Tuesday, January 25, 2011

1 Timothy 2:12

1 Timothy 2:11-12 says: "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet." This verse is a hot one that has caused a lot of ink to be spilled over it. How shall we interpret this? Here are some thoughts.

  • It is not exactly clear what the Greek term translated as "assume/take authority" means. Does Paul mean "accpet a position of authority?" Does Paul mean "seize authority in an overbering way?" Craig Keener says "Scholars are divided on the issue." (Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives, 108) The word here is authentein. This word is found only once in the New Testament. Other words were commonly used to speak of "taking authority," such as exousia. So it is likely that authentein means something different than "take authority." (Or "have authority.") "In other early Greek sources, this word is often associated with violence. According to lexicographers, authentēs is synonymous with “to dominate someone". Paul is most likely prohibiting women from teaching men in a manner that is domineering." (See here.)
  • The late New Testament scholar David Scholer of Fuller Theological Seminary (who was a friend of mine) says that this term (authentein) usually has a negative sense of "domineer" or "usurp authority." Keener says "On this reading, Paul, who wants women to "learn quietly," does not want them to teach disruptively - something he also would have forbidden men to do." (Ib., 109)
  • The Greek word authentein is not Paul's normal word for "take authority." So Paul may be prohibiting teaching being done in a domineering way. Keener says: "That Paul wants women to learn submissively and shortly thereafter invokes the Genesis language about Ever probably indicates that these women are not submitting to their husbands but rather are seeking to lord it over them... The context, which helps us reconstruct the situation, suggests that Paul may here be warning against a domineering use of authority, rather than merely any use of authority." (Ib.)
  • Here is the great NT scholar Gordon Fee on this issue.
Many years ago I read the statement on biblical equality from the Christians for Biblical Equality. I thought it was correct. Endorsers of CBE include: Gordon Fee, Greg Boyd, Lee Grady (of Charisma Magazine), Manfred Brauch (one of my former NT professors and friend), Richard Foster, Scot McKnight, and my friend Craig Keener.