There are some verses in the bible that have been read as culturally time-bound and therefore limited in scope and application. Others have been interpreted as timeless, and therefore interpreted as timeless (see here)! 1 Timothy 2:9-15 is one such passage, a complex passage in the Greek, that has fallen foul of the hermeneutical confusion that befalls some categories of the church, notably the American holiness movement, and various other ‘complimentarian’ groupings.
Throughout church history, i.e. traditionally, these verses have been read as a universal code for female decorum and then applied generally to women everywhere! This has determined what some women have worn as jewelry, how they did their hair and what clothes they wore, etc.
The inevitable consequence of this has been a restriction of women’s role within the church. The Reformer’s varied slightly on this: Luther offered women the privilige of leadership by way of exception in times of necessity (which was generous of him); Calvin and Knox were adamantly against women in any kind of ministerial role. They each show their hand in awful ways: Knox in a nasty little title: First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women, and Calvin who wrote that women are “by nature born to obey men.” Calvin and Knox make Luther’s offer look quite lovely!
That these verses have been used like this to control, limit and restrict, seems quite unwarranted given the local circumstances that formed the context of Paul’s writings here. But to be clear from the start, it is always a Christian ideal for women to present themselves in modesty and propriety, but it is no less the same for men too! The trouble is, we now equate these verses with not only a bullying use of power and control, but it also looks too much like a tame but rigid 1050’s American Evangelicalism. Truth is, men too easily use power and force. The desire to dominate is to be avoided by women and men. Humility in service is the responsibility of both sexes.
I am going to do some personal research of a biblical theology of women in ministry.
Why is the church struggling, in some quarters, to come to terms with this great egalitarian-complimentarian divide? I for one am tired of the way this hurts churches and seems to limit ministry potential in so many women.
I’ve already revealed my preference (bias?), but so what! Why should I, and who am I, to limit the ministry and giftings of women who are born to teach biblical truth and sound doctrine? What notion of patriarchy do we inhabit when we fail to ‘fan into flame’ the gifts of God so evident in many godly women.
Above is a picture with text I for one find insulting to humanity! Below is an outline of where I would like to go. They are discussion points and areas of particular study necessary for exegesis to trump eisegesis (although this comment in no way is meant to undermine a complimentarian view that has been thought out; my point is simply to counter the infantile notion that claims “that’s what the bible says” as though anything that counters it clearly isn’t taking the Bible seriously. This study, as the outline below shows, focuses on a biblical theology of women; historical, contextual and grammatical detail, as well as applying this study to the contemporary church today.
The categories and questions are:
Any doctrinal study of any kind must be thorough. Beginning with the Old Testament, via the inter-testamental period (if necessary) and progressing through the ministry of Jesus in the Gospels, and concluding with Acts and the Letters. Every study must work through the whole of what every text is a part! Of course, this approach assumes that Scripture is authoritative and inspired by the Holy Spirit – the Third Person of the Trinity! To not be convinced of this will lead to eisegesis, a form of study that merely seeks to bolster and promote a view already held – although a belief in the Trinity is no guarantee at all that eisegesis will not win the day!
Cultural and linguistic background studies must be exhausted, followed by exegetical questions about the passage in question, with whatever doctrine is in mind; this is especially true in our day when many within and with-out the Church seem to foam at the mouth regarding “the authority of women”, “women in the Church” or “homosexuality” or whatever!
I think the Bereans of Acts 17:11 are a great acid test here: “With great eagerness [they] examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true!” Note: if what Paul said was true! They surely knew not of whom they spoke! But all credit to them. Integrity, openness, honesty and desire all the way.
Anyone engaging in exegetical study, or Bible study, must use sound principles of interpretive method and procedure. Openness and honesty, as already stated, is primary, especially in any polarised topic or doctrine.
The exegetical student must recognise and distinguish between:
There is quite a lot of talk about preaching and relevancy these days. Much of it simply buys into the whole revivalism and numbers game seen in many fantastical fads and gimmicks over the past few decades. Even given so much progress in education and learning styles in recent decades, there is a very real danger that the act or art of preaching could succumb to an overbalanced bias to the felt-needs of the listener, i.e. if the prop or story or illustration or picture wasn’t good enough, the sermon was rubbish – as if! Continue reading