II. Hermeneutical Issues
A. Situation in Ephesus
Is it the case that complementarians pay absolutely no attention to the background of the situation in Ephesus, or do not let that information affect their exegesis? Who was Artemis of the Ephesians? Baugh argues against various egalitarian and otherwise commonly held opinions regarding who Artemis was and the situation of the cult, as well the position and status of women in Ephesus. I will not reproduce his arguments here, but only summarize them: Artemis at Ephesus was the regular Greek goddess, not the fertility goddess of the ANE; the cult did not involve cult prostitution, since the priestesses were largely prepubescent; there were educated women at Ephesus, contrary to the suggestion that Paul is merely forbidding unlearned women from teaching. The idea of the mother-goddess being conflated with Artemis is a common but highly speculative opinion, based on the interpretation of the famous statue having many breasts. Baugh indicates that this interpretation is highly suspect. Other examples have been found having such protuberances on male statues of Zeus (see pg. 31). Therefore, the position of the Kroegers (that Paul was reacting against some kind of Amazonian feminism gone awry, and that authentein means “to originate”) is untenable.
B. Creation, Fall, Redemption
The issue of Eve and the relation of her position to the Creation and the Fall is a complicated issue. Keener argues that the subordination of women was due to the Fall, and that therefore it is not prescriptive. However, this assertion does not make sense of the argument made about the temporal priority of the male in verse 13. In Ephesians, Paul notes that the man is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church (never mind now the much-vexed discussion of kephale), and that this was true from the beginning. Actually, the Fall obscured this relationship such that the woman would want to rule over the husband, but that the husband would domineer over her (Genesis 3:16). In Redemption, therefore, it is possible, through a relationship with Jesus Christ, to redeem this relationship back to what it was originally supposed to be. Women need to fulfill their God-appointed roles in order to do so. This is not to say that every woman needs to be a stay-at-home mother. On the other hand, it means that such stay-at-home women ought not to be despised, as they so often are today. The Bible would say that such a calling is the most noble calling to which a woman can aspire.
What of Galatians 3:28? This verse has been used as a grid through which all the other literature in the New Testament on the question of gender relationships has had to pass. But is it to be (ab)used in such a manner? Verse 27 (usually conveniently overlooked by all who quote verse 28) says that the unity is that of being in Christ, and having his righteousness given to us. Verse 24 invokes justification by faith. Therefore, verse 28 is talking about our status in Christ before God the Father. This is said by the same Paul who said that there are different roles for different people in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-30). Role distinction is not, I repeat, not a sign of inferiority! Just as there is no shame in being a brigadier general as opposed to a lieutenant general in the army, nor is there any inferiority of person, only hierarchy of role, so it is in the family/church.
A word must be said about the relationship of this passage to 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Keener argues that if we are going to be consistent about women in the church not having positions of authority over men, then we have to have them wear head coverings as well. It is disputed, however, whether Paul refers to something in addition to hair, or not. We cannot just assume that head coverings over and above the hair (hair is called a covering (verse 15)) is what is in view. Therefore, Keener’s objection is premature. He seems also to suggest that there is absolutely no cultural relativity in applicability of the Bible in the view of complementarians. This is manifestly not the case. “Greet one another with a holy kiss” is not usually interpreted to be universally binding in terms of its particular expression. Our equivalent today would be hugs or handshakes. However, in 1 Timothy, Paul argues from something that is not culturally bound, namely, the creation order of Adam and Eve, and the headship of Adam as male.
Another issue that must receive treatment is the issue of female prophecy. Several authors note that prophecy is just as authoritative as teaching. Prophecy is allowed to women. Therefore, teaching should be allowed as well. This involves a blurring of the distinction between office and function. Paul is talking about office in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (see the immediately following context). Schreiner’s contention that prophecy is more vertical, and teaching more horizontal does not convince me. Corinthians does not force the conclusion that the prophesying women held an office of prophet. What holds true for all the biblical examples of women teaching or holding a position of leadership is that such examples were exceptions to the rule. In the New Testament, prophecy was supposed to come upon women, because of the prophecy in Joel. Prophecy, therefore, is not a continuing entity in any case. Schreiner argues more convincingly that women could exercise prophetic gifts without disturbing male headship, whereas women could not teach men without disturbing male headship.8
III. Conclusions for Ethics
A. Goal, Motive and Standard of the two interpretations
The goal of the complementarian position (despite immense pressure from the culture to conform to the egalitarian position) has been, and should continue to be faithfulness to the biblical witness about the role of gender in the church. The motive has too often been a desire to keep the reins of power within the grasp of the men, without encouraging women to participate in ministry at all. This has resulted in the current backlash against tyrannical rule in the church, which rule has been based all too often on a view of women as inferior. However, to the extent that modern complementarian interpreters of this passage have discarded such unworthy motives, they are to be commended. Everywhere women are allowed to serve Christ, they should be encouraged to do so.
A great contrast between the ethics of the complementarian position and the ethics of the egalitarian position exists. The goal of the egalitarian position has been either explicitly or implicitly to conform to culture. Culture has the upper hand in hermeneutics in the egalitarian position, and culture interprets the Bible, rather than the other way around. This is demonstrated by the fact that the egalitarian position only became viable after about 1970. The motive might be many things. It is much easier to get a job at a main-line seminary or church, if one holds to egalitarian views. On the other hand, many “evangelical feminists” are not acting out of such impure motives, but are rather seeking to end inequality. The standard has been consistently to appeal to the current cultural situation as the definition of how we are to interpret the Bible. The Bible is effectively muzzled. There is a fear of the radical feminist wing that straight-jackets any opposition to their agenda. One is immediately labeled a misogynist if one holds to any difference in role (regardless of one’s view of the alleged ontological differences). Any difference in role is immediately seen to be an attack on the worth of a woman. We cannot let them win.
The definitive argument of this sort on the complementarian side (distinguishing between role and worth) is that of Charles Hodge. Jesus Christ is not one iota inferior to God the Father. He is God. And yet, there is a difference in role, one of subordination. Subordination is necessary in the world as a whole, for the world to “work.” Therefore, there is no dishonor at all in women being subject to male headship. Earle Ellis notes that only in the modern period are class distinctions viewed as evil per se.12
If there is any more pressing issue in the conservative church today, I am at a loss to find it. Consistently, even in the Presbyterian Church in America and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the issue of whether women should be allowed in ministry crops up just about every year in general assembly. A friend of mine recently said that it was only a matter of time before the GA voted to allow women into the ministry. I hope earnestly that he is wrong. I would be disappointed to have to leave the denomination in which I was baptized as an infant, and in which I grew up physically and spiritually (PCA). But the denomination would have left its moorings in the historic view of male headship as symbolized by Christ and the church, as well as any claim to see abiding principles in the Bible, rather than totally culturally determined “advice.” In this case, the slippery slope argument does work. Denominations that ordained women eventually ordain homosexuals, since Romans 1 and Leviticus 18 also become culturally relative. It is impossible to stop on such a slippery slope, as so many denominations have more than adequately demonstrated. Let us rather seek to be faithful to God’s Word.
1 See the irritatingly patronizing comments of Keener in Two Views, pg. 55.
2 See Köstenberger, Schreiner, Baldwin, 1995, pp. 13-52.
3 See Kroeger and Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman, 1992.
4 op. cit. pg. 63.
5 op. cit. pg. 62; see also Liefeld, 1999, pp. 109-110.
6 See Garland, 2003, pg. 505.
7 Women in the Church, pg. 129.
8 Women in the Church, pg. 130.
9 See Yarbrough, in Women in the Church, pp. 170-171.
10 See further Mounce, 2000, pg. 148.
11 Quoted in Women in the Church, pg. 255.
12 ibid. pg. 255.
Note: many more resources were consulted than are here listed. These were found to be the most relevant to the study at hand.
Commentaries on 1 Timothy:
Clark, Gordon H., The Pastoral Epistles (Jefferson, MD: Trinity Foundation, 1983)
Knight, George W. III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992)
Liefeld, Walter L., The NIV Application Commentary: 1&2 Timothy/Titus
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999)
Lock, Walter, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1924)
Marshall, I. Howard, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1999)
Mounce, William D., The Pastoral Epistles (Dallas: Word, 2000)
Quinn, Jerome D. and William C. Wacker, The First and Second Letters to Timothy
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000)
Other books and articles:
Bauer, Walter, Frederick William Danker, William Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich,
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian
Literature, 3rd edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000)
Beck, James R. and Craig L. Blomberg, editors Two Views on Women in Ministry
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001)
Garland, David E., I Corinthians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003)
Gruenler, Royce Gordon “The Mission-Lifestyle Setting of I Timothy 2:8-15.” JETS 41
Fall, 1998, pp. 215-238.
Köstenberger, Andreas J, Thomas R. Schreiner, and H. Scott Baldwin, Women in the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995)
Kroeger, R.C. and C.C. Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992)
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
(Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991)
Wilshire, L. E. “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to AUQENTEW in I Timothy 2:12.” NTS 34 (1988) 120-134.