A Breakthrough on Paul and Women (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

Trace JamesTrace James, of Studies in Grace, offers an interesting post A Breakthrough on Paul and Women. (Thanks to ElShaddai Edwards on Twitter for the link.) He writes:

It is not very often that I experience a real breakthrough in biblical studies. Perhaps that is because I do not have very many “problem passages,” texts where I think I know what a text says but I disagree!

Yet, here is such a text: I Timothy 2:8-15! The passage where we all “know” Paul the apostle instructs Timothy to forbid women from teaching because Adam was created before Eve, because Eve was deceived first (before Adam) and because women have better things to do, that is, to give birth to and to take care of babies!

But the interpretation which Trace comes up with is diametrically opposed to this one. This is because he asks the right questions:

Anyone who has ever taken classes from me knows the importance of context in reading the Bible. Every bible book was called forth by an occasion and was continually preserved and re-copied because it continued to speak powerfully to new generations even when the contexts had changed. So what context might help us to understand the above passage in a new way?

Trace looks at the likely context of what Paul wrote to Timothy, including the background of proto-Gnosticism. Read his post to see the course of his argument. This may be new to Trace, but it is not entirely new to me. However, it is a clear and concise statement of this way of looking at the passage. It provides a convenient and freely accessible resource for rebutting the position that in this passage Paul intends to forbid for ever all women from teaching.

Trace concludes

that Paul had no problem with female teachers any more than Jesus did and that the problem under discussion is rebellion, not women as teachers.

I agree.

82 thoughts on “A Breakthrough on Paul and Women (1 Timothy 2:8-15)

  1. And can you not see, Peter, that this same principle applies to relationships, to questions of sexuality and marriage? The problem under discussion, when Paul and the other biblical writers seem to be getting hot under the collar about sexual activity, is unfaithfulness. Christ calls us to faithfulness in all relationships; and sexual promiscuity, be it straight or gay, betrays that ideal. So simple, really…

  2. Phil, you may be right, but that depends on a proper exegesis and understanding for today of the biblical passages (Old and New Testament) which appear to forbid homosexual activity, not just on ignoring them or pretending they are only about unfaithfulness. This isn’t really the place to discuss that hot potato, but if you choose to post your understanding of those passages on your own blog I will be happy to interact with it.

  3. Thanks for this Peter. I was researching and writing an essay on this very passage a couple of weeks ago. My main conclusion was that the interpretation of it is not as simple as some people (e.g. Grudem) seem to make out.

    I think the view I’m leaning towards at the moment is that Paul was referring to a situation with husbands and wives in view, not men and women in general.

    Anyway, it’s interesting to see what other people write about this topic, it’s a shame it’s been so divisive over the years!

  4. Thank you, Chris. The story of Miriam may well be relevant background here.

    And thank you, Phill. I guess this is a very controversial issue where you are studying.

  5. Blog post in progress, as it happens; but please don’t attempt to dismiss my view that the underlying issue is faithfulness/unfaithfulness as a pretence. Thank you.

  6. Peter, I hope you can see that it is exactly this kind of enlightening posting and the ensuing discussion that should encourage you not to give up blogging.

  7. This may be new to Trace, but it is not entirely new to me. However, it is a clear and concise statement of this way of looking at the passage… for rebutting the position that in this passage Paul intends to forbid for ever all women from teaching.

    I agree with your appropriation of Trace’s post. Nonetheless, I think he over reaches and actually does harm to his would-be rebuttal. Trace writes:

    “And so Paul gets a desperate letter from his protegé.” Why would Timothy, or Trace for that matter, be so upset as to key in on the (alleged) fact that these women were both “wearing slit skirts”? It seems to me that Trace is being sexist, and I’ll try to illustrate.

    What if Timothy had had his problem, not with two women, “hair braided with pearls and gold beads” and, worse, both “wearing slit skirts”?

    What if, instead, Timothy had complained to Paul about Trace James and his ministry board chairman Lee Wyman, both Gentiles? What if Timothy had been irked by the fact that these two wore open collared golf shirts woven of two different fabrics and, of course, no ties? And what if these two who so blatantly mis-dressed in such a distracting and inappropriate way for discussing the scriptures were actually sharply expressing their disagreements with Timothy to the point where he felt they were actually accusing him of teaching untruths (according to their interpretation)? And what if this led to confusion in public in which Trace seemed to have the upperhand over Timothy, a goy having the upperhand over a good Jew rightly circumcised and wearing the right clothing?

    Wouldn’t Paul then be inclined to stop the noise and to cement in scripture for all time his own extreme and absolute gentile-management practice?

    “I desire then that in every place the Jewish people should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that converted Gentiles should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with mixed-fabric clothing, as befits Gentiles who profess religion. Let a Gentile learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no Gentile to teach or to have authority over Jews; the Gentile is to keep silent. For Jews are first, then Gentiles; and Jews were not unchosen, but the Gentiles were unchosen intitially and became transgressors. Yet a Gentile will be saved through giving his children up to the Jews, if he continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.”

  8. Kurk, thank you for your comment. But I’m not sure I get your point. Yes, Trace let his imagination take him too far about slit skirts. But there is a difference between a technical breach of an obscure law in the Torah and the wearing of sexually provocative clothing.

  9. Peter,
    It’s just an analogy (which will always break down). Mainly I’m trying to point out that the othering category of sex – and the gendered features Trace uses in his discussion – allows him a privileged perspective. (His “slit skirt” detail just highlights that; and with my limited analogy I was just hoping to illustrate how it might be if inherently he were an outsider, in a marginalized and not privileged position – as a gentile, non-Jew wearing clothing that an insider might object to.)

  10. An interesting discussion, sirs. I do appreciate the several points of view.

    As to the “slit skirts” phrase, I wrote it, then took it out, then moved it, then left it in. Clearly, I have no idea whether proto-gnostic teachers wore slit skirts which is why I almost left the phrase out. As I thought about it, I decided and hoped people would recognize it as “targum,” as a modern equivalent for what persons in that day would have found provocative, arousing and distracting, much as Kurk used polos and ties, above. However such female teachers within the Asian proto-gnostic sect dressed, it is clear to me that Paul is pushing back hard against it.

    And no wonder! Any group which has come to the conclusion that procreation is a great evil is utterly wrong-headed as well as to be short-lived. It makes me wonder whether this is the same sect within the congregations at Thyatira and Pergamum which had been rooted out of Ephesus by John, one of whose leaders the Lord calls Jezebel and who may therefore be associated with both the Nicolaitans and the Balaamites. Both names (N & B) mean “folk-destroyers” and any sect with such an anti-creational view would certainly destroy itself within a generation or so unless their rates of evangelism were as astronomical as had been the first generation of the Christian churches.

    Paul’s message to Timothy is reactive teaching and thus a rough mirror into that ancient situation. What would have served a movement which used sex as an enticement would have been and still is, utterly innappropriate attire for sound Christian teaching. (Do we not live in an economic empire [Isaiah 23] where everything is comodified and most things are sold using sex?)

    As to the Judaizing element which Kurk substitutes above: cloth of two threads, etc., I too, do not get the point. Paul, of all people, was no Judaizer. He was concerned to re-letter the principles of Torah without catching his folk in either the webs of legalism or compromise to empire, two of the cords which had bound his own people in slavery.

    The only way Paul would have brought forward such a concern — two threads — would have been if he discerned some serious principle behind that archaic stipulation which was brining down the churches he had founded. No one that I have ever read has given me any satisfaction on that law except for its obvious secondary pedagogy, “People, stay separate from the ways of the empires around! They will pull you apart!”

    In a certain sense, Paul is dealing with that very issue in his prohibition of sex-selling attire and behavior among Christian teachers. The separation is never from society for Paul. It is always from the habits, attitudes and behaviors of the society.

    At least we agree, I think, that Paul did not have an issue with women teaching the saints. One can wonder what Paul might have written to his fluxomed assistant had the offending overthrowers of Timothy’s teaching been male prostitutes. At least in that case those who seek to keep women under the garden curse to this very day would have had one less serious piece of ammunition.

    Thanks for your spirited discussion. I will publish a second post on the topic, on I Corinthians 14:33-36, drawn from the terse pieces on the Glenn Miller site some time later this week. I hope it meets with your approval. Feel free to comment on my blog. I have on yours! Blessings!

  11. Dr James, thank you for commenting here. I see and appreciate where you are coming from on this. I think the problem is some people are hyper-sensitive to the use of gender stereotypes even when used to argue a clearly non-sexist conclusion.

    I will watch with interest for any more posts from you on this topic, and comment when I feel I have something worthwhile to say.

  12. Trace,
    Your saying this is very helpful to the discussion:

    “As I thought about it, I decided and hoped people would recognize it as ‘targum,’ as a modern equivalent for what persons in that day would have found provocative, arousing and distracting, much as Kurk used polos and ties, above. However such female teachers within the Asian proto-gnostic sect dressed, it is clear to me that Paul is pushing back hard against it.”

    As I replied to Peter, the analogy I was trying for breaks down. What is interesting to me is our various positions of privilege, our would-be inherent places of insiderness. A slit skirt is marker, an indicator, or as you put it a “targum” for the females in the room. What might be a marker of Gentiles, as outsiders? And is clothing (or outward apparel that might be objectionable to insiders) important in interpretation? Like you, I think it is.

    But I really think how we see ourselves, as readers, in relationship to the text is very important. Men reading Paul’s text to Timothy here might naturally assume they are more like the two correspondents than any woman might. So why not turn the interpretation a bit so that even some men, we non-Jewish males, are also equally inherently on the outside? What if we are forced to “listen in on” the text? What if the positions we are born in, our very bodies even, require us to be “eavesdroppers” and “overhearers”? This is the sensitivity to the text I’d like us to have.

    I don’t know if you are directing your mention of the “problem” of “some people [being] hyper-sensitive to the use of gender stereotypes” to me or not. I’m really hoping just for enough sensitivity. And I do appreciate your allowing me to comment at your blog, with some freedom and candor. I do not myself feel like an insider to this text, and I think my wife and my mother and my daughters and many of my friends seem to me even less regarded by it, just because they are women. Paul’s absolute statements may be directed to certain women (who don’t know how to keep their mouths shut or to dress appropriately), but doesn’t specifying that these are women (and not, of course, men) allow us men a bit of an advantage in reading this text, and, more importantly, in “saying” something about it?

    I’ll see about commenting at your blog, Trace. And I do appreciate very much getting to talk with you both, Peter and Trace, about how we might interpret Paul’s statements.

  13. Kurk, you are welcome to comment here, but I confess that I don’t always understand you. I don’t mind your “some freedom and candor”, if you don’t mind getting a bit of the same in return. If things go too far I will bring the discussion to an end.

    Yes, I was thinking of you when I mentioned hyper-sensitivity. I agree that we need some sensitivity. But Paul and Timothy lived in a patriarchal culture, as do we to some extent, and I don’t think it helps towards all round “freedom and candor” if we object to every mention of symbols, like slit skirts, of that patriarchalism.

  14. I am commenting quickly on “Kurk’s” misunderstanding of my “targum” (27/03, above).
    No, “slit skirt” was not a targum for “the women in the room.” It was an attempt to convey the upset that had apparently been in small part caused by the immodest dress of one or more of the women who would have been candidates for teaching positions in the house churches of Ephesus. By no means did I wish to suggest that the problem was “women” as a group or class. It was one or more women who apparently came from a sect which had long used sex to entice people into membership and planned to use that “marketing ploy” in the Christian churches. I noted that this group may be similar to or the same as “Jezebel and her children” of Revelation 2:20-23.

    I suppose one could impose a class-conscious critique on these texts but I do not think that net will catch any real fish. My whole point is that Paul is not at all opposed to women teaching. He is opposed to anyone teaching whose dress and demeanor enable thoughts about ought than the lordship of King Jesus. Do you have Chippendale’s clubs over there? Men dressed as Chippendale’s waiters — search it: you’ll see what I mean — would have been just as objectionable to Paul as these ladies were.

    It is the refusal of these people desist in their concupiscence that causes Paul to push back. In his early life Paul used to arrest females as well as males who were leaders of the young “new way;” now he supports female teachers fully, I think.

    I am just about ready to put out the post on I Corinthians 14:33-36, perhaps later this afternoon.
    Stay tuned.

  15. Thank you, Trace. Yes, the old issue that when someone says something negative about one woman or one small group of them, it is misunderstood as sexist criticism of all women. The same happens with other disadvantaged groups in society.

  16. 1 Tim 2:8-15 is very challenging indeed because it implicitly calls to understand the point of Adam’s priority in creation as well as the implication of Eve sinning first. If not for those statements, I would never have questioned Paul’s prohibition in the first place.

    1. What he saying that women should not teach because they are more easily deceived (as Eve was deceived first)? I don’t think so.

    2. Was he saying that women should not teach even children? I don’t think so.

    Quite possibly, though, he was forbidding women from teaching men. Adam came first – he was created to lead, to show initiative, and to be responsible for his family. After sin entered the picture, Adam’s responsibility in the spiritual realm was not altered. How many Christian women would really want to be the leader in their families, not wanting their husband to take the devotion time, lead the family in prayer and discipline the children when required?

    This is certainly not an issue of inferiority on the one hand and superiority on the other. However, it could well be an issue of leadership on the one hand and submission on the other.

    I’m not so sure about any modern breakthroughs, but I shall continue to keep an open mind on this one.

  17. Robert, thank you for your comment. But on what basis do you say that Adam “was created to lead, to show initiative, and to be responsible for his family”? I see no hint of this in Genesis. Also I don’t see how you can separate “inferiority” from “submission”: the latter, if not completely mutual, implies the former.

  18. I see no hint in Genesis either, but I get the hint from the overall substance of scripture. Hence, I make the connection between Adam’s priority in creation, the gender requirement in the OT for the priesthood, and the general tenor of Paul’s prohibitions and teaching.

    Consider the requirements for overseers, elders and bishops as specified by Paul – one that rules his own house well, with children under subjection, faithful to his wife etc.

    Do you not agree that children are to submit to and obey parents? But they not spiritually inferior before God.

    I know this whole area of submission can be divisive, but submission and inferiority are not the same. Leadership (in the church or family) implies being responsible for those under one’s care. A man also needs to obey his church leaders and worldly masters, as he would expect his children to do the same.

    That’s how I understand Paul with regards to the biblical principles for governing the institutions of family and church. It’s about order and governance. However, the enemy has distorted these into domination and control.

  19. Well, Robert, I can agree that worldly submission, to a parent, an employer, or even a sinfully exploitative husband, does not imply spiritual inferiority. Perhaps it would have been better to say, as a man to a man, that expecting others to submit to us in spiritual matters is pretending to a spiritual superiority which we do not have. Jesus told his disciples that the Gentile model of authority was one which should not happen among them, and modelled for them his alternative of servant leadership.

    As for Paul’s requirements for elders etc, see my (now rather old) series The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible, and my more recent post on the same issue “Husband of one wife” was not used of women, it seems.

  20. Peter, thanks for the links. Can we first clarify any misunderstandings, if there are any? I never said that others should submit to us in “spiritual matters”. I spoke of matters pertaining to order and governance. Nothing more, nothing less.

    As for your first link, I take it that you would consider my approach as being “fundamentalist”, and yours as “scholarly”. But I think these emotive terms are divisive, and not conducive to promoting a healthy discussion. Are they not patronizing at best, and insulting at worst? Nevertheless, I take your point.

    Bill Mounce makes a valid observation indeed. I cannot dispute it. I also don’t think that Paul was implying that an elder must immediately stand down once his wife dies.

    I also see your point that “in first century Ephesus and Crete women church leaders may have been inappropriate. That doesn’t mean that the same applies in 21st century Europe and North America.”

    However, does this unequivocally negate the apparent principle of male headship, as some people, including myself, see it? If it does, you need to enlighten me. Otherwise, the “textual” position remains the default position for me.

    By the way, I would have no issue submitting to YOU as a leader in YOUR church or group. By submitting to and obeying my leaders, I also submit to God. And, yes, you still need to “wash my feet” as much as I need to do the same for you.

  21. Robert, I didn’t mean to suggest that you are fundamentalist, although I would suggest that if you look at certain Bible passages in a scholarly way you might change some of your views.

    I understood your comments about leadership in the church to be about spiritual matters.

    But I’m afraid I don’t see any “principle of male headship” in the Bible. I understand this to be a recent invention by people who have taken a non-scholarly approach to the Bible, and indeed to a large extent by people who have misunderstood “man” in certain passages, representing Greek anthropos, as gender specific, when to anyone reading the Greek it is clearly not. If you set aside such passages, you have to rely on 1 Corinthians 11:3 interpreted in the formally heretical sense that Christ is eternally submitted to the Father. It says a lot about the proponents of male headship that they are prepared to abandon orthodox Trinitarian Christianity for a more or less Arian position in order to preserve their teaching.

  22. Peter, you appear to have done some work on this matter of headship, etc. I have not although I have recently read through Glenn Miller’s efforts on the same and he makes some cogent points. Perhaps we should discuss these matters in the future although you indicate you have done that work already.

    To return to the matter at hand in my first post which you re-published above and which seems to have been brushed aside in Robert Kan’s comments on Easter Sunday:
    If Glenn Miller’s approach is correct and I believe it is, the entire purpose of Paul’s letter, 1 Timothy, is the guidance and direction of Timothy in the execution of his mandate as an apostolic representative. Timothy was to weed out the false teachers of Ephesus and replace them from within the fellowships, the house churches of Ephesus.

    As such, Timothy’s concern is not with activities within the house churches per se, but focuses on his mandate and as within the context of Paul’s response to a non-extant missive from Timothy: is anxious for criteria to use in choosing leaders for the care and instruction of the fast-growing assemblies of Ephesus. If, as the tone of Paul’s letter suggests, Timothy has had a run-in with one or, more likely, several women who have been members of the Christian assemblies and who, along with other men and women, wish to be considered as teachers for those assemblies, then the issue is not what women do in the assemblies but how these specific elder/pastor/teacher-candidate women have comported themselves while taking instruction from Timothy.

    If we can read Paul backwards, these specific women have:
    1) dressed in a provocative manner when taking Timothy’s instruction;
    2) attempted to forefully overthrow the authority of Timothy as he has taught them and
    3) have declared the confused doctrines of the Judo-proto-gnostic sect from which they have but recently come over to the Christian assemblies:
    a) that Eve was created before Adam;
    b) that Eve was never deceived (by the demi-urge/creator god as was Adam because the serpent taught her “gnosis” while with her in the garden)
    c) that it is a foul and evil thing for humans to participate in the co-creative plan of the demiurge by trapping spirits in bodies through the bearing of children.

    Seen in this way, every point which Paul makes to Timothy in 1Tim. 2:8-15 is covered within the context of who should be considered as potential Christian church leaders and who should not.
    1) Persons — the case in point concerns women and so women are singled out — should dress appropriately when they come for teaching as when they teach.
    2) No one — again, it is a woman or two who have done it and so women are mentioned — should ever overthrow the instruction of their — in this case specifically male — teacher.
    3) No one must ever be allowed to teach that Eve was created first, that she was not deceived nor that pro-creation of children is evil. (For indeed, Eve did no sin when she bore Seth and she did rightly see a future saviour in him, albeit, many, many generations hence and so she was in fact saved through her child-bearing.)

    If this is the correct reading of the passage then it contributes nothing one way or the other to questions of the relative status of men and women in the kingdom of God, a matter on which Paul elsewhere reafirms the original, pre-rebellion norm of co-equality (Genesis 1: 26-28): we are all to be fruitful, to multiply, to fill the earth with good things and to have care-full dominion over creation.

    Thus, with a good will and plainly extending a right hand of fellowship to him, I find Robert Kan’s comments moot and wide of the point. He did not at all address my points but simply assumed his own views, holding forth from them.

    But to his points: It was Jesus who established that women may become “rabbis” (Luke 10). It was Paul who arrested the leadership of “the new way,” both male and female (Acts 8). It was Paul who rejected a reactionary Corinthian proposal for a return to a virtual synagogue rail (I Corinthians 14:33-37) [see my second post: http://gracetracer.wordpress.com/2012/03/31/breakthrough-on-paul-and-misogyny-part-two/

    That rail which divided Jewish men from women, fore from aft, in synagogue worship was evocative of the “piedagoGAS” of the old-creation, including the curse-bound subordination of women which was utterly wiped away in our new covenant by the curse-abolishing blood of Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:23-29).

    Other than perhaps the matter of headship and its meaning in 1 Corinthians, there does not seem to be much left to discuss on that subject.

    What say ye?

  23. Bettany Hughes is saying some fascinating things related to this interesting discussion:

    “Once Christianity arrives on the scene, it seems there is a natural transition for the wise priestesses of the pagan world, often educated and from high-born families, to become the priestesses of Christ. In the Bible itself we hear of the deaconess Phoebe sent by Paul to bring the news of Christ to Rome. And a fragment of a 1st century AD papyrus, now stored in the back rooms of the papyrology department of Oxford University, records Peter discussing exactly how Mary Magdalene should spread the words of Jesus. Peter calls Mary his adelphe – the word in Greek is intimate, and means ‘womb-companion’.”


  24. Thank you, Kurk. Is there really a 1st century gospel papyrus fragment in Oxford? If so, why has no one else heard of it? But adelphe is just the normal Greek word for “sister”, and it is the etymological fallacy to claim anything more.

  25. Trace, I didn’t brush you aside. I just wasn’t convinced by your paraphrase and associated background assumptions.

    I’m well aware that Paul taught there is complete equality in Christ between men and women in Galatians 3, to be extended to all persons, I presume.

    But that doesn’t give me the right to rebuke an elder (1Tim 5:1) or to refuse to submit to my leaders (Heb 13:17). Or to dishonor my parents.

    I thought that exegesis requires that one statement should not be used to infer something at the expense of another statement that clearly conveys the opposite. I’m only saying that, rather than allowing the plain meaning of any statement to be compromised, the merits of all should be held together in a coherent and functional tension.

    By the way, Peter, I don’t subscribe to or see myself bound to any aspect of orthodox Christianity. I was Catholic educated for three years, and was subjected to the same kind of sentiments you have directed to me. If history were to attest to orthodoxy, I suppose there should not have been the Reformation.

    To me, the problem under discussion is both rebellion by women as well as women teachers.

    Notwithstanding our differences, thank you all for your contributions.

  26. Thank you, Robert. I don’t mean to try and impose orthodoxy as a test. Sometimes these long-standing assumptions need to be challenged. But if so, the challenge needs very strong biblical support. I just wanted you to realise that your argument does imply that kind of challenge to orthodoxy, with what I see as very little support.

  27. It is not a challenge to orthodoxy to say that the institutions of church and family are God-ordained. Nor is it unorthodox to claim that both require leadership and oversight. Hence, the offices of pastor, teacher, prophet, etc. And it is certainly not unorthodox for a father to show leadership in the family in the way of disciplining and teaching his little ones. How is this not in keeping with the whole teaching and counsel of scripture? Even Heb 13 assumes the father to administer discipline.

    Adam was created first, for a reason. I can imagine him introducing himself, and showing the woman what he already knew. That’s leadership and initiative – a theme that runs right throughout the Bible.

    To say that there is absolutely no connection between all of this and the Pauline prohibitions is a challenge to, not only the church traditions, but the overwhelming paradigm found in scripture.

    I guess there will always be exceptions in scripture, but that doesn’t prove me to be unorthodox.

  28. Peter,
    You protest:

    “But adelphe is just the normal Greek word for ‘sister’, and it is the etymological fallacy to claim anything more.”

    Would you say that Aristotle is committing an “etymological fallacy”? He says (in his History of Animals, Bekker page 510b line 13):

    Καλεῖται δὲ τούτων τὸ μὲν ὑστέρα καὶ δελφύς (ὅθεν καὶ ἀδελφοὺς προσαγορεύουσι), μήτρα δ’ ὁ καυλὸς καὶ τὸ στόμα τῆς ὑστέρας.


    “These [female body parts] are called the ‘uterus’ [or hystera] and the ‘womb’ [or delphus] (whence the phrase ‘womb-mate’ [or adelphos] is welcomed [into our Greek language]); so a ‘mother-organ’ [or metra] is both the shaft and the mouth of the uterus.”

    You also ask: “Is there really a 1st century gospel papyrus fragment in Oxford? If so, why has no one else heard of it?”

    Hughes might answer, as does she open her essay:

    “I know the relationship between women and religion is contentious, because some of our best evidence for it is hidden, buried deep underground. ”

    My guess is she’ll say even more in her television documentary airing April 11.

  29. Pardon the second comment so soon, but I mis-translated Aristotle’s ἀδελφοὺς as singular. It is clearly plural (and, thus, ambiguously either biologically male or female, “brothers and sisters”):

    “whence the phrase ‘womb-mates’ [or a-delphous]”

  30. Robert, indeed not. The challenge to orthodoxy is the claim, based on 1 Corinthians 11:3, that, just as women are eternally subordinated to men, the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father.

    Kurk, Aristotle was indulging in etymology, but not fallaciously deriving the meaning of a word from it. Meanwhile any papyrus fragment at Oxford University is not “hidden, buried deep underground”. This lady sounds like a sensationalist conspiracy theorist. Simcha Jacobovici, eat your heart out!

  31. Peter,
    Is it easier to say “hidden, buried deep underground” or “the back rooms of the papyrology department of Oxford University”? Now, we’re all playing with language here.

    And the online journal “Christian Today,” which “upholds the dictum found in Matthew 5:37, ‘Simply let your “Yes” be “Yes”, and your “No”, “No”‘ finds it worthwhile to repeat an article announcing what Hughes is investigating as a professional history (and as, as you put it, “a lady”):

    “But the paradoxical thing for me as a historian is that I’m keenly aware Christianity was originally a faith where the female of the species held sway.”

    That hardly sounds like a sensationalist conspiracy theory to me.

    It sounds more like your quotation of Trace:

    “Paul had no problem with female teachers any more than Jesus did and that the problem under discussion is rebellion, not women as teachers.”


  32. Whatever we may conclude about Paul’s views on the role(s) of women in church, the good news is that we don’t have a God who simply sits there enthroned in glory waiting for us to all agree: we have a living God who calls whoever is willing to listen, pours out the Holy Spirit upon all people, men and women alike, and sends out whoever will go to lead God’s people…

    As Paul himself observes elsewhere, the letter kills; the spirit gives life… and whilst we debate the text and get bogged down in our arguments over which word means what, precisely (I seem to remember dear old Paul having a few things to say about such discussions), those whom the Spirit calls — men and women alike — are out there, getting on with it.

    God is moving on; and we must follow where s/he leads…

  33. Kurk, the Christian Today article reads like it is copied straight from a press release. It is no doubt true that Ms Hughes believes what she is quoted as saying. That doesn’t imply that the magazine is saying they are true. In fact her own evidence seems to contradict her conclusion, as “more than half of all the churches in Rome” is not the great majority. Women may have shared power in the church equally with men in the early days, but that is not the same as “the female of the species held sway” and the men were subordinate.

    Phil, precisely!

  34. It seems to me Phil Groom has had the last word on this subject. And as I wrote in another context last week, Peter, my mentor always said, “At a certain point, you just go around those who will to not understand and get on with those things to which you are called. Bravo, Phil!

    The entire discussion on women in ministry has taken a very different and somewhat odd turn recently on Rachel Held Evans’ site. I am bringing a substantial part of that discussion to my site later today. Given our seven-hour time difference, you will probably not be able to see what I do with it until your tomorrow morning, whilst I shall be fast asleep.

  35. Oh dear. I’d much rather not have the last word: I think that’s God’s department.

    Peter, this is your blog: please say something to ensure that I don’t get the last word here, either 🙂

  36. Peter, in response to your accusation that my argument implies a challenge to orthodoxy:

    This is a false accusation if you can agree that the concept of human subordination is not akin to that of Christ’s subordination, in the same way that human sonship is not akin to that of Christ’s Sonship.

    Your observation of 1 Cor 11:3 does not simply invalidate the concept of male headship any more than a similar observation would invalidate the concept of human sonship.

    On this basis, I hold that the principles of both male headship and human sonship are entirely biblical. On what other basis then, could you dismiss it?

  37. Robert, I didn’t think I had accused you personally of being unorthodox. If so, I apologise.

    What I did say was that many of the vociferous proponents of “male headship” have become unorthodox on the Trinity, and that is because they have recognised that it would be inconsistent not to be. They interpret “the head of woman is man” as the major proof of their teaching that women are eternally subordinate to men. So when they read in the same verse “the head of Christ is God”, for consistency they have to understand this as saying that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father.

    So, if you hold that women are eternally subordinate to men, but hold the orthodox Trinitarian position that the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father, I would suggest that you are being inconsistent, or have simply failed to see the logic of your position. Or perhaps you have some different argument which would allow you to hold these positions without inconsistency, but in that case I would like to see it.

    This may be what you are attempting when you claim that “the concept of human subordination is not akin to that of Christ’s subordination”. But to me 1 Corinthians 11:3, if about subordination at all, implies that this subordination is of a similar nature – not necessarily identical, just as divine sonship is not identical to human sonship, but close enough for there to be a real analogy. And to suggest that the Son is subordinate, permanently and in any way analogous to the submission you expect of wives to their husbands, is to me a very serious heresy.

  38. Peter, thanks for your concern, but no need to apologise, no offence taken.

    Yes, Peter, that’s exactly what I’m getting at. My reading of male headship in 1 Cor 11:3 does not say the same thing as my reading of divine headship, just as the implications of human sonship and divine sonship are not identical. But the fact they are not identically analogous does not demonstrate that the concept of male headship, as much as sonship, is fictitious. And yet you said earlier on that you don’t see any concept of male headship in scripture, presumably because, in your eyes, any concept of divine headship according to 1 Cor 11:3 must be a heresy. But I would say that this particular doctrine has far more merit than proponents of “gender equality” give it credit for.

    In any case, not all proponents of male headship say that female subordination is eternal, even as human sonship is not eternal, or even as human marriage is not eternal.

    Hence, your deduction earlier on that I “have to rely on 1 Corinthians 11:3 interpreted in the formally heretical sense that Christ is eternally submitted to the Father” is actually a false argument, whichever way you look at it.

  39. Robert, thank you for the explanation. I accept that from 1 Corinthians 11:3 there must be some biblical concepts of male “headship” and of divine “headship”. But exactly what this means is very obscure.

    If you say that male headship is a temporary consequence of the Fall and the curse on Adam, and that divine headship is a temporary part of Jesus emptying himself to become human, then I might accept it – but that is not the formulation put forward e.g. by CBMW.

    Or perhaps the “head” metaphor in this verse means no more than “intimate connection”. This seems more likely, as the Greek word kephale was never used to mean “head” in the sense of “boss”.

  40. On the basis of Gal 3:28, all children of God (whether man, woman or child) have equal standing and status before God. We all have the same access to the Father through the Son by the enabling of the Spirit. We all enjoy the same blessings, benefits and privileges that come with adoption. Therefore, we all have the same “intimate connection”, if I understand you correctly. The headship principle has nothing to do with spiritual intimacy.

    More importantly, I think, we also need to affirm that scripture teaches “mutual submission”, according to Eph 5:21 and 1 Pet 5:5. That is, to be clothed with humility at all times. To me, this would mean that a parent needs to submit to their child’s needs (or desires) as much as that child needs to submit to and trust their parent’s authority. The same is to be applied to all relationships. Consideration needs to be exercised all round.

    To say that Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives only had historical or cultural significance and just happened to pass away with the passage of time, is also to say that “mutual submission” only had historical significance and just happened to pass away with the passage of time. Is that the position that proponents of “gender equality” hold? I suggest that they should really consider their potential prejudices and conflict of interest.

  41. Robert, by “intimate connection” I meant between the “head” and the one they are “head” of – so between husband and wife, and between the Son and the Father. I’m sure you will agree that these are indeed intimate connections.

    I agree that submission should be mutual. I don’t know of any “proponents of “gender equality”” who reject such submission. What they teach is what Paul teaches, that the submission should be truly mutual, the husband submitting to the wife as much as the wife to the husband. It is the advocates of male headship, or some of them, who seek to reinterpret “submit to one another” in a grammatically impossible sense, as wives submitting to husbands but not vice versa.

  42. Yes, these are intimate connections, but bearing in mind that the order cannot be reversed. Christ is always the head, and the church his body. The anatomical analogy is that the body “obeys” what the head commands. Similarly with Jesus, as he said, “for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner” (Jn 5:19b).

    So the headship principle implies “governance” and “leading by example”. The Father sent the Son, while both the Father and Son sent the Holy Spirit. Christ, our head, also sends us out to follow the example that He left for us while on earth.

    Submission is either “general” or “specific” in nature, for want of a better way of describing it. Mutual submission is always general in nature. On the other hand, the instruction to submit to one’s husband or to submit to an elder is a specific kind of submission. It would be a half-truth for either camp to exclusively emphasize one at the expense of the other.

  43. Robert, the problem with your theory is that you have to ask what “head” would have meant to Paul and to the Corinthians. The ancient Greeks would not, I think, have agreed with your “anatomical analogy … that the body “obeys” what the head commands”. For them, if I remember correctly, the head was the source of nourishment for the body, but the command centre of the body was more in the heart. Headship did not imply governance. But if you understand what Paul most likely intended by the word “head”, your whole hierarchy Father > Son > Holy Spirit > man > woman is shown up for what it is, an unbiblical construct of the kind which Jesus decisively rejected in Mark 10:42-43.

  44. Peter, good point, I concede that the anatomical analogy is, at the very least, irrelevant, if not wrong altogether. And, of course, I agree that any hierarchical model will lead to heresy if one’s deductions are taken too far. Therefore, by the term “governance” I certainly don’t mean that the headship principle implied, in any sense, a domineering or dictatorial control of the “head” over the “body”. If that was the case, how could husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church?

    Regardless what “head” might have meant, one can hardly miss the consistent NT teaching that the “body” followed, obeyed and imitated the “head” in all cases. The “leading” and subsequent “following” was one of “leading by example”. Notice in 1 Pet 3:6, that even Sarah obeyed Abraham. By “governance” in the most practical human sense, I mean spiritual leadership and initiative, doing so lovingly so that others will follow, obey and imitate us. We are responsible for those that God has put under our care. A father/mother must teach and discipline their child, leading by example always. Consider what consequences fell upon Eli, for failing to rebuke his two wicked sons. Consider that Jesus commanded Peter to shepherd His sheep. Consider that the scriptures are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. And consider all the directives given by Paul so that “all things are done properly and in an orderly manner”. The administration of all these biblical requirements implies governance and leadership – for the context of family as well as the local church. To confuse all of these teachings with the requirement of being a servant, and specifically Mark 10:42-43, is a serious oversight.

  45. Robert, I can accept your concept of spiritual leadership, as long as you don’t also insist that it is also male. Paul and Peter put special stress on women being submissive very likely because that was a particular problem in their communities, within a generally patriarchal society. But they write these things as specific example of a general principle which is gender generic, that of mutual submission.

  46. Peter, I get your point. I wonder whether Paul had envisaged a time when the specific importance of female submission would eventually be done away, to be replaced with mutual submission only. But I cannot justify this theory from my contextual reading of the headship principle, the context of which is about how men and women ought NOT to pray. A man ought not to pray with his head covered, but a woman ought to have her head covered. Furthermore, in the same context, Paul used the “nature” argument to demonstrate that it is shameful for a man to have long hair. Presumably this means that a man ought not to wear his hair like that of a woman. Paul used exactly the same nature argument to speak out against those who engage in homosexual lust, in Romans 1:26-27. In connecting the dots, I see no evidence that these teachings had historical relevance only and can now be simply neglected for today’s context. In my view, it is the position of evangelicals who support and promote “gender equality” in the church that needs greater biblical justification.

  47. Well, Robert, Paul’s “nature” arguments are interesting ones. If he really meant “nature” in the typical modern sense, his arguments are simply false: there is nothing in nature to say that men’s hair should be short and women’s long. Perhaps what he really meant was more like “culture”, and was writing that in such matters one should do what is considered acceptable within one’s cultural context. I would need to think more carefully about whether such an argument could also be used in the case of homosexual practice, but this thread is not the place to discuss that hot potato.

  48. Maybe we should just accept that Paul was as confused as the rest of us and didn’t really know his own mind? On the one hand we have him declaring that gender distinctions are rendered meaningless in Christ – “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” – at another we have him hammering home that he doesn’t allow women to teach or have authority over men (alongside the bizarre notion that women “will be saved through childbearing”) – then elsewhere he commends his female co-workers.

    As for head coverings and haircuts: Robert – go read it in the Greek. Seriously confusing stuff, despite numerous translators’ attempts to render it comprehensible; and that, half the time, is the problem we’re up against – people who haven’t taken the time to study NT Greek simply accepting what the translators give us as gospel when half the time they’ve got their own agendas twisting their translations and the other half they’re making it up because the Greek & Hebrew are so badly garbled.* Go read Tom Wright’s assessment of the NIV if you don’t get this point: seriously skewed! (The NIV, that is, not Tom Wright).

    * Yes, I’m exaggerating it somewhat: it’s called hyperbole 🙂

  49. Phil, I think a better way of putting it may be that Paul was living in the tension between the theory of “there is no longer male and female” and the pragmatism that the church, if it is to be acceptable to the world, should not flout cultural norms. Today’s cultural norms have changed, so the details of the tension have changed, but the tension remains.

  50. Phil, that’s an interesting question. I see Jesus as a more counter-cultural figure than Paul. I think Paul was anxious to restrict his counter-culturalism to matters of the gospel. Sensible advice to a persecuted church: don’t make yourself a public scandal over non-essentials.

    To put that in today’s context, and to mix the threads a bit, perhaps this implies that the church should keep quiet about issues of sexuality and marriage, and concentrate on preaching the gospel.

  51. Peter, you make a very valid point. If Gal 3:28, saying that there are no cultural or gender distinctions, is taken to its logical conclusion, then the issue of same-sex marriage is really not an issue at all. Two men may marry, two women may marry. If we totally remove all distinctions, we could also have the situation of siblings marrying. Even incest would not be an issue. One would think that there ought to be practical implications of Gal 3:28, but what are they? Does it endorse same-sex unions, does it endorse incest? Is it a case of, “all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial”, by Paul himself?

    Phil, thanks for the pointers. But if the experts can’t agree on what it says, how do you expect me to work it out? What do you think it means?

  52. Indeed, Robert. Sometimes it is hard to know where to stop, and it can look as if we are setting off down a slippery slope. See some comments I made five years ago about A Solid Rock Ledge on the Slippery Slope. But I guess I am not as confident now as I was then that there is an identifiable solid rock ledge that we can hold on to. Underneath is the solid rock, for sure, but perhaps it is all covered with slippery wet grass, and we have to choose and make our own footholds where we believe it is appropriate for our situation. Well, perhaps – more discussion needed.

  53. The reason incest is wrong is primarily a question of genetics: children conceived through incestuous relations are pretty well guaranteed to suffer from genetic abnormalities. So there’s a strange irony here when it comes to gay relationships, where some want to argue that those relationships are wrong because they can’t produce children, whilst incest is essentially wrong precisely because it can produce children…

    Oh, and if we’re going down the slippery slope argument, I guess the next step is bestiality.

    I groan inwardly whenever people start going on about slippery slopes: it’s the sort of nonsense that says if we regard Genesis 1-11 as myth then the resurrection must be a fairy tale. Lazy thinking at best. *sigh*

  54. Whew!
    Peter, you have tremendous patience, I must say! I am not sure I would or could have forborne my impulse to verbally strangle someone during these many days of discussion. I frequently complain in person or in print at how rarely members of my blog following comment on my posts. Perhaps this is a case of being careful what you wish (or pray) for.

    One of the only two sensible things I have ever read on “headship” follows from your comment, that it was the head that provided nourishment for the entire body and that a man in a marriage has the special responsibility of being sure that the relationship was “well-fed.” The other is a corrollary of the first, that just as Christ is responsible to his father for the health and well-being of the church, so a man is responsible to Christ for the health and well-being of his marriage. In other words, when a marriage fails, who is held responsible? The head of the marriage.

    As to the obliteration of differences between male and female in Galatians 3:27-29 even relative dunderheads like Crossen and Borg know better than to see the wiping out of legitimate creational distinctions in Galatians 3:

    As many of you as were baptized into Christ
    have clothed yourselves with Christ.
    There is no-longer Jew or Greek,
    there is no longer slave or free,
    there is no longer male or female;
    for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
    And if you belong to Christ…(3:27-29)

    That central triad must never, ever be cited without those framing statements containing “into” and “with Christ” and “in” and “to Christ.” Quoted without those frames, they might correctly deny the validity of slavery, but they also incorrectly deny the validity of the difference (as distinct from hierarchy) between women and men, and the ongoing validity of Judaism as a religion separate from Christianity.
    The First Paul Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s Conservative Icon, MJB & JDC, Harper, 2009

    I generally agree with them on this point. It is the hierarchies of male over female and master over servant and the wall of separation between the Jew and the Greek which are obliterated in the work of King Jesus, not the bounds and limits of creation.

    Blessings as you patiently post and comment!
    Trace James

  55. Thank you, Trace. That’s a good reminder about the importance of the “in Christ”. It is sometimes hard to respond appropriately to comments, but I learned a lot from the far bigger comment issues I had a few years ago about Todd Bentley and the Lakeland events.

  56. Trace should not make this a personal issue by using language like “dunderheads”. He knows what Jesus said about name-calling (“fools”) and judging.

    I would also put forth that Trace’s understanding of headship is flawed. Did he not read that Christ is the head of every “man”? And so would he be implying that if the relationship between Christ and man fails, Christ is to be held responsible, because he made this judgment about the “head” of human marriage? His statement about marriage is a very poor deduction.

    Trace should take a hard look at himself first. Then perhaps he will not again use a word like “dunderhead”, or implicitly accuse someone’s rationale of not being “sensible”.

  57. Robert, I will leave it to Trace to explain his use of the word “dunderhead”, but I find it ironic that you are defending Borg and Crossan! As for headship, I don’t see your logic, unless you are presupposing that it is always the husband’s fault if a marriage fails.

  58. Peter, I’m not defending anyone. My point is that one ought never to use that kind of word, regardless of who they are talking about. Trace has presupposed that it’s always the husband’s fault by his claim that the “head” of marriage is held responsible. Do wives really have the exclusive right to justify themselves on the basis of the innocent party syndrome?

  59. Well, Robert, I would disagree with Trace that when a marriage fails, the man is held responsible, in a one-sided way – at least, he shouldn’t be, whatever the world or the church might say. I would say that the husband has the responsibility to do what he can to keep a marriage successful and to preserve it when it is failing – but I would say exactly the same of the wife.

  60. Trace, I take it that you understand Paul’s prohibition upon women was specifically directed for a certain occasion. You support this with, amongst other scriptures, Galatians 3:27-29, which you read as the obliteration of hierarchies. Hence, your understanding of the Galatians passage leads you to annul any eternal relevance that people today may read into Paul’s prohibitions.

    In your opinion, for today’s context, does the Galatians passage also annul Paul’s prohibition of rebuking an elder? Would it also permit a teenage daughter to teach her mother a lesson or two, if she felt that her mother needed to learn a lesson? Of course, I ask these questions because you have already made one practical deduction from your understanding that all hierarchies within a Christ-centered context ought to be absent. And I assume that you and others would naturally extend this absence to all Christian contexts.

    By the way, I have a different take on why women were appointed leaders in the early church, which in no way contradicts my reading of any of Paul’s prohibitions.

  61. Robert, I do not believe Paul had a prohibition against women, not generally nor on an occasion. I think that is quite clear in my two posts on I Timothy and I Corinthians.

    When I wrote on the Galatians 3 passage in my famous “dunderhead” comment, I specifically stated that the false hierarchies of male over female and master over slave were in principle obliterated and that the bounds and limits of creation were not. I see no eternal relevance in an oppressive doctrine like that of one gender over another. Women were placed under men for their protection after the fall as a part of a curse. I see all such curses as having been lifted with the work of Christ and the inauguration of the new, curseless creation. In fact, your confusion about the term, “dunderhead,” is of the same subject (see well below).

    Because temporary, anti-creational, curse-based hierarchies like male over female and master-slave are obliterated as well as Jew separate from Greek and from Parthian, does not in any way, as I wrote, mean that the bounds and limits of creation are obliterated. Rather, those normative boundaries are re-affirmed.

    Whether an elder might need to be rebuked would depend entirely on the brokenness of the situation. If the elder was engaging in sexual activities with children in her or his Sunday School class, then yes, he or she should not only be rebuked but also arrested. However, in the normal circumstances of a peaceful assembly wherein no one is abusing her or his authority, no, an elder should not be rebuked.

    Although the church should, normatively be a rather flat organization, there are bounds and limits within such assemblies which allow for a slight up/down relationship between members, elders and confirmands, etc. Still, there is no curse-based hierarchy in such a set of communal relationships.
    As to mothers and daughters, the same sort of creational offices with their relative relationships would apply. Children are normally under the authority of their parents for the purpose of raising in nurture and admonition; that is a part of the new creation as it was in the old. But again, if the family is broken, as many are, there are broken scenarios where the only immediate answer could conceivably be a daughter upbraiding her coke-head or drunken mother before that mother tosses the girl’s baby brother down the flat’s dustbin chute.

    As I clearly wrote, it is the abnormal hierarchies, so common then and somewhat different now that Christ’s blood conquers along with all sin and evil. I do not extend this absence of heirarchy to any normative Christian contexts.

    Now, on “dunderhead.” Christians were commanded by King Jesus not to curse, not to curse their enemies nor anyone else. If I were to see either Father Crossan or Prof. Borg and call either one a “dunderhead,” however much it might be an accurate assessment of his state, it would be wrong because curses are dangerous things.

    There is however, a difference between ignorance and stupidity. Jesus, for instance, was ignorant of conditions in Syria before he hastily withdrew from Pharisaic ire in Galilee, into what Matthew whimsically calls Canaanite territory (Mark, more historically – and making no special point – calls it Syro-Phoenecia.

    Jesus has a normal Jewish bias against the unbelieving Syrians, as would any good second-temple Jew. However, when confronted with the shameless faith of the mother who will have healing for her daughter, no-matter how low she must stoop to get it, he is amazed, knocked back on the heels of his sandals! (I believe the extended ministry to that entire region which follows that story is predicated on that encounter, climaxing in the feeding of 4000 Gentiles and the collection of seven baskets of scraps!)

    The point is, Jesus had a normal, not-sinful bias which was shattered by the woman’s faith. Jesus had been ignorant but he was not stupid; he did not stubbornly cling to his erroneous ideas. He knew how to be wrong and then graciously change. (Those who know – really know – grace do this more easily, I think. They know they have nothing to lose by coming around to right.) Once Jesus ceased to be ignorant his attitude and viewpoint caught up very quickly with what he was learning on the ground from creation itself, that the Syrians were an oppressed people who were thirsty for the gospel of God, even if it meant throwing down their pride of nation and place and their age-old superior attitude toward the Jews.

    Only someone stupid, a dunderhead, clings to fancy when presented with truth. Crossan and Borg fit that description perfectly. When they were young they gave themselves to theologies which had been developed by those who were over-awed by the enlightenment and its naturalistic assumptions. They can be forgiven when they were young for such views as they were then ignorant of the abject failure of their position. Today that is no-longer the case. Every objection of such people has been met and being brilliant men – which they are – they have every bit of the wit necessary to see how small, narrow and arrogant their perspective really is. So at this point, I am afraid they and their ilk have fallen into the sin of stupidity, the sin of refusing to see what is right in front of you.

    But why stay wrong? Pride of position; fear of the loss of prestige and even the severing of life-long friendships; the need, if they are wrong, to repudiate so much of what they have written and taught for years and years.

    It is rare to see one of the stupid great ones turn from it. It happens. They say that Prof. Caird, in retirement, after a prolonged illness experienced himself as having been healed by the prayers of family and friends and came to realize that if healing could happen in the 20th century to him, perhaps those Bible stories were not so far-fetched after all. Perhaps you already know his story.

    In any case, I called those men what they sadly are. I did not and would never, ever curse them. I have experienced being cursed when I was very young and I would not ever do that to any person, whether the words of the curse were accurate or not it is a terrible thing which is forbidden to those who follow Jesus.

    My late mentor, Prof. Peter Steen used to say, When you pray, do not pray for justice; you might get it. Pray for mercy!

    Sorry to go on so long, Peter. I hope this answers the questions.

  62. Trace, you actually have a lot more patience than you gave yourself credit for! Well done. I look forward to studying your 1 Corinthians post. Everyone deserves a fair hearing.

  63. Yes, Robert, everyone deserves a fair hearing. On your comment which you left on my blog you said,

    Gracetracer, yes, I do get the picture. However, your picture does not include 1 Corinthians 14:37 “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.” My understanding is that the “Corinthian proposal” is a divine commandment. How do you propose to address this, because your introduction is not in keeping with this?

    Robert, the passage in question is I Corinthians 14: 33-38. As I suggested, vs. 33 seems to be a part of the previous subject. The scribe in that section of Codex Aleph did seem to think a new subject began at vs. 34. I referred to 14:34-35 as the “Corinthian Proposal.” In the ancient manuscript a break occurs there and the new section begins with a lone “H” or Greek letter eta. When a lone eta occurs within a text it usually means “or.” When two independent particles, etas, occur with text around them they sometimes signify “either” and “or.” But when an eta appears by itself at the beginning of a new thought as it does in verse 36, it means “WHAT!?” or “NOT!” and is a repudiation of the previous thought. Having laid all this out in the my post I then gave several examples of Paul’s use of this exact literary devise.

    So the particle “H” at the beginning of verse 36 means Paul is repudiating: The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

    Now, this is what verse 36 looks like. You can see the eta first (in modern lower-case; it looks like a small n with a tail on the front and a smooth breathe mark, like an apostrophe [left] with a grave accent mark [right] just over it):
    ἢ ἀφ’ ὑμῶν ὁ λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθεν ἢ εἰς ὑμᾶς μόνους κατήντησεν

    After the eta or What!? the text reads, in English: Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only?

    Paul, having repudiated the Corinthian proposal, vs. 34-35, then asks the ones who suggested it if somehow they have a special inside track to God’s will. He knows they do not, but this is Paul in his early argumentative style, using sarcasm and upbraiding the proposers with a rhetorical polemic for trying to drag Christianity back into the old creation when women were under the curse and were often treated as little more than children. He knows what he has from the Lord himself and he says so in the very next verse:
    εἴ τις δοκεῖ προφήτης εἶναι ἢ πνευματικός ἐπιγινωσκέτω ἃ γράφω ὑμῖν ὅτι κυρίου ἐστὶν ἐντολή or in English: If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.

    In other words, Paul is saying he has it from the Lord that women are not to be silenced in churches and what this proposal, quoted by him in verses 34 and 35, suggests gets a What!? or Not! from Paul and a snide, 36) “When did Jesus put you in charge? How did you get to interpret Torah?” and then, 37) “I am telling you if you are a prophet or the least spirtual that you ought to recognize what Jesus commanded is not going to be overturned in the churches under my authority!”

    Translating and not ignoring, as so many translators have done, that little particle, turns the entire passage up-side down.

    And Robert, you cannot read verse 37 and make it say the opposite of what the rest of the passage says. The sense of the text won’t allow it; the alignment of all these “Paul and women” passages won’t allow it and finally, after years of hiding, the little “H” particle in Greek grammar won’t allow it.

    Indeed, the whole creation has been screaming about the injustice of this for centuries. It is high time God’s people came under the authority of the Word of God in creation, the Word of God in the words of Jesus to Mary and Martha of Bethany and the authority of the Word of God in an un-muddy reading of the teaching of the scriptures, beginning with St. Paul on this matter: women were created to be the co-equal partners of men and Jesus died to redeem his design in this, his new creation.

    I hope I have made myself clear, Robert.

    If you have access to an e-book reader, a good companion to all this is a little monograph which I read on Wednesday by Scot McKnight called Junia Is Not Alone   Breaking Our Silence About Women in the Bible and the Church Today (2011-12-01). (Kindle Locations 3-5). Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

    Mc Knight chronicles a slice of the sad story of how translators have caused women in the Bible to either disappear or suddenly “become men” when the mention of their church offices did not suit the translators. (Junia was a female apostle who was greeted by Paul in Romans 16:7 and who is an embarrassment to those who want to say women did not ever hold such an important office in the early churches.)
    God bless.

  64. Trace, yes, you have made yourself clear, but I still need a bit of clarification regarding the particle, Eta.

    You gave several examples in your post of how the particle, Eta, was used. In 1 Cor 6:8-9, is it not true that the use of the particle here is a repudiation of those who were doing “wrong”, those who got mentioned, and not a repudiation of what was being claimed? With respect to 1 Cor 14:36, how would you clarify that the particle, Eta, is indeed a repudiation of the “proposal”, and not a repudiation of “rowdy and unruly women”?

    In other words, even with the entirety of verse 36, is it not possible that one could legitimately read the “What!” as a repudiation of “women”, and together with a plain reading of verse 37, conclude that they are both tied in together as making sense? I say this because verse 37 seems to indicate, not only that Paul knew what he had was from the Lord himself, but what he had was also written by him in this letter. If it wasn’t written in this letter, where do you presume it was written?

    As for all your sentiments regarding co-equality and partnership, I agree. My curiosity is about what was actually permitted in “formal” meetings.

    Blessings to you too.

  65. Attn., Peter and Gentle Wisdom readers:
    I have been in situations on my own blog where I have been engaged with one or two persons who simply went on arguing for the sake of it, long past the point where there was any reason to debate an issue. My present conversation with Richard K. has that feel to it. We are well, in my opinion, into grasping at straws. So let me ask you all:

    1) Is that what is happening here? I do not have time to waste on people who constitutionally can not be wrong and so go on, ad infinitum, ad absurdum. Does your experience with Richard tell you that is what is happening?

    2) Is anyone else getting anything out of this discussion at this point?

    If no one except Richard answers my plea for a reality check, I will take that as confirmation of my suspicions that, 1) this line of inquiry will jump interminably from one grasped straw to the next and 2) that absolutely no one else finds the discussion at this point of any interest.

    Thanks in advance (if anyone is still reading) and blessings!

  66. Still reading, albeit somewhat bemusedly, all the more so as the antispam word Peter’s doberry-wotsit has thrown up for me on this comment is “azazel” …

    Wot you said earlier, Trace: “At a certain point, you just go around those who will to not understand and get on with those things to which you are called.”

  67. Trace, thank you for the advice. I personally don’t feel that matters have got quite that far with Robert. His last comment is a good new discussion of that eta particle (sounds like something discovered at CERN!), so not repetitive. But perhaps your blog would be a better place for that discussion, if you choose to allow it.

  68. Phil, nothing personal with “azazel”! Yes, we need to get on with what we are called to. But for some of us promoting proper biblical attitudes to such matters is part of our calling.

  69. Phil, that is really funny: the scapegoat! Well, we probably all have our own experience of feeling a bit like the azazel.

    Thank you for the encouragement, Peter. There is a fine book which a friend introduced me to about a year ago called Being Wrong Adventures in the Margins of Error. The book, by Kathryn Schulz, is a study, as the author writes, of “wrongology.” She suspects it might be the only book even remotely on this subject — although she knows she may be wrong — because, she believes, people hate being wrong, avoid being wrong, resist being wrong and finally, if they really must be wrong, they change their minds so fast to what they now perceive to be “right” that they have virtually no memory of the unpleasant business of “wrongness.”

    Schulz has a chapter on the rare person who can remember being wrong for an extended period of time because, being wrong, they have no acceptable “right” to jump to and another chapter on conflict between persons who disagree but are each are certain they are right.

    That section is hilarious and hit way too close to home for me. Apparently, our first reaction when we encounter someone we believe is wrong is the urge to set them straight. If we have the actual opportunity to do so and they do not thank us and change their opinion to something similar to ours, the usual reaction is to think they are ignorant and need more information. If we are able to share our mind-changing evidence and they are still not convinced we tend to become upset, generally, and assume they are clinging to their wrong viewpoint because they are a bit crazy. If at some point we become convinced they are in fact fully in control of their faculties then most of us, says Schulz, begin to suspect they have ulterior and even criminal motives for what could no-longer possibly be an honest view.

    As a person who teaches and writes, these insights have been invaluable to me. They have given me room to stand away from myself and the various sources of my vexation and realize what road of thought I may be on, for good or ill. I still catch myself on that road but at least now I have the grace to laugh.

    The best man from my wedding moved away long after that event and away again and again so that long after three failed marriages –his, not mine, we began to get together again, either in his town or mine.

    I was shocked to find he, having moved from liberal Minnesota into the deep South of the U. S. and then to Tennessee, into what we here in the “States,” call the “Bible Belt,” had become, over the decades, very very conservative in his views. If you know anything about U.S. politics, he had become Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Tea Party conservative! This from a guy who used to sing about Alice’s Restaurant and “squashin’ a cop!”

    The conversation in which we tried to air our differences did not go well at all. It was a “Kathryn Schulz” conversation which moved from “mis-informed” to “ignorant” to “crazy” and we stopped just short of “intentionally evil.” We were once very close friends, after all, as well as brothers in Christ. We forgave each other that same day for the name-calling and now, well, we just do not talk about those things because we want to continue to be friends.

    So I can identify with the devolution of a disagreement along Schulz’s lines. Such things have happened to me, more than once.

    All this, rather Paul-like fencing, just to make a short point:
    Even knowing all this, I also know it does happen that people really do get stuck and against all evidence to the contrary, they stubbornly refuse to bend even when their position becomes embarrasing and laughable.

    Schulz has a whole chapter on The Innocence Project and the amazing turn-abouts that occur when someone who has been incarcerated for 8, 10 or even 20 years has their verdict overturned because DNA evidence which had not been usable at the time of their convictions was now, due to advances in the field, testable in ways which had not previously existed and therefore admissable as evidence. The chapter dealt with several amazing anecdotes but focused in on one story in which the former proscecuting attorney (at the time, Attorney General for the entire state of Montana) was deposed after exculpatory DNA evidence cleared a man, “JB,” of a brutal rape of an eight year old girl and JB sued the state for many years of wrongful imprisonment.

    In the deposition the Montana AG remained firmly convinced that JB, the man he had proscecuted, was guilty, in spite of DNA from semen which did not match JB at all in the underwear of the child.

    By the time the AG was done being questioned, as I remember it, he had supposed that maybe JB had two DNA codes, a condition which is known in thirty-six people in the whole world, maybe the girl was sexually active with someone else — at eight years of age but was raped by JB who left no DNA; maybe her older sister who was eleven was sexually active in her sister’s panties… I could go on with the straws the former prosecutor clutched and tossed in what was a 249 page deposition, impuning the integrity of the children, the children’s parents and on and on, but I won’t. You get the picture.

    Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project says of other people’s reactions when they read the AG’s long deposition exactly what Schulz says we should expect they would say. “Oh my God! This guy is crazy!”

    No, not crazy, exactly. Maybe incurrably addicted to being right even when every reasonable explanation has been exhausted? I have run into that sort of thing several times in the blog-cloud. As far as I know, as grievous as it is to the spirit of the one who deals with it and even more grievous to the one with the condition, there is no pill, no cure for it, except perhaps, the grace of God.

    (Apparently even the AG, when he read over his own deposition, was embarrassed by it. He tried to get it legally removed from the public record. He failed. Oh, and JB was awarded by the courts somewhere in the vicinity of two million pounds.)


  70. Peter!
    I am at the end of what I know about the eta: a particle word which is usually translated as “or” but can be used in tandem as “either” and “or” and which becomes “What?” or “Not!” when it appears at the beginning of a new section just after the thought or concept which the author means to reject.

    Beyond that, I would refer you to Glenn Miller whose work I repackaged and delivered, to you and all, attributing the work to Glenn: his site is http://www.christianthinktank.com. Marvel if you will at his treasure trove of research but look specifically in his directory for Paul and Women 9. If Glenn has more on the eta you will find it there, I think. I used some of Glenn’s examples of Paul’s use of the eta in that way in my post, but not all.

    Blessings! Let’s run into each other on another subject, Peter. I would love to know what you mean to do with Wright’s paper beyond what you wrote today. (yesterday?) (hmmm. Probably wrong again…) {;-)>

  71. Trace, thanks for the comments. That is really interesting about “wrongology”, and ties up with what I have seen on this blog over the years. I’ll follow up more about the eta.

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