Friday, 11 April 2014

Why I am a Complementarian (pt6) - "teach" in 1 Timothy 2:12

I hate leaving things undone so I am returning to this series I started last year. This may be the most controversial post due to this being seen as the contemporary issues of this day. I should be clear up front that I do not think churches that have women as teaching ministers are anathema, I think churches that deny the resurrection are. In the same way that I do not think churches that baptise infants, or churches that only serve grape juice and not wine are eternally damned, it just that I disagree with their practice, even though I could still happily attend a church that does those things; and realistically we should be more serious about the sacraments.

As I have maintained in this series that I am a complementarian because that is how I simply see the text of the Bible playing out. The most contentions verse on this issue is probably 1 Timothy 2:12 (ESV):
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
I will look at the reason Paul gives for this in verses following in another post as this one is quite long. For now, verse 12 seems to says that Paul doesn't permit "a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man". That is how I read the passage and I think it means what it says. I should curtail some quick objections, saying that this is in relation to the formal church service, not out in other jobs. It also doesn't ban women teaching all together, and it doesn't band women from speaking at all in the church service. When Paul means "quite", he means it in the same way a news reporter would interview a neighbour in a suburban street who would say something like "they lived a quiet life", which doesn't mean they didn't speak, it just meant they didn't make waves (which also doesn't literally mean they didn't play with water).

The new NIV11 translate this verse to be "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man" with a footnote saying that the last bit could be "or to assume authority over their husband." This is rather novel, and suggests that if the church ordains a women then that women is not "assuming" authority for herself, but is endorsed by the church. Now I do think women can and should be ordained in the church, but I wouldn't add the word "assume" to the text to support this. Go look at an interlinear of this verse and see if the word νομίζω (or variations of) appears, I'll wait...

One popular objection to this verse in my conservative circles has been raised by John Dickson in his book Hearing Her Voice. Dickson's book was free on Amazon a good while back now and it is worth a read. It sparked a bit of a debate and below there are a bunch of links about it, but I must confess, I have only skimmed these and I am not sure if any of the objectors have the same objections I do - those guys are smarter than I am, so I might be worth looking at those links and to stop reading my stuff...

What should be noted first is that Dickson is arguing as a complementarian as he said in one of the footnotes. He does not consider himself an egalitarian, so even if you do agree with his argument, you still need to remember that Dickson still promotes the "equal but different roles" line when it comes to gender. (You can read Kevin Giles book review from an egalitarian position here.)

The main thrust of Dickson's argument (from my memory over a year ago) is that "teaching" described here is very specific and technical. Back in the day the people relied on oral tradition, and messages were passed orally from one person to another. Literacy wasn't that high and this is how people got around. Dickson argues that when Paul tells Timothy that women are not to "teach", it means that women are not to stand up the front and recount the teachings of the Apostles. Today, since we have the New Testament teachings of the Apostles, this verse doesn't apply and our modern day sermons are now more related to "prophecy" and not "teaching". I do think Dickson raises some good points, and if the text did say "I do not permit a women to prophecy" we would have a better definition as to what that actually means.

In general I think this definition of "teaching" is quite narrow and more technical than what Paul had in mind. I also think Dickson is relying to much on the idea that oral tradition in the church was as strong as it was when Paul was writing 1 Timothy.

Just looking at how Paul uses "teach" or "teaching" or "teachers" in 1 Timothy shows him using the term quite broadly and commonly in how we would understand it today. Paul doesn't say that teaching involves the oral transmission of someone else. Paul does tell Timothy to watch what he teachers (1 Tim 4:16) which suggests teaching doesn't involve regurgitating others words, but something that involves Timothy's own reason that he has control over. Paul also says it was possible to teach different doctrines that are contrary to Jesus (1 Tim 6:3) and to succumb to the teachings of demons (1 Tim 4:1), which leads me to think "teaching" does not inherently mean reciting the Apostles words.

I also struggle with Dickson's idea of widespread oral tradition in the church at the time of writing when places against 1 Timothy 5:18:
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
Most footnotes in English Bibles point out that the quote "The laborer deserves his wages" is taken from Luke 10:7:
And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.
I find this very interesting as Paul referrers to this as (γραφή) Scripture. This word sounds like "graphe" as in graphic, and means "writing" or "scripture". It is one of the first words you learn when you are leaning Greek. So Paul calls a quote from the Gospel of Luke writings or scripture. I think this means Luke has been written down. So it seems that the Apostolic teaching (at least Luke's account) was already written down at the time of 1 Timothy, which would given no need for people to recount it orally when someone could have read it out for everyone to hear.

I know lots of people don't hold for an early dating of the Gospels and say that Luke was written around 70 AD, but I don't, and I think this is a good point to show why it wasn't. Paul was killed under Nero in 67 AD, while some say Paul didn't write 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, I think he did, I have only touched on this in the past, and I do have an essay on this on my other site that goes into this a bit more.

Now, if Luke was already written, there is a good chance that Mark was written, as Luke took heaps of content from Mark and put it in his own account. Earlier on in Paul's life he also instructs other churches to pass on and to read his letters. Colossians 4:16:
And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.
This is not remembering and reciting of content, this is reading from a written source. Peter also refers to writings of Paul that he and his audience had also read (and like most of Paul's letters, they were confused by them). Notice the plural of letters Peter refers to and his comparison of these letters with "other Scriptures" 2 Peter 3:15-16:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
Anyway, this is now quite a long post, mostly retorting to Dicksons point about what "teach" is in 1 Tim 2:12. I think the plan meaning of "I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" means what it says. I don't think "teach" in this verse is as narrow Dickson makes it, based on how Paul uses the same word throughout this small letter. I do think that people used oral tradition, but at the time of 1 Timothy there was at least Mark, Luke, Colossians and the letter to the Laodiceans (possibly what we know as Ephesians) written down and church circulation. I would probably argue there was much more than that - maybe all of the New Testament except for 2 Timothy, Titus, John's writing and Hebrews.

In my next post I will move on to the reasons Paul gives why he doesn't want women to teach or have authority over a man. For now, here are a bunch of links on Dickson's book with his responses:

Peter Bolt - This covers three books that came out the same time on the same topic
Part 1 - Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Feeling Blue?

John Starke - Like, Bolt's this was on all three of the same books that came out at the same time
Reviewing 'Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry' from Keller, Bird, and Dickson

Geoff Broughton
(I'm not sure if Dickson has a response to this one, but I threw this in as he is from St Marks, which is where I am studying)


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