Andrew Wilson has written a post about women in leadership and 1 Tim 2:12. It’s a helpful post outlining twelve interpretations of this verse, within the egalitarian vs. complementarian debate. However, it is very unhelpful in giving a fair summary of the various positions arguing for an egalitarian position. Which leads me to wonder whether this post is merely preaching to the converted (those who hold a complementarian view) or whether it is trying to be educational, helping people to understand the various views. In fact, I’ve wondered (tongue in cheek) if I should not title this post, “How not to argue against an egalitarian position.” What follows is an all too brief response.
Wilson begins by describing the first three interpretations he’s listed as those sometimes cited in support of the egalitarian position, as: “Exegetically, the first three above have substantial problems, and are rarely supported in commentaries and scholarly journal articles.” This is a strange comment to make, as it would be quite easy to list the commentaries of Marshall, Towner, Trebilco, and Fee, and the articles of Bellville, Payne and others to demonstrate that this is not true. However, it is rhetorically effective in the absence of evidence for one’s view.
Wilson then notes *Andreas Köstenberger’s argument concerning didaskein oude authentein has largely won the day.* But this begs the question, who has he won over? Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus, (223-224) rejects his view, as do the recent commentators I’ve consulted. To cite but one commentator, Ben Witherington, Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians Vol. I, *It is quite beside the point that the word “teach” does not have a pejorative or negative sense here. It is the entire context that is negative, dealing with correcting problems, and this dictates that we should see 1 Tim 2:12 as correcting some sort of abuse of power and teaching privilege here.* Furthermore, it should be noted that cognates of διδάσκω are used negatively in 1 Tim 6:3 and Tit 1:11, thus making it possible that he could be using the word negatively in 2:12, which the context suggests is the case (see 2:8f.).
He then notes that “the grammatical arguments in favour of seeing the clause as a hendiadys are weak.” How they are weak is never explained, just asserted. For someone who thinks that they are not weak as Wilson asserts, see Philip B. Payne, “1 Tim 2.12 and the Use of ουδε to Combine Two Elements to Express a Single Idea“ New Testament Studies 54:2 (April 2008) 235-253.
Wilson notes that, "Historically, it is simply not the case that all women were uneducated in the Greco-Roman world." This appears to be a veiled reference to Keener's work, and perhaps others, which describe the situation in Ephesus as problematic due to uneducated women who are teaching heresy. While Wilson is correct to note that there were educated women in the Greco-Roman world, and there were educated women in Ephesus, this does not automatically entail there being educated women in the Christian community to whom Paul is writing. Furthermore, the problem is not strictly education, but rather which education. Following Trebilco and Fee's reconstruction, the problem at Ephesus is women who have been educated poorly by false teachers, and whom Paul silences for the very purpose that they may learn!
Then, I find it interesting that the one thing Wilson allows, is a women to teach, which is the one thing that Paul forbids in this passage, and the one thing Wilson does not allow, which is women to be elders, is the one thing Paul does not forbid. In fact, Paul does address female elders (πρεσβυτέρας ) in 1 Tim 5:2.
Based on 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9, Wilson states that these qualifications prohibit women from serving as elders/overseers. This is strange, as even Thomas Schreiner admits: “The requirements for elders in 1 Tim 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, including the statement that they are to be one-woman men, does not necessarily in and of itself preclude women from serving as elders….” (Thomas R. Schreiner’s “Philip Payne on Familiar Ground: A Review of Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters.” JBMW (Spring 2010) 33–46, here 35. There is nothing in those two lists that prohibit women from functioning as overseers.
The phrase, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα (one-women man, 3:2) is akin to ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, (one-man women, 5:9) which is a reference to marital fidelity, and women can be faithful in marriage! In fact, none of the *qualifications* (which appear to apply to all Christians (eventually), except perhaps for teaching) apply specifically to men, but could equally apply to women (children are taught to be submissive by their mothers; women are instructed to manage their households, 1 Tim 5:14; be above reproach, 5:7). All of the qualifications listed for leadership in 1 Tim 3:1-7 are applied to women in the Pastoral Epistles. And one would be hard pressed to make the case the elders in 5:17 are specifically male, as the context has clearly been referring to women and women elders since 5:2. I am of course assuming that Wilson’s view takes “eldership” to be an official office and that it is used interchangeably with “overseer”. For those who take this as a strict reference to age, both sides of the argument crumble.
On hermeneutical issues, Wilson notes “as I have argued previously – it is a good rule of thumb to do what the New Testament says, unless there are clear reasons not to.” One wonders then if there is a special ministry devoted to widows, and financially serving widows in his church, or any church that seeks to apply 1 Tim 5:2-16. And if not, why not? Why should one seek to apply 1 Tim 2:9-15 but not 1 Tim 5:2-16?
Of course, much more can and should be said in response to this blog post, but enough has been noted here to at least make others aware of the issues, rather than opting for a rhetorical piece which lacks both evidence and argument.