Scriptural Basis for the PCA BCO on Deacons

Posted by Bob Mattes

I posted on the 36th General Assembly proceedings on deaconesses here without duplicating Lanes or TE Aquila’s posts on the subject. My initial thoughts on the issue of female deacons/deaconesses can be found here on GreenBaggins. I wanted to comment in this post on an item in both Overture 9 and the Overtures Committee minority report.

The operant phrase in Philadelphia Presbytery’s Overture 9 reads:

Scriptural teaching bearing on women’s eligibility for election and ordination to the office of deacon and recommending, if necessary, changes to the BCO in keeping with any findings proceeding from the study of Scripture;

And in the minority report from the overtures committee concerning Overture 9:

Is the Book of Church Order more, or less, restrictive than the Scriptural teaching bearing on the role of women in the diaconal ministries?

I thought that I’d help answer these questions by showing the direct connection between the BCO and the applicable Scriptures. Perhaps that will help some folks who think that they need a study committee to look at a handful of verses that we can all read for ourselves.

First, there’s a direct connection between 1 Tim 3:12 (all citations ESV):

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. [my emphasis]

and Acts 6:3:

Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. [my emphasis]

And BCO 7-2:

7-2. The ordinary and perpetual classes of office in the Church are elders
and deacons. Within the class of elder are the two orders of teaching elders and ruling elders. The elders jointly have the government and spiritual oversight of the Church, including teaching. Only those elders who are specially gifted, called and trained by God to preach may serve as teaching elders. The office of deacon is not one of rule, but rather of service both to the physical and spiritual needs of the people. In accord with Scripture, these offices are open to men only. [my emphasis]

BCO 9-3:

9-3. To the office of deacon, which is spiritual in nature, shall be chosen men of spiritual character, honest repute, exemplary lives, brotherly spirit, warm sympathies, and sound judgment. [my emphasis]

and BCO 24-1:

24-1. Every church shall elect persons to the offices of ruling elder and
deacon in the following manner: At such times as determined by the Session, communicant members of the congregation may submit names to the Session, keeping in mind that each prospective officer should be an active male member who meets the qualifications set forth in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. [my emphasis]

Here you can see that Scripture commands deacons to be men only, and this guidance is followed exactly in the BCO. Nothing more or less.

Further, both the Scriptures and the BCO cover the issue of providing outside help to the diaconate. We find 1 Tim 5:3-16:

3 Honor widows who are truly widows. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. 5 She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, 6 but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. 7 Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. 8 But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are really widows.

corresponding nicely to BCO 9-7:

9-7. It is often expedient that the Session of a church should select and
appoint godly men and women of the congregation to assist the deacons in caring for the sick, the widows, the orphans, the prisoners, and others who may be in any distress or need.

No disconnects, just unity of thought and approach between Scripture and the BCO. So what about Phoebe and Rom 16:1?

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae,

The word for “servant” in that verse is ‘διακονον’ in the Greek. I cover this in some detail in this post, so will not duplicate all that here. Bottom line is that as far back as the Geneva Bible in 1560, Phoebe has been called a servant in accordance with good translating practice and the context of the verse. I will post a fairly comprehensive word study on the word ‘διάκονον’ and its close relatives in both the Greek New Testament as well as the LXX in the next few days. To get a sense for Paul’s usage in the meantime, look at Romans 15:8 and tell me if Christ is called a deacon:

For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

or 2 Cor 3:6 if we all are:

who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Or the well-known Matt 20:26 for Christ’s usage of the word:

It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,

Are we all to become deacons? Of course not. I picked these particular uses of the word because they are very similar to the context in Romans 16:1. There’s no real case to be made here for female office holders.

Yet, some still disagree and think that Phoebe may have been a deaconess in the office-holding sense. Though I and other complementarians disagree with such a mistranslation, let’s assume for a moment, just for the sake of argument, that the details of this verse are unclear. Making Phoebe a deaconess here would make Paul inconsistent in his teaching on the role of women in the church. It certainly wouldn’t square with very clear verses like 1 Tim 3:12, 1 Tim 2:12, and 1 Cor 11:1-24 just to name a few. Roll Luke’s Acts 6:3 in as well. According to the analogy of faith, if one verse or passage isn’t clear, then we turn to others that are clear. Those standing on Rom 16:1 in hopes of finding deaconesses would do well to consider this basic Reformed principle and seek clarity from Scripture rather than the feminist culture.

None of this is rocket science. The majority report of the Overtures Committee cited these portions of the BCO. For those that want a Scriptural warrant, I have cited several clear Scriptural teachings in this and my previous post.

I’ll repeat here something that I posted on my blog earlier tonight. If we treat Scripture like a wax nose to accommodate the culture, we fall for the same lie that Eve swallowed in the garden: “Did God really say…” This deaconess thing is a Scripture authority issue, pure and simple. 1 Tim 3:12 by itself should be clear enough to settle this issue for those that hold to Scripture’s absolute authority. If we decide to try to conform Scripture to the world for whatever reason, we trade the gospel for a lie.

Posted by Bob Mattes

“All” and 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Here is the text:

 1 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” ESV

Arminians will yank this passage out of its context in order to say, “See God desires that all be saved, therefore Jesus’ atonement cannot be limited.” Arminians never seem to acknowledge that Reformed folk might possibly have considered this possibility, and read the passage.

Verse 4 is part of a longer sentence that begins in verse 3. Well, verse 3, in turn begins with “This.” To what does that “this” refer? Well, it refers to the prayers made for all people in verse 1. So we see that the “all” in verse 4, must be the “all” in verse 1. To whom does the “all” in verse 1 refer? Well, it has primary reference to the kings and all who are in high places in verse 2. Paul’s concern here, then, is that God does not restrict salvation to only one social class. Rulers can be saved just as common people can be saved. It is easy, when one is in a particular social class, to look down on all other social classes. This can happen whether one is high up on the social ladder, or lower down. This interpretation is confirmed by verse 5, which goes on to note that there is only one Mediator. Someone lower down does not need someone socially higher up in order to be a Christian. He does not need a fallible human mediator, but a divine-human infallible Mediator.

The other aspect of this passage has to do with the will of God. Traditional Reformed theology has always distinguished between the written revealed will of God in the Bible, which can be disobeyed, and the decretal will of God, which cannot be thwarted. If God desired all to be saved in the decretal sense, then all would be saved. But it is quite possible that we are talking about the revealed will of God, where God does indeed call on all to repent and turn from their ways. God does not take delight in the death of the wicked, though it does serve a noble and laudable purpose in God’s will.

Women in the Church- 1 Timothy 2:8-15, part 3

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

IV. Conclusion
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.

Women in the Church- 1 Timothy 2:8-15, part 2

E. Verse 11

Here a shift in subject matter occurs from prayer to learning. Paul also changes the plural gunaixin (“women”) of verses 9-10 to singular gune (“woman”). However, does this shift involve also a shift from speaking about women in general to speaking about wives and husbands?1 The singular form does not automatically mean wife,2 even in close contrast with the plural form. Context must decide. Scholars and translations have not followed Quinn and Wacker here.3 I believe that Paul has in mind already the reasons in verses 13-14, which require a singular to connect with Eve as a representative. Therefore, Paul is using a generic singular to make his point. Mounce argues that a general principle is being stated here, and that the singular is most apropos.4 I think this is borne out further by Paul’s argument in verses 13-14, which speak of Adam and Eve as representative of male and female.

As many egalitarians have noted, hesuchia need not mean absolute silence.5 The word means “quiet, at peace.” The phrase at the end of the verse, en pase hupotage (“in all submission”), indicates that hesuchia must mean something in keeping with such submission. This phrase is usually overlooked by egalitarian scholars. They are quick to note the command for women to learn (manthaneto (“let them learn”) is an imperatival form indicating a command. This learning is an advance on Judaism, supposedly), but they are not quick to note the pase (“all”) in the last phrase of the verse. Paul has been emphasizing the manner in which men are to pray and in which women are to pray. Now, he stresses the manner in which women are to learn. It is an “in quietness, and without teaching” kind of learning. Lock notes that hupotage (“submission”)  hints at the entire relationship of woman to man in the house.6 Some scholars think that the question of manner extends through verse 12. However, as will be shown, such is not the case.

F. Verse 12
In many ways, this verse is the crux of the passage, and the most disputed. First, we will address the issue of the two infinitives. Köstenberger has shown that the construction of ouk…oude means that whatever those two words connect are viewed by the author either both positively, or both negatively.7 His argument is that if didaskein (“to teach”) be viewed positively, then so must authentein (“to have authority”). Didaskein is viewed positively within the Pastoral epistles as the passing on of the apostolic tradition. Therefore, authentein must also be viewed positively here as the normal exercise of authority. The importance of this argument will become sharper when the definition of authentein is discussed. Köstenberger’s argument has been challenged by I. Howard Marshall, in his commentary,8 and by Linda Belleville.9

Marshall argues in strange fashion from the less well-known word to the better-known word. He grants Köstenberger’s argument, but then takes it in the opposite direction by saying that because authentein most likely means “domineer,” or some such other negative meaning, that therefore didaskein must mean “false teaching.” Marshall says further that “the context makes it clear that the prohibition is stated because there was something wrong with the teaching given by the women. Although, then, the prohibition may appear to be universally applicable to women, it is in fact meant for a specific group of women among the recipients of the letter.”10

The problem with Marshall’s position is that he gives no evidence for his view of the context. It also does not follow that it is meant for a specific group within the community, even if we grant that the women were teaching. The issue is whether or not women are teaching at all. Köstenberger notes that if false teaching were in view, Paul would have used heterodidaskein (“to teach falsely”). Marshall objects that this would imply that Paul would allow men to teach falsely. But as Blomberg notes,11 this objection does not carry force, because Paul could have said it in a way that clearly avoided such an implication (e.g.: “I do not allow women to continue to teach falsehood”). Belleville’s objection is that the construction ouk…oude can be used to express goal (the first idea leads to the second). The translation then would be, “I do not permit a woman to teach in order to have mastery over a man.” However, in the examples she gives (Mt. 13:13 and Acts 17:24-25), her spin on the two ideas is not proved. Hearing is not necessary to understanding, nor is dwelling in a man-made temple necessary to being served by human hands.12 Her understanding of these passages would make the two infinitives more of a hendiadys (saying one thing by two words) than is warranted by the evidence. Didaskein and authentein are not likely to be a hendiadys, because they are separated by so many words. I think rather that didaskein receives the emphasis, being first in the sentence, and that authentein seems almost like an afterthought: “I do not permit a woman to teach, or, come to think of it, have any authority over a man (in the church setting).” Belleville further criticizes Köstenberger for not treating the infinitives like verbal nouns.13 She thinks they modify gune. However, what this assertion does for her argument is not clear. The infinitives complement ouk epitrepo, not gune. Gune is then the subject of the infinitives.

We must now deal with the meaning of authentein. Major research has been done on this word. Baldwin has done a very thorough job in researching all the known occurrences of the verb in extant Greek literature. His conclusion is that the one unifying concept of the word is that of authority.14 The fact that the verb form is never used to mean “murderer,” while the noun form authentes is, gives the lie to Keener’s and Belleville’s objections to Baldwin’s study. Keener is guilty of etymologizing, when he says that Baldwin should have included the noun form in his study.15 Marshall agrees with Baldwin on this issue of treating the verb form separately.16 In fact, Marshall criticizes Wilshire for making that very mistake in his analysis of the word authentein.17 Keener then has the audacity to claim that the entire argument for the complementarians depends on the meaning of this one word! As we shall see, such is far from the truth. Belleville claims that the one sense not in use at this time was “to have authority.”18 Baldwin has decisively shown that this is not the case. A more important argument is that of Belleville19 to the effect that Paul did not have to choose such an ambiguous word, and that if he had a positive meaning in mind, he could have used exousiazo. However, as Blomberg notes,20 exousiazo is hardly unambiguous itself. Blomberg notes the possibility that it might have been precisely because of the ambiguity of exousiazo that Paul decided to choose authentein. Variety in word choice could be another factor. It is certainly not the case that this word has to have a special nuance simply because it is a hapax legomenon (word used only once).21 The New Testament hardly exhausts the Greek vocabulary of the day.

The noun andros that follows is best to be understood as being the object of both verbs: “I do not permit a woman to teach (a man), or to exercise authority over a man.”22 This has the effect of limiting the sphere in which a woman may not teach or have authority. This verse does not imply that women may never teach anyone. Paul plainly indicates that women may teach other women, as well as children. I think that the church setting of these verses excludes women from church office. However, in other institutions and settings, there is room for gray areas.

The syntax of the two infinitives and the meaning of authentein are closely related. Therefore, I have chosen to address epitrepo (“I permit”) only after both issues had been dealt with. Some egalitarians argue that the present tense of epitrepo seems to indicate that the command is only to be in force for a limited period of time, or that he is only stating his opinion. For the latter interpretation, see Mounce.23 In regard to the former, however, I think there is another, much more likely explanation of the present tense, namely, that Paul does not permit women to teach or to have authority in the churches where he himself ministers, and that Timothy therefore ought to follow his example. Wallace further notes that the generic gune indicates that epitrepo be taken as gnomic, which would imply universality.24 This is, after all, a pastor to pastor epistle. Nothing would be more natural for Paul than to use himself as an example.25

Schreiner, in his essay in Two Views on Women in Ministry, makes a very solid argument against the notion that Paul forbade women to teach based on their being led astray.26 Why would Paul only mention women? Why would men be allowed to teach, who had been led astray, but not women? Second, were all the women of Ephesus led astray by the false teaching? Surely, this is a bit much to swallow. There is no textual indication of a limitation on the command.

As Knight notes,27 the interpretation that Paul is only excluding women teaching if there is not proper oversight is ruled out by Paul’s reiteration of “quietness” (Knight sees hesuchia as “silence”). This would form some sort of inclusio with verse 11. This fact forms another argument for why didaskein and authentein form two separate words. The chiasm goes as follows: a (“in quietness”); b (“not teach”); b (“not have authority”); a (“in quietness”).28 This structure implies that teaching and having authority are two separate concepts.

G. Verse 13
This verse gives argumentation for the preceding verse. However, even this (besides much else) is disputed. Belleville argues that the verse is not causal in force, but explanatory.29 However, she gives no reason whatsoever as to why Paul would give Adam’s created priority as even an explanation of a woman’s remaining quiet. The verse makes much better sense if explained causally, offering the reason why women should learn in silence, and not be allowed to teach men in the church. Belleville objects that verse 15 is against such an interpretation.30 However, verse 15 is concessive in character. Ann Bowman makes the point that Paul, in verses 13-14, is using the rabbinic technique know as summary citation.31 Paul is reminding us of the entire context of Gen 2-3. Adam is the head of the family. He was formed first. Therefore, he deserves some kind of honor.32 This does not imply superiority in kind, but rather priority in time. Belleville offers a specious objection that eita (“then”) means a simple order of time.33 But this is precisely the point! He is the “first-born,” although we should not import the Bible’s understanding of birthright into the passage here, as the first-born got twice as much as the next in line, whereas women are equal sharers in salvation.34 Belleville makes a false dichotomy in her discussion of the creation narrative.35 She says, “Do these narratives (Gen 1-2) put forward a divinely instituted gender hierarchy, as traditionalists claim? Or do they teach a male-female relationship of mutuality, as egalitarians contend? In a sense, the answer is “yes.” Hierarchy does not exclude mutuality. Is this verse a second reason for vv. 11-12, or is it a continuation of the vs. 13 reason? For reasons that will become clear later in the hermeneutics section, I believe that this is a second reason added to verse 13. Note that a “diabolical passive” exists here. Satan is the implied agent of Eve’s deception. Quinn and Wacker note: “In the argument of 1 Timothy 2:14 the serpent has disappeared into the anonymity of the Greek passive participle.”36 This “diabolical passive” contrasts with the “divine passive” given in verse 15. More on the divine passive later. The reason Paul gives for why women should remain quiet in church is that men are to lead. It was this way in the beginning (that is the import of verse 13). The Fall was the result of Eve trying to subvert her husband’s covenantal headship by making the decision apart from him.37 She was mastered by the animal whom she should have mastered. She mastered the one being on the planet she should not have mastered. She subverted and was subverted. Therefore, the punishment was that there would always be a battle for leadership between the man and the woman in marriage (Gen. 3:16). This is hardly placing the full blame of the Fall on the woman as some have said about the complementarian position. I do not think that this passage says that women are more easily deceived than men, though that is the conclusion of most of the history of the complementarian position, and even of a few modern commentators. As Schreiner says, it was a moral failing of Eve, not an intellectual deficiency.38 This verse is a concession, or a correction of a possible misunderstanding. Given the guilt of Eve in the Fall, one might wonder whether or not there is any hope for woman at all. Paul affirms that there is hope. Note the passive voice of “be saved.“ As Knight hints,39 this is probably a divine passive, which is difficult in the extreme to account for on any other interpretation of “child-bearing” than that given below. Through the regaining of her proper role in the world, reaffirming man’s headship in the family, the Christ would come. I interpret “child-bearing” as referring first of all to normal child-bearing, and then to the Child-bearing, that is, the birth of the Messiah. This interpretation has a long and honored tradition.40 It does justice to the fact of the article in front of teknogonias (“childbearing,” which cannot in any case be decisive, but is suggestive), makes sense of “saved,” which otherwise is almost unintelligible and results in an unnatural understanding of the preposition dia, and does justice to the background of Genesis 3. The fact that Genesis 3 is in the background of this passage has escaped most commentators who have dismissed this interpretation (such as Marshall41). If one remembers the curses of Genesis 3, one is certain also to remember the promise of the Seed which would eventually come to destroy the serpent.42 The curse on Eve was a curse on her child-bearing. Paul wants then to remind them that the promised Seed would also come through child-bearing. This interpretation also allows sothesetai (“she will be saved’) to have its normal salvific force without introducing any works righteousness, which, as many commentators have noted, would be contrary to Paul’s theology. The only major objection that can be raised against this interpretation is that current child-bearing would then seem to be irrelevant, now that the Seed has come. However, this is where the insight of Royce Gordon Gruenler is applicable.43 He argues that the Pastoral epistles are missions epistles (pg. 216). He argues this from vv. 1-7, esp. vv. 4-6. The implication for women today, therefore, is that child-bearing is a missionary activity. They are to remember that child-bearing was the instrument that God used to bring the Messiah into the world. See also Bowman’s assertion that “child-bearing” is a synecdoche, a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole, the whole then being all of child-rearing.44 The “she” at the beginning of the verse refers primarily to Eve, therefore, and secondarily to all women who come after her. That might be the reason why Paul switches from singular to plural in this verse.45 Certainly, Quinn and Wacker’s suggestion that it refers to the husband and wife is rather strange,46 given that child-rearing is not in view. Furthermore, the woman’s “salvation” would then depend on the man’s remaining in faith, love, and holiness.47 I think it more natural to understand the “they” to refer to women. The second part of this verse corrects the possible misunderstanding that might result if one took the “divine passive” too far at the beginning of the verse. One might think that salvation automatically accrues to women. Therefore, Paul stresses these things to ensure a non-automatic view of salvation.48 The verse stresses the necessity of perseverance.

1 See, e.g., Quinn and Wacker, 2000, pp. 191, 199.

2 See BDAG.

3 See especially Schreiner, in Köstenberger/Schreiner/Baldwin, Women in the Church, pg. 117.

4 Mounce, 2000, pg. 119.

5 contra Knight, 1992, pg. 139.

6 Lock, 1924, pg. 32.

7 See Women in the Church, ed. Köstenberger, Schreiner, and Baldwin, 1995, pp. 81-103.

8 See Marshall, 1999, pg. 458.

9 See Two Views on Ministry, ed. Beck, Blomberg, 2001, pp. 124-127, 136.

10 Marshall, 1999, pg. 455.

11 op. cit., pg. 361.

12 Two Views, pg. 127, talking about Matthew 13:13 and Acts 17:24. See Köstenberger/Schreiner/Baldwin, Women in the Church, pg. 83 for counter-examples, and especially pg. 90 for counter-argument.

13 op. cit., pg. 136.

14 ibid, pg. 72-73.

15 See Two Views on Women in Ministry, pg. 53, note 39.

16 See Marshall, 1999, pg. 456, note 149.

17 See NTS 27 (1981) 593-604 for Wilshire’s analysis.

18 Two Views, pg. 125.

19 ibid. pg. 124-125.

20 ibid. pg. 362.

21 As Marshall claims, 1999, pg. 458.

22 See Knight, 1992, pg. 142.

23 Mounce, 2000, pg. 106, commenting on verse 8.

24 Quoted in Mounce, 2000, pg. 122.

25 See Liefeld, 1999, pg. 98.

26 See Two Views, pg. 223.

27 Knight, 1992, pg. 142.

28 See Schreiner, Women in the Church, pg. 124.

29 ibid. pg. 128.

30 op. cit. pg. 128.

31 See Two Views, pp. 288-289.

32 Keener, in Two Views, pg. 63, seems incredulous that such an argument of temporal priority should be cogent for this point. Yes, the first can sometimes be subordinated to the second. However, this is not true in every instance, and does not in any way lessen the force of what Paul says here.

33 op. cit. pg. 129.

34 ibid., pg. 62-63.

35 op. cit. pg. 140.

36 Quinn and Wacker, 2000, pg. 229.

37 Keener, in Two Views, states that the nature of women being easily deceived is the only way that this passage can support the complementarian position of male headship. Such is not the case.

38 op. cit. pg. 143.

39 1992, pg. 147.

40 See Knight, 1992, pp. 146-149, Quinn/Wacker, 2000, pg. 232, and Liefeld, 1999, pp. 101-102.

41 Marshall, 1999, pg. 469.

42 See Bowman, Two Views, pp. 288-289.

43 “The Mission-Lifestyle Setting of 1Timothy 2:8-15.” JETS 41 Fall 1998, pp. 215-238.

44 See Two Views, pg. 290.

45 See Mounce, 2000, pg. 143.

46 Quinn and Wacker, 2000, pg. 233.

47 Mounce, 2000, pg. 147.

48 See Knight, 1991, pg. 147.

Women in the Church- 1 Timothy 2:8-15

I am going to begin a series of posts on this rather important passage. There is so much written on it. I counted the entries in Mounce’s commentary just on this passage, and there are 300, many of them entire books! In my opinion, the very best book is _Women in the Church_, by Kostenberger and Schreiner (editors). This just came out in a second edition, which I have not read. I wrote a paper in seminary on this passage. I thought the reading would never end. But I did manage to read all the most important English commentaries, and all the most important articles, and a few of the monographs. Here is the result of my research (I will post this in several posts, so as to make it manageable). The bibliography will be given with the last post in the series. The footnotes are not hyperlinked (couldn’t get it to work in WordPress), but are in bold italics.

 There are few passages in the New Testament more in dispute than this one. In the bibliography that Mounce has compiled on this passage, there are three hundred and twenty-five entries (eight pages of small print). Cultural issues and the relative obscurity of verses 14-15 have caused this deluge of ink. Through an examination of the exegesis of the passage and a further examination of the hermeneutical issues surrounding the exegesis, I will attempt to prove that Paul had a universally binding application in view regarding a prohibition of women teaching Christian doctrine to or having spiritual authority over men in a church setting.

 I. Exegesis
A. The Flow of I Timothy as a whole
The dispute about Pauline authorship need not concern us much here, as it has little bearing on the precise meaning of our passage. However, inasmuch as canonical authority rests on the Pastoral Epistles (PE), we want to affirm its canonical status. I personally will assume that Paul wrote the PE. The next question (and a very important one) is the reason for the letter. False teachers had infested the Ephesian church. They were interested in long genealogies (1:4), myths, speculations, had erroneous conceptions about the law (1:6-7), and as a result were leading people astray from the truth (especially, it seems, some of the women, such as the widows). The corrective to these evils is a straight proclamation of the truth of the Gospel (3:14-16), and correct behavior in the church of God (which would presumably be antithetical to the false teaching: in 1:10, Paul makes the explicit connection between right doctrine and right living). These are the things that we can know for certain about the false teaching. Anything else goes beyond the scriptural evidence and must be weighed very carefully before being allowed as evidence. See more in the post on hermeneutics (forthcoming). Behavior in the church setting and the truth of Gospel in the context of false teaching is the subject of I Timothy.

B. Immediate Context
 I have found that the immediate context has been almost universally neglected by advocates of the egalitarian position, and by a good many of the proponents of the complementarian position as well. This is all the more startling given the οὖν (oun, meaning “therefore”) in the postpositive position in verse 8. One might have expected the egalitarian position to take more notice of the universals in verses 4-5. One might also have expected the complementarian position to take more notice of the qualifications for elders immediately following.1 Therefore, we will not ignore either context.

In 2:1, Paul makes it plain that prayer is his driving concern for the first part of this chapter. Four different words for prayer or components of prayer form the first verse, which is then expanded to avoid cliquish praying for only those with whom one has agreement. This could be directed against the false teachers, who might have been encouraging people to pray only for those who are close to themselves, thus putting a wedge in the body of Christ. Against the false teachers’ insistence on knowledge outside the Gospel, Paul reaffirms the one true way to God, which is through Jesus Christ, the faithful and true Mediator. If this fact would be remembered by the members of the Ephesian church, then it would follow that the men would cease their wrangling and their angry arguments. And so, we have a natural progression into verse 8.

The passage immediately following, in 3:1-7, deals with the qualifications for elders. This passage is also much in dispute. However, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that elders must be men. This is evident from verse 2: μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, “mias gunaikos andra.” In order to be a husband, one must be a man. Vern Poythress argues that male leadership in the home requires male leadership in the church. He is one of the few who note the connection of 3:1-7 to 2:9-15.2 Plainly, there are role distinctions within the unity of the body of Christ. The relationship of the role of men and women to Galatians 3:28 will be handled in the hermeneutics post.

C. Structure of I Timothy 2:8-15.
 Verses 8-10 have to do with behavior in the church, presumably in the worship service, but also having broader implications. Verse 8 deals with men, and verses 9-10 deal with women. Mounce notes that usually the division occurs between verse 9 and verse 10, because of gender issues. However, the disturbance in the church is the more likely candidate for division in the passage.3 In verse 11, the subject shifts slightly. This is indicated from the shift to singular “woman” from the plural in verses 9-10, as well as the shift from praying to learning. Verses 11-12 indicate what a woman must not do, and verses 13-14 indicate the reason(s) why. Verse 15 is a concession to the possible misunderstanding and alarm that might have been created by Paul attributing the fall of the human race solely to women. More on this later.

D. Verses 9-10
 One of the main questions here is whether Paul is inferring prayer as the context of women’s behavior in these verses, or whether the men are the ones praying, while the women adorn themselves properly. We know that women are allowed to pray in the worship service (I Cor. 11:5), but is that the issue here? Specifically, is proseuchesthai (“to pray”) to be understood from verse 8, despite the already existing complementary infinitive (“to adorn”) in vs. 9? Clark (citing Meyer) indicates that to understand another infinitive is grammatically impossible.4 However, as noted above, the structure of the context indicates that prayer was a major concern of Paul in this chapter. The “proton panton” (“first of all”) of verse 1 indicates that prayer was of paramount importance. It is then more than likely that the “therefore” of vs. 8 refers back to verse 1. This adds weight to the idea that prayer should be understood for the women as well. The very fact that the infinitive “to pray” is not in verse 9 could indicate Paul’s sensitivity to this grammatical issue. The “likewise” at the beginning of verse 9 indicates at the very least that what he says about the men in church will be paralleled by this statement about women. I think that it is safe to conclude, therefore, that prayer is to be understood with regard to women, though larger concerns are not out of the question.5 The verse then describes the manner in which they are to behave in church, with special regard to prayer.

The English Standard Version translates the second half of verse 9 with admirable literalness here. Braided hair was an excuse to show off various valuable gems and gold jewelry (so most commentators). Therefore, braided hair is to be taken with both gold and pearls. Costly attire is then something separate. This corresponds with the connectives used (kai…e…e…e).6 The point is that women are not to show off. Marshall puts it well: “The picture is of a flashy luxury that is out of place in sinners seeking the mercy of God.”7 As many commentators note, this passage does not forbid the use of jewelry. It forbids the ostentatious showing of such jewelry.8 Verses 9-10 have the same structure as the statement, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” The statement does not negate the importance of sacrifice, but rather relativises sacrifice in regard to mercy. In the same way, Paul wants the women to strive for true adornment, which consists of good works coupled with modesty and self-control, not for the merely outward adornment of jewelry.

1. One who does is Mounce, 2000, pg 118.
2. See Piper/Grudem, 1991, pp. 233-247, esp. pg. 238; See also Blomberg, Two Views on Women in Ministry, 2001, pg. 364.
3. Mounce, 2000, pg. 103.
4. See Clark, 1983, pg. 43.
5. See Lock, 1924, pg. 29.
6. See, e.g., Mounce, 2000, pg. 114.
7. Marshall, 1999, pg. 450.
8. Knight, 1992, pg. 136.