTHORITY OF A PASSAGE OF SCRIPTURE MUST BE ACCEPTED EVEN WHEN IT SEEMS TO RUN AGAINST THE GRAIN OF NT TEACHING GENERALLY (e.g., Gal. 3:28)” (I. Howard Marshall, “1 Timothy,” from “Theological Interpretation of the New Testament: A Book-by-Book Survey” by Kevin Vanhoozer, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2009, page 166).

Have you ever had a moment in which someone you admired or had great respect for said something that you disagreed with? I had that moment when reading the above quote. Marshall writes that the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 could be interpreted as “a culturally shaped prohibition that is no longer binding...” These words trouble me greatly.

Now, I have to confess: I was raised in a very strict Christian home where the Bible was the infallible, inerrant, inspired, Word of God. No one questioned in my family that the Bible was the ultimate source of authority for godly living. But along with these presuppositions regarding Scripture was placed another presupposition: that is, that the words of Scripture themselves were always binding on God’s people; that is, that in every verse of Scripture, there was a principle that could be applied to contemporary living (as was the thought of two thousand years ago).

Imagine then, what I thought when I stumbled upon I. Howard Marshall’s words. I have great respect for Dr. Marshall. I read his work, own some of his work, and value him as a theologian and Greek scholar. But I disagree with interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 as just a “culturally shaped prohibition.”

I think the problem with the universal principle behind 1 Timothy 2:12 involves how to take the prohibition, wrapped in its context, and “connect the bridge” (my hermeneutics professor once said) from the time of the first century to the twenty-first century. To discover the universal principle behind the verse, we must first accept the idea that the Scriptures are binding at all times, in all places. The universal binding of Scripture can be seen via two passages, 2 Timothy 3 and 2 Peter 1:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NKJV).

“knowing this first, that NO PROPHECY OF SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but HOLY MEN OF GOD SPOKE AS THEY WERE MOVED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT” (2 Peter 1:20-21).

2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that “all Scripture” is inspired and useful for “instruction in righteousness.” The word “all” in the Greek is “pas,” which, according to Thayer’s Dictionary means “individually, each, every, any, whole,” etc. The parts of Scripture comprise to create “all Scripture.” If this is the case, then everything that is said about “all Scripture” includes 1 Timothy 2:12. I’ll set up a syllogism:

1)”All Scripture” is inspired by God and useful.

2) 1 Timothy 2:12 is part of Scripture.

3) If all Scripture is divinely inspired and useful, and 1 Timothy 2:12 is a part of Scripture, then 1 Timothy 2:12 is divinely inspired and useful.

This being the case, we must find out what universal principle we can draw from the text itself. One of the main universal principles we can draw out of the text is to attack false teaching. In the immediate context of 1 Timothy 2 is 1 Timothy 1, where Paul gives Timothy his reason for leaving Timothy behind in Ephesus:

“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia---remain in Ephesus THAT YOU MAY CHARGE SOME THAT THEY TEACH NO OTHER DOCTRINE” (1 Timothy 1:1).

“knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate...and if there is any other thing that is CONTRARY TO SOUND DOCTRINE” (1 Tim. 1:9-10).

“desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7).

In the immediate context of chapter 2, the issue that plagues the church at Ephesus is false teaching. So, a universal principle could be, “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints” (Jude 3) and put down the false teaching. Paul does this himself when he writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” Here, Paul was setting the record straight: it was not Adam who was deceived (“Adam was not deceived”), it was Eve; and Adam was first in creation, not Eve (“Adam was formed first, then Eve”).

Now, by providing words above, I don’t mean to say that ONLY WOMEN who are teaching false doctrine should be put down. This is where I stand against many conservatives: I think that the Bible’s emphasis is to put down false teaching always, regardless of whether it comes from a man or a woman (1 Tim. 6:3-5; 1 Tim. 4; 2 Tim. 2:17-18; Titus 1:10-14 and Titus 2; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12; Colossians 2:8-10; Galatians 3-5; Romans 11; etc).

Scripture seems to attack false teaching, from beginning to end. Even after the Pastorals (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) there is attack made on false teaching in the letters of 2 Peter, Jude, and so on. I. Howard Marshall errs in his argument when he writes that the prohibition is possibly a “culturally-shaped” prohibition without a universally binding principle. If one believes the Bible to be the ultimate authoritative standard for the Christian life, then one must affirm the universally-binding principles of the Word of God. Someone who fails to affirm a universal principle in the teaching prohibition might feel the need someday to argue that the biblical teaching on the exclusivity of Christ as “The Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6) is only a temporary statement as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Female Rabbi Ordained in Germany

Dear Readership,

I just stumbled today upon this article regarding a female, Alina Treiger, who was just ordained to be the first female rabbi since 1935. If I'm not mistaken, Alina Treiger was ordained to the German rabbi circle on November 4, 2010. To read the article, go here:,,6188567,00.html?maca=en-rss-en-all-1573-rdf

I desire to know your thoughts on this somewhat history-making event for Germany. Please comment here to give me some feedback. I'm sure this will make for interesting discussion.

Friday, November 5, 2010

"A Deeper Theological Issue"

“Why this concern to separate the roles of men and women and to silence women teachers in the church’s worship? At the practical level, SILENCING WOMEN TEACHERS CUT THE FALSE TEACHING OFF AT ITS SOURCE---wealthy women, as we have seen, were probably financing the false teachers and spreading the false teachers’ heresy themselves, and younger widows, happily released from any obligation to marry and care for children, were going about from house to house teaching the heresy” (Frank Thielman, “Theology of the New Testament: A Canonical and Synthetic Approach.” Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005, page 419).

Reading the above quote from Frank Thielman’s New Testament Theology encouraged my heart somewhat. I stayed up late this morning to see what he had to say about the Pastoral Epistles. I’ve read a great deal of his theology textbook this semester and I like the things he has to say. His work has been impeccable, in all of the letters of the NT he traces. So I wanted to know his thoughts. Immediately, I began to think of the site here, “Men and Women,” and it became clear to me that I would have a blog post---whether it would be a positive or negative one, I would have something new to add to the work done here.

I sat down and read attentively. And in his section titled “The Church Gathered For Worship,” I read the above quote. All along, Thielman implicated women in the false teaching at Ephesus:

“...false teachers are ‘ruining whole households’ (Titus 1:11). They apparently do this by insinuating themselves into homes and CONVINCING ALREADY CORRUPT WOMEN OF THEIR FALSE TEACHING (2 TIM. 3:6). PERHAPS WE CAN ALSO LINK TOGETHER PAUL’S claim that a desire for wealth motivated the false teachers (1 Tim. 6:5; cf. 6:6-10, 17-19), his concern that women not make ostentatious displays of their wealth (2:9), and HIS CONCERN THAT WOMEN NOT TEACH IN THE CHURCH (2:11-14). WEALTHY WOMEN IN EPHESUS MAY HAVE BEEN PAYING THE FALSE TEACHERS TO TUTOR THEM AND THEN CONVEYING THE FALSE TEACHING THEY LEARNED TO THE CHURCHES THAT MET IN THEIR HOUSES” (Thielman, 412).

“If men in the church are involved in angry disputes, they cannot lift holy hands in prayer, and if their behavior hinders their prayers, then it also hinders the advancement of the gospel (2:1-8). If WOMEN IN THE CHURCH ARE abandoning modesty and like Eve, succumbing to Satan’s offer of sinful knowledge, AND THEN TEACHING THIS ERROR TO OTHERS (2:9-14; 5:15), then their very salvation is threatened (2:15)” (414).

“WOMEN---particularly the wealthy women who may have paid the false teachers to tutor them, and the younger widows whom the church has supported from its common funds---ARE APPARENTLY AMONG THE CHIEF ADVOCATES OF THE HERESY THAT HAS LED TO THIS BEHAVIOR. WEALTHY WOMEN ARE PERHAPS TEACHING THE HERESY IN THEIR HOUSES while the men spend church meetings not in prayer but in angry disputes about the heresy. THE YOUNGER WIDOWS, freed by the largesse of the church from the responsibilities of marriage and child-rearing, which they do not believe in anyway, CAN SPEND THEIR TIME MAKING THE ROUNDS OF BELIEVERS’ HOUSEHOLDS ADVOCATING THE FALSE TEACHING” (417).

In these four references (the beginning quote plus the three quotes above), Thielman seems to link women with the false teaching: not only were they listening to it and entertaining it, they were also teaching it themselves. In the first quote above, Thielman states that to prohibit women from teaching would stop the spread of heresy. Since women were the ones propagating and clinging to the heresy, prohibiting the women teaching would stop the false teachers’ influence in the church at Ephesus. In turn, the false teachers would have to find some other way to stir up trouble (aside from the women).

But this is where Thielman then takes a turn for the worse:

“As is already apparent from Paul’s willingness to separate the roles of the sexes in worship in 2:8-9 and to silence all women teachers in 2:12, however, a deeper theological issue is at stake in this gender-specific ordering of worship. Paul states this issue explicitly in 2:13-15. God fashioned human beings in two genders, male and female, and the order in which he created them implies distinct roles in the church for each gender...women should submit to the authority of the church’s male leadership because ‘Adam was formed first, then Eve’ (2:13). Men, rather than women, should teach BECAUSE EVE RATHER THAN ADAM WAS SATAN’S FIRST VICTIM IN THE DECEPTION THAT LED TO THE DISOBEDIENCE DESCRIBED IN GENESIS 3:6. THE IMPLICATION IS CLEAR: Adam and Eve violated the divine ordering of the genders when Eve led Adam to disobey God’s command” (419).

Up to this point, Thielman has shown us in context that women were involved in teaching heresy; that women were not only soaking up the teaching but spreading that to others, presumably other women in the congregation. In addition there is evidence that these women may very well have been told to “learn in silence with full submission” (2:11) because they had been disrupting the learning process during worship services. But how then, does his last statement connect to the four quotes he made prior to this last one?

What I’m asking is, “How can Thielman connect women to false teaching in the context of 1 Timothy 2 and then “broaden” the scope of teaching to all teaching in general in his application of the text? Yes, hermeneutics (the study of biblical interpretation) teaches us that context-specific principles can be generalized and applied to everyday life; but why can this text not refer to anyone teaching falsely, whether it be man or woman? And why can’t it be the case that women are not to teach heresy, not that they are prohibited from teaching sound doctrine?

For Thielman, the answer is found in Paul’s usage of Genesis. I have stated here at the site, however, that Paul writes “And Adam was not deceived” for a reason: if Genesis does not provide these words, why does Paul use them? He does so to defend the Law as it was being attacked in the book of Genesis. Thielman notes this as well (page 410), but does not make the connection. He even goes on to talk about the Nag Hammadi document “On the Origin of the World,” which states that “the goddess Pistis Sophia created the god of Genesis (‘the ruler’) and then withdrew to her region of light, leaving ‘the ruler’ with the impression that ‘[he] alone existed’” (Thielman, 410; quoting “On the Origin of the World”). However, Thielman still does not put two and two together that, if the Gnostic document claimed that the woman “created the god of Genesis,” that she must have been seen as having been created first---before the man. Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 2:13 make sense in light of this document. Paul then, was trying to refute the false (Gnostic) teaching that Eve was created before Adam, by affirming what the Bible teaches--- that Adam was created before Eve.

Thielman goes to such lengths to argue women as propagators of the false heresy (and students of the false teachers), not to mention that “proto-Gnostic teaching” (Thielman, 422) comprised the nature of the false teaching prevalent via women in the church at Ephesus. Why then, when he comes to his application, does he divorce the issue of false teaching from the application? Does God not want us to stomp out false teaching today? Does the Lord no longer care when falsehood is being taught in our pulpits, classrooms, and churches? Is it okay for Sunday School lessons to be plagued with gross statements about God that detract from (rather than reflect) His character? If God is still committed to this, then why is this theme of “anti-false teaching” not provided in Thielman’s analysis? Why is it that the point of Paul’s prohibition to the women is to keep them from teaching or holding offices of leadership in the churches?

In the end, all we receive of Thielman’s response to my questions above is “a deeper theological issue is at stake in this gender-specific ordering of worship” (419). But how do we know this “deeper theological issue” is really present in the text? In fact, Thielman’s words about women and the creation order are only mentioned for the first time in his modern-day application. All throughout his exegesis, he has focused on the false teaching and its impact. He has failed to do his homework and show us why Paul was so concerned with “putting women in their place” in the epistle.

Wanna know what my analysis is? I think Paul was concerned with the women neglecting duties of childbearing and homecare because to focus on such duties would prevent women from being prey to the false teachers and their heresy. Paul wanted women to do what was godly so that, by their example, they could serve as leaders in the church. After all, “if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Tim. 3:5, NKJV).