Mounce on requirements for church leaders, including "husband of one wife"

Bill Mounce has just posted an interesting item, in his regular Monday series at Koinonia, on the requirements for church leaders. listed in 1 Timothy and Titus. He gives primacy to “an overseer must be (δει) above reproach” in 1 Timothy 3:2. But he points out that if every aspect of the list of requirements which follows, and of the similar list in Titus 1:6-9, is taken as absolute, the requirements are in tension with one another and with other New Testament teaching. So he writes:

My conclusion is that the lists show us the type of person who can be in leadership. Some of the requirements would by definition apply to all people: above reproach, hospitable, skilled teacher, etc. But others would depend on the person’s life situation: if married, he would have (δει) to be a “one-woman” man; if he has a family, he would have (δει) to manage his family well.

And to extend the same argument, if male and married, he would have to be a “one-woman” man. That is to say, it would be wrong to read this passage as an argument that overseers or elders must be male. This is the same conclusion as I came to, for similar but not identical reasons, in my series from several years ago The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible. It is good to see my conclusions supported by the complementarian (I think) scholar Bill Mounce.

So, if this argument is conceded, on what other biblical grounds do some Christians not allow women to be elders/presbyters/priests or overseers/bishops?

0 thoughts on “Mounce on requirements for church leaders, including "husband of one wife"

  1. The second qualification: “Faithful spouse” (3:2)
    The second qualification in the list deals with the
    overseer’s married life. Careful research has shown that
    this qualification means that whether one is a husband or
    a wife it is important to be a “faithful spouse.” It requires
    that an overseer, if married, be faithful and be “a one-spouse
    kind of person.”

    According to Lucien Deiss (notes to the French
    Bible, the TOB, Edition Intégrale, p. 646, note a), this
    Greek phrase was used in Asia Minor, on both Jewish
    and pagan gravestone inscriptions, to designate a woman
    or a man, who was faithful to his or her spouse in a way
    characterized by “a particularly fervent conjugal love.”

    When I read Deiss’ comment about how this phrase
    was used on ancient grave inscriptions in Turkey, where
    Paul and Timothy ministered, I confirmed it with him
    myself, reaching him by telephone in Vaucresson, France.
    Some might find this insight into 1 Timothy 3:2
    surprising because modern versions of the Bible
    translate this Greek phrase as – “husband of one wife” –
    making this qualification appear to be restricted to men
    only! Instead, rightly understood, this qualification is
    about faithfulness in marriage by a Christian spouse. It is
    not saying that oversight is “for men only.”

    Pages 87-88
    Think Again about Church Leaders by Bruce C. E. Fleming

  2. Don, I’m sorry your comment was lost for a time as spam. I don’t know why.

    I have seen this passage from Fleming quoted before, and I quoted it myself here. But it is still true that

    I regret that I have not been able to confirm what Deiss wrote or the inscriptions reported by him.

    It would be a great help if someone from the egal camp were able to obtain the actual text from “the French Bible, the TOB, Edition Intégrale”. Sadly Deiss has passed away and so cannot again be contacted by telephone. Or maybe someone can get more details from Fleming.

  3. Peter, why can’t we just get the original statement that Lucein Deiss wrote. Of course, it’s in French. But that shouldn’t matter.

  4. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » “Husband of one wife” was not used of women, it seems

  5. Pingback: Gentle Wisdom» Blog Archive » I made it into the Bibliobloggers Top 50!

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