Women in the Church, a Fresh Analysis of I Timothy 2:9-15 by Andreas J. Kostenberger, Thomas R. Schreiner and H. Scott Baldwin, Editors

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Perhaps the finest analysis of the most important passage surrounding the role of women in ministry controversy, Women in the Church is a book worthy of study. All the authors contributing to this work take the conservative, traditional view that women, while equal in essence with men, are restricted from certain leadership and teaching roles in the church. What is unique about this volume is that the eight contributors do not simply rehash one another’s points, but rather each contributes a specialized essay:

Chapter 1, A Foreign World: Ephesus in the First Century, by S. M Baugh, deals with the all-important historical setting of the first recipients of the epistle of First Timothy. Here the author exposes the error that Ephesus was an exotic, feminist, social-religious culture devoted to the fertility deity Artemis. In fact in the Greek pantheon Artemis was a virgin representing purity, not sexual indulgence. She was viewed as the daughter of Zeus, the twin sister of Apollo, and the virginal guardian of chastity (p.29). Her priestesses therefore did not engage in sacred prostitution. There is also no evidence that women took leadership roles in Ephesus. My only disappointment in this chapter is a lack of any mention of the Greek hetairai and their role in society and possibly the church.

Chapter 2, A Certain Kind of Letter: The Genre of I Timothy, by T. David Gordon, seeks to determine the genre of I Timothy in order to provide a general literary framework for the interpretation of the passage.

Chapter 3, A Difficult Word: Authenteo in I Timothy 2:12, by H. Scott Baldwin, discusses the word Paul uses for “authority” in I Timothy 2:12. This word is found only once in the New Testament and in its verb form only 110 times in ancient Greek literature. Of the possible meanings for the word the author demonstrates that the live options are 1) to control, to dominate; 2) to compel, to influence someone/thing; 3) to assume authority; or 4) to flaunt the authority of. Its exact meaning in the text must be determined by other factors, which are discussed in subsequent chapters.

Chapter 4, A Complex Sentence Structure in I Timothy 2:12, by Andreas J. Kostenberger, is the attempt to determine the meaning of authenteo within its specific context. In extrabiblical Greek literature forty-eight syntactical parallels to I Timothy 2:12 are found. Conclusions drawn from the study show that the proper translation should be “I do not allow a women to teach or have (or exercise) authority over a man,” rather than the “progressive” view, “I do not allow a women to teach or to flaunt her authority, or to domineer.”

Chapter 5, An Interpretation of I Timothy 2:9-15: A Dialogue with Scholarship, by Thomas R. Schreiner, who dismantles verses eleven and twelve, studying the words and phrases in light of recent scholarship from the progressive side. His conclusion is that the traditional understanding of the passage is the correct one.

Chapter 6 is The Hermeneutics of I Timothy 2:9-15, by Robert W. Yarbrough. As always our hermeneutics will determine our understanding of the meaning of the Scriptural text. Yarbrough suggests that there are three hermeneutical assumptions made by egalitarians that allow them to reject the traditional view of I Timothy 2: The Western culture’s liberalized views of women, the putative meaning of Galatians 3:28, and an alleged tie between women’s subordination and slavery (p.159). Accusingly, the author states, “Viewing society’s drift in its application for Christian gender roles as essentially ‘positive’ [by the evangelical community] could only have taken place when key biblical texts were set to the side long enough for the drift to be endorsed” (p.165). He follows, “To summarize, a fundamental hermeneutical question is whether the prevailing secular mind-set should continue in the future to exercise the strong influence on exegesis of biblical texts that it has had in the recent past” (p.166). The rest of the essay deals with these considerations.

Chapter 7 is The New Testament Against Itself: I Timothy 2:9-15 and the “Breakthrough of Galatians 3:28,” by Harold O.J. Brown. The essence of Brown’s article is found in an early statement: “For about eighteen centuries, I Timothy 2:12, as well as I Corinthians 14:34 and related texts, was assumed to have a clear and self-evident meaning. Then, rather abruptly, some, hardly a quarter century ago, began to ‘discover’ a different meaning in the apostle’s words. Did God suddenly permit ‘more light to break forth from his holy Word,’ as the old Congregationalist put it? Or is there reason to suspect that the many modern interpretations of I Timothy 2 are primarily the result of certain conscious or unconscious presuppositions?” Brown’s view is transparent when he writes, “When opinions and convictions suddenly undergo dramatic alteration, although nothing new has been discovered and the only thing that has dramatically changed is the spirit of the age, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the spirit has had an important role to play in the shift. . . . If Scripture does not mean what people have taken it to mean for centuries, then the Bible is obscure and, due to its lack of clarity, it cannot possess the authority it once had” (p.199).

Appendix 1, A History of the Interpretation of I Timothy 2 by Daniel Doriani, is a valuable study demonstrating that the views of modern-day egalitarians are novel and unique to this generation, proving Francis Schaeffer correct when he said, “Tell me what the world is saying today, and I’ll tell you what the church will be saying in seven years.”

Appendix 2, Authenteo in Ancient Greek Literature by H. Scott Baldwin is devoted to an extensive study of this important word for “authority” as it pertains to the discussion at hand. See chapter three.

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