The problem with women bishops, and a new take on 1 Timothy 2:12

John Hartley’s take on Women Bishops Debate, from a clergy member of General Synod, is helpful. It explained to me one thing and gave me an interesting new insight on another.

John’s post explains why the opponents of women bishops will not accept a code of practice under which women bishops are required to appoint men to deputise for them when requested:

in saying that a woman bishop should/must delegate powers, it would implicitly admit that a woman bishop has powers to delegate and therefore that she is a bishop.

Well, I see the point, for those who have the legalistic mindset which many Christians seem to have inherited from the Pharisees rather than from our Lord. But then I would not have thought it impossible to come up with a wording to satisfy these people, in which the powers are technically delegated by one of the Archbishops rather than by the woman diocesan bishop. Of course that will work only as long as the Archbishop in question is male, but then I don’t see how these people could in any way remain within a Church of England headed by two female Archbishops!

In fact I don’t see how these people can remain within a church which appoints bishops who they don’t accept as being bishops. The only thing that could satisfy these people is a new province. General Synod isn’t offering them that, but then I doubt if it is within their power to do so. A new province is of course also what GAFCON is demanding, and proposing to set up unilaterally. Perhaps these opponents of women bishops will be welcome in that province – but then if it takes a permanent stand against women bishops it is less likely to be acceptable to others like me.

John Hartley also makes an interesting point about 1 Timothy 2:12:

As an evangelical I have still not given up hope of helping my evangelical opponents to see that 1 Tim 2:12 does not say “I do not permit a woman to teach a man”, but rather that it says “I do not permit a woman to teach at all”.  Because all evangelicals agree that some women nowadays do have teaching ministries – and therefore none of us live by the stricture of what it actually says – that women should keep silent.  Instead the verse is a statement of one particular person’s take (“I do not permit” – not “It should never be permitted”) in a particular place – which that same person did not take in other places (e.g. 1 Cor 11:5 which permits a woman to prophesy).  That same person had already admitted that there is a difference between his advice and the Lord’s word (1 Cor 7:10 & 12).

Good point! I can only agree that this verse must refer to a specific situation for which Paul lays down specific rules, not intended to be valid everywhere or for ever.

0 thoughts on “The problem with women bishops, and a new take on 1 Timothy 2:12

  1. Bob, I was referring of course to 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul does not allow women, or a particular woman, to teach in Ephesus at that particular time. At least that is John Hartley’s understanding and mine.

  2. Dear Peter, how interesting. This very passage was preached on in the evangelical passage where I live. I listened online and felt compelled to give the congregation in that church with whom I’d attended Bible study but not Sunday worship, another take on the passage. I must admit, I went about it in the wrong way and posted an alternate reading of the passage on the car windscreens in the car-park, feeling that this was the only way I would be able to ‘speak’. It is as a consequence of the fall-out of my actions that my blog re vis.e re form was born. I sought lots of help over 18 months in an attempt to make sense of the passage, particularly because it rather messed with my psychology, feeling so called as I am into ministry of some kind in the future. The last thing I wanted to do was anything against the will of God. My early June posts cover my work on this issue. I posted this analysis onto my website in June and sought the help of notable egalitarians abroad. 11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission (written in the imperative ‘Let this woman learn’ Paul was very counter-culture).12 I do not permit a woman (that particular woman who is deceived, ie who isn’t learned enough because women weren’t given access to education then) to (Greek is didasko – to teach falsehoods) teach or to have authority over a man (the particular man, her husband, who is educated aner Greek for husband so a woman is his wife) she must be silent (on this occasion, in this church, not about women in general or for all time) . 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve (just like in these days the men were educated, the women weren’t, Paul thought they should be). 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner (because she hadn’t had the same access to God’s instruction as Adam. 15 But she (3rd person singular; because of the grammar this has to be the woman he is referencing in 11) will be (future tense so referring to the particular woman not Eve who is dead) saved (sozo -spiritual salvation – saved) (It cannot be taken to indicate a reference to plural women (as mistranslated in the NASB, NIV) since “she shall be saved” is a correct translation of the future tense, passive voice, 3rd person singular form of the verb sozo (sothesetai). through childbearing (noun teknogonia: the childbearing that is the birth of Jesus)—if they (the man and the woman) continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
    Paul was secure that this women would be the recipient of God’s mercy just as he had been.

  3. In Truth & Reality the shape of ones genitals has nothing whatsoever to do with ones capacity to worship Real God or the Divine Conscious Light.

    Nor does it have bearing on ones capacity to teach others and to be an inspiration to others by lived example.

    Nor does it have any bearing on ones capacity to do all the various pastoral functions that ministers, pastors or priests are called to do.

    Men and women quite obviously have different ways of doing things and being in the world—there are quite distinct feminine and masculine qualities.

    Meanwhile some of the greatest Illuminated Saints within the Catholic Tradition were women. Such Illuminated Saints being living breathing exemplars of the truth of their Tradition.

  4. Paul distinguishes between his own command and ones that he gets from the earthly teaching of the Lord. I’m not sure how that justifies seeing his teachings as not authoritative. It’s still scripture, whether it’s written by Paul, delivered as an oracle by Jeremiah, compiled by the Chronicler from an account in Kings, or recorded directly from Jesus. Paul makes that kind of distinction, but he never says anywhere that his words are ok to ignore simply because he’s not Jesus. That’s a pretty crazy view for Hartley to be resting his argument on.

  5. Jeremy, I can’t speak for John Hartley. But I am not suggesting that 1 Timothy 2:12 is not authoritative for us because it is Paul’s words and not from Jesus. My point is that these words do not apply to use because they were written to a specific situation and our situation is not sufficiently analogous for the these words to be applied to.

  6. Peter,

    I just stumbled across this discussion (years old now, I realise). As you might expect, I have difficulties on your take on the relevant passage (and John Hartley’s). The pastorals are written as apostolic Scripture, the apostle’s passing on of the deposit to a new generation of leaders (Timothy & Titus) and so, while obviously located at a particular time and place, give no explicit indication that they are not to be taken as applicable beyond that immediate situation. In fact, Paul’s careful framing of the entire epistle as the word of an apostle by the command of God might push a strongly in the opposite direction. Elsewhere, in 1 Corinthians, when Paul speaks like this he explicitly says that the practice he is insisting upon has relevance beyond this particular congregation.

    So underlying the discussion is a very serious theological debate about the nature or the epistles, the impact of their occasion on their continuing relevance, the degree to which a historical reconstruction that is not explicit in the text itself should be used to direct the reading of the text.

    Some of the comments above seem to suggest that any gender-specific directions about the exercise of ministry necessarily raise questions about the capacity of the women for ministry or their equality as fellow-heirs with Christ. However, as you know, I’m sure, the complementarian argument at its best is not that women are inferior or not capable of teaching the Scriptures well, The issue is one of the appropriate occasion for the exercise of these God-given gifts. I’m not yet persuaded that the ‘teaching’ referred to can be detached from the ‘exercise authority over men’ in this verse. Paul’s concern (and I take it that what he has left us with is God-breathed Scripture and so the word of God) is with propriety in relationships.

    Anyway, I suspect you have heard all this before. My plea is for continued dialogue and a refusal to descend into caricature, party bias or the assumption that those who think differently from me on this issue are either stupid or obstinate.

  7. Mark, I disagree with you primarily because I do not accept that 1 Timothy, or any of the New Testament, was intentionally “written as apostolic Scripture”. It was only later that it became adopted as authoritative Scripture for all. Paul did indeed intend to pass on his teaching, cf. 2 Timothy 2:2, but, as I argued in a recent post about this same verse, for him teaching was primarily oral. The concept of written Scripture as a “deposit to a new generation of leaders” was only developed later.

    I agree with you that the teaching referred to in this verse is tied up with authentein over men. But I do not understand authentein as meaning to exercise proper godly authority, but rather to refer to some kind of usurped or abusive authority.

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