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« Lifting Up Our Hearts - 12 | Main | The school of domesticity »
Friday
Jan102014

Women in the Church: know your pre-suppositions

I've been reading a book called Women in the Church: An Analysis of I Timothy 2:9-15. It is edited by Andreas Köstenberger and Thomas Schreiner. It is a collection of essays evaluating the teaching of that passage.

The first chapter deals with the context of ancient Ephesus, and the question of whether or not it was a "feminist" culture. The second chapter examines the Greek word authentein, authority, and its use in other places in the New Testament and extra-biblical literature. 

The third chapter, written by Köstenberger, deals with the syntactical issues of the verse, specifically the pairing of the infinitives "to have authority" and "to teach." This is a very detailed chapter. Köstenberger spends a great deal of time showing how the construction is used in numerous places in the bible and outside the bible. He also interacts with some of the evaluation of the first edition of this book. He examines the reactions of both complementarians and egalitarians. If you're interested in language and its use, you'll find this chapter fascinating.

Köstenberger comments about the evaluation of Judith Hartenstein, an egalitarian, who agreed with his exegesis of the passage, but not his theology (she doesn't believe Paul wrote I Timothy). He comments that often, presuppositions colour the exegesis:

... Hartenstein's candor makes explicit what may often be an unacknowledged factor in feminist or egalitarian interpretations of I Timothy 2:12, namely, presuppositions that in fact override the actual exegesis of the passage. Whether or not this is acknowledged by egalitarian or feminist interpreters, their choice of which exegetical arguments to embrace may be (and often seems to be) motivated by their prior commitment to egalitarianism. How refreshing it is when this is openly acknowledged, as in the case of Hartenstein's review.

I'm wondering if egalitarians would level the same allegation toward complementarians in their exegesis. We all have presuppositions; better to be up front about that. I think significant amounts of disagreement arise because of our differing presuppsotions.

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Reader Comments (4)

Good point. IMO within the comp camp, we can be just as guilty of letting presuppositions drive the interpretation of certain verses. I also wonder how much our eschatology and view of the Mosaic law contributes to this as well.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPersis

Looks like an interesting book. Haven't read anything by either author and I'm curious as to what is his final conclusion on the role of women in the church was when it comes to preaching to and governing men in the church.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane

This topic interests me. Very glad to see this book is available through my inter-library loan system. Thanks!

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDebi

Interesting post. I agree with Persis' statement that comps "can be just as guilty of letting presuppositions drive the interpretation of certain verses." I appreciate a comp admitting this.

"Whether or not this is acknowledged by egalitarian or feminist interpreters, their choice of which exegetical arguments to embrace may be (and often seems to be) motivated by their prior commitment to egalitarianism." - Hmm. Most of the evangelical egalitarians I know (including myself) did NOT have a prior commitment to egalitarianism. Many of our stories have similar threads. We were comps who at some point developed some questions/concerns about this issue, and we then began to intently seek the scriptures/study/pray, and slowly our views became egalitarian. For some of us, this was quite a surprise. If you'd told me 10 yrs ago how my views would change on this topic, I would not have believed it.

I am not familiar with this Hartenstein. But I find that in academic works that comps can often choose to quote/interact with the thoughts of non-evangelical, "liberal" egalitarian scholars. And I don't think that is fair as it indirectly or insidiously equates egal with liberalism. How about interacting with some of the conservative evangelical egalitarian scholars? Like Dr. Philip Payne. His highly academic book "Man and Woman, One in Christ" is exhaustive, and I mean exhaustive. Choosing to quote extremists is not fair, whether it is done by comps or egals. But again I know nothing about this Hartenstein.

Well, I may have drifted off topic. One last thing. We all at times impose our theology on our exegesis. When dealing with an obscure or unique passage, we impose what we are more certain of onto it.

Thanks for listening.

January 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

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