Unifying Spirit

Last week I tied together some reflections on Pentecost with the ongoing discussions about women in ministry.

I got questions from two different sides but pushing on the same point of my exposition. Some saw the passage in Acts, or my reading of it, as an indication that we shouldn’t ordain anyone others that we should ordain everyone.

Or, to paraphrase a Facebook comment: “Every good complementarian thinks that women can have the Spiritual gift of prophecy, you haven’t made any argument for women’s ordination yet.”

So how is it that the gift of the Spirit to all, and the gifts of speaking for God in particular being given to all, constitutes an argument for women’s ordination. Why should we be willing to ordain anyone we baptize?

The argument that reception of the Spirit, and being baptized into Christ, delineates the boundaries of who might serve in pastoral or other leadership capacities, becomes compelling as we recognize the place that this reception of the Spirit and baptism into Christ holds in Paul’s arguments in Galatians and 1 Corinthians (in particular).

In both Galatians and 1 Corinthians, common reception of the Spirit and common baptism into Christ disclose the gospel-denying implications of discriminating within the Body of Christ.

In Galatians, Paul is confronting the idea that Gentiles, outsiders to the Jewish story, have to become Jewish in order to become fully part of the people of God. Sure, they can be in as Gentiles, but they are not treated equally.

Paul appeals to the common reception of the Spirit: you received the Spirit already, so why turn to something else as though it will make you perfect?

But here’s the thing: we have too little realized that Galatians is not merely about “soteriology,” how we are saved in Jesus. It is about this.

But it is about soteriology because Paul wants to convince them that their ecclesial practice must be different.

Paul is not trying to get the Galatians to change their theology only. He is working over their theology to show them that they are making evil, destructive distinctions among themselves.

To receive the Spirit is to be equal within the body. And if we, in our churches, make distinctions in our practices and positions based on anything other than the Spirit’s initiation, gifting, and calling, we are denying the Gospel.

The indicative of how we enter (baptism into Christ by the Spirit) determines the imperative of how we act (discriminating what people may do solely by the Spirit’s gifting).

In 1 Corinthians these dynamics are even clearer. The church is falling from its confession of the crucified Christ by perpetuating society’s differentiations and hierarchies in the body.

And make no mistake: in the ancient world, gender was not merely a question of differentiation, it was also a question of hierarchy. Men were regarded as better than women.

Paul deconstructs the Corinthians’ practice (ecclesiology) by extended appeals to the gospel and how they are saved (soteriology) as well as the way that the Spirit works among them (pneumatology).

In short, when we uphold the differentiations of society, rather than embracing the unity of the Spirit, we deny the work of God, the judgment of God, and the gospel itself.

Why is Pentecost significant?

Not because it tells us who we should ordain.

It is significant because it shows us that the gift of the Spirit is a democratizing, unifying, and transcending bestowal. God judges all as members of the body, and gives to each, as the Spirit will, or as the Lord Jesus will (Eph 4) according to his good pleasure.

If we demand that the gifting and calling fall along the lines of differentiation that demarcate first creation, if we say that only men can teach or preach, only men can lead and rule, we cling to societal differentiations that the Spirit of God has transcended.

We deny the work of the Spirit, and misjudge the body of Christ.

The Story of the church is always supposed to narrate what is most true about us as God’s people: not only that we are God’s in Christ, but how we are God’s in Christ (we live a cruciform life as a cross-saved people); not only that we are one in Christ, but how we are one in Christ (the Spirit poured out on all irrespective of gender, ethnicity, social status).

We faithfully live our our story when we display in our practice the reality of who we are at the core of our identity. As those marked by the Spirit without regard to gender, we must also faithfully steward the gifts Christ by the Spirit has given to the church without regard to gender.

117 thoughts on “Unifying Spirit”

  1. Thank you for this post. Is it fair to say that taking your statements together, you have a more egalitarian view of the church in its government as well? You hold to a low (forgive me, cannot think of a better word) view of the Pastor/Shepherd/Elder/Rector and like the conflated dimension of a church linked together in Christ? Accepting what you are arguing for, if I understand it correctly, would have a much more communal, collegiate feel to it rather than a hierarchical structure like the traditional, Western church?

    1. In my humble opinion, hierarchy doesn’t work. If the church is the body of Christ, the church should function as a body, not a pyramid. In the body, when one part suffers, all suffer; when one part is healed, the whole body is healed. The organic oneness that exists in the body cannot be expressed by a hierarchy in which some command and others obey, for in a body, the parts that seem less worthy are given more honor – try to live without a spleen and see how well that works for you. It is difficult to live as a united body, half of the time we don’t properly care for the different parts, we glorify some, ignore others. If the body is to live, it must remain healthy. A hierarchy sees the bottom as nothing other than lifeless support of the top, which alone matters (as described very eloquently by Nietzsche, in “Beyond Good and Evil”).

      To the comment that all complementarians agree women can have the gift of prophecy, I would add this: why? Why do women have the gift of prophesy if they are not allowed to use it? In 1 Cor 14, prophesy is said to be for the instruction of all, so all may learn. You cannot learn without a teacher. The distinction of prophesy vs. teaching is a shallow one, for in the early church, when Christians came together, they had more than one teacher, more than one prophet, more than one overseer, more than one deacon. The multiplicity of the ministries guaranteed that all would learn and be edified. Instead of just listening to one voice, the way we do today, they had multiple voices, as the Holy Spirit gave them words. To say it was necessary because the canon wasn’t yet completed misses the point, for if multiple teachers were needed then, why not now that no one can agree what the Bible actually says? The purpose of prophecy is to build up Christians. Now, I don’t know what else builds up Christians other than God’s word. Inspirational anecdotes do not build faith, they stir the emotions. If women prophesy, then they surely also teach. And if the purpose of prophesy is that all may learn, I can hardly envision a church that consists solely of women.

      1. Susanna:
        Think 3 issues are raised here 1) leadership in general 2) prophecy as a continuing gift and 3) role of women as leaders/teachers.

        I want to ask about the first, and clarify is it your view that there should not be any leaders in the church? If so what do you advocate as a form of church governance?

        “In my humble opinion, hierarchy doesn’t work. If the church is the body of Christ, the church should function as a body, not a pyramid.”

        Paul, the same person who wrote in 1 Cor 12 that the church is like a body also appointed elders in all the churches he planted. How do we reconcile these things with the idea that there is no leadership?

        Just to be clear, I am not advocating “over-lord” leadership – and neither was Jesus, Peter, or Paul. But the fact remains that some were given roles of leadership and oversight over the body.

        1. MikeB, leadership in the church is through service & not through lording over, leading by example of dying to self in order to build up the body of Christ – Luke 22:24-30 describes a non-hierarchical relatedness in the kingdom of God. Worshiping God is our focus.

            1. You did, and then your last sentence reverted to our human understandings of leadership, Mike B: But the fact remains that some were given roles of leadership and oversight over the body.

              We cannot have that meaning w/ Jesus’ example, imho.

              1. Would be interested in what you think Hebrews 13:17 might mean or why one of the words to describe the role of elder is “overseer”?

  2. The problem with arguing by story to present us with a conclusion as you have is that different aspects of the story are not always taken into account and we are often left with a prejudiced read that gives us a faulty conclusion.

    Is it not also possible that the outpouring of the Spirit in the early days of the church shows itself to be so extravagant that even women and children are included in the prophetic “Amen” of the church in responding to God’s call? But, we don’t make ordained pastors out of children or infants, do we? Why do we of necessity see such an singular outpouring as paradigmatic for the church going forward? What argument really exists to signal that such ought to be the norm rather than the exception in the redemptive history of God’s people? We see ‘after the fact’ leading women who convert (Acts 17:4; 12) but not necessarily women who become leaders though it is clear that some excelled in the gifts of the Spirit at least for a time as a result of the apostolic work we have in the New Testament. Why, though, did the early church soon revert to a more male-dominated role going forward and why are we so quick to abandon the wisdom of our fathers today?

    I’m not saying here that women can’t be ordained or lead in churches. Clearly, in this day and age, women have a variety of choices for serving in ministry that they didn’t have in other eras. But, I am saying that our read of Scripture needs to be more careful and if we are going to go by story we need to remember the whole story and not just particular chapters. We also need to ask better questions and not immediately rule out the testimony of those who have gone before us. Otherwise, are we really in communion with them as we claim?

    1. The church does not ordain children, but children do not remain children forever, they grow up; women remain women, there’s no “up” for them, wherefore the logic fails.

      The answer to your question about why the church reverted to a male-dominated role is found in the structure of the Greco-Roman world: freeborn men ruled all aspects of life. As soon as the prominent men entered the church, equality was thrown out. We have evidence especially from the fourth century that masters found it difficult to accept that their slaves were their equals. A canon falsely attributed to the Council of Nicea forbids the ordination of slaves; Augustine argued for the retention of slavery in order to maintain the order of society (Romans were very keen about order, in addition to power and glory). In the fifth century we find multiple complaints about women elders; if there were none, why the complaints? The last female bishop is mentioned in a letter from the 12th century, and women deacons didn’t disappear in the West until the thirteenth century, when Thomas Aquinas changed our reading of the creation account and annihilated the last thought of equality from the church (up till then the church had taught a creation-based equality and sin-based inequality). The change from equality to hierarchy wasn’t surgical, it was rather the end-result of many small changes that were made over the years. The reason we are once again returning to equality is the rejection of the Vulgate (and Jerome’s change of Gen 3.16), the secular acceptance of equality (which the Enlightenment got from the Bible), the abolishing of slavery (which was also done with the help of Christianity), the secular acceptance of women as rational beings instead of inferior, irrational creatures (done by sociology), and the return of Genesis 3.16 to a consequence of sin instead of a commandment of God. Hierarchicalists are going to have an increasingly difficult time arguing for inequality within equality, for they need an inferior woman to do so – the argument given by every theologian until the Twentieth century.

      1. In point of fact, the church most certainly has appointed or ordained children as ministers in her history so the real argument that doesn’t follow is yours. Early church practice does not necessarily determine our viewpoint any more than later church practice. What’s important to me is whether we’re asking the right questions and really looking for answers from the Scriptures or proceeding on a less noble basis (Acts 17:11).

        1. The church has ordained children to be overseers of the church? I would love to see proof of that!

          1. Early church practice does not determine our praxis, that is true, but it influences it. Why else do you think we believe in such things as infant baptism, purgatory etc. These aren’t found in the Bible, but were passed on from one generation to another, until they finally found us. Purposeful ignoring of history is the reason we keep on repeating it.

          2. You can rarely say never with church history.

            Simply put, the nepotism of the Roman Catholic Church during and after the Middle Ages encouraged young cardinal-nephews, some claim Pope Benedict the IX was twelve years old when he was made Pope (and if not, only 18 or so), and many higher clerical leaders appointed their family sons to lower offices at very young ages all throughout Europe. After all, we did have a Reformation for a reason. And, though canonical law provides for priests to be 25 normally, there is nothing that keeps a Pope from granting a dispensation to someone as young as age seven. Not to be out done by the Catholics however, the Pentecostals saw Marjoe Gortner ordained in 1944 as a minister while only four years old.

            1. Right, I meant in a healthy church, a church that recognizes what the Bible says and abides by it. In such churches you won’t find children ordained, for it is against the Bible, an overseer being by necessity a mature Christian.

              1. LOL. There are plenty of healthy churches out there who do not have ordained women either. Again, praxis is rarely the method to determine these things. I agree we can learn from history, but my guess is that many good and faithful men of God over the last two thousand years would not agree with you as to what constitutes a healthy church if it included women clergy. That makes history a double-edged sword for these sorts of positions if we are going to use it as a guide in helping us interpret the Scriptures. Rather, it’s much better for us to consider what the text of Scripture is actually saying than concentrate on what may have occurred throughout our history.

                And, while I would generally condemn nepotism I do think we need to be careful not to be too sweeping in our judgements of Christians in other eras. We can say such churches were sick but it may be that God used such devices in our weakness to minister to the faithful even while we remain appalled at such a design.

                My guess is that gender has very little to do with whether or not one might be an effective minister and therefore again I feel we need to bring ourselves back to asking the right questions–what does the Lord require of us? I’m not sure that question is being adequately asked or answered in our churches today and I’m equally troubled that for many the question of women in ministry is more about felt need and desire than it is about truly serving God and being vocationally called. When people push for rights in a faith based off grace, I just get a bit nervous that our motives may not be quite so pure as we often pretend.

      2. Daniel, thank you for this post!
        Susanna, I greatly appreciate your scholarship & clearly written critique of the complementarians’ position (flawed from my POV, too). I’d go further back than “the structure of the Greco-Roman world” to the primary alienation humanity experienced after that turn away from God: male & female in Gen. 3. Why is this alienation so intransigent? I recall a conversation I had w/ Rebecca Merrill Groothuis (Good News for Women, Discovering Biblical Equality, etc.), years ago. Rebecca believed the strength of this alienation to be deeply rooted in the principalities & powers of this world, of which the G-R structure you mentioned was part, and of which current hierarchical, male-dominated powers in political, financial & church structures are, too. It seemed to us that this struggle will ever need to be Holy-Spirit empowered, because those against seem largely resistant to arguments from historical context, linguistic understanding, theological clarity & logic.
        Does your book cover & source much of what you’ve reflected in your comments, here?

        1. Hi Ann! Yes both of my books talk about this subject. My first book, “When Dogmas Die” is an in-depth research into the historical development of the woman’s role in the church. The second, “Intelligent submission and Other Ways of Feminine Wisdom,” examines the logic behind the man’s authority and declares it invalid. If you are interested in either, find me in Facebook, send me your address and I’ll put them in the mail for you. :)

    2. Well, here’s the first problem, Kevin:

      Is it not also possible that the outpouring of the Spirit in the early days of the church shows itself to be so extravagant that even women and children are included in the prophetic “Amen” of the church in responding to God’s call? But, we don’t make ordained pastors out of children or infants, do we?

      Forgive me for being so blunt, but I don’t have as much a temperance for back and forth over such deliberations here. You equate women with children. That seems to be the common thread throughout your comments – and a common starting point (even if it’s not acknowledged) among complimentarians (whether they be Catholic or Evangelical). Jesus never did so.

      He fundamentally rejected the norms of the time and place in reaching out, including, and even testing women that were near him. Including them, not limiting them nor sidelining them nor treating them like children.

      They were disciples, apostles, entrusted as the deliverers of the first message of the gospel (“He is risen!”) in an age and a culture that wouldn’t accept a woman’s testimony in court. I’m sure you’re aware of this, though…

      As far as the rest of the history of the church: “Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” So, where they have strayed from the earliest church, I do not hold it exemplary. Where they magnify and exemplify that, I do.

  3. Cavaet: I’m a (hopefully generous) complimentarian.

    I always appreciate a balanced and informed egalitarian perspective on these issues. This post is certainly well thought out. However, I’m curious how we qualify the unity presented in 1 Cor and Gal with the latter Pauline writings in the Pastorals, as well as the household codes and their implications for continuation within the local body of believers? Though spiritual gifts are not gender exclusive, why then do we deny God created roles (ala 1 Cor 12) for their implementaiton but suggest that there isn’t a similar pattern of God ordained roles in leadership of our local communities?

    Perhaps most intriguing is that in spaces where Paul, or any of the other NT writers, could speak of common gender leadership they choose not to do so. The general referent of leadership, specifically pastoral leadership here, in the NT seems to nearly always be male. Why, when Paul uses more neutral language to describe actions and activities of believers in common in other places, does he choose, and the other writers, to use specifically male referents?

    It should also be added that as we complimentarians don’t just ordained any male…we ordain qualified men. Not all men are qualified. It is challenging then to consider that the NT case for ordained office is made with appropriate qualification. Not just anyone receives that ordination and not just anyone can serve.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    1. Dear generous complimentarians,

      Before you spread your complimentarianisms around, you should ask yourself, “Is there anything in the New Testament that is culturally irrelevant or distant enough that we as Christians don’t need to follow it, now, in this culture?” If there are things that are “cultured,” then on what grounds can you exclude it? And can you say for certain that those “grounds” are Holy Spirit inspired? If so, you win. But if not, why would you ever want to limit anyone from doing any kind of ministry if the Spirit is calling them? Especially, since there are so many crap pastors out there who have made the cut and are male?

      1. Bultmanniac – I think I would respond in this way. First, one could make this same argument about any subject in the NT. Any or all of it can be cultural. Are we 100% certain about any view on any restriction in the NT? (I’m not; but I can lean one way – and must for conscience sake – based on a preponderance of the evidence). Second, the fact that someone “feels” the Spirit is calling does not mean the Spirit really is. The Spirit calls principally through the word – Scripture. If that is clearly there, then I don’t want to limit, of course. But, there’s the rub. The fact that I “feel” a calling from the Spirit to be an elder (1 Tim. 3, Titus 1) but am an unmarried, 22 year old “brawler” doesn’t mean I should be appointed to that. The Spirit is limiting who may assume that role in those passages (even if we may debate what those limitations mean, etc.). Third, the sword of “limitation” cuts both ways; just as we don’t want to “bind” (“limit”) where the Spirit does not bind, it is equally dangerous to loose (open a door) where the Spirit does not loose. Your point, it seems to me, ultimately begs the question – it does not solve it. Certainly there are bad pastors/preachers – those who abuse the position; but that’s true of every role regardless of gender, race, age, etc. “Crap whatever …” has no bias. That too does not answer or solve the question.

        In my view, and I’ve read Daniel’s book and loved it, I think Daniel’s narrative-trajectory egalitarian view ultimately does not hold up. Not time to get into that here. And, I’m always open to re-thinking these issues (in fact, I was hoping something would be really convincing in there – though I liked 98% of the chapter on women; I just did not find his view fully convincing at this point). But, I should say that there are both men and women who hold the complementarian role view who are in no way seek to denigrate women. Nor undermine the Spirit. They hold that view because they think the Spirit limits roles. But, as in every area of life, difference in “role” does not mean difference in “value.” They just think that’s what the Scriptures teach (even from a narrative perspective). I’m not trying to draw a direct parallel in the following, but am just illustrating the point: the fact that Korah, Dathan & Abiram as levites were not in the same “role” of Moses or Aaron did not mean their role was somehow denigrated, hindered or devalued in the Spirit’s eye (though they themselves believed it was). The same could be said of the widow and two coins. What she did was as great a piece of teaching – arguably the greatest teaching on monetary giving in history – but that did not mean she had the same role as a priest or one of the twelve. It’s not to try to make a case here, but just to illustrate that variation in service “role” in any given situation does not mean one role is of less import. Shalom.

        1. “First, one could make this same argument about any subject in the NT. Any or all of it can be cultural.”– Yes, exactly. I haven’t solved anything, I have only begged the question. But the truth of the Bible is that it is ALWAYS cultural. Interpretation is negotiating between the cultures. And not just interpretation, but also, the conflicts between various factions (Jews/Gentiles) are also negotiating culture. We are freed from the LAW as a static principle, an ontological nail in our cross, but we are freed in order that we may serve one another. Nowhere, does this principle, which helps us negotiate between cultures, bind anyone’s conscience about women’s ordination.

          And whether you like it or not, complimentarianism is patriarchy. Check out Rachel Held Evans blog on the subject.

        2. Tell me, why does the Spirit limit certain roles to men? Because men are smarter, more rational, more competent, more —–? Since we all know that none of the above are true, why would God limit teaching to half of humanity and exclude the other half? What possible reason could God have for it?

          1. Susanna,

            We have to be careful with these sorts of questions because redemptive history and the biblical text clearly show that the Spirit has (at least in the past) limited certain roles to men and that God undoubtedly had a purpose in doing so. Furthermore, who says teaching is limited to half of humanity? Even very conservative views recognize that women can teach in proper contexts so your question about God limiting teaching to half of humanity starts with a false premise and therefore really doesn’t need to be answered.

            1. Ah yes, the argument of all arguments that shows up like a bad penny. When history shows them wrong, comps run to the Bible and claim it shows what they believe to be true. EXCEPT that is doesn’t, for what do we find? We find Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Junia, Priscilla, Mary, Euodia and Syntyche and a hoard of unnamed women in positions of leadership. All of these are said to be exceptions, but here’s the thing: if there is even one woman leader in the entire Bible, it invalidates the entire argument that the Spirit limits leadership to men. And no, women as leaders is not a judgment on lazy men. Women as leaders are regularly found both in and out of troubled times; besides, Israel was always in trouble, the same goes with the church, so there goes that argument.

              1. Susanna,

                First of all, I have denied being a complementarian publicly on this blog and elsewhere and I don’t appreciate the unnecessary and demonizing label you put to me. In fact, this whole discussion is often tragically split between two polarized camps and all the dehumanizing labels that needlessly get thrown among them.

                Secondly, I did not affirm that the Spirit limits leadership to men nor have I said anything other than men and women are both able to teach in the community of the faithful. Please limit your criticism to what I’ve actually said rather than assume otherwise and go off the rails as a result.

                1. Eh… didn’t you just write above that the Spirit has limited leadership to men in the past?

                  I didn’t say you were a comp, I said this is what comps claim.

                  Sorry if I offended you, it was not my intention.

                  1. Not a problem. I know this discussion can become heated on both sides.

                    I hope we both can agree that the Spirit limited the nature of the Old Covenant priesthood to males (and not only that, but males of a certain age and tribe). Furthermore, our High Priest Jesus Christ himself was male though he certainly represented all of humanity. Saying such does not mean that the Spirit did not inhabit women or that women were not ministering among the faithful even during the Old Covenant (cf. Miriam, Hannah, many others).

                    1. Although it is true that the priesthood was all male, since it reflected the redemption of the firstborn, who were all male, there is a priesthood in the NT as well and it is not based on one’s ancestry: it is for all believers. We must also remember that in the OT, the priests weren’t the only ones who were in charge of teaching the law. Moses was the first judge, and we know women were also judges, the same is true of prophets. The modern problem is, as far as I can see, the limitation of leadership to one person, whereas in the Bible it is always given to multiple people – most likely to prevent abuse of power. Thus I don’t see God limiting leading to men, in Micah, Moses, Aaron and Miriam are all named as leaders. I believe we should begin to appoint the most competent leaders, regardless of sex, AND, insist on a model of selfless servanthood instead of self-glorification.

        3. Jeff, I’d guess the 2% you’re missing is located in the living-out of what valuing and hearing (receiving) the wisdom & spiritual gifts of women in your relationships, family and faith community. Few men hear or receive women’s gifts, well; ISTM that’s the “natural” alienation that is overcome by the Holy Spirit as we are open to welcome one another as God in Christ welcomes us.

    2. Dear Robert: 1 Tim 3 begins with the gender neutral Greek word “ei-tis” – anyone. Anyone is invited to seek the position of an overseer if they qualify. The next phrase that is usually said to exclude women “mia guinakos andra” – one woman man – does not refer to polygamy as is usually stated for two reasons: 1. Both Greece and Rome were monogamous societies, wherefore there would not be a need to ban polygamy, it being already against the law. 2. The same phrase appears in 1 Tim 5 in the feminine form – women could not be polygamous. In other words, the phrase refers to marital faithfulness, and that can be done by both men and women.
      The phrase appears also with the deacons, and women are mentioned in the list of deacons. Some claim these are wives of deacons, but it doesn’t cut it, for the same grammatical construction is found in 1 Cor 7 where Paul writes about brothers and women who are married

      1. Sorry, I accidentally hit enter…

        “To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” 1 Cor 7.12-14

        In this passage both the “brother” and the “woman” are married Christians, but they are not married to each other. Thus we find also that in 1 Tim 3 the “deacons” and the “women” must also be deacons, not married to each other. Since the phrase “one woman man” is found in both the text for the overseers and deacons, and the overseers are chosen from “anyone” who desires, women are not excluded from seeking either position. In addition, Greek is an androcentric language: masculine language can include both men and women, feminine language excludes men. Thus if the language is masculine – such as in “brothers” – men and women are included, unless otherwise stated. In 1 Tim 3 there is a specific mention that the position of an overseer is for “anyone,” wherefore the masculine “one woman man” cannot exclude women.

            1. No. The idea that the Greek language is an androcentric language does not logically necessitate that every time we see masculine language we must see it as both masculine and feminine. Such would need to be demonstrated by the context rather than simply assumed as it seems some interpreters would like to do. But, I seriously question the notion that the Greek language must be seen as androcentric when the language itself gives its users the ability to speak in masculine, feminine, and neuter genders. Such a posture rigs the game and assumes that which you need to prove. Paul, of course, could have written “married only once” just fine in Greek without a need for the use of such specific terms as “man of one wife”. And, “ei-tis” is not technically neuter but rather its actual gender and translation into English is determined by context. You can’t infer that its use in one case for men and in another for women means that every other place we see it means it is referring to both men and women. Besides, the phrase “husband of one wife” is not the same as “wife of one husband” as we have it in 1 Tim. 5. The phrases are not identical as you claim but are specific in terms of gender by the nature of the case (especially given Paul’s view of marriage and the household detailed in Ephesians 5 and 6). You can’t reduce 1 Tim. 5:9 to marital faithfulness because the language is more specific than that. A widow is a woman who was once married to one man according to Paul. Likewise, in 1 Tim. 3:2, Paul reverses the noun to husband of one wife and is equally specific. To say otherwise and cloud the issue and offer reductionist translations centered in feminist readings of Scripture and the Greek language is simply the special pleading I’m talking about.

              1. Didn’t I say, “Unless the context specifies it”? I did, didn’t I. In 1 Tim 3 the word “anyone” clearly spells out who is intended, that is “anyone.” I did a word search in Greek, and found that when the word “anyone” is present, it means just that IN EVERY CASE. It is “ei tis” that decides who the masculine text refers to, not the other way around. You can look it up in your Greek grammar book if you wish.

                And no, Paul would not have used such term as “married only once” for such does not exist in Greek, although it does in Latin (univirae) “One woman man” is a phrase the Greeks used for marital faithfulness, as found in tombstones from that era. The phrase can be written in either fem or masc as we have in 1 Tim. In androcentric languages, when the text speaks of men and women, the text is always masculine. You find this also in Latin, Hebrew, Spanish, English et al.

                A widow is a person who has been married to a person, but not necessarily only once. What Paul is saying is that the church should choose widows who had been faithful, which is clearly evident in the context which speaks of widows who live only for pleasure.

                Research does wonders.

                1. No. The first time you have used the word “context” is in this very last post.

                  We don’t determine meanings of words by some mathematical formula “it means just that IN EVERY CASE” but rather by what the context determines. Almost any time someone says to you that the Greek means that in every case, we ought to run from such translations simply because the language is not that cut and dried and an agenda is usually being pursued foreign to the text itself.

                  Besides, “ei tis” sometimes speaks of only men and other times only of women so you have to admit that at least one possible read of the passage is to limit the gender in accordance with the traditional view. I believe the context provides more clues some of which I’ve already outlined, but regardless the way you’ve presented your case as absolutely conclusive is simply overstating the matter.

                  A widow is not someone who has been married to a person but a woman who was married to a man that is no longer living. Paul’s language is too specific to widen the meaning to spouse or person in 1 Tim. 5:9 as the whole point is that *women* who have no means of support and who are widows ought to be cared for by the church if they have no opportunity to marry again because of their age or they have no family. Saying that such would be the case for widowers (surviving men) would be ludicrous in that society as their livelihood would not be affected by a dying wife. Therefore your gloss that one husband is equivalent to spouse is simply unjustified. The idea that ‘married to one man’ is a matter of marital faithfulness is not entirely without application but it is not the only possible read either. Regardless, the point is that the words of Paul are too specific for us to construe that no gender is at work in his words.

                  I didn’t say Paul had to use “married only once” only that he certainly could have. The point being that Paul’s language is what it is for reasons quite beyond what you suggest.

                  And, again, you assume that which you have yet to prove. Speaking of languages as androcentric is simply rigging things from the start and presupposes a feminist view of language and history that is simply foreign to the church’s teaching and guidance over the last 1900 years or so (to say nothing of the rabbis). It’s like speaking of feminist atonement theology–there really is no such thing as the prime mover in that world is the thought of liberation theologians who were most decidedly male (eg. Tillich, cf. Linda Peacore’s work). Using the male pronoun to speak of groups that may be mixed does not make a language centered around men especially when all the languages you mention have many ways of saying things and the gender of the particular words in question may not even equal the actual gender being spoken of. Such wooden views of language tied to feminist concerns only inhibits the clarity of the biblical text and provide us with the sort of reductionism you have already presented us with. Why not just let the text stand as it was written instead of trying to free it from supposed masculine domination?

                  The tragic thing here of course is that 1 Timothy 3 could still mean that Paul is talking about men but wouldn’t out of necessity rule out women overseers. Pressing the case that Paul’s language is simply androcentric and that he really meant anyone could be an elder is just simply pressing the matter too far and unnecessarily so. It shows rather that an agenda is being pressed on the text itself rather than allowing it to speak naturally in accordance with how God breathed it through Paul.

      2. I am no Greek scholar, but having taken a year of the language want to offer some thoughts.

        The Greek for 1 Tim 3:1-2 is this

        πιστος ο λογος ει τις επισκοπης ορεγεται καλου εργου επιθυμει δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναῖκος ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν,

        τις is a pronoun which is generally parsed as nominative masculine singular in this verse. The Greek pronoun can appear in any gender so the one the author chose is often used to specify the gender that is meant. In this case any man (masc), any woman (fem), or any thing (neuter).

        Now we can interpret “any man” to actually mean “anyone” but only by interpreting Paul’s use of the the masc form in the more general sense (all) rather than narrowing it to men, similar to using the term “brothers” to refer to all believers (male and female).

        the next phrase literally says “the blameless overseer is to be a husband/man of one wife”, so even though it is true a woman can be the wife of one man and be faithful – that is not what is said here.

        hope this helps

        1. Actually, MikeB, parsing the Greek in that manner is generally unhelpful if one doesn’t understand the cultural & linguistic context and the manner in which Paul used the language. I studied Greek formally for 3 years w/ excellent Greek NT scholars, and even then, they admittedly can miss context because they get so far into the weeds that they no longer can see the landscape.

          Noting the shape of the discussion, here, is probably more relevant in import. How often some folks begin their posts with “No” and then proceed to undermine others’ perspectives and scholarship in order to maintain a preferential & partiality-based status quo is a red flag to problematic interactions.

          1. Excellent point Ann.

            In 1 Cor 7:12-13 ei-tis is connected to adelphos (“brother”), and in the context the gender distinction is clear for the next sentence speaks of women. But also adelphos is also used as a generic term for all believers, in the same manner as aner is used as a generic term of all humans, (See 1 Cor. 10:1; Gal. 1:11; 1 Thess. 1:4; etc.). In James 5:19, James uses the modified form ean tis, when he writes, “Brethren (adelphos), if anyone among you wanders from the truth.” Also women are included in adelphos and therefore neither adelphos or ean tis creates a gender distinction.

            When a biblical writer wants to make a clear distinction, he uses the word “arsen” (male”), which is necessary in androcentric languages. Languages that are not androcentric, such as Finnish, do not have words such as male and female, the word “man” being used exclusively of men.

          2. Ann,

            I’m happy to discuss these passages with you too but you’re not exactly being fair in your description of what I’ve said. I’m not undermining anyone’s perspective or scholarship by what I’ve presented. Suzanna is welcome to her viewpoint and I’m just positing disagreement–I even offered above to read her books if she’ll forward them to me. I’ve merely presented an alternative point of view that has near universal support in the life of the historical church. For the life of me, I don’t see why there’s so little toleration of different thinking on this blog without accusations like the ones you’ve just made.

            Mike’s post didn’t betray any sort of ignorance of the Greek language or the culture that surrounded it for the writers of the New Testament. I’ve had formal training in Greek as well at both the college and seminary level and have been involved in reading it for a good twenty plus years. But, conservative scholars are not the only ones who can get too far into the weeds as I demonstrate to a degree above. Regardless, nothing Mike has said is out of line with either the traditional view of scholars on this passage or a proper read of the Greek as we have it. You and Susanna may disagree with that translation and interpretation but that doesn’t make Mike’s comments necessarily out of line with what is possibly in the text.

            1. Well Kevin, I didn’t see that you wanted to read my books, that would be wonderful! Find me on Facebook, and I’ll send them to you!

          3. So what cultural context did I miss? And how is using basic Greek grammar getting to far in the weeds?

            Not sure what you see as a red-flag here either?

            1. You assume that masculine language refers always to men.

              A quote from my first book, “When Dogmas Die”

              “Because Greek is an androcentric language, aner functions also as a generic term and includes women, as seen in Romans 4:6-8

              Just as David also describes the blessedness of the man [anthropos] to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose [hos, neut.] lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose [hos, neut.] sins are covered; Blessed is the man [aner] to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.” (Rom. 4:6-8)

              In Psalm 32, which Paul quotes in Romans 4:6-8, the Hebrew word for “man” is ‘adam, which means “a human being.” Similarly, in Matthew 19:5 the word for “man” is anthropos, although Genesis 2:24 uses ‘yish, the Hebrew equivalent of aner. D.A. Carson, one of the contributors to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, acknowledges that “people considered generically are regularly found in the masculine gender in Greek.” James, for example, used aner often as a generic term when writing to all believers.
              The overwhelmingly masculine language of the Bible has caused unexpected problems in traditional theology, one of them being the denial of the resurrection of the female body. Because the body of Christ is called a man (aner) in Ephesians 4:13, and because the saints are being conformed into the image of the Son of God (Rom. 8:29), some early church theologians concluded that women will rise as men. Augustine denied this because the female is a nature, not a vice, and therefore part of the original creation. He corrected also those who believed adelphos (“brother”) excluded women.
              In the Tenth Commandment, all of Israel was told not to covet their neighbor’s wife (Exod. 20:17); in 1 Corinthians 7:1-2 Paul writes that it is not good for a human (anthropos) to touch a woman and in 1 Corinthians 7:25-28 he again writes that is it good for a human (anthropos) to remain as he is: the one bound the a wife should not seek to be freed, and the one who is unmarried should not seek a wife. In all cases women are included, although the language is masculine. Because Greek is an androcentric language, it is not possible to exclude women from masculine language; it is only possible to exclude men from feminine language. In 1 Timothy 5:9, the same phrase is found in the feminine (henoos andros gunee) because Paul is writing exclusively about women. In 1 Timothy 3:1-2, the office of bishop is open to anyone (ei-tis), and therefore the masculine gender is necessary, but it does not exclude women.”

              1. Susanna,

                Isn’t it true that the first use of “androcentric” was by the utopian feminist scholar Charlotte Perkins Gilman in 1911? How are we supposed to understand “androcentric” apart from feminist concerns?

                Isn’t it possible that there are other ways to view a language like Greek other than one informed by feminist concerns?

                I ask this because it seems to me that you are bringing more to the text than you are taking from it. It is one thing to fault a Greek translation for inaccuracy in accordance with culture and context and quite another to completely rephrase what would have been said in line with 20th century feminism. In this case, I can’t help but see Mike’s original translation as a more authentic read of the text before us.

                1. Sorry, I missed this comment of your:
                  Are you saying that Greek ISN’T androcentric? That it DOESN’T use the masculine as a default? I’ve studied seven languages and I am trilingual. Finnish isn’t androcentric, neither does it divide the third singular into a male and female. Unless you realize that the Greek language reflects the Greek society more than God’s ideal, you are going to err in your interpretation.

                  1. I noticed this same problem in translation, too, Susanna, when I was studying and speaking w/ other linguists. (I’ve studied fewer than you by a couple, I think, and definintely Finnish wasn’t one!:) ) Latin, Italian & Greek are all androcentric languages (perhaps French & German, too, if I’m recalling those long-ago studies correctly), as has been English until recent decades when it became clear that such language was being used to demean women’s abilities, competence & intellect. It does affect, materially, how women are treated in societies.

                    1. Reading the Bible in Finnish is an experience. God isn’t male, for the third singular is gender neutral. Yet, the bias is clearly found: anthrophos is often translated with “man,” which in Finnish can only refer to men, when the subject is that of teaching. My ability to read the Finnish Bible, alongside a fabulous Bible software that allows my to read the Bible in Greek and Hebrew, highlighted the gender bias like nothing else. This is something those who know only English cannot comprehend, for they are locked in their world of androcentric language that doesn’t allow them to see anything different.

                  2. Yes, I’m saying that Greek isn’t of necessity androcentric (and I said that above which makes me wonder if you’re really reading what I’m saying and giving it due consideration).

                    But, you didn’t bother to answer my questions about where we get the word “androcentric” and whether or not it is tied to feminist concerns. I would really like commentary from you in that regard and then we can discuss further.

                    And, please, many of us have studied many different languages. That doesn’t mean you’re right. I myself have studied seven languages–not all of them Western–and I don’t come to your same conclusions about their apparent androcentricity. Noticing androcentricity in language is simply the pseudo-science of late 19th/early 20th century academia who had an obvious axe to grind against the traditional establishment like their Enlightenment parents. We know way too much now about languages to be so simplistic when it comes to these issues, feminist concerns notwithstanding.

            2. Mike B, the red flag to me is that you’re reading Paul (or, Paul’s school) in the same flat or literal way you read Moses’ Ten Words (commandments). Paul must be telling us what to do/not do, universally, eternally. There is no cultural or historical context and no Greek understanding then, or now, that changes that paradigm whereby one reads scripture as apodictic law. You read the NT as law-based because humans are law-based. We’re law-based because we live in legally-oriented bodies, which are always choosing, discerning, deciding and judging right/wrong, this/that direction, this/that food, smell, touch, taste, him/her, etc. We will intellectually affirm post hoc what our bodies a priori want to affirm, which is why affirming the priority of male-gendered readings comes so naturally & feels so “right”. Any woman who responds, with thoughtful scholarship and theological understanding (etc., etc.), that such a reading doesn’t feel so “right” from her POV, will feel “wrong” to any man disinclined to reconsider how much “male” he’s carrying into the church which should be “in Christ”. The normal response, then, is to argue against and to dismiss any woman’s understanding, even or especially should she (dare to) have far surpassed every man’s grasp on the issues at hand. (cf. comments streams here & yon) The answer we’re all given is to “be crucified with Christ”.

              To illustrate the obvious, consider who have been masters and servants throughout the centuries, across the world. It’s notable that many people coming out of disenfranchised &/or economically oppressed &/or minority groups, who’ve managed to attain the education levels to discuss on par with scholars, also have interpreted the dominant Euro-American, male privileged translations & understanding of scriptures to bear the flaws of that status. Except by the Holy Spirit we cannot see others’ perspectives, buy by God’s grace & the power of the Holy Spirit we can learn to be with one another as God in Christ is with us.

              1. LOL. Humans are law-based…that of course wouldn’t have anything to do with the law written on our hearts. I read that somewhere too. Probably some androcentric fanaticism telling me who I really am.

                >>>We will intellectually affirm post hoc what our bodies a priori want to affirm

                If this is true of males and it can be in error, why cannot it not equally be true of women? Unqualified statements like this is why I continue to stress whether or not we are really asking the right questions on these issues and proceeding with the right motives. Honestly, this sort of existential read of men and their action as “male privileged” interpreters of the Bible and faithful Christians has no real basis in anything but fantasy.

                1. Humans are law-based because humans are embodied. Full stop. Then, all humans have hard or living hearts that are impermeable or receptive to grace & truth in Christ. It is correct that women can also err in the same manner as men. Every person needs to be wary of this natural tendency within us. Thus, we must look through the smoke of reasoning to what is being preserved by or challenged by the argumentation.

                  Women’s perspective is far more apt to be informed from the perspective of the poor, disempowered, service-oriented, and disconnected from worldly power centers. In the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ, James wrote to those who show partiality for the rich & privileged in this world, who are those who burden others, not those who bear others’ burdens:
                  Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who oppress you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.

                  This endless onslaught of reasoning serves to preserve the gendered partiality & power given to men in the historical & current(male) status quo. The difference between those who continually dispute & Daniel’s post is clearly between those who want to perpetuate & preserve partiality in the Church, and those who call the church to live up to God’s gift to humanity: the graceful, truthful, impartial and Spirit-empowered good news to our world, found within the Body of Christ – the many & diversely gifted members of the Church.

                  Here are scriptural & science-based sources for what Kevin dismissively called an “unqualified statement”. Theological & scripture-based reasoning with ardent opponents of women’s full valuation in the Body of Christ serves little purpose. People won’t see what they don’t want to see. Paul didn’t want to hear people’s talk, he wanted to see their power to live as God called us to live! (1 Cor. 4:19) People who do justice, as they are Holy Spirit-empowered, begin to discern more clearly. Jesus calls us to follow him, dying to ourselves, doing righteously, in order that we may understand. “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love…” (John 15:10, in line w/Deut. 5-6, Prov. 19:27)

                  “Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason. We all need to take a cold hard look at the evidence & see reasoning for what it is. The French cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber recently reviewed the vast research literature on motivated reasoning (in social psychology) and on the biases and errors of reasoning (in cognitive psychology). They concluded that most of the bizarre and depressing research findings make perfect sense once you see reasoning as having evolved not to help us find truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion, and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people. As they put it, ‘skilled arguers … are not after the truth but after arguments supporting their views.’ This explains why the confirmation bias is so powerful, and so ineradicable.” (Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, p.89)

                  1. I’m sorry, are you reasoning with me??? LOL. :)

                    Honestly, there is nothing wrong with the right use of reason and such argumentation is not a matter of enforcing a male-dominated status quo. Making these sorts of assertions without any sort of real evidence at all is simply tilting at windmills. I’d ask you to provide reason for your reply, but you’ve already thoroughly discredited your ability to reply by saying reason and argumentation are useless. How convenient! But, such convenience extends to me as well because it means I also have no reason to take what you say seriously.

                    Also, the notion that women’s perspectives of the disadvantaged are greater than men’s is just simply specious as well. Jesus was a man and I doubt seriously you are claiming you have more sympathy for the poor and disadvantaged than he did. The whole social advantage of the early church was built around male bishops caring for the poor and taking care of those not their own And, yet, we find our Lord himself limiting his efforts toward the disadvantaged on occasion and regularly dealing with the religious elite. How odd. He was quite willing to spend vast amounts of time with the scribes and Pharisees arguing about this or that just as the Apostle Paul would busily spend his Sabbaths reasoning with the Jews and then during the week go to places like the market and the Areopagus to speak to Gentiles–even when such men were ‘of the flesh and minded the things of the flesh…being unable in any way to please God’ (Romans 8:5-8). If we are truly following Christ and the Apostles in what they did, we must also raise the flag when false arguments are presented and false ideas come to the fore in terms of Christian faith and practice. This is not to minimize the other commandments of Christ but what you present us with is decidedly something short of the real Christian witness and what it means to be a Christ follower.

                    1. Making these sorts of assertions without any sort of real evidence at all is simply tilting at windmills.

                      Read the newspapers, listen to news media, view the statistical reports of multiple government and non-governmental agencies and non-profits. You repeatedly deny the truth that’s in plain view and is abundantly verifiable. Doing so puts you on an UNreasonable foundation.

                    2. And, by the way, whoever said the newspaper and the news media is the place for “fair and unbalanced reporting”. If that’s your source of information no wonder you’re off kilter. The statistical nightmare of NGO’s and federal sources is also quite suspect. The truth is that both Christian men and women are rightly concerned with the disadvantaged and there are those (again, both men and women) who need to pay more attention to it. But, to say women are more attuned to such things is simply more feminist propaganda. There’s no truth to such things and using biased sources to provide substantiation for what you’re saying is simply unreasonable in the main. So, back at ya.

                  2. BTW, the real reason men and women are law-based is that we have been created by God in his image and rightly so. The law only served as a curse when men broke it, prior to that and once redeemed it becomes and always is a thing of God’s grace and a revealing of himself.

                  3. Saying women are more attuned to the poor and disadvantaged is like saying only men are fit for ordained ministry. The polarized nature of this sort of discussion is regrettable. Really, our concerns ought to be grounded in what the Bible actually says.

              2. Now you have certainly made some sweeping assertions based on a few comments in this post about how I read the texts of scripture. And you have made some bold assertions in your views regarding history, linguistics, etc. Now you are saying that if we disagree we are just being men and disregarding your POV.

                Seems will not get much further here in this discussion.

                1. Mike B, you may receive what I said that way, or you may hear why I’m trying to say that, no matter how diligently we parse the Greek, it won’t get us to the gospel of grace, truth which God has impartially poured out upon all humankind, in Pentecost, as Daniel wrote. Parsing the Greek to find THE answer is a law-based activity.

                  So, are the so-called “bold assertions” I’ve made adequately substantiated or fabricated? Does history and contemporary sociology affirm the facts or contradict what was written? Look around you. What groups hold worldly power?

                  Bearing God’s image which is gendered in creation isn’t “wrong” for men or women, because God created gendered humans as “good”! Yet, we need to be aware that our sinfulness has alienated us from one another, and that the Word of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ, present with us in the Holy Spirit, calls us to be fully reconciled, mutually serving, loving & building up one another.

        2. Hence we must assume that Bible scholars who create our Bibles do not know what they are talking about?

          Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach. (NIV)

          But of course they must be wrong, for you all KNOW that this text speaks only of men. Talk about adding one’s own opinion to the text.

            1. It proves something. It proves that the phrase is not quite as simply translated as comps would have it. The tombstones were found a few decades ago in Greece, wherefore we now have this new understanding of the phrase.

              1. If we claim that the phrase “one woman man” refers to being married only once, should we not demand the resignation of the overseers who have married after becoming widowers? And how does this go together with the idea that it is better to be single than to be married at all? If being married is mandatory, we should dismiss Paul, for he was single; he could not have been a “one woman man”. If you try to squeeze in the idea that the overseer doesn’t HAVE to be married, then you can also squeeze in the idea that the overseer doesn’t have to be a man.

                1. You are also going to have a problem with the concept of the phrase being used of widows on the one hand and married people on the other. How can the same phrase refer to both classes?

                  1. >>>You are also going to have a problem with the concept of the phrase being used of widows on the one hand and married people on the other. How can the same phrase refer to both classes?<<<

                    As I said above, the phrases are not the same. They are only similar so I'm not sure this objection has any real force to it.

                2. I didn’t say we needed to translate the phrase as “married only once”. I’m quite happy with “wife of one husband” or “husband of one wife” which is closer to the original in terms of import. For the 1 Tim. 5 passage, being married only once is important only because someone who has already married again really doesn’t need the support of the church.

                  I don’t believe 1 Tim. 3 supports that an elder must be married as if this is some wooden way we must interpret the text. But, that doesn’t change the overall masculine import of what’s being said in 1 Tim. 3–as I said above even the limitation of elders to men here in the passage does not necessitate us thinking that Paul might never have had a reason to appoint someone who is a woman.

                    1. Following Calvin, I would have no problem seeing women in 1 Tim. 3:11 as deaconesses. However, such a view only reinforces the traditional view of 1 Tim. 3:1-2 because Paul does not make the same allowance for bishops or overseers and yet retains and echoes the same language which is masculine just as he does for deacons and the majority of the qualifications given in 1 Tim. 3:8-13. “Women” there in 1 Tim. 3:11 could also be referring to the wives of deacons.

  4. I see several comments saying that the egalitarian point hasn’t made its case. Newsflash: we don’t have to. Just like you don’t have to make the case that men can be pastors. You have to make the case that any seemingly restriction on females applies today. And I haven’t seen that case, ever. The fact that you can simply pick and choose what cultural restrictions to follow is insincere, and a clue that it’s much more about your desire to shape today’s culture than it is to understand the cultural world of the Bible (which still needs to be negotiated).

    You choose to read in the way you do, whether you’re aware of your choice or not. You choose to read certain cultural restrictions as static laws or ontological creeds. You make your case for it, before you limit others in their ministry because of their vaginas. Good luck with that.

    1. I agree Bultmanniac, the case for equality has to be made an honest review of both the Bible and the ecclesiastical history. In my experience, a lot of people ignore either the one or the other.

    2. Actually wouldn’t the burden be on making the case that the restriction on women elders (which you are implying does exist in the NT) does not apply today?

      1. No. There’s no reason for me to read every restriction in the New Testament as universal, particularly in letters to specific communities. And when a good portion of the Paul’s letters are at the boundaries of Judeanism,negotiating between Law and Gentile, it would seem more fitting to find a paradigm for such a negotiation. Galatians 5&6 make a good case for being free from Torah to serve one another in love.

        The text doesn’t require us to read it as universal laws for all time. That’s your choice. But if you plan to restrict someone from serving in love, then the burden of proof is on you.

          1. I’m sorry but I haven’t read about anyone here advocating a restriction in service as if there aren’t denominations today where women can fully serve as ordained ministers. But, the burden of proof is another matter. It is the innovative idea and not the traditional doctrine of biblical orthodoxy that assumes the burden of proof. The work of the Spirit is already implicit in what we have in the main in our tradition(s). We can’t just assume everyone who serves is doing so out of concern for the Spirit. The church has been beleaguered all too long by men who have no calling to serve yet seem to make a mess everywhere they go. We ought not repeat the same stupid mistake with women either simply because someone has a felt need and desire to serve and courageously takes up the feminist cause to rewrite history and the church in the process. Even in the earliest times of Christian faith and practice there were those who opposed not only the Apostles and the tradition, but the faith itself by doing what they did. And, such false teachers considered themselves worthy of service and the real Christians in the process. We are better off, as always, asking the hard questions and returning to the Bible to continually consider what the real truth of the matter is and to properly vet anyone who presents himself or herself to be a minister of the Word.

            1. “It is the innovative idea and not the traditional doctrine of biblical orthodoxy that assumes the burden of proof.” This misses the entire point, both that traditional doctrines of biblical orthodoxy were too once innovative ideas and that orthodoxies are shaped by social hierarchies, politics, and economics. Not to mention that to pretend that there is one traditional orthodoxy is to believe in a lie. Some “traditional” denominations now ordain women, not because they finally made a case for it, but because they realized that their orthodoxies had mainly been shaped by their own patriarchal cultures, and that Scripturally speaking, their had never been a case against it in the first place. The burden of proof still lies on complimentarianis/patriarchy to show that their reading of Scripture is correct and the determining factor is not their own patriarchal fantasies.

              1. I’m not here defending complementarian interests, per se. Rather, from the outside of this rather polarized discussion (at least the way it normally goes down) I see little difference between the innovation of complementarians and egalitarians on this issue. Egalitarians fostered by feminist concerns argue as they have above that women are more attuned to the plight of the disadvantaged while complementarians argue only men are fit for ordained ministry. What’s really different about such assumptions except that the starting points differ? So, the notion that one of these positions requires a burden of proof and another doesn’t is simply engaging in more prejudicial chess moves designed to help people arrive at one or the other perspective.

                Yes, there is more than one tradition but there is certainly a dominant tradition of male clergy for the greater life of the historical church–so I am speaking in a bit of shorthand. Forgive me for not writing a book on the complexity of the matter and merely trying to put it simply.

                The point is however that aside from the Scriptures the witness of the community is not to be put aside as unimportant. Received truth is not ever ultimate except as it comes from the Scriptures but we do reserve a bit of a benefit of the doubt for it given the fact that it has been tested by time and in so many places and cultures. The charges of patriarchal cultures as influential in speaking to these matters simply remains unsubstantiated at least in this discussion whether or not some Christian communions have already swallowed the camel. To say that the burden of proof rests on what is traditional doctrine is simply common sense (and honestly, that’s what you’re arguing anyway in saying that communions have already established women’s ordination making the debate over with to shift the burden of proof to complementarians).

                The Reformers came to the fore and had no problem accepting the burden of proof for their contentions about the church and the gospel and defeated Rome on these points because they took the establishment to task and so much so that even five hundred years later Yves Cardinal Congar had the temerity to admit the truth of Luther’s contentions. So, my contentions are not entirely unreasonable here.

                1. “To say that the burden of proof rests on what is traditional doctrine is simply common sense (and honestly, that’s what you’re arguing anyway in saying that communions have already established women’s ordination making the debate over with to shift the burden of proof to complementarians).” This is an incorrect understanding of what I’m saying, an amalgamation of several egalitarian arguments on this post.

                  I’m saying that every word of the New Testament is culturally contingent. Every orthodox and unorthodox church tradition is culturally contingent. The amazing thing about the New Testament, Romans and Galatians in particular, is that it is somewhat aware of the cultural boundaries, and in its own ways are attempting to negotiate them in love.

                  So, I’m saying that the trajectory of the New Testament’s ability to negotiate cultural boundaries is the best point at which to begin. I’ve summarized the argument in Galatians as: freed (from ‘restrictions’) to serve on another in love. Is this an arbitrary starting point? On the one hand, of course it is. But on the other hand, compared with the static patriarchal readings, it is at least a reading that recognizes that it begins alongside movable boundaries.

                  While my starting point may be incomplete, it is at least truer to the reality of life and the whole church than a fixed patriarchal restriction. For this reason, regardless of traditions which exist in a constant state of being challenged, the burden of proof is always on the static restriction.

                  1. Simply put, then, there is no way for you to have any established doctrine. The deity of Christ is up for grabs, the resurrection, and the Trinity. I suppose you wear your nickname well then but it hardly makes for orthodox and biblical Christianity.

                    1. Yes,but I would disagree with you on one account. I think it makes a strong case for a biblical Christianity, but not an orthodox one. In fact, in my opinion the two, while not always mutually exclusive, are often at odds with each other.

  5. Ok, Kevin, let me put the case in this way:

    1. The church ordained women as deacons until Thomas Aquinas put a stop to it in the 13th century with his synthesis of Aristotle’s philosophy and medieval theology. Aristotle was known for claiming women were deformed males, wherefore he claimed they lacked the man’s reason, the same reasoning given by Thomas.
    2. If the church ordained women as deacons, they had to have a scriptural basis for it. Where did they get it from?
    3. If women were ordained as deacons, then 1 Tim 3 must speak of women as deacons, and lo and behold! it does!
    4. If women were ordained as deacons, all deacons had to be “one woman man.” Now, how is that possible?
    5. It is possible because “one woman man” refers to marital faithfulness, not polygamy, and everyone knows how to be faithful.
    6. If you reject this reading, you are going to have to explain how come Phoebe was a deacon (Greek uses the masculine for deacon when referring to her), and why other women deacons were called “second Phoebe” for centuries as a compliment
    7. In conclusion, if “one woman man” is applied to women deacons, it is certainly applied to women overseers as well. Any attempt to make the women wives of deacons, begs the question: why would Paul ask the wives of deacons to qualify, but not the wives of overseers? This especially when we know that a lot of deacons and overseers were unmarried.

    1. Susanna,

      A few things. First, Aquinas had no authority to stop anything. At best (if what you say is true), you can only claim that his perspective was gradually adopted and it might have put a stop to things. I will reserve further comment on the issue until I read your books, but I seriously doubt that your account is true to the extant history. My understanding of Aquinas is that he allowed an alternate read for female deacons in the 1 Timothy passage but did not necessarily see them as capable of being ordained. I also understand that female deacons on the whole died out much earlier than the age of Aquinas but I am willing to look at alternative evidence if that is not the case.

      As I said, the scriptural basis for women deacons (the issue of ordination to me is a separate one) is found in passages like the one we’ve been discussing. 1 Timothy 3 does not require that deaconesses were ordained (nor does it require necessarily that pastors (male or female) be ordained). As Cranmer pointed out long ago, some ministers were simply chosen by congregations or appointed. Contrary to popular belief, ordination does not make a minister but rather is a matter of good order.

      I’m not opposed necessarily to a reading which says that man of one woman is about marital faithfulness–I’m certain that is *part* of what Paul is saying. However, I prefer a more basic translation that allows for freedom in interpretation because your case simply proves too much. What you would have us do is adopt one particular reading when there are equally prominent ones also available to consider for the text. I grant that women today have the freedom to become ministers in various denominations but that does not mean they have ultimate freedom in the matter and ought to be able to intrude on polities which feel otherwise. Such a posture sacrifices Christian freedom and respect for other legitimate Christian communions.

      There is some doubt of course that deacons (male or female) existed at all in the New Testament though tradition would likely speak otherwise. The word deacon is simply a transliteration of the word in Greek and does not even necessitate for us that it speaks of an office in the church in the first place. It certainly can be read that way but it could also simply mean that Phoebe was an exceptional servant. The feminine form of deacon, curiously enough, is used of Paul when referring to the actual office so the gender is not always relevant. Anyway, I don’t see a need to disagree with you about women deacons anyway–it might bear for some interesting research down the road.

      I cannot go with your last point immediately regarding the idea that if we apply “one woman man” to female deacons, we must do the same for bishops. First, the passage does not call women to be one man women at all but lays down a distinct difference in requirement for women than what is said in the passage for males who aspire to be deacons. So, your initial premise remains unestablished while you come to your ill-founded conclusion. That is not to say that the same expectations of women deacons wouldn’t have been made of men or that what is mentioned in the passage might not generally apply (“likewise”) to women deacons but it does keep us from assuming out of logical necessity that such would be the case for bishops or pastors.

      1. Let me see if I understand this properly:
        You say that the overseer must be a man because of the phrase “one woman man,” but then you turn around and say the man doesn’t have to be married. In other words, you you read the text: “Must be ….. man.” Why did Paul say the overseer must be a “one woman man” instead of just… man? The same is found in Titus as well.
        The next question: if deacons didn’t have to be married, since the phrase “one woman man” doesn’t necessitate that the person is married, why does the text mention their wives? It seems strange that one of the prerequisites is that the person is married, without that person having to be married. And why does the text mention wives of deacons, and not of overseers, considering the position of an overseer is more visible in the church?
        So now, if the women are deacons and not wives (since deacon Philip didn’t have a wife), the phrase “one woman man” refers also to women deacons, which means that the same phrase doesn’t exclude women when it comes to the overseers. To argue for your point of view, you must not only disregard what the actual text says, you must also ignore a millennium of church history (which is what comps usually do when history proves them wrong).

        As further support I offer this:

        Ute E. Eisen describes two inscriptions within the mosaics of the chapel of St. Zeno which mention episcopa Theodora, the mother of Pope Paschal I (817-824). Her husband, Bonosus, did not possess a sacerdotal title and therefore episcopa does not refer to a bishop’s wife. In a picture she is depicted with a rectangular halo, which was used for persons of high rank, such as bishops; saints were depicted with round halos. Over the halo, the word episcopa is inscribed. The attempts to interpret the mosaic have created an array of suggestions. Some have made it an honorary title for the mother of the pope, who was seen as taking the position of a wife by her son’s side. Others have made her into an abbess, although an abbess was never called episcopa, the title “abbess’ being well known. And yet others have tried to claim an interpolation, which is farfetched since the inscription is found twice, in different locations. No one has suggested that Theodora could have been a bishop, for women just are not supposed to be bishops in the church; instead the title episcopa is frequently omitted in the verbal reproductions of the inscription.

  6. It’s useful to parse the Greek and pursue the transience of culture. Also interesting, and sometimes fun.

    But for me, the elephant in the room is the point that was passed over so blithely about a hundred posts back. Which is, the denial of the Spirit’s calling and the relegation of that to a simple, emotional mistake on the part of the women who believe themselves called to ordination, and their supporters.

    One hears similar from Conversative Catholics, sometimes in contemptuous terms, such as “I can ordain my dog and he’ll wag his tail, does that make him a priest?”

    Yes, sometimes people feel or sense or are influenced to sense, a “call” that is either not there at all, or not what they thought. Men and women alike can make that kind of mistake, especially the young and idealistic. The point is trivial.

    The Spirit is not, in the end, about vague feelings and sensations. She is about fruit that will last. So, why not look – honestly – at that? At the many female ministers who have grown into their ministries like the tree planted by cooling streams, rich with fruit and generous with shade? Or like the mustard tree (whatever tree that was supposed to be, mustard doesn’t grow on a tree), sheltering entire families of birds in her strong, secure branches?

    All of us, by now, know women with ministries like this. (Except perhaps those whose experience is confined to rigid Complementarianism). Many of us have had the privilege to be at a ceremony where a woman has been ordained. In our Anglican church these are elaborate; the elements of ordination are embodied with powerful drama. I have seen a woman go through that, and it was heart stopping. The very air seemed to fizz with bubbles of joy and I was most certainly not the only one who experienced that.

    The same woman went on to lead, to pastor, to teach, to be there day in and day out for her people, to celebrate Communion, to try a bit of chanting, to take care of a church through a long interregnum, and many other far less dramatic but equally Kingdom things.

    So, for me, all the carefully worked out Scriptural arguments of Complementarians, many of whom are far more competent than I to analyse the Scriptures, are simply irrelevant. Supersessionism – the Spirit’s always been good at that.

  7. Of course, the Donatists were extremely successful at one point in time in the history of the church as well as the Arians. Large groups of Christians throughout the history of the church have moved out of and away from orthodoxy all confident and passionate that their way was the true way. All the glory and ceremony present in the Episcopal Communion in recent years can’t hide the fact that most of her members have left for greener pastures and has simply nearly dried up and withered away–and caused no small amount of divisiveness in the process. There probably isn’t a communion worldwide that is in more disarray than the Anglicans as a result. The Mormons, of course, redefined ministry albeit in a different way than you suggest and have grown ten times larger and more successful than the waning mainline denominations that ordain women today yet I see little reason to champion their own claims to the Spirit’s life in and among them. Such things as beauty in liturgy and success in ministry do not make things right or appropriate but rather our fidelity and dedication ought to be to the Word of God–after all, the Scriptures even tell us that Satan can appear as an angel of light. Anyone of course can claim that the Spirit is theirs in their work but what really is the fruit under consideration here? At the end of the day it really is better to go back to the text and ask the hard questions we don’t want to ask of ourselves and others.

    I’d like to continue the discussion because there are questions you simply haven’t answered for whatever reason. Again, you didn’t bother to answer my questions about where we get the word “androcentric” and whether or not it is tied to feminist concern and what that really has to do with an informed and culturally sensitive read of the Scriptures. It is one thing to recognize that we can on occasion provide gender inclusive language in the text of Scripture, but quite another to say that we must read Paul as he most certainly never would have put the matter given he’s nineteen hundred years removed from the appearance of 20th century feminism.

    The Holy Spirit and his work, like our understanding of Christ, cannot be separated from the Word which he spoke through the prophets and through the New Testament writers. Pentecost only confirmed what he told the prophets and they wrote down and we can’t pretend today that somehow his word is irrelevant to us “at the end of the day” because our existential take on spirituality, ministry, and the church leads us to believe what we think we know. We need to be more noble-minded than that (Acts 17:11) and ‘prove all things, hold fast that which is good’ (1 Thess. 5:21).

  8. The Word spoken through the prophets and evangelists is clearly not sufficient to settle these matters, since there are so many disagreements over it amongst scholars as well as laity.

    Of Mormons, I know very little. They are a tiny group here in South Africa, without any public influence, and I’ve no idea if they are growing. Churches here, of all denominations, tend to be vibrant and to see more growth than churches overseas, though I don’t have figures. I’m not personally convinced that “growth” means numbers only, in any case. We serve a Lord who spent his entire earthly ministry cultivating a very small group of people (male and female) and some of it actively avoiding the crowds. I’m probably not the right partner for that debate, because I don’t identify as Evangelical any more, although I once did.

    From what I read, many denominations in the USA are shrinking and some people are predicting that “church as we know it” i.e. institutional church, will cease to exist in decades to come. Presumably Ministry will not, since the Spirit is eternally present; and Christ will still know those that are His. Maybe some of them WILL be Mormons. Or Muslims. Or whoever…Is that our problem, who’s in the “other pastures”? Maybe in the USA that still looks like a big deal, but here in Africa we have a lot of other things to worry about.

    I agree with Bultmannia, the case for equality doesn’t need to be made. The thousands of female ministers in a wide variety of denominations cannot be un-ordained, nor will they be. They’ll just keep right on, doing God’s work, or whatever those who don’t think they have the right to serve in this way, believe they’re doing.

    What’s the point in arguing? If I, as a Christian of over thirty years’ practice, can’t tell the difference between a minister of God/angel of light and Satan’s little helper, if hundreds of thousands of our fellow Christians around the world also cannot, then we’ll just have to trust God, Holy Wisdom, to sort it out. To guide us in love, as we do our best to bring the harvest home in the place where we’ve been called.

    It’s the role of the clergy in the life of the Church, and the significance of ordination in general, that actually interests me, far more than the tired (and in my context, irrelevant) question of who may be ordained.

    1. I appreciate your contribution, Sally D.! (not least because I’ve spent a few months ministering with godly men & women in your beautiful country and married a man who grew up, there! :) )

  9. You might get to know what the Mormons are all about considering there’s a possibility that the next American President may be one. I suppose that may seem to matter little to a nation like South Africa, but the influence of such a man on the international scene can’t help but do good for the polytheism that Mormonism provides to the world over and against real Christian concerns.

    Why argue? Because we’re interested in getting to the truth of the matter and we have a high view of loving our neighbor as ourselves. I take the arguments and positions of others seriously, grant them my respect, and respond in turn. It’s a position of love (Psalm 141:5) and not a matter of hate or violence as some would errantly suppose. Additionally, from frank discussion and argumentation we also learn from one another as no one of us has a corner on the truth except in terms of how faithful we are to God’s Word. If God wanted us to simply go “on the way that seems right to a man” (Proverbs 14:12) we wouldn’t have the Scriptures, the confirming witness of the Holy Spirit, and the larger part of Christian tradition spent discussing these things between various opposing parties wouldn’t be a part of who we are. Your position to avoid such things is thoroughly anti-Christian and not at all in keeping with what the Scriptures outline–the truth shall set you free.

  10. Well, Kevin, I’ll spare you to the effort of plowing through 300 pages:

    Phoebe is a controversial figure in the Bible for she is called diakonos (“deacon’). Knight considers the term diakonos found in Romans 16:1-2 to be used in a nontechnical and nonofficial sense. Schreiner is once again doubtful about the identity of a woman with an official title, for he writes that “one cannot be sure” whether Phoebe was a deacon.
    But Chrysostom recognized Phoebe as an office-holding deaconess.

    “Wishing then that they should feel on easy terms, and be in honor, he addressed each of them, setting forth their praise to the best advantage he might. For one he calls beloved another kinsman, another both, another fellow-prisoner, another fellow-worker, another approved, another elect. And of the women one he addresses by her title, for he does not call her servant of the Church in an undefined way (because if this were so he would have given Tryphena and Persis this name too), but this one as having the office of deaconess, and another as helper and assistant, another as mother, another from the labors she underwent, and some he addresses from the house they belonged to, some by the name of Brethren, some by the appellation of Saints. And some he honors by the mere fact of addressing them, and some by addressing them by name, and some by calling them first-fruits, and some by their precedence in time, but more than all, Priscilla and Aquila.”

    Madigan and Osiek cite three councils, the Council of Orange (441), Council of Epaon (517) and Council of Orleans (533), in which the ordination of female deacons was forbidden. If women deacons did not exist in the West, why forbid the practice? But by far the most remarkable evidence of the existence of deaconnesses in the West is a letter by Pope Benedict VIII (A.D. 1017) to the Bishop of Porto in Portugal.

    “In the same way, we concede and confirm to you and to your successors in perpetuity every episcopal ordination (ordinationem episcopalem), not only of presbyters but also of deacons or deaconnesses (diaconissis) or subdeacons.”

    In the Summa we find the objection that the female sex is not an impediment to receiving orders for the office of a prophet is greater than the office of a priest. In addition women became martyrs and devoted themselves to the religious life, and since the power of orders is founded in the soul, but sex is not in the soul, also women should receive Orders. To this Thomas Aquinas answered:
    On the contrary, It is said (1 Timothy 2:12): “I suffer not a woman to teach (in the Church), nor to use authority over the man.” Further, the crown is required previous to receiving Orders, albeit not for the validity of the sacrament. But the crown or tonsure is not befitting to women according to 1 Corinthians 11. Neither therefore is the receiving of Orders.
    Thomas believed that the male sex is required for receiving orders, for it is not possible for a woman to signify eminence of degree for she is in the state of subjection to the man. In addition, the male sex is necessary for the lawfulness of the sacraments, but not for the validity because deaconesses and priestesses [presbytera] are mentioned in the Decretals. Thomas reconciled his exclusion of women and the existence of women within the orders with the explanation that the deaconess reads homilies in church and the presbytera is a widow because “presbyter” means “elder.”

    1. Thomas Aquinas changed how we read the creation account:

      Because Thomas Aquinas by necessity used Jerome’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 in the thirteenth century, he believed that the subjection which began after the Fall was a proper punishment for the woman’s sin. In the Summa, Thomas wrote, “As regards family life she was punished by being subjected to her husband’s authority, and this is conveyed in the words, “Thou shalt be under thy husband’s power.” (Gen. 3:16)” In the same section, Thomas answered the question whether a wife was allowed to give alms without her husband’s knowledge.

      “I answer that, anyone who is under another’s power must, as such, be ruled in accordance with the power of his superior: for the natural order demands that the inferior should be ruled according to its superior. Therefore in those matters in which the inferior is subject to his superior, his ministrations must be subject to the superior’s permission.”

      Thomas argued further that although the wife is “equal in the marriage act,” she is under the husband’s authority according to Genesis 3:16, and therefore not allowed to give alms without her husband’s permission.

      In the thirteenth century, equality as a created order was still recognized, wherefore Thomas had to answer the argument whether the woman should have been created before sin, because her subjection begun after the Fall.

      “Further, subjection and limitation were a result of sin, for to the woman was it said after sin (Genesis 3:16): “Thou shalt be under the man’s power”; and Gregory says that, “Where there is no sin, there is no inequality.” But woman is naturally of less strength and dignity than man; “for the agent is always more honorable than the patient,” as Augustine says (Gen. ad lit. xii, 16). Therefore woman should not have been made in the first production of things before sin.”

      Thomas answered, “as regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten [i.e. an impotent male].” But “as regards human nature in general, woman is not misbegotten, but is included in nature’s intention as directed to the work of generation.” He concluded that the woman’s subjection is twofold: sin causes a subjection which is “servile, by virtue of which a superior makes use of a subject for his own benefit,” but the subjection from creation is based on reason which predominates in the man, for good order can only be preserved if people are governed by those who are wiser. In other words, because the woman is a defective human being, she cannot possess the man’s reason, wherefore her subjection from Creation is due to her body, while the subjection which begun after the Fall was caused by her sin.

  11. I am hoping, Suzanna, that you will take the time to answer my questions about “androcentric” language and whether or not such a perspective is necessarily tied to feminist concerns. Throughout this whole discussion, it seems you have ignored this for whatever reason.

    1. No, I haven’t ignored it, I actually answered it, but I think it was lost in the maze of comments :)

      “Androcentric” means “Centered on the man.” Greek is centered on the man – as is Latin, English, Spanish, Hebrew, and French. They all use the male as default and the word “man” can mean a) a male human, b) humans in general, which includes both men and women.

      There are other languages that are not centered on the male. Finnish is one of them. Finnish doesn’t use “man” generically; the word “mies” can only mean a male human. The word “ihminen” can only mean human. As a result, Finnish doesn’t have words such as “male” and “female,” since such distinctions are unnecessary, the words “man” and “woman” being the only distinctions needed. Nor does Finnish have a divided third person singular, it uses “han” (with the dots) for both men and women.

      When we read Greek and Hebrew, the problem we have is that masculine language can hide women behind it – unless otherwise stated. Such statement is usually very explicit, such as

      “On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male [zakaar] in his household [‘yish], and circumcised them, as God told him.“ (NIV)

      Another good example of it the translation of Genesis 1.26-27

      “In the following comparison of 21 languages and 42 translations, ‘adam is translated either “man” or “human.”

      Man – man and woman (3 translations, 2 languages)
      French (La Bible du Semeur, Louis Segond), Portuguese (O Livro)

      Man – male and female (17 translation, 4 languages)
      Spanish (Reina-Valera 1960, 1995, 1569, Dios Habla Hoy), Italian (La Nuova Diodati, Conferenza Episcopale Italiana), Hungarian, English (NJKV, ASV, Amplified, Darby, Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition; English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standar, KJV; NASB, NIV, New Life Version, Young’s Literal Translation)

      Human – man and woman (14 translations, 13 languages)
      German (Luther Bible 1545, Elberfelder), Spanish (Nueva Versión Internacional), Ukrainian, Bulgarian, Haitian Creole Version, Maori, Dutch, Swedish, English (ESV), Norwegian, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic

      Human – male and female (8 translations, 5 languages)
      Arabic, Albanian, Polish, Russian Synodal version (/man and woman), English (New Century Version, New Living Translation, The message, Today’s NIV)

      An overwhelming majority of languages – seventeen of the twenty-one considered – favor the translation “human” instead of “man.” Androcentric languages tend to choose “man” while the more gender-neutral languages use the word “human.” An English translation is found in all except the first category (“man – man and woman”).”

      Some languages reflect the world more than others, and we must take this into account when we read the Bible, for the languages used to write the Bible were created BEFORE the Bible was written and reflect therefore NOT biblical truth as much as they do cultural customs, beliefs and prejudices. Unless we take this into account, we will err in our interpretation.

      1. I think you’ve misunderstood me or I wasn’t overly clear. I’m not asking for a lesson in what constitutes an androcentric language. I get the concept and have been familiar with it for some time (as I said, I’ve studied seven different languages). My question centers around the assumptions we bring to the text–and this is what I believe you haven’t answered. Is your contention that language is androcentric necessarily tied to feminist concerns given the origin of the word itself? If so, how does that influence your read of ancient texts by authors who had no concept of such 20th century constructions of language and identity?

  12. I don’t see a feminist concern in an attempt to understand the origin of the word itself. I believe that we weren’t aware of the nature of the languages we use it until someone put it into words that we could understand – the self-evident is often hidden until it is spelled out by someone. It was heresy to say that men and women are equal in the nineteenth century. Women were burned on the stake for speaking up against injustice in the sixteenth. Little wonder that we had the theology that we did for so long. Few challenge a rule when it comes with a death penalty.

    Neither do I accept that the ancients had no concept of the importance of language as a vehicle of identity. Augustine quarreled with Jerome about Jerome’s insistence of using the Hebrew OT instead of the Septuagint in his creation of the Vulgate, which tells us that they knew very well that words have meanings that transcend culture. Israelites had a custom of giving a name to their children that reflected the hopes and dreams of the parents; names were often changed when the life-situation changed. This tells us that the ancients regarded word with greater reverence than we do. I believe that this whole discussion about the evils of feminism hides behind it an unwillingness to consider the fact that language doesn’t create theology, theology creates a language. Paul created new words with new meanings, although he had to also use the words everyone knew. Language is a tool, not an absolute truth. When we get too entangled in the words, we miss the message. I am all for rigorous scholarship, but we must also remember that the Bible was written with for simple people, with simple words. I think we make things too complicated, and by doing so, we ignore the reason we are reading the text in the first place.

    1. No one said anything about the “evils of feminism.” I’m just asking how deep this notion of androcentric goes and it appears to me anyway that it guides your approach to the biblical languages when it’s been an unnecessary remembrance in biblical interpretation for a good 1900 years. I’d just like to see you admit that you have such assumptions when coming to the text because as it stands now it appears you’re blind to the fact. And, it’s quite interesting to me that only until recently are we really able to read the Bible for what it’s supposedly worth because *now* we understand better. Your whole read of the passages in question are tainted with a feminist approach that assumes an equality between women and men that it is not clear at all that Paul and the other Apostles necessarily shared. So, how do we understand the text when we’re using 20th century feminist constructs to exegete the verses in question and when such constructs are definitively foreign to the original authors. You say this is simple stuff for simple people–well, ok, but I don’t see your approach as all that simple.

      1. You assume I approach the text from feminism, because you approach the text from misogyny – without admitting it. Your theology is based on tradition, a tradition that is tainted with misogyny, from Tertullian to Matthew Henry. But of course you can’t see it, for you are well-trained to think in the traditional way. It took me five years of conscious thought to purge those thoughts from my thinking, and I’ve been a Christian for 25 years. Before you assume things, it would be advisable to remember your own words about church history not always being an accurate representation of truth. As is, you say it is.

        1. And yes, we do understand the text better now, for we actually approach the text with sound scholarship instead of repeating the words of biased theologians as was done for hundreds of years.

          1. The arrogance of the modern arises at last to weigh into the discussion. I was waiting for it. Honestly, you’re right in that we approach the text differently but to say feminism has nothing to do with your read of Scripture is just not true. You can’t even speak of the (or “my”) tradition and read of things without including terms like “misogyny” and applying them with the broadest sort of brush covering some two thousand years in one stroke.

            Scholarship today is no less biased than it was five hundred years ago. All you’ve done is switch your loyalties. And, this is where the real problem lies between us and many others.

  13. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts. Until you realize that, there is no point of going on.

  14. I don’t have time to do play wordgames.
    You say I resort to feminism when I take human equality seriously, when I read the rest of the Bible from Genesis 1, not 1 Tim 2. When I believe that all humans are in the image of God, and reject Augustine’s division of the image (only men are in the image of God, women need a man to be in the image of God), when I reject Tertullian’s removal of women from the image of God (by saying the woman is he gate of the devil – literally – and claiming that Eve ruined Adam, who alone was in the image of God), when I reject Ward’s image of God that can only be transmitted by the man, not the woman.
    There is misogyny, there is feminism, there is —. Whatever you like to call it, that is what I am and do.

    1. Word games. OK. No one’s playing word games. Nor am I questioning the equality of men and women. However, I am pressing you about the presuppositions or unproven assumptions you bring to the text and seemingly do not really want to talk about because it betrays the fact that your read of history and the biblical text is fraught with as much uncertainty as anyone else (if not more).

      1. It’s just because you don’t know all I know. I understand that what I write may seem arbitrary, but there is a good reason why I write what I do. Maybe after you you have become familiar with the whole spectrum, then you will appreciate my arguments better.

        1. Susanna,

          I’ll be happy to grant that you may very well know more about women’s ordination and the history of women in the church than I do, but I also come to these subjects with a lot of study and training in relevant areas sufficient to question much of what you have put forward. It’s just not good enough to say, “I know better than you do and you’ll understand one day when you get to my level.” That comes off as condescending whether you intend it as such or not just as it is equally problematic to pretend that today we are in a better position to evaluate Scripture than our forefathers (and mothers). At the very least, you ought to be open to discussing the presuppositions and unproven assumptions you bring to the study of the Scriptures and to history rather than waving me off in the name of really having the facts, knowing better than me, and accusing me of playing wordgames. We’ve interacted for over a hundred comments now and there’s no reason to think I’m not discussing this with you with anything but the best of intentions. I only wish you would be more open about the fundamental assumptions you are bringing to the text much like Paul Bradshaw does in his volume “The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship” (cf. the preface and 1st chapter).

    2. Bingo, Susanna. The root here is entrenched spiritual darkness as old as Genesis 3 (which your citations note), and as such is not responsive to understanding, education, studious work, reason or logic. Whatever we attempt to write clearly & straightforwardly gets slightly, or more, twisted & then tied with a false label for the return volley. Good fruit struggles to survive – much less mature – in such an environment. May God’s grace & peace be with you, and guard your heart & mind in Christ. I’ve appreciated your scholarship in the early Christian writings!

      I sent you a FB message (I think ’twas your profile!).

  15. My dear friend, I am as open about fundamental assumptions as you are. I have challenged them for years. But what you do is call MY challenge re-heated feminism, without a regard to the actual challenge. If you are interested in what I have to say, I am more than willing to share it. But as is, the only thing you do, is tell me that I read the Bible as a secular feminist would. That I won;t tolerate for I know the difference very well. I believe in mutual respect and love, not in a power-play. When you feel ready to actually discuss the subject without your own bias, I am all for it.

    1. Who said anything about secular feminism? Are you sure you’re not reading too much into my comments? Where did I reference secular anything or even use the word prior to this comment?

      What I have objected to and what you have not done in this discussion is open up about *your* fundamental assumptions whether I’ve accurately targeted them or not. So, I have been left to guess and I’m not sure even now that I’m all that far off the mark. But, you can certainly clear that up by being frank and showing your cards. But, up to now you’ve just not done that. I’m hopeful you will.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.