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November 2018

Note of the Day (1 Tim 3:11)

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1 Timothy 3:11

An important reference in the Pastoral letters, related to the role of women in the Church, is 1 Tim 3:11, part of a section on “Church order” (3:1-13), in which Paul (or the author) discusses: (a) the position of “overseer” (Grk e)pi/skopo$, epískopos) in vv. 1-7, and (b) the position of “servant/minister” (dia/kono$, diákonos) in vv. 8-13. These terms are discussed in Part 6, including how they are used in the passage here. The only relevant occurrence of these words in the (undisputed) letters of Paul is in Philippians 1:1, where they are cited together as part of his greeting to the churches in Philippi: “…to all the holy ones [i.e. ‘saints’]… th(at) are in Philippi, (together) with (the) overseers and servants/ministers…”. This verse is also discussed in Part 6. Elsewhere, Paul always uses dia/kono$ in the general sense of a (Christian) ministerRom 15:8; 16:1 (cf. also 13:4); 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Gal 2:17; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; also Eph 3:7; 6:21; 1 Tim 4:6. Only in Phil 1:1 and 1 Tim 3:8, 12 does the term seem to apply to an official position or “office” in the Church. The word e)pi/skopo$ does not appear anywhere else in the undisputed letters, only in 1 Tim 3:2 and Tit 1:7, though it is also used in a (Pauline) tradition recorded in Acts 20:17ff (v. 28). According to Acts 20:28 and Tit 1:5-9, the e)pi/skopo$ is an elder (presbu/tero$) who is appointed to oversee a congregation, especially in the sense of providing care and protection (from false teaching, etc). The term is more or less synonymous with the older title “shepherd” (poimh/n), as indicated by 1 Peter 2:25 and Eph 4:11, and roughly corresponds to the word “pastor” in English.

It is clear from 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9 that “overseers” were understood to be men (i.e. male elders), but this is less certain with regard to the position of “servant/minister” (dia/kono$). In Rom 16:1, Phoebe is called dia/kono$—this is sometimes rendered “deaconess”, based on an understanding of the later Church office; however, as I have explained in Part 4 (on Rom 16:1-2ff), this is anachronistic, and the word as it is used everywhere except in 1 Timothy (and, possibly, Phil 1:1), should be understood in the general sense of “servant” or “minister” (of Christ). Still, the application of the word in the case of Phoebe is often thought to be relevant to the context of 1 Tim 3:8-13. In the midst of his discussion, on the qualifications for the “minister”, Paul (or the author) interjects:

“And these (persons/men) must first be thought acceptable (by examination), then they may serve as minister, being without (anything) calling (them) into question. Even so (for) the women (they are to be) reverent, not throwing (accusations) about, sober [i.e. discrete], trust(worthy) in all (thing)s.” (vv. 10-11)

The Greek word gunh/ (“woman”) can also mean “wife”, which has led to some ambiguity in this passage—do the “women” here refer to female ministers or to the wives of the (male) ministers? The answer to this question often reflects the particular interest or predisposition of the interpreter. Those who favor a more egalitarian approach to gender roles in the Church, or specifically women serving as “deacons”, will likely choose the former. On the other hand, those who take a more traditional-conservative view of the issue, emphasizing/preserving male “headship” and/or gender-restriction of the leading roles, probably will choose the latter. In defense of the interpretation as “female ministers”, the example of Phoebe in Rom 16:1 is typically cited (cf. above). However, while Rom 16:1-2ff certainly can be said to reflect a tendency by Paul to treat women equally as fellow ministers and missionaries, it is questionable whether this ought to be read into 1 Tim 3:11, especially in light of the (reasonably strong) possibility that 1 Timothy is pseudonymous (cf. Part 5). In my view, the context of First Timothy itself suggests that the “servants/ministers” in 3:8-13 are probably best understood as men. Note the parallel syntax in vv. 8 and 11:

  • Diako/nou$ w(sau/tw$ semnou/$ mh… “Just so for (the) ministers (they should be) reverent, not…”
  • Gunai=ka$ w(au/tw$ semna/$ mh… “Just so for (the) women (they should be) reverent, not…”

It would be a bit unusual if the author was re-stating the instruction, using “women” to indicate “ministers who are women”. This seems especially clear, given what follows in verse 12: “Ministers should be men [i.e. husbands] of one woman [i.e. wife], standing fine before (their own) offspring and (their) own house(hold)s”. Here “woman” certainly means “wife”, and so likely has this denotation in verse 11 as well. We might paraphrase the flow of the passage as follows:

8As for the ministers, just like the overseers, they should be reverent in behavior… and these (men) are to be tested (and) approved first, then they may serve as ministers without anything against them.
11As for the wives, just like the ministers, they should be reverent in behavior…trustworthy in all things.
12Ministers should be husbands of one wife (only), standing before and guiding their children and households well.”

The question of how this passage relates to Paul’s statements in Galatians, Romans, 1 Corinthians, etc (i.e., the undisputed letters) is a separate matter entirely. For those who have not yet read the discussion in Parts 1 through 6, this will help with a better understanding of the language and thought expressed by Paul in the relevant passages.

Special Note on “teach/teaching” in the Pauline Letters

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Related to the current discussion on 1 Tim 2:11-15 (cf. Part 5 of the series “Women in the Church”, and the supplemental note), is the important question of what Paul (or the author) means by dida/skein (“to teach”). To this end, a brief survey of the Pauline use of the verb dida/skw, and the two main nouns derived from it, will be most helpful.

dida/skw (“teach”)

This verb occurs 7 times in the undisputed letters of Paul, three times more in Colossians, once in Ephesians, and 5 times in the Pastoral letters—16 in all. In Romans 2:21 (twice), 1 Cor 11:14 and Gal 1:12, it refers to instruction in a general sense. However, in Gal 1:12 it also implies the specific situation of teaching someone the Gospel, in the context of the revelatory words of Jesus himself. In 1 Cor 4:17, Paul refers to his “ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every congregation [e)kklhsi/a]”. Coincidentally, in this passage, it is Timothy who will serve the Corinthians, reminding them of Paul’s ways and teaching, in his absence. Romans 12:7 regards teaching as a specific “gift” of the Spirit that is manifest in the congregation (cf. below).

In the letter to the Colossians (which I regard as Pauline), the first two references (1:28; 2:7) very much relate to the (apostolic) ministerial role of teaching and preaching (i.e. proclaiming the Gospel), as also in Eph 4:21. In 3:16, by contrast (or complement), it is the believers in general, and together, who are exhorted to teach one another. The verb dida/skw is paired with nouqete/w (“set/put in mind”), both as verbal participles indicating continuous action. The setting is that of the congregational meeting, which includes singing psalms, hymns and “spiritual songs”. While it is possible that Paul intends “teaching” here in the specific sense of an official ministerial role, there is no immediate indication of this. It seems to apply to all believers, made clear by the emphasis at the start of the verse: “The account [i.e. word] of Christ should house [i.e. dwell] in you [i.e. you all] richly, teaching and setting (things) in mind (for) each other in all wisdom…”

Within the Pastoral Letters, three of the five occurrences deal with the “things” that a minister ought to teach—cf. 1 Tim 4:11 and 6:2 (“these things”, tau=ta). The pronoun refers to the collected body of (authoritative) Christian teaching which, according to the setting of the letter, Paul has given to Timothy, and which is effectively embodied within the letter. Note the exhortation in 4:6:

“Setting these things under the brothers [i.e. bringing these things to their attention always], you will be a fine [i.e. exemplary] minister [lit. servant] of Christ Jesus, being nourished/strengthened in the words/accounts of the faith and the fine teaching [didaskali/a] which you have followed (all) along”.

By contrast, Titus 1:11 refers to “many others” who are “teaching (thing)s which they should not” (cf. below). In 2 Timothy 2:2, the author (Paul) emphasizes the proper preservation of correct teaching and tradition:

“and the (thing)s which you heard (from) alongside me, through many witnesses, these (thing)s you must set/place alongside for trust(worthy) men who will be (equipp)ed well enough to teach others also.”

This is a point which can be found at several points in the undisputed letters of Paul (cf. 2 Thess 2:15, etc), but it takes on much greater importance in the Pastoral letters.

didaxh//didaskali/a (“teaching”)

These two nouns, derived from dida/skw, both fundamentally mean “teaching, instruction”, though the latter (didaskali/a) can refer more precisely to the content of the teaching, as well as to the act or process of teaching. The noun didaxh/ (didax¢¡) occurs four times in the undisputed letters—in Romans 6:17 and 16:17 it refers collectively to the instruction believers have received from missionaries and apostles such as Paul, while in 1 Cor 14:6, 26, it is to a specific spiritual “gift” manifest in the congregation (as also in Rom 12:7). The word is also used twice in the Pastoral letters, as a distinct role and duty of the minister, closely tied to the proclamation of the account (or “word”, lo/go$) of God, that is, the Gospel message (2 Tim 4:2). The exhortation is even more pointed in Titus 1:9:

“…holding (close) against the trust(worthy) account [lo/go$] according to the teaching [kata\ th\n didaxh/n], (so) that he may be able (both) to call (people) alongside [i.e. help/encourage them] in the wholesome instruction [didaskali/a] and to put to shame the (one)s giving a contrary account.”

This is part of the author’s (i.e. Paul’s) guidance regarding the duties and qualifications for the role of “overseer” (e)pi/skopo$)—that is, the minister who leads and oversees the congregation. He is to preserve the trustworthy account (lo/go$)—the Gospel and teachings with which he has been entrusted—and to combat the reverse, the contrary account (a)nti/logo$), promulgated by other false or deceptive teachers, etc.

The related noun didaskali/a (didaskalía) is more common in the Pauline corpus, occurring 19 times, but only twice in the undisputed letters (Rom 12:7; 15:14), and twice again in Col 2:22; Eph 4:14. The other 14 occurrences are all in the Pastoral letters, making it an important word, and an example of the sort of differences in vocabulary which have been thought to mark the Pastorals as pseudonymous (i.e., by an author other than Paul). In perhaps no other writings of the New Testament is there such a clear contrast between correct and incorrect, true and false, doctrine. The idea of a collected body of teaching and tradition, which is to be carefully guarded and preserved, is very much prominent in these letters. Note the use of the qualifying expressions:

This true teaching is threatened by the various sorts of false and vain/empty teachings (and teachers) which lay stretched out against it (1 Tim 1:10). It is often debated whether Paul (or the author) had distinct persons or groups in mind in such passages of warning; it would seem that he did, though they are difficult to identify with any precision. There can be little doubt of the seriousness with which the danger was perceived (1 Tim 4:16), and adds to the importance of those who have been entrusted with the leading/guiding roles in the congregation—in the Pastoral letters, this refers primarily to the “elders” (presbu/teroi) and to the “overseer” (e)pi/skopo$), best understood as a governing or managing elder. The elder’s duty of teaching is expressed clearly in a number of places (cf. 1 Tim 5:17, etc), as also for the leading minister/overseer (such as Timothy & Titus) given charge over a particular congregation (or group of congregations).

Summary

Based on an examination of all the passages mentioned above, it is possible to discern three main aspects or senses of “teaching” in the Pauline letters:

  1. That of general Christian instruction, between and among believers, especially in terms of the Gospel message.
  2. As a distinct spiritual “gift” (xa/risma) given to particular believers who would exercise and manifest it in the role a “teacher” in the congregational meeting, etc.
  3. The specific duty of the leading ministers—the elders and overseer—involving both the essential proclamation of the Gospel message, and the preservation/transmission of the authoritative teachings and traditions entrusted to them (by the apostles and earlier ministers).

In turning again to 1 Timothy 2:12, given the context and setting of the congregational (worship) meeting, it seems clear that only the last two of these three are viable options. In other words, Paul (or the author) most likely is not offering a blanket prohibition against women teaching, but rather of either (a) attempting to act as a teacher (exercising the gift) in the meeting, or (b) performing the ministerial role reserved for the elder/overseer of the congregation. In attempting to decide between these two, several points should be kept in mind:

  • The parallel setting of 1 Cor 14 would suggest (2, a)—that of a spiritual gift exercised in the worship meeting, and could conceivably refer to women offering teaching without being recognized as one possessing that gift.
  • The connection between teaching and “having power/authority (over) a man” (cf. in Part 5) could indicate that he has the authoritative role of teacher, such as reserved for the elder/overseer, in mind (3, b).
  • The marriage bond is in view, both in 1 Cor 14:33ff and here in 1 Tim 2:9ff, and could mean that the wives of teachers (or teaching elders) are primarily being addressed—i.e., the wife should not overstep her position and assume the teaching role of her husband.
  • Paul (or the author) may also be addressing a particular situation in which (certain) women have been influenced by false teaching; if so, then the illustration in vv. 13-15 would, in large measure, have to be read in that light. I discuss this possibility a bit further in a separate note on Genesis 3:16.

Note of the Day (1 Tim 2:12)

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1 Timothy 2:12

This note is supplemental to the discussion on 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Part 5 of the current series Women in the Church. Verse 12 is central to an interpretation of the meaning and force of the instruction regarding women in the passage. Here is the teaching in vv. 11-12 as a whole:

“Women must learn [manqane/tw] in quiet(ness) in all (proper) order [u(potagh/]; and (indeed) I do not turn over [e)pitre/pw] to women to teach, and not to have power (over) a man, but to be in quiet(ness).”

There is a kind of symmetry, or chiasm, in the author’s statement:

  • Women to learn in quietness and (under) order
    —I do not turn over to them (the right/authority, etc) to teach or have power over a man
  • (Women are) to be in quietness

In some ways, the key element is the central verb e)pitre/pw, “I do not turn over (to)”, which is usually understood in the sense of “I do not permit/allow…” This personal statement is significant in light of the questions surrounding the authorship of Pastoral letters (and 1 Timothy in particular). There can be no doubt that it relates in some way to a similar instruction in 1 Cor 14:34-35:

“The women in the congregation must keep silent, for it is not turned over [e)pitre/petai] to them to speak, but they must be under (proper) order [u(potasse/sqwsan], even as the Law says. And if they wish to learn [maqei=n] some(thing), they must ask their men [i.e. husbands] about it in the house [i.e. at home]…”

The common/related Greek words and the portions in italics show how close the two passages are, in the general sentiment that is expressed. For more on the context of 1 Cor 14:34-35, see the discussion in Part 2. In 1 Corinthians however, it is clear that Paul does allow women to play a leading/speaking role in the Church (i.e. the worship-meeting), since they may pray publicly (out loud) and deliver prophetic messages, as long as certain cultural-religious customs (involving dress code) are maintained (1 Cor 11:2-16, and cf. the discussion in Part 1). Based on 1 Cor 14:3ff, it also seems evident that a woman who prophesies, in so doing, edifies and instructs the entire congregation (including the men). Is there a contradiction between 1 Cor 11:2-16 and 1 Tim 2:11-12? For those who hold 1 Timothy to be pseudonymous, the situation is easier to explain, since the formula “I do not…” is taken as a kind of literary fiction—Paul is used to convey instruction to Church leaders regarding how congregations should handle and govern affairs. At the time 1 Timothy was written (c. 80-100, according to this view), the more charismatic and egalitarian approach found in the Corinthians churches, has been replaced by a carefully defined, organizational (and hierarchical) structure. On the other hand, if 1 Tim 2:11ff is genuinely Paul’s own teaching, a bit more comment is required.

The force of e)pitre/pw—There are several ways the situation may be understood based on the first-person use of the verb in 1 Tim 2:12:

1. Paul is simply personalizing the general instruction in 1 Cor 14:34f—”I do not…” instead of “it is not…”—as befits the nature of the letter (i.e. to his close friend and colleague Timothy, instead of the congregations of a city/region). The context is then best understood as similar to that in 1 Cor 14, on the theory, perhaps, that two specific situations are being addressed in vv. 34-35: (a) women/wives in the congregation responding to the message (prophecy) being delivered (cf. verses 29-31), and (b) women/wives seeking to learn more about what was said. 1 Tim 2:12 would relate more specifically to (a).

2. Paul is distinguishing his own (personal) instruction to Timothy from the practices current in the churches of Corinth (which he hopes to regulate, but does not prohibit). In other words, Paul himself does not allow women to hold such teaching roles, and instructs Timothy to follow his example in the churches which he oversees; but he does not interfere with the practices at Corinth (i.e. women functioning as prophets/preachers) as long as things are done to respect gender-distinction in relation to church custom and the order of creation.

3. The same essential situation is expressed in both 1 Cor 14:34-35 and 1 Tim 2:11-12—i.e., that women, as a general rule, are not to speak/teach/preach publicly in the congregation (where men and women are present together). 1 Cor 11:2-16 reflects the exception of women in whom the (high) gift of prophecy is recognized; they may speak/preach (i.e. utter prophecy) in the worship-meeting, but only in a manner which symbolizes conformity to the order of creation (use of head-covering). In 1 Cor 14:34, Paul implicitly cites the Law and Church custom (v. 33b, 11:16), whereas in 1 Tim 2:12 it is his own (apostolic) authority (cf. also 1 Cor 14:37).

4. Paul is referring in 1 Tim 2:11-12 to a specific (local) situation, perhaps related to the spread of false/aberrant teaching (1:3-7ff; 4:1-4ff). According to 2 Tim 3:1-9, certain kinds of false or heterodox teachers had apparently made some headway among women in the community, and it is conceivable that Paul thought this might spread throughout the congregations. In such a context, e)pitre/pw might then might carry the sense of “I certainly would not…”, “make sure that…”, “I would urge that…”, or something similar.

Of these, options 2 and 3 are the most tenable. I suspect that #3 more or less reflects Paul’s own views on the subject. When dealing with specific questions regarding (corporate) church life and worship, he tends to be rather conservative and cautious, always careful to observe established custom and a proper order of things. On the other hand, he often uses much more radical language and conceptual models when referring to the essential religious identity of believers in Christ (Gal 3:26-29, etc). He no doubt realized that this language could be misunderstood or applied in ways that disrupted Christian unity. In some areas, there is evidence in the letters of how he sought to work through these potential problems (cf. 1 Cor 8-10); unfortunately, we have preserved only glimpses of this in terms of gender-relations in the Church.

A proper understanding of 1 Tim 2:12 also requires that we explore what Paul (or the author of the letter) means when he uses the verb dida/skw (“teach, instruct”). This will be discussed in the next note.

Women in the Church: Part 5 (1 Timothy 2:11-15)

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1 Timothy 2:11-15

As a way of examining and focusing the evidence from the so-called Pastoral letters (1-2 Timothy, Titus), I will be looking in detail at one specific passage—1 Timothy 2:11-15. The situation regarding the Pastoral letters is especially difficult due to the much-debated question of authorship—are they authentically Pauline as the text indicates, or are they pseudonymous? Most critical commentators believe that they are pseudonymous; even many ‘Evangelical’ or otherwise traditional-conservative commentators today are willing to accept this, at least as a possibility. The arguments for pseudonymity are varied, but essentially it is felt that the Pastoral letters contain certain words and phrases, ideas and expressions, which differ markedly from those in the letters where there is no question about Pauline authorship (Romans, 1-2 Corinthians, Galatians, et al). For example, the word-group eu)se/beia/eu)sebw=$/eu)sebe/w does not occur at all in the unquestioned Pauline letters, but the words are found 13 times in the three Pastorals alone. In my view the evidence for pseudonymity is much weaker for 2 Timothy, which generally seems to be compatible with Pauline language and epistolary style (and note the specific personal details, e.g. 4:13, etc). I find many more instances of vocabulary and ideas in 1 Timothy which could be considered atypical of Paul. The situation with Titus is harder to judge, partly due to the comparative brevity of the letter. For many Christians, pseudonymity automatically means a lesser degree of authority and trustworthiness; for others, it makes little or no difference, since the Church as a whole has accepted the canonicity and authority of these letters, regardless.

Historical and Literary Context

If the Pastoral letters are genuinely Pauline, then they were probably written toward the end of Paul’s life (c. 60-63 A.D.) . Second Timothy is set during a period of imprisonment 2 Tim 1:8, 17; 2:9; 4:6-8, 16ff, presumably in Rome (1:17), perhaps not long before his death. The purpose of the letters would have been to offer instruction and encouragement to his younger colleagues (Timothy and Titus) in their role as (apostolic) representatives (and overseers) for the churches over which they had been given authority. For Titus this area was the island of Crete (Tit 1:5ff), for Timothy the region surrounding Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3, etc, and so according to tradition). If any/all of the letters are pseudonymous, then they likely date from a later period, toward the end of the 1st century A.D. (c. 80-100), serving as a compendium of instruction regarding the proper organization/administration of churches, with an emphasis on protecting correct teaching and tradition (i.e. “orthodoxy”). As pseudonymous works, they would best be viewed as variations (alloforms) of a common set of instruction, addressed to different locations (i.e. Ephesus/Asia Minor and Crete, etc). In certain respects, they would be similar to the Didache or “Teaching (of the Twelve Apostles)” and the so-called Letter of the Apostles (early 2nd-century).

The core of First Timothy (2:16:2) is comprised of instruction on Church order—how the congregation should be organized and its corporate life and worship governed. Specific guidelines regarding roles or official positions in the congregation alternate with exhortations to maintain correct teaching and tradition along with proper ethical conduct:

  • Greeting (1:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (1:3-20), regarding
    —Preservation of correct teaching and tradition (vv. 3-11)
    —Paul’s own example as minister of the Gospel (vv. 12-20)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (2:1-3:13)
    —General instruction on Prayer and Worship (2:1-8)
    —continuation, emphasizing the role and position of Women (2:9-15)
    —Regarding “Overseers” (3:1-7)
    —Regarding “Servants/Ministers” (3:8-13)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (4:1-16), regarding
    —False teaching (4:1-5)
    —Preservation of correct teaching and (ethical) conduct (4:6-10)
    —Example of Timothy as minister and apostolic representative (4:11-16)
  • Guidelines for the Churches (5:1-6:2)
    —General instruction related to the handling of men and women (5:1-2)
    —Regarding (female) “Widows” (5:3-16)
    —Regarding (male) “Elders” (5:17-20)
    —[Miscellaneous/personal instruction] (5:21-25)
    —Regarding those in the churches who are Slaves (6:1-2)
  • Exhortation to Timothy (6:1-19), regarding
    —False teaching and ethical conduct (vv. 1-10)
    —Example/encouragement for Timothy as minister of the Gospel (vv. 11-16)
    —The use of riches (vv. 17-19)
  • Conclusion (final instruction) and benediction (6:20-21)

In each of the sections on Church order, there is teaching regarding the role of women in the Church—2:9-15 and 5:3-16—following a brief general instruction related to men and women (2:8-9a; 5:1-2). I will be looking primarily at the first passage (especially 2:11-15), but will comment briefly on the second as well below.

Exegetical Notes and Interpretation

Paul (or the author) begins in 2:8-9 with general instruction as to the manner in which men and women pray (presumably in the context of the worship-meeting, cf. 1 Cor 11:2ff)—it should be done with honest faith/devotion and simplicity. Verses 9-10 add to this some conventional/proverbial teaching on how women should dress and comport themselves—which, admittedly, sounds a bit stereotypical (perhaps even demeaning) to our ears today, but it fully fits in with the thought and language of Proverbs 31, etc. The emphasis is on (inner) virtue and ethical conduct (i.e. “good works”) rather than outward adornment. The instruction regarding the role and position of women in the Church follows in vv. 11-15, and is stated clearly in verses 11-12, which may be divided into two parts (the key words in italics):

“A woman [gunh/] must learn in quietness [i.e. quietly], in all proper order” (v. 11)
“and I do not turn over to a woman to teach, and not [i.e. nor] to have power over a man, but (rather) to be in quietness” (v. 12)

As I discussed in Parts 1 & 2 (on 1 Cor 11:2-16; 14:34-35), the word gunh/ (“woman”) can also mean “wife”, just as a)nh/r (“man”) can mean “husband”; so it is not clear whether the context relates to men and women generally, or to husband and wife specifically. Paul probably has the marriage relationship primarily in mind in 1 Corinthians, and so he (or the author) likely does here as well. If 1 Timothy is pseudonymous (cf. above), then this may be a direct allusion to 1 Cor 14:34-35 or similar Pauline instruction which has been preserved; if written by Paul himself, then certainly there is some relation to the idea expressed in 1 Cor 14:34-35 (on this, cf. Part 2). The context of 1 Corinthians was the response to prophetic messages in the (charistmatic) worship-meeting as manifest and practiced in Corinth (early-mid 50s A.D.); a later author likely would not have had this specific setting in mind, but would have understood it as a general rule for women. Verse 11 contains two prepositional phrases:

  • e)n h(suxi/a| (“in quiet[ness]”)—here h(suxi/a probably should be understood as “quietly”, with the connotation of gentle, humble, obedient, etc, rather than a strict imposition of silence.
  • e)n pa/sh| u(potagh=|—the word u(potagh/ is somewhat difficult to render literally in English; it has the fundamental meaning of “being set/placed in (an arranged) order”, i.e. “under an order”. As with the passive/reflexive form of the related verb u(pota/ssw, it can denote obedience, or even the more forceful idea of being (made) subject to a higher/greater power. However, one should be cautious in translating it as “subjection” or “submission” here—it is perhaps better to follow the more essential meaning “under order”, i.e. “in/with all (proper) order”.

In verse 12, there are three verbs which should be noted:

e)pitre/pw (“turn upon”, i.e. “turn over”)—that is, give over to someone, perhaps with the specific sense of “permit, allow”. It is used in a similar context in 1 Cor 14:34 (cf. Part 2): “for it is not turned over to them [i.e. to women/wives] to speak”. Here Paul (or the author) personalizes the instruction “and I do not turn over to women…”, also giving it a more precise context, by way of two infinitives:

  • to teach (dida/skein)—the importance of teaching, whether through use of the verb dida/skw or the related noun didaxh/, is clear, especially in the Pastoral letters (1 Tim 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2; 4:2; Tit 1:9, 11), with the warnings against false teaching and the strong exhortation to preserve correct teaching/tradition (1 Tim 1:3, etc). For more detail, cf. the separate note on verse 12.
  • to have power (over) (au)qentei=n)—the verb au)qente/w fundamentally refers to holding something (a tool, weapon, etc) in one’s own hand. It can specifically denote an act of war or violence, but also (figuratively or generally) to the exercise of power. The verb only occurs here in the New Testament, so we are left to guess somewhat at its precise meaning in this context—it probably should be understood in the basic sense of a woman exercising (or asserting) authority over a man. Again, the marriage relationship may be in mind.

The instruction given here is supported by an argument from Scripture—the Creation narratives in Gen 1-3—much as Paul does in 1 Cor 11:7-9ff (cf. Part 1). Verse 13 more or less summarizes 1 Cor 11:8, but with the specific emphasis that the Man (Adam) was formed first (prw=to$); this is a small but significant difference with the line of argument Paul uses in 1 Corinthians. Even more serious (and troublesome for us today) is the interpretive development which follows in vv. 14-15:

  1. The statement that it was not the Man (Adam), but the Woman (Eve) who was deceived by the Serpent, leading to sin/transgression (summary/paraphrase of Gen 3):
    “And (moreover) Adam was not (the one) deceived, but the Woman, being deceived out(right), has come to be in violation/transgression” (v. 14)
  2. A (proverbial) saying, which Paul (or the author) affirms (3:1a), along with the Scriptural account (as interpreted):
    “but she will be saved through the birth of offspring, if they should remain in faith and love and holiness with (a) safe/sound mind” (v. 15)

There is nothing in the (unquestioned) letters of Paul to suggest this emphasis on child-bearing/rearing as the primary role for Christian women (indeed, much in 1 Corinthians could been taken to suggest the opposite, cf. 1 Cor 7:5-9, 26-35, 38, 40). It sounds almost crude and ‘unenlightened’ to many today, though it generally fits with the traditional Jewish view as expressed e.g. in b. Ber. 17a: “How do women attain merit? By letting their children be instructed in the house of learning” (Dibelius/Conzelmann, p. 48). Women are said to be “saved” (in the general religious-cultural, not theological, sense) by raising up godly children. This effectively removes the ‘curse’ brought about with the Fall, which, according to the Genesis narrative, happens to involve both child-bearing and the ‘subjection’ of women (Gen 3:16). For further discussion, cf. the separate note on this verse.

Note on 5:3-16 & Conclusion

The other passage dealing with the role of women in 1 Timothy is 5:3-16—instruction regarding widows in the Church. The treatment of the subject suggests that the author has in mind an (official) position in the Church (“Widow”), alongside those of “Overseer” (3:1-7) and “Servant/Minister” (or ‘Deacon’, 3:8-13). Not all actual widows qualify for the office/position, which seems to have involved financial support from the congregation (v. 16) as well as certain ministerial duties (vv. 10-15). In general, widows should be supported by their families, attending to them first (vv. 4ff, 16). The qualifications of the (true) Widows are laid down in vv. 9-10, with the basic rule that they should be at least sixty years of age (extremely old for the time). In some ways, the Widows are the “Elders” among the women in the Church, just as the male “Elders” (presbu/teroi) are mentioned briefly in the following vv. 17-20. This office/position of Widow has been used as an argument for a relatively late dating of the Pastoral letters (late-1st/early-2nd century), but there is actually little information on how churches were structured in the period c. 70-100 A.D. to warrant making any firm conclusions as to when certain practices developed.

Many sincere believers today are genuinely uncomfortable with much of the language and the ideas regarding women (and their roles) expressed in the Pastoral letters (and especially here in 1 Timothy). For a good many commentators these passages are incompatible with the Paul of 1 Corinthians 11, Romans 16, Galatians 3:28, Philippians 4:2-3, etc, and are considered the product of a later author (or tradition) with a less enlightened view of the role and place of women in Christ. Other scholars would maintain that the Pastorals, even if pseudonymous, preserve, or were influenced by, Paul’s genuine teaching in 1 Cor 11:2-16 & 14:33-36, etc. Of course, if 1 Timothy is actually Paul’s work, then we must taken even more seriously the similarities between 1 Tim 2:11-15 and those passages in 1 Corinthians. Does 1 Tim 2:11-15 assume a specific contextual situation like that in 1 Cor 14, or is it meant to be taken as a general rule regarding women? In either case, how should this instruction be understood or applied today, in light of Paul’s teaching elsewhere and in the remainder of the New Testament? These are important questions, with no easy answers ready at hand, and yet it is necessary for each reader and commentator to grapple with them in his or her own way.

References marked “Dibelius/Conzelmann” are to Martin Dibelius and Hans Conzelmann, The Pastoral Epistles (Hermeneia Commentary series), transl. by Philip Buttolph & Adela Yarbro, Fortress Press: 1972.

Note of the Day (Rom 1:1, etc)

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Romans 1:1 & 11:13

In light of the possible reference to Junia as an apostle in Rom 16:7 (cf. Part 4 of the series “Women in the Church”), it is worth considering the use of the word a)po/stolo$ (apóstolos) elsewhere in the New Testament. I will be looking, in particular, at the other two occurrences in Romans as being representative of Paul’s understanding and use of the term. However, a brief overview here will also be useful.

The word itself is derived from the verb a)poste/llw, to set someone or something away from [a)po/] a person, i.e. to send away, to send forth. As such, it is a relatively common verb, largely synonymous with pe/mpw (“send”). Within the Gospels, the noun is used exclusively in reference to the twelve closest companions of Jesus (“the Twelve”), those whom he selected from his followers to have a special role and position (Mk 3:14; Matt 10:2; Lk 6:13). It is not certain if Jesus used this word specifically (note the variant in Mk 3:14), but its rarity in the Gospels suggests that it is a subsequent identification made by early Christians. Certainly it should be associated with Jesus’ practice of sending his disciples out as his representatives, to preach and perform healing miracles in his name (Mk 6:7-13 par; Lk 10:1-12, 17ff; 22:35-36). The theme is emphasized in several sayings of Jesus (in the “Q” tradition, cf. Matt 9:38; 10:16, 40 par; also Lk 10:16), and, especially, in the tradition of Jesus’ commissioning his disciples after the resurrection (Matt 28:19-20; [Mk 16:15ff]; John 20:21; Acts 1:8). The motif has special theological significance in the Gospel of John (cf. 17:3-25, etc).

The basic restriction of meaning to the circle of Twelve continues in the book of Acts (1:2, 26; 2:37, 42-43; 4:33ff, etc), but with several key points of emphasis that can be discerned:

  • They are personal companions of Jesus during his earthly ministry (1:2ff) who were also witnesses of the resurrection, i.e. those who saw and heard the resurrected Jesus (1:21-22)
  • They are specifically located and centered in Jerusalem and Judea (8:1, 14; 9:27; 11:1); this distinction becomes increasingly significant as the narrative moves to the mission in the Gentile world (outside of Judea). It also means that the apostles, like nearly all of the earliest believers, were Jewish Christians (cf. 15:2ff, 22-23; 16:4).
  • They had the specific role and duty of teaching and preaching—that is, proclaiming the Gospel message, and, perhaps more importantly, serving as the source for transmitting the sayings and teachings of Jesus.

Given these three main aspects of the apostolic identity, it is understandable why there might be some conflict regarding Paul’s own identification as an apostle, which he makes repeatedly in his letters, and often in the very opening, as we see in Romans:

“Paulus, slave of (the) Anointed Yeshua, called (to be) an apostle, having been set apart unto the good message [i.e. Gospel] of God…” (Rom 1:1)

The sense of conflict is most acute in Galatians, which centers on the controversy between Paul and other Jewish Christian leaders (including some prominent representatives from Jerusalem), as he describes vividly in Gal 2:1-14ff. This helps us to discern better his own understanding of what it means to be an apostle:

“Paulus, an apostle—not from men, and not through (any) man, but (rather) through Yeshua (the) Anointed and God (the) Father, the (one who) raised him from the dead…” (Gal 1:1)

Paul was commissioned as an apostle through the direct revelation (and personal appearance) of Jesus to him (Acts 9:1-19 par; Gal 1:11ff). His apostolic position was not based on his Jewish background or connection to the other apostles in Jerusalem (Gal 1:13-24). This particular point of emphasis for Paul, however, does make clear that most (if not all) the other apostles were early (Jewish) believers from Jerusalem and Judea, as indicated above. This would apply to Barnabas, who is referred to as an apostle (Acts 14:14, cf. also 1 Cor 9:6); even though he was not one of the Twelve, he was among the earliest believers, and may have been one of those who witnessed the risen Jesus.

In Romans 11:13 we see a special aspect of Paul’s apostleship—it is defined by his missionary work among the “nations” (that is, non-Jews or “Gentiles”):

“But to you I give account [i.e. speak], to the nations, in as much as I am an apostle of [i.e. to] the nations, (and) I give honor/esteem to my service…”

This statement is tied in with Paul’s distinctive teaching in Rom 9-11, that the missionary work among the Gentiles was, in part, intended (by God) to provoke Jews to jealousy (11:11, etc). This is also a large part of why Paul gives special honor to his ministry “…if (some)how I might create excitement alongside my flesh [i.e. with my fellow Jews] and would (thus be able to) save some of them”. What is most important to note here is that Paul very much identifies being an apostle with the particular work of ministry to which he has been called. In Romans 1:1, he uses the verb a)fori/zw, which means to mark out (or mark off, vb. o(ri/zw) from (a)po/) others, that is, to separate out, creating a division or boundary. The apostle is a minister called by God from among all other persons (all other believers) for a special purpose—the pioneering missionary work of proclaiming the Gospel and establishing churches in a region.

When we turn again to the reference in Romans 16:7, if Andronicus and Junia are, in fact, identified as apostles, it may simply mean that they, like Barnabas, are among the earliest believers (i.e. the first generation), and may have come from Judea or participated in the first rush of the Spirit’s activity. If they are among those mentioned in Acts 2:10b, then it is possible that they were also among the very first Christians (and missionaries) in Rome. One aspect of the apostolic role of preaching the Gospel and teaching the early Gospel/Christian traditions involved the founding and establishment of churches (congregations) in a region. Perhaps Paul is referring to this ministry role. In any event, his emphasis in Romans 16, as well as throughout his letters, when referring to his fellow missionaries (whether as apostles, or simply as “servants, co-workers”, etc), is on their sharing with him the same mission work and labor to which he has been called.

Women in the Church: Part 4 (Romans 16:1-2ff)

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Romans 16:1-2ff

The next primary passage to be examined in this series is Romans 16:1-2ff, in particular, the references to the women mentioned by Paul in this chapter.

Historical and Literary Context

Romans was written by Paul sometime after 54 A.D., probably from Corinth—in the context of the missionary journeys described in the book of Acts, this presumably would have taken place during the third journey (cf. Acts 20:1-3). This situation of the letter is unique in that Paul had not yet visited Rome (though he was eager to do so, Rom 1:10-15; 15:22-29), and played no direct role in the establishment of Christianity there. He did know, it would seem, a number of believers in the Roman churches, as indicated by the greetings in chapter 16. By all accounts, churches or groups of believers had been present in Rome from nearly the beginning (cf. below on 16:7, and note Acts 2:10; 18:2), from both Jewish and Gentile (Greco-Roman) backgrounds. This is the catalyst for the framework of the letter—addressed to both Jewish and Gentile Christians—expressing a great hope for unity, especially in light of his pending journey to Jerusalem with the collection taken up (in Greece and Macedonia, etc) for the suffering believers there. A good many of the themes from Galatians are picked up and developed in Romans.

It has often been suggested that chapter 16 is part of a separate letter, and was not addressed to the churches in Rome, but rather to those in another location (such as Ephesus). Moreover, there is evidence that Romans circulated in a form which lacked either chapters 15-16 or 16:1-23 (cf. Fitzmyer, pp. 47-67). However, this is far from conclusive, and the weight of the (textual) evidence suggests that chap. 16 is part of the original letter (except for verse 24, which is almost certainly a subsequent addition). If so, then 16:1-23 serves as the conclusion to the letter (Epistolary Postscript), with vv. 25-27 as the concluding doxology. It may be divided as follows:

  • Recommendation of Phoebe to the Roman congregations (vv. 1-2)
  • Greetings to believers in Rome (vv. 3-16)
  • Final exhortation (and warning) (vv. 17-20)
  • Further greetings from Paul and his secretary/scribe (vv. 21-23)

Exegetical Notes

In the notes on this chapter, I will be focusing on the references to women—the female friends and colleagues of Paul to whom he sends greeting.

16:1-2Phoebe (Foi/bh, lit. “Bright/Shining [One]”). These verses serve as an official introduction (recommendation) of Phoebe to the Christians of Rome; in all likelihood, she would have been the one carrying the letter. This is the technical sense of the verb suni/sthmi (“set/stand with”) which begins the chapter: “I cause her to stand (together) with you”, an idiom meaning “I introduce her to you”, i.e. “I (re)commend her to you”. She is called “our sister [i.e. in Christ]”, as a term of affection and respect, beyond simply identifying her as a believer. Phoebe is also described here by two specific words (or titles):

1. dia/kono$ (diákonos), “servant”. This word in Greek has a wide range of specific meaning, from a waiter at tables (Xenophon, Mem. 1.5.2, cf. Acts 6:1-6) to a person who holds a public (religious) office (cf. Rom 13:4). In early Christianity, it corresponds roughly to the English word “minister”. Paul uses it to refer to himself (an apostle), along with fellow missionaries and church leaders such as Apollos, Epaphras, and Tychicus—cf. 1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6; 6:4; 11:15, 23; Col 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; also Eph 3:7; 6:21, and 1 Tim 4:6. It does not appear to be used in the sense of a specific office within an organized Church structure, as would have developed by the early 2nd-century (Ignatius Ephesians 2:1; Magnesians 6:1), and which may be indicated in 1 Tim 3:8, 11-12; Tit 1:9 (cf. also Phil 1:1). The technical use of the word for the developed office is typically transliterated in English as deacon. Phoebe is sometimes referred to as a deaconess, but this is anachronistic, and the gender-specific term (diakonissa) is not used in the New Testament (cf. Fitzmyer, p. 729).

2. prosta/ti$ (prostátis), from the verb proi+/sthmi (“stand before”). It literally means “one who stands before”, i.e. as a leader or one who gives help and assistance to others. It can be used in the technical sense of a patron (Lat. patronus) or protector, implying one who possesses a higher socio-economic status. Generally, it should be understood as someone in a leadership role (cf. the use of the related verb in 1 Thess 5:12; Rom 12:8), but here it could also mean that Phoebe provided financial assistance, etc, to Paul when he was in Corinth (Cenchreae being a key port/harbor for Corinth). Phoebe thus appears to have been a prominent woman (perhaps a well-to-do business woman), who also served a leading role as minister in the congregations of Cenchreae (and Corinth).

16:3-5a Prisca (Pri/ska, of Latin origin), cf. also 1 Cor 16:19; 2 Tim 4:19. In the book of Acts, she is called Priscilla (Pri/skilla, “Little Prisca“). She is always mentioned together with her husband Aquila ( )Aku/la$), and typically her name comes before his, which may indicate that she was the better-known figure in Christian circles. From Acts (18:2), we know that she and her husband were Jews (probably already Jewish Christians) who had been living in Rome prior to the expulsion ordered by Claudius c. 49 A.D., after which they lived and worked in Corinth and Ephesus (traveling there together with Paul, 18:18). Now it would seem that they have returned to Rome, where they lead/host a congregation in their house, as they did in Corinth (1 Cor 16:19). Prisca (with her husband) was prominent and gifted enough as a minister to instruct Apollos “more precisely in the Way [of God]” (Acts 18:26), which indicates that she was capable of exercising a teaching role in the Church. The couple was known and respected by many congregations (Rom 16:4b).

Paul refers to them as sunergoi/ (v. 3), meaning that Prisca was a sunergo/$ (sunergós), literally one who “works (together) with” him [i.e. with Paul]. This term (or title) is used by Paul numerous times in his letters, in reference to friends and fellow-missionaries (or Church leaders) who work closely with him in proclaiming the Gospel and establishing/strengthening the churches—cf. Rom 16:21; 1 Cor 3:9; 2 Cor 1:24; 8:23; Phil 2:25; 4:3; Col 4:11; 1 Thess 3:2; Philem 1, 24. The reference here and in Phil 4:3 (cf. below) indicates that Paul uses the word for fellow ministers—men and women—without distinction.

16:6 Maryam (Mari/a, i.e. Mary), of whom it is simply said that she “did much labor/work [e)kopi/asen] unto us [i.e. on our behalf]”.

16:7 Junia ( )Iouni/a). It is also possible to read )Iounia=n instead of )Iouni/an, which would make it the shortened form of a man’s name (Junian[us]) ; however, this is highly unlikely (cf. Fitzmyer, pp. 737-8, and UBS/Metzger, p. 475). It is sometimes thought that she was the wife of Andronicus, with whom she is mentioned together here. Paul indicates that Andronicus and Junia share the same ethnic/religious origin (suggenei=$) with him, meaning they are Jewish Christians, and that they have also suffered imprisonment just as he has. They “(have) a mark upon [e)pi/shmo$]” them, i.e. are remarkable/noteworthy “among the apostles”. This phrase could mean (a) they are highly regarded by the apostles, or (b) they are apostles, and prominent among them. Some commentators are reluctant to grant the latter, as it would mean than Junia is an “apostle”; this difficulty almost certainly explains the attempts to read Junia as a man’s name. Otherwise, it would be the only time in the New Testament that the word a)po/stolo$ was applied to a woman. However, this may the result of a basic misconception. The noun a)po/stolo$ (apóstolos), from a)poste/llw (“set/send forth”) in the early Church (perhaps influenced by Jesus’ own use of it) came to have a distinct semi-technical meaning—someone who has been commissioned (sent forth) by Jesus to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples/converts (in his name). If Andronicus and Junia are counted among the apostles, this may simply mean that they are of the first generation of believers—Jewish Christians in Jerusalem (such as Barnabas, etc)—who either saw the resurrected Jesus (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 15:6), or were part of the earliest events (Acts 2ff). Paul states that “they have come to be in Christ before me”, i.e. “they had been Christians before I was”.

16:12-13—Four women are mentioned: Tryphaina and Tryphosa (Tru/faina & Trufw=sa, both lit. “Luxurious [One]” or the like), who may have been sisters, and Persis (Persi/$) who may have been a slave. Of all three, Paul says that they “did much labor/work [e)kopi/asen] in the Lord” (cf. v. 6 above). He also mentions the mother (of Rufus), a woman Paul considers to be like his own mother (“…his mother and mine”).

Interpretation

Of the persons whom Paul specifically mentions in verses 3-16 (including Phoebe in vv. 1-2), there are eight women compared with five men (Aquila, Andronicus, Urbanus, Apelles, Rufus). Moreover, the terms and language he uses to describe them shows little or no distinction whatever, i.e. whether they are male or female. This follows what we see elsewhere in Paul’s letters, e.g., in Philippians 4:2-3, where the women Euodia and Syntyche are considered to be close “co-workers” (sunergoi/) of Paul, alongside Clement, etc. In Romans 16, Paul uses terms such as “servant [i.e. minister]”, “co-worker”, perhaps even “apostle”, equally of men and women without distinction; only in the case of the term “apostle” [a)po/stolo$] (v. 7) is there some uncertainly that it is applied to a woman (Junia). Certainly women such as Phoebe and Prisca were ministers in their own right and prominent/leading figures in the churches, alongside Paul and Apollos, et al. While we do not necessarily have specific detail on what they did in their position of ministry on a regular/daily basis, there is nothing in the Scriptural account itself—that is, in the passages where they are mentioned—to warrant our limiting or restricting their role in any way.

References marked “Fitzmyer” above are to J. A. Fitzmyer, Romans, Anchor Bible [AB] vol. 33, 1995.
“UBS/Metzger” refers to the UBS/Metzger Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd edition) 1994-2002.

Note of the Day – Thanksgiving (1 Cor 1:4-9)

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1 Corinthians 1:4-9

Most of Paul’s letters contain, in the introductory section (exordium), a component of thanksgiving, in which he refers to his giving thanks (to God) for the believers to whom he is writing. The introduction, or exordium, follows the initial greeting (salutation), which almost always blends into a blessing formula (i.e., “grace and peace”)—1 Corinthians provides a good example of this format:

“(The) favor [xa/ri$] (of God) be with you, and peace [ei)rh/nh] from God our Father and (our) Lord Yeshua (the) Anointed {Jesus Christ}.” (1 Cor 1:3)

More than a simple wish, such blessings serve as a compact theological statement. The same may be said of the thanksgiving which follows in 1:4-9. There are two aspects of the thanksgiving which should be noted:

  1. Rhetorical—A common rhetorical device in the exordium (introduction) of the speech or letter was the so-called captatio benevolentiae (“capture of good-will”), through which the speaker/writer seeks to gain the audience’s attention and interest with complimentary words, or by offering praise. Paul often couches this praise in the context of his offering prayer to God.
  2. Theological/Spiritual—On the one hand, the thanksgiving genuinely reflects Paul’s care and concern for the believers in the regions where he had worked as a missionary, and for the churches he had helped to found. At the same time, his thanksgiving formulae also contain a seminal theological statement that unfolds out in a long sentence, with a distinct Christological (and often eschatological) emphasis. From a rhetorical standpoint, this focuses his audience’s attention squarely on their religious identity in Christ.

The thanksgiving begins with verse 4:

“I offer good words (of thanks) to my God always about you, upon [i.e. for] the favor of God th(at) was given to you in (the) Anointed Yeshua…”

The initial verb here is eu)xariste/w (eucharistéœ), “give/offer good (words of) favor”, or, more specifically, to offer words of thanks or gratitude for a favor which was shown. Paul repeats and spells out this favor (xa/ri$, cháris) precisely: “…the favor [xa/ri$] of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus”. The Christological emphasis could not be more clear—the favor (or “grace”) lies squarely in the person and (saving) work of Christ. In verses 5-7, the emphasis shifts to the Corinthian believers (in Christ):

“…in all (thing)s you are made wealthy in him [e)n au)tw=|] , in all (spoken) account(s) [lo/go$] and in all knowledge [gnw=si$]” (v. 5)

If verse 5 emphasizes the believer’s identity in Christ, verse 6 focuses on the other side of this identity, of Christ in the believer:

“even as the witness of (the) Anointed was made firm [i.e. confirmed] in you [e)n u(mi=n]” (v. 6)

Again, in verse 7, Paul cleverly positions his praise of the Corinthians in relation to Christ—in particular, the expected appearance of Jesus at the end-time:

“so that you are not to be left behind, not in any favor granted [xa/risma] (by God), looking out to receive from (God) the uncovering of our Lord Yeshua (the) Anointed” (v. 7)

This “uncovering” (a)poka/luyi$, lit. “taking the cover away from”) of Christ, refers specifically to his (impending) future appearance, as in 2 Thess 1:7, etc. The favors granted (xari/smata, charísmata) to the Corinthians—that is, their distinct spiritual “gifts”—along with their inspired words and (spiritual) knowledge (v. 5), come to be an important point of emphasis in Paul’s teaching throughout the letter (on the charismata, cf. especially chapters 12-14). Verses 4-8 comprise a single sentence in Greek, which closes on a strong eschatological note:

“who also will make you firm until (the) completion, without (anything) calling you in (to account) on the day of our Lord Yeshua [(the) Anointed].” (v. 8)

There is likely a dual-sense of the word te/lo$ (“completion”) here, referring to (a) the end of the current Age, and (b) the believer being made ‘perfect’ and complete. Note the elliptical outline of this clause:

  • (Jesus Christ) who
    —will make/keep you firm (i.e. stable, sure, strong) until…
  • the day of Jesus Christ

A second, shorter sentence in verse 9 summarizes and concludes the thanksgiving:

“Trust(worthy is) God, through whom you were called into (the) common-bond [i.e. community] of His Son Yeshua (the) Anointed, our Lord.”

Again, the emphasis is squarely on the believers’ identity in Christ, here defined in terms of being called by God.

After the thanksgiving, Paul turns to the main proposition (propositio) of the letter and his reason (causa) for writing. This is outlined in verse 10-17, with the propositio of verse 10 emphasizing the need for unity among believers, in the light of apparent divisions (and divisiveness) in the congregations. This lack of unity at Corinth had been reported to him by “the (people) of Chloe”, which could refer to the people of Chloe’s household, or to the house-church led by Chloe (meeting in her house, etc). In either case, she was clearly a prominent women in the Corinthian church. Her name is literally “Green” (Xloh/), presumably in the sense of “fresh, tender”, i.e., young and beautiful. It is worth noting her name here in light of the current series Women in the Church which I am presenting on this site. The next article (Part 4) of this series will focus on Romans 16:1-2ff, which features another prominent woman of Corinth—Phoebe, minister (dia/kono$, diákonos) in the Corinthian port town of Cenchreae.

Women in the Church: Part 3 (Galatians 3:28)

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Galatians 3:28

The next passage to be discussed in this series is Paul’s famous statement in Gal 3:28. There is a definite tension (some would say contradiction) between the idea expressed in this verse, and Paul’s instruction elsewhere regarding the role/position of men and women in the Church. It is therefore necessary to study and explore the matter in some detail.

Historical and Literary Context

Galatians was written (by Paul) sometime in the 50’s; more precise dating has proven difficult, especially since it is not certain whether the churches he addresses are located in southern/south-central Asia Minor (modern Turkey), or in the central region. The former could have been in existence as early as the first missionary journey (cf. Acts 13:13-14:20), while the latter presumably would not have been founded until the second journey (Acts 16:6ff; 18:23). Some traditional-conservative commentators prefer an earlier date (late 40s), on the assumption that it was written prior to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) and that Galatians 2 records a different meeting in Jerusalem. Most scholars, however, accept that Acts 15 and Gal 2:1-10 are separate accounts of the same basic event, and that Galatians was written after the Council. Internal evidence of style and subject matter strongly suggests that Galatians was written relatively close in time to Romans and 2 Corinthians (i.e. early-mid 50’s).

In the letter, Paul is opposing the view of certain Jewish Christians, who had maintained that Gentile (non-Jewish) believers ought to be circumcised and observe the Old Testament Law (Torah). The entire letter is written to persuade the believers in Galatia that such a religious step is not necessary—salvation and being made right (“justification”) in God’s eyes comes entirely through trust/faith in Jesus. Moreover, in Christ, our life and ethical behavior is governed/guided by the Spirit and the teaching/example of Jesus (the ‘love command’), not by observance of the Old Testament Law. We have true freedom in Christ, and are no longer in bondage to (i.e. bound/required to follow) the Law of the old Covenant. Of all the Pauline letters, Galatians has perhaps the clearest rhetorical structure: the main proposition (propositio) is stated in 2:15-16, along with a brief exposition in vv. 17-21. This restates the cause (causa) or purpose of his writing, as indicated in 1:6-7ff, and is prefaced by a narration (narratio) which illustrates the issues involved (1:122:14). The central section of the letter (chapters 34) is the probatio (“proof”), in which Paul produces arguments and illustrations in support of his point, and to convince the Galatians of the truth of it. The arguments Paul uses build upon one another—for example, in 3:6-14, he adduces an argument from Scripture (Gen 15:6, etc) to demonstrate that the covenant God made with Abraham is prior (and superior) to the introduction of the Law at Sinai, and that believers in Christ are the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. Now, in Gal 3:264:11, the argument has been refined and developed so that Paul can affirm, on the basis of Christian experience, that believers truly are the heirs of the blessings and promises to Abraham (realized in Christ).

Outline and Exegesis

Galatians 3:26-4:11 may be outlined as follows:

  • Argument: Believers are the sons/heirs of the divine blessing and promise (3:26-29)
    • Basic statement—sons/heirs through trust in Christ (v. 26)
    • Demonstration—symbolism of the Baptism ritual (vv. 27-28)
    • Conclusion—this is a fulfillment of the covenant with Abraham (v. 29)
  • Illustration (proof): The heir comes of age (in Christ) and is no longer treated like a slave (4:1-11)
    • No longer under the bondage of the Law (vv. 3-7)
    • No longer under bondage to the “elements” of the world (vv. 8-11)

The specific verse (28) under examination is part of the demonstration from Baptism, which must be understood in the context of the two statements in vv. 26 and 29:

V. 26: “For you are all sons of God through the trust [i.e. faith] in (the) Anointed Yeshua {Christ Jesus}”
V. 29: “And if you are of (the) Anointed {Christ}, then you are (the) seed of Abraham, heirs according to (the) promise [e)paggeli/a]”

The symbolism of Baptism in vv. 27-28 is introduced to illustrate/demonstrate that believers are the sons (and heirs) of God. Clearly, Paul’s use of “sons” here applies to all believers—male and female both. We could translate with inclusive language here and say “sons and daughters” or “children”, but that would distort somewhat the image he is using—that of the heir to the household, which typically would be the (eldest) son. The demonstration from Baptism has two parts:

  • V. 27—A fundamental formula indicating the believer’s new identity in Christ:
    “For as (many of) you as have been dunked [i.e. baptized] into (the) Anointed {Christ}, have sunk yourselves in(to the) Anointed {Christ} [i.e. put him on as a garment]”
  • V. 28—A (three-fold) formula expressing the essential character and nature of this identity:
    • “in (Christ) there is no Yehudean {Jew} and no Greek”
    • “in (Christ) there is no slave and no free (person)”
    • “in (Christ) there is no male and female”
  • —along with the concluding formula in 28b:
    “for you all are one in (the) Anointed Yeshua {Christ Jesus}”

The statement in v. 28b is also parallel to that in v. 26:

  • “For you are all sons of God through trust in Christ Jesus”
    “For you are all one in Christ Jesus”

It is certainly not an issue of maleness (“sons”) here—the expression “sons of God” is essentially synonymous with “one”, i.e. the unity of all believers in Christ. This is what the three-fold formula in v. 28 indicates. It is possible that Paul (or an earlier baptismal tradition) is playing on an old Jewish prayer formula, whereby the male Jew gives thanks to God that he was not created as a Gentile, slave (‘brute’) or woman (t. Ber. 7:18; b. Men. 43b; cf. Bruce, p. 187). Each of these elements is significant from the standpoint of the rhetorical context of Galatians:

  • Jew/Greek—this of course is central to the overall argument of Galatians (cf. also throughout Romans): there is no longer any ethnic or religious distinction in Christ between Jew and non-Jew (Gentile)
  • Slave/Free—Paul uses slavery/freedom imagery throughout the letter (2:4; 3:22-25; 4:1-11, 21-31; 5:1, 13), emphasizing the freedom believers have in Christ and through the Spirit; here he uses the terms in their literal/legal sense: the social distinctions of slave and free person have no meaning in Christ
  • Male/Female—as indicated above, Paul has repeatedly been using the image of son/sonship, but this is purely symbolic and illustrative: in a fundamental sense, the social/biological distinction between genders is irrelevant to the identity of believers in Christ.

Interpretation of Verse 28 (Male/Female)

How precisely does Paul intend this last point to be taken? In the case of the Jew/Greek and Slave/Free distinction, it would seem that these no longer apply even within the context of the organized life and worship of the congregation. In other words, there is no apparent restriction in terms of the roles or (religious-cultural) privileges in the Church—i.e., slave and free, Jew and Gentile, could participate in the meeting or hold leadership roles equally. But, as we saw in the earlier studies on 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 14:33b-36, this does not seem to apply as completely to the distinction of gender. Does this reflect an inconsistency in Paul’s thought and teaching? Many commentators today think so. Perhaps Paul did not fully recognize the (logical) consequences of his statement in Gal 3:28; or, on the assumption that Galatians was written prior to 1 Corinthians (and, of course, the Pastoral letters), he may have changed or qualified his approach to the matter in the later writings (cf. Betz, p. 200). Traditional-conservative commentators are more sympathetic toward Paul, but there is still some tension between the two viewpoints: (a) there is no distinction between male and female in Christ, and yet (b) there are to remain clear distinctions in how men and women participate in the body of Christ (the Church).

Interestingly, Paul makes use of language similar to that of vv. 27-28 (referring to Baptism) elsewhere in his letters, in 1 Cor 12:13 and Col 3:11—in both passages there is no mention of the male/female aspect. Since 1 Cor 12:13 is contextually relevant to the discussion of 11:2-16 and 14:33b-36, I cite it here for comparison:

“For in one Spirit we were all dunked [i.e. baptized] into one Body—even if Jews (and) even if Greeks, even if slaves (and) even if free (person)s—and we all were made to drink of one Spirit”

This could indicate that Paul was subsequently more guarded in his language, perhaps to avoid the suggestion that gender-distinction was eliminated (i.e. could be ignored/disregarded) for Christians. Indeed, a number of so-called Gnostic traditions in early Christianity seem to have emphasized this very thing—cf. the saying of Jesus in 2 Clement 12, also the (Coptic) Gospel of Thomas log. 22; the Gospel of the Egyptians 2 (in Clem. Alex. Stromateis 3.92.2); the Gospel of Philip 78, etc (cf. Betz, pp. 195-7). While such sayings and teachings were probably meant to be understood in a spiritual/symbolic (or “mystical”) sense, as opposed to advocating a radical social transformation, they would be scandalous enough for many (proto-)orthodox believers. While it is possible that Paul wished to avoid certain extreme spiritual/gnostic implications, I believe that he actually held a rather radical view himself regarding the new religious identity which was assumed and realized by believers in Christ. This can be seen if we take seriously, not only his statements in Gal 3:27-28, but also the numerous passages which indicate that those who are in Christ are a “new creation”; cf. especially 2 Cor 5:17:

“And so if any(one) is in (the) Anointed {Christ}, he/she is a new ‘creation’ [kti/si$]: the beginning [i.e. old/earlier] (thing)s have gone along [i.e. passed away] (and) see—they have [all] become new!”

Humankind in the original creation was “male and female” (a&rsen kai\ qh=lu, Gen 1:27 LXX), the same expression Paul uses in Gal 3:28. Note that he does not say “in (Christ) there is no male and no female”, but specifically, “in (Christ) there is no male and female“, likely as a direct allusion to Gen 1:27 (cf. Bruce, p. 189). What then of the new creation? That this new identity in Christ is fundamental and must transform all aspects of human life, including gender and sexuality, seems clear—but how, and to what extent? In the earlier note on 1 Cor 11:10, I raised the possibility that this may be part of Paul’s formulation in 11:7-12; here, I further suggest the following interpretation for consideration:

  • 11:7-9: the original created order—hierarchical/vertical—man the head of woman, woman from/through man, etc
  • 11:11-12: the new (transformed) order (“new creation”)—reciprocal/horizontal—man and woman together, interconnected (and equal)

The complexity of Paul’s position is that he seeks to affirm and preserve both aspects for believers, at least within the organized (social and religious) setting of the Christian Community. Keeping this in mind may help us better understand Paul’s teaching and instruction regarding the role/position of women in the Church as expressed in his letters. I will be returning to this theme (and to Gal 3:28 specifically) in upcoming notes as part of this series. For the moment, in closing, I would state that, with regard to the apparent conflict between Gal 3:28 and the instruction involving women elsewhere in the Pauline letters, I agree wholeheartedly with F. F. Bruce, that the passages which seem to restrict the role of women “…are to be understood in relation to Gal. 3:28, and not vice versa” (Bruce, p. 190).

References marked “Bruce” above are to F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (The New International Greek Testament Commentary [NIGTC]), Eerdmans/Paternoster Press: 1982.
Those marked “Betz” are to Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians (in the Hermeneia series), ed. by Helmut Koester, Fortress Press: 1979.

Women in the Church: Part 2 (1 Corinthians 14:33b-36)

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1 Corinthians 14:33b-36

Historical & Literary Context

For an overview, see Part 1 (on 1 Cor 11:2-16). In chapter 14 Paul gives practical instruction regarding the use of believers’ spiritual “gifts” (charismata, cf. chaps. 12-13) in the worship-meeting. Indeed, we have here some of the earliest detail on how worship-meetings were organized in the New Testament period. While it is possible that the information in 1 Corinthians reflects some measure of local or regional development, there was doubtless much in common with meetings as they were held throughout the early Christian world. It clearly was what we would call a charismatic worship setting—i.e., with believers participating (speaking, etc) as the Spirit prompted them, and according to their spiritual gifting (cf. 12:4-11).

In verses 1-25, Paul deals specifically with the practice (and gift) of speaking in tongues (i.e. foreign/strange language). It would seem that some congregations in Corinth were giving undue or exaggerated importance to this phenomenon, with utterances being offered without any corresponding interpretation. Paul gives instruction with regard to this, and contrasts the practice in general with the giving of a prophetic message (in the ordinary language of the congregation); clearly he would prefer that the Corinthians’ meetings be characterized more by prophecy than by messages in a foreign language.

As noted in Part 1, in this early Christian context, ‘prophecy’ (or ‘prophesying’ [profhteu/w]) refers to an inspired utterance or (short) message in which the word and will of God was communicated to the congregation. According to 11:2-16, men and women both could preach or deliver such messages, as long as it was done within certain specific religious custom (and associated dress-code). Here in verses 26-33a, Paul urges especially that those who actively participate (taking a leading/speaking role) in the worship-meeting do so in an orderly, respectful manner. In particular, no more than two or three persons should give a prophetic message, each in turn (v. 29, 31). The speaker would be standing, while the others in the congregation were sitting. A person seated may be prompted to respond to the speaker’s message; if so, then the speaker should yield (in an appropriate way) to that person, so that a fresh revelation may be added and shared with the Community (v. 30). According to Paul, this also was a way to test and regulate the “spirit” in which a prophet spoke—i.e., by the willingness to yield and recognize another believer’s insight (v. 32). All of this is rather foreign to us today, though there are perhaps loose parallels in some of the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic churches, as well as in the traditional Quaker meeting. However, it is important to understand the religious context; otherwise, an interpretation of the verses which follow (vv. 33-36ff) is sure to be severely flawed.

On the text of 14:33b-36—A number of commentators have felt that verses 34-35 may be an interpolation, i.e. something added to the original text by an early scribe or editor, either from another letter of Paul (even another Corinthian letter) or as non-Pauline material. The textual basis for this view is that, in several manuscripts and other witnesses (D F G 88* d g Ambrosiaster etc), verse 34-35 appear in a different location (after v. 40). Such ‘floating’ text in the manuscript tradition is often indicative of a secondary addition. However, no manuscript or version is without these verses; and the textual variant most likely is the result of the feeling, by one or more scribes, that vv. 34-35 fit better following verse 40. Indeed, vv 33b-36 as a whole seem to be somewhat out of place, disrupting the flow of the passage—note how verse 37ff follows smoothly after v. 33b—though many other abrupt digressions can be found throughout Paul’s letters, and could just as well be viewed as a mark of authenticity. It is understandable that many modern commentators might regret Paul’s words and the language he uses in vv. 34-35, and wish that they were not part of the original letter.

Exegetical Notes

Here I will limit comment to several key words and phrases, in verses 34-35 especially, as it will help to focus the interpretive questions related to the passage. Earlier commentators had taken v. 33b (“As in all the congregations [e)kklhsiai] of the holy ones [i.e. saints]”) with vv. 26-33a, but it is probably better understood as introducing what follows. The phrase has a similar place (and purpose) as in the concluding statement of 11:2-16—Paul is referring to the common practice and custom of churches everywhere as a way of persuading the Corinthians to accept his instruction.

Verses 34-35:

ai( gunai=ke$ (“the women”)—as I discussed in Part 1, gunh/ (“woman”) can also mean “wife”, just as a)nh/r (“man”) can mean “husband”; even more so than in 11:2-16, Paul seems to have married women in mind here. The phrase “in the congregations [e)kklhsiai]” probably carries the specific meaning of the assembly or worship-gathering.

siga/twsan (“[they] must be silent”)—the verb siga/w has the basic meaning ‘be/keep silent, still, quiet”, sometimes with the sense of keeping something hidden or secret. Paul uses it earlier in vv. 28, 30, and this is instructive for understanding its meaning here:

  • V. 28—If a speaker wishes to give an utterance/message in a foreign language (“tongues”), but there is no one to interpret it, he ought to hold back the message and remain silent.
  • V. 30—If a revelation has been given to a person sitting (and hearing a prophetic message), and that person wishes to speak, the earlier speaker ought to yield (“be silent”) and let the revelation be heard.

e)pitre/petai (“[it] is turned [over] upon”)—the full phrase being “it is not turned over to them to speak”, which could mean either: (a) “it is not permitted for them to speak” or (b) “it is not their time/turn to speak”.

lalei=n (“to speak”)—What is the precise meaning of the verb here? The main possibilities are: (a) any sort of speaking during the meeting, (b) speaking a prophecy, (c) responding to the prophecy (v. 30), (d) speaking to her husband about what was said, or (e) inappropriate talk (chatter, etc). Based on the context, I would say that only (c) and (d) are viable options (cf. below).

u(potasse/sqwsan (“[they] must be under order”)—The verb u(pota/ssw means “put/place under an arranged order”, i.e. “put in order”. The passive/reflexive form often denotes obedience, sometimes with the harsher sense of submitting or being subject to a higher authority. Unfortunately, this more forceful (negative) connotation has been read into the context here, with the idea of the woman (or wife) being subject to the man (or husband), sometimes informed by a traditional interpretation of Gen 3:16b. A better approach is to look at other occurrences of the verb in Paul’s letters which involve a similar (or relevant) context. I would point to Romans 8:7 where Paul effectively exhorts human beings (believers) to place themselves under God’s Law (cf. also Rom 10:3, and note parallel language in Rom 13:1, 5). He also uses the verb in the context of the (hierarchical) chain which reflects the order God has established for the universe (1 Cor 15:27-28; Phil 3:21)—all things are subordinated under Christ’s authority, with Christ under God (the Father). Paul clearly includes man and woman (spec. husband and wife) as part of this (vertical) chain of relation (1 Cor 11:3, and cf. Col 3:18; Eph 5:21-24, where u(pota/ssw is used). Ultimately, one must turn to the immediate context of v. 32

“the spirits of (the) prophets are under the order [u(pota/ssetai] of (the) prophets”

by which he means the the impulse/desire to speak must function within the proper order of things in the worship-meeting, specifically in terms of when/how a prophet or (inspired) speaker should participate in turn (cf. above).

o( no/mo$ (“the Law”)—”even as the Law says”, i.e. the Old Testament Law, as expressed primarily in written form in Genesis–Deuteronomy. Does Paul have a specific Scripture in mind? That is hard to say. It is unlikely that he is referring to Gen 3:16b (cf. above), though possibly he has the Creation narrative (Gen 1-2) in view (cf. 1 Cor 11:7ff, and the discussion in Part 1). The context of the order of worship could apply to virtually anything in the (Levitical) code governing religious ritual. Note a similar combination of the “the Law (of God)” and the verb u(pota/ssw in Romans 8:7. As I have argued elsewhere, the expression “Law of God” in Paul’s letters means something more than the Old Testament (written) Law, being synonymous with the will of God.

maqei=n qe/lousin (“they wish to learn”)—”and if they wish to learn something”, i.e. regarding what has been said, the prophetic message in the meeting. For the sense of manqa/nw (“learn”), cf. its use in verse 31.

e)perwta/twsan (“they must ask/inquire upon”)—the verb often implies a serious questioning or interrogation, i.e., seeking to gain information. Paul states that the women must question “their own men/husbands” about the matter, in the house (i.e., privately, at home).

ai)sxro/n (“shame/disgrace[ful]”)—Paul’s words here, taken out of context, sound especially harsh to modern ears: “for it is (a) disgrace for women to speak in (the) congregation(al meeting) [e)n e)kklhsi/a|]”. His use of ai)sxro/$ (“shame, disgrace”), like that in 11:4-6, is related to the idea of something which violates and mars the proper order of things (established by God).

The statement in verse 36 sums up not only vv. 33ff, but entire discussion in chapter 14. The thrust of Paul’s rhetoric here is to make the Corinthians recognize that their worship-meetings ought to conform to Christian practice and custom in general. This tone continues through vv. 37-40, culminating with his final, definitive instruction: “All things must come to be well-formed [eu)sxhmo/nw$] and (done) according to order [kata\ ta/cin]”—in conventional English we might say, “all things must be done in a proper and orderly manner”.

Interpretation

Sadly, verses 34-35 have been taken out of context and used to support the idea that women should not speak at all in the worship-meeting, or that they are not permitted to participate as public speakers/preachers in the meeting. Such a (general) view is indicated by Tertullian already in the late-2nd/early-3rd century (On Baptism, 17.3), and has persisted, in various forms, down to the present day. I would maintain, however, that it is not warranted by the context of chapter 14, and is flatly contradicted by 11:2-16. Based on the exegesis and analysis offered above, I suggest the following interpretation:

  • Verse 34 relates specifically back to the discussion in vv. 26-33a, especially the issue in v. 30—i.e., of those seated in the congregation who may be inspired to respond to the prophetic message, or to offer a fresh revelation in turn. Paul seems to be limiting this aspect of the worship-meeting to men. While women may function as speakers/preachers, giving a (prophetic) message, it is a different matter for those seated in the congregation. Possibly this instruction should be construed even more narrowly, to the wives seated with their husbands.
  • Verse 35 shifts the discussion to a slightly different situation—where a wife wants to know more about the (prophetic) message that was spoken. In such instances, she should wait and discuss it with her husband at home. It is not certain whether, or to what extent, this instruction relates to unmarried women in the congregation. Some commentators have suggested that Paul has in mind wives questioning the (prophetic) message of their own husband, but that seems to be reading a bit too much into the passage.

Paul probably includes both of these situations under the declaration in 35b, though the emphasis may be on the latter. As indicated above, the language of this statement sounds quite harsh (with the use of “shame/disgrace”), but the force and place of it, in context, should not be misconstrued.

It is extremely difficult to apply 1 Cor 14:34-35 to the worship-setting in our churches today, since it requires a high degree of religious-cultural translation, which is perilous and unwise to attempt. It is better to spend one’s effort and energy grappling with just what Paul is trying to emphasize for believers regarding the relationship between men and women, as expressed in the corporate/community worship setting. How far should gender-distinction be preserved? How should husbands and wives relate in the worship setting? What about the distinction between ‘gifted’ minister and ‘ordinary’ congregant? Who should or should not be actively speaking/participating in the meeting, and where/when/how should they do so? Are there other aspects of the modern community worship experience which more seriously threaten proper order and custom than those which Paul addresses in Corinth?

Note of the Day – November 17 (1 Cor 11:10)

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1 Corinthians 11:10 (continued)

As a follow-up to the previous day’s note (on 1 Cor 11:10), I thought it worth exploring a bit further the key expression e)cousi/an e&xein (“to hold authority”). The verb e&xw is often translated “(to) have”, but more properly means “(to) hold“, that is, to hold in one’s possession or control. The noun e)cousi/a (exousía) is derived from the verb e&cesti[n] (éxesti[n])—the preposition e)c (“out of”) + the verb of being ei)mi. It indicates that which is, or comes, from a particular person or source. It generally refers to the ability for a person to do something, often in the specific sense of something which is permitted or allowed. The English word “authority” offers as good a translation as any.

The noun e)cousi/a occurs fairly frequently (just over 100 times) in the New Testament, including 27 times in the Pauline letters. When we consider the used of the word in verse 1 Cor 11:10, it is stated that the woman ought to hold the e)cousi/a upon her head, through (or because of) the order of creation as now realized in Christ (“in the Lord”, v. 11). But just what is this e)cousi/a (“ability, authority, power” etc)? The best guide to meaning, in addition to the immediate context, is the use of e)cousi/a elsewhere in the (undisputed) letters of Paul. Of the 27 instances of the word in the Pauline writings, 12 occur in 1 and 2 Corinthians, including several instances with the same verb e&xw (“hold, have”):

  • 1 Cor 7:37—to a man having/holding his will or (sexual) desire under his (own) control
  • 1 Cor 9:4-6—to the apostles having/holding the right to be given food and drink (i.e. not to have to earn a living through other labor), to have a wife, etc; cf. also vv. 12, 18, and 2 Thess 3:9.
  • Cf. Rom 9:21—illustration of the potter (God) having/holding the right (and power) to shape the clay as he wishes

These other instances of e)cousi/a with e&xw in 1 Corinthians (and 2 Thess 3:9) relate generally to the idea of having the (personal) right or ability to do something, but that one’s own will or desire is subordinated to the good of the Community (as also in 1 Cor 8:9). The other instances of e)cousi/a are:

If we turn to the rest of the New Testament writings, e)cousi/a with the verb e&xw (i.e. “hold authority”) is found in several other places:

  • Mark 1:22 par, where it is said by those observing Jesus that he taught “as (one) holding authority”, in contrast to the other Jewish teachers of the Law.
  • Mark 2:10 par—Jesus declares that “the Son of Man holds (the) authority to release [i.e. forgive] sins”. Here too there is a contrast (conflict) with the Jewish teachers and leaders (vv. 7ff). According to Matt 9:8, it is God who gives/grants this authority.
  • Mk 3:15—Jesus grants to his disciples, i.e. allows them, “to hold (the) authority” to cast out daimons (evil spirits causing disease, madness, etc); it is the same kind of authority/ability which Jesus had exhibited in his miracles.
  • Matt 8:9—here it is used by the centurion who requests Jesus to heal his servant; he states, “I am a man under authority, holding (authority over the) soldiers under me”. Cp. Acts 9:14.
  • John 10:18—in a foreshadowing of his upcoming death (and resurrection), Jesus declares that “no ones takes it [i.e. my soul/life] (away) from me, but I set it (down) from myself; I hold authority to set it (down), and I hold authority to take it (up) again—this is the charge (placed) on (me) I received (from) alongside my Father”. Cf. the same idea expressed in 19:10-11 (addressed to Pilate).
  • Heb 13:10—drawing upon the Old Testament sacrificial and ritual imagery, the author states that believers have (lit. hold) an altar from which “the ones performing service in the Tent [i.e. Tabernacle/Temple] do not hold (the) authority to eat”. In other words, believers are allowed to partake (spiritually) in the holiest things of God through the person and work of Christ.
  • Rev 9:3, etc—the idiom occurs frequently in the book of Revelation, indicating how the Angels (and other messengers of God) were given authority to perform certain miraculous actions at the end-time. In Rev 20:6 a different idea is expressed—that the “second death” (that is, death/punishment following the Last Judgment) “holds no authority” over believers.

Two basic observations may be gleaned from all these passages: (1) the idiom refers to ability/authority a person has in his/her own personal control, and (2) that it has been given/granted by someone higher. The chain of authority is clear and simple: God —> Christ —> the believer. Upon returning to 1 Cor 11:10, we can see how this applies. First, the woman holds the authority herself; it is not held by another (the man), but genuinely by her. There is no sense that this ministering authority is given to her by the man; however, it does reflect the chain of authority expressed in 1 Cor 11:3. This is the second key point, and is why, for Paul, the use of the head covering is so important (however obscure it may seem to us today)—it allows the woman to exercise her authority within the context of the established order of creation. Even though the church embodies the new creation in Christ, it still reflects the original created order, fundamental aspects of which ought to be maintained. And yet, the use of the verb e&xw in v. 10 strongly indicates that the emphasis is truly on something that the woman holds (a right, power, ability, etc) in her own person. In my view, the emphasis is not on the authority of the man/husband over the woman. Her gifting to speak comes from the Spirit, but it must be exercised within the order established by God.