Women Are Not The Issue

The Bible is the issue

When two evangelical scholars named Piper and Wright blatantly disagree about how much influence and leadership women are “allowed” (I hate using that word but it’s accurate and piercing in its truth) to exercise and enjoy in the context of church then its no wonder that the rest of us theologically unwashed masses take sides, argue, get defensive and circle our bible wagons.

I Timothy 2:11-14

 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

John Piper believes we should read it literally

NT Wright believes we should read it narratively

Which is it?

The way we read the bible reflects how we feel about power. Piper and Wright fundamentally disagree about the Bible because they fundamentally disagree about power.

Like these two leaders we read our biases into the bible and then preach what we see. There is no such thing as objectivity – that’s a myth. We cherry pick the bible to support our values and views about God and life.

Don’t believe me? – attend a bible study led by your local Amish group (if they’ll let you in), or Mennonites or Quakers or Pentecostals or Eastern Orthodox or (god forbid) Mormons. Then imagine how they would feel sitting in your bible study.

If reading the bible is so easy why don’t we know whether its Piper or Wright who is telling us the truth about I Timothy 2:11, as Jesus meant it to be understood? One of them has to be wrong. The fact is, it’s not easy to understand the bible, which is why insecure, power hungry (men for the most part) have used smoke and mirrors for eons to get people to see what they want them to see. (btw I’m not referring to either Piper or Wright in that comment)

That’s all water under the bridge. It’s undeniable. What’s not so easy to predict is how people will think about the Bible in the future.

It would be nice if some well known Christian leaders simply told the rest of us who follow them that yes, there are in fact two different ways people read the Bible so you can choose which one suits you and take your chances. That would be refreshing wouldn’t it?

But then that would cost them real money.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Women Are Not The Issue

  1. I’ve been studying this matter. John Schoenheit has some very interesting thoughts on this text and 1 Cor 11:34-35 at truthortradition.com/silent and truthortradition.com/role. In essence he cites evidence the 1 Cor text is a gloss, and the Timothy text is distorted in translation from Paul’s original intent to deal with Gnosticism’s claims of female “authorship” of man.

    That got me started, and since then I’ve been reading two books: Man and Woman – One in Christ by Philip Payne. It is excellent. A major eye-opener for me.
    http://www.amazon.com/Man-Woman-One-Christ-Theological/dp/0310219884

    The other on is more experiential: How I Changed My Mind about Women in Leadership. http://www.amazon.com/Changed-Mind-about-Women-Leadership/dp/0310293154/ref=pd_sim_b_1

    It has the stories of folks like Bill & Lynn Hybells and others.

  2. Thought provoking, as always Jim. There seems to be a divide at every turn in both the interpretation of Scripture and the application of that interpretation to ecclesiology. It’s difficult not to maintain a fever pitch of frustration at how much time and energy is spent defending and refuting when there are clear(er) objectives of loving God with everything and our neighbor as ourselves. I am completely consumed in those two tasks, honestly. I do take Wright’s approach on this text, honestly because a) I have found him to be an intelligent and irenic New Testament scholar and b) I don’t have any allegiance to the Reformed strands from which Piper and others speak. If I grew up in that tradition, perhaps I’d speak differently.

    Keep offering the via media in this discussion. I appreciate it.

  3. I like what Casey says here “It’s difficult not to maintain a fever pitch of frustration at how much time and energy is spent defending and refuting when there are clear(er) objectives of loving God with everything and our neighbor as ourselves. I am completely consumed in those two tasks, honestly. “

  4. Interesting that you picked this passage. We were just discussing it at another site, and I mentioned how difficult I find it to follow the author’s argument (I’m not convinced that it’s by Paul, nor am I convinced that it’s not by Paul). I wrote:

    I struggle with following Paul’s argument(s) in 1 Timothy 1 & 2 and how the parts relate. Perhaps it wouldn’t be problematic to a fluent Koinê speaker. Here’s how I’d summarize/restate Chapters 1 & 2:

    1:1-7 Paul to Timothy: Stay in Ephesus to charge certain persons not to teach things about the Law that they themselves don’t understand.
    1:8-11 The Law is good if used correctly. It’s not for the righteous, but it opposes the unrighteous, according to Gospel with which I’ve been entrusted.
    1:12-17 I thank Christ who empowered me for this, for I was a great sinner – but that’s why He had mercy on me, to be an example of God’s patience for all who would believe.
    1:18-20 I give you this charge, Timothy: To fight for the faith according to the prophecies you received, with faith and a good conscience, unlike those who’ve abandoned them, whom I’ve delivered to Satan for discipline.

    2:1-7 THEREFORE I want first of all for prayers to be made for all persons so that we can live in peace. This pleases God – the one God of all who wants all to be saved by the person who mediates for all, Christ Jesus, and this is what I was appointed to proclaim.

    2:8 THEREFORE I want the men/husbands to pray everywhere without quarreling.

    2:9-10 LIKEWISE women/wives, as those pledged to godliness, to dress with modesty and sobriety, not fancy clothes, through doing good deeds.

    2:11-12 Let a woman/wife learn in all submission; but I don’t permit a woman/wife (lack of direct article at the second mention of “woman/wife” suggests to me that he may not be referring to a particular woman, if 2:11 was about a particular woman – but see 2:14) to teach or authentein a man/husband, but to be quiet.
    2:13-14 FOR (reason) Adam was formed first, then Eve (technically, the LXX only uses plassô of Adam and the animals; like the Hebrew, it uses “build” for Eve), and Adam was not deceived, but the woman/wife (here indeed Paul uses the article, so he could be referring to either the just-mentioned Eve or the “woman/wife” of 2:12), having been deceived, is in transgression.
    2:15 But she will be saved/delivered through childbirth, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with sobriety (interesting that he grammatically singles out and repeats this word for “sobriety” from 2:9 that he had used for women’s/wives’ behavior from the other qualities he says they should have).

  5. Correction: That should be “(definite) article”:

    2:11-12 Let a woman/wife learn in all submission; but I don’t permit a woman/wife (lack of (definite) article at the second mention of “woman/wife” suggests to me that he may not be referring to a particular woman, if 2:11 was about a particular woman – but see 2:14) to teach or authentein a man/husband, but to be quiet.

  6. The interesting thing about Paul, and really all NT epistle writers, is that none of them had a problem saying “God said do ___.” So the fact that I Tim 2:11-14 doesn’t say that says a lot. “I do not permit…” not “God does not permit…” Its a key difference, especially coming from a writer that had no problem giving strong opinions on hard issues (like staying single for example). To me, it reads like v11 is Paul giving his opinion, v12 is Paul giving his leadership decision, and 13-14 are his reasons why he feels this way. But the key is that it is him giving his decision, not God’s will. Paul had a habit of using a heavy hand to “move” people into doing things the way he wanted (just ask Philemon), but he was also quick to recognize that people could take a different side – see the passage he wrote on staying single versus getting married and notice the similarities between those and I Tim 2:11-14.

    In relation to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, it is important to note that v34 says “as the law says” – but no translation of the Bible ever has a footnote here. Every time the OT is mentioned, alluded to, or slightly quoted, there is a footnote telling you where to find it. But never here. That is because the Law does not say this. So either you have Paul making a huge error in his quoting and we have a bigger problem, or it is something else. Many scholars point to how there is a distinct style difference between vs34-35 and the rest of the passage around it in the Greek. Also, verse 36 technically starts off with a Greek word that means “What”. And not just “What?”, but “WHAT?!?” As in, “are you crazy for thinking that?” Many translations leave that out, but many have it there. It seems that Paul is quoting something that was written to him in vs34-35, and then coming in with vs36 he is laying into the Corinthians for making up scripture.

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