Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

By Keener, Craig S. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 1998 | Go to article overview

Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15


Keener, Craig S., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


(UMI: Foreign text omitted)

Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15. Edited by Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995, 334 pp., $21.99.

The best defense of the complementarian position to date, this book is well-argued and advances the debate. Nearly every author's contribution is helpful to the case.

For instance, in my opinion, the bulk of evidence supports S. M. Baugh's central contention in the first essay ("A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century"): Ephesus was not a bastion of first-century feminism. He rightly notes Roman influence in Pauline Ephesus and that "Ephesus was not a unique society in its era." His appeals to women in official positions and to inscriptions, which focus on the upper class, may prove more problematic. Though some fairly well-to-do members were in Paul's churches, genuinely aristocratic members were not representative. These comments do not, however, detract from his central thesis.

While David Gordon ("A Certain Kind of Letter: The Genre of 1 Timothy") correctly notes that many of Paul's instructions in the pastorals reflect universal principles, we should note that many also reflect local issues (e.g. Titus 1:5, 12-14). Nevertheless, he correctly pinpoints the heart of the hermeneutical issue and also establishes an interpretive premise on which all evangelical interpreters should agree: Paul's letters are occasional documents, but in them Paul brings to bear transcultural principles on specific situations.

Scott Baldwin's analysis of(...........) ("A Difficult Word: (...........) in 1 Timothy 2:12") is careful, well-reasoned and good scholarship. I think Baldwin is probably correct in his reading "have authority" for the pre-Christian uses of aX, which are those that count most. There are, however, only two of them, and only a handful of others not written by authors cognizant of the language and contemporary interpretation of 1 Timothy. This may be scant evidence to sustain a major thesis, but some evidence is better than no evidence, and in my view Baldwin has shifted the burden of proof for the term's meaning back into the egalitarian court. Egalitarians will undoubtedly respond by questioning his arrangement and interpretation of his data; the most significant objection will be to his omitting the cognate noun from consideration.

Andreas Kbstenberger ("A Complex Sentence Structure in 1 Timothy 2:12") argues from the grammatical structure that "teach" and "exercise authority" must be either both positive or both negative. This principle is not clear in all the instances he cites, but the pattern seems to hold in general, and this is what matters most. He is probably correct that "have authority" should be read as coordinate with "teach" rather than as subordinate ("teach in a domineering way"). This reading would challenge the more moderate complementarian view that allows women to teach men provided they are under male authority (i.e. provided they are not a senior pastor or bishop). In response, some moderate co.mplementarians may ultimately join egalitarians in appealing to a specific situation to explain why Paul prohibits teaching as well as holding authority.

Thomas Schreiner ("An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15; A Dialogue with Scholarship") provides i fair survey of views, though no two exegetes will necessarily agree on all the details. He acknowledges the danger of false teaching in Ephesus but believes that if this were the reason for the prohibition the text should state it explicitly. (But are not assumptions of situation shared by the writer and original readers often left unstated? Cf. e.g. for an obvious case 1 Cor 15:29.) Daniel Doriani's essay ("History of the Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2") is fascinating and will be useful to all readers interested in the subject regardless of their commitments.

Egalitarians will, however, react to what they will perceive as some unfair caricatures of their position. …

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