Here’s a good exercise for getting people thinking and talking about reading and applying the Bible: Read 1 Timothy 2:8-15 and isolate the commands. There are 7:
1. Men should pray with hands lifted
2. Men should pray without anger or disputing
3. Women should dress modestly
4. Women should not have elaborate hairstyles or wear gold or pearls or expensive clothing
5. Women should have good deeds
6. Women should be silent and quiet
7. Women should not teach or have authority
Feel welcome in the comments to give your answers to how each one applies today! Might spark an interesting discussion.
McKnight’s big idea continues here – let’s read the Bible as narrative of restoration and ‘oneness’ – with God and with each other. Let’s not read these ‘silence’ passages like this one and 1 Corinthians 14:34-5 as the last word but read them in light of the facts of what women did do in the OT and NT; in light of the gift of the Spirit given to all, including teaching and leading (read Acts 2:16-18 for the big new picture of what God is doing); in light of equality and unity men and women have in Christ; in light of the ‘expansion’ of ministry to all, including women, within the new covenant community of the church.
A provocative stance he takes is that to seek to silence women in the church is actually to want to live under the effects of the fall rather than in light of the reconciling and healing work of the Spirit of God.
The debate is well worn here: Is this a prescriptive command for all Christians in all cultures for all time? McKnight says ‘No’ – it has to be a local, specific, and temporary type of ‘silencing’. Women obviously were speaking in Corinth (11:5). Paul isn’t contradicting himself a few lines later. There are lots of theories; McKnight goes for uneducated women disrupting things and being told to keep quiet and ask their husbands at home.
In other words, the principle here is ‘learning before speaking’. This principle applied to women for specific cultural reasons in 1st Century Corinth. The issue is about knowing the Bible and theology and having pastoral gifts and skills – having the basic requirements in place in order to minister and use God-given gifts.
Ephesian Silence (Timothy was in Ephesus when Paul wrote to him)
The same issues apply: A creation ordinance or local problem? A law laid down by the apostle for all Christians for evermore? Or a practical and pastoral response to a specific issue of Greek / Roman culture?
McKnight goes local – the whole context of the passage is the integrity of the gospel in Ephesian culture. Women in the church were acting in a way that threatened the reputation and integrity of the gospel, so it was better if they were quiet until they were better equipped or mature enough in Christ to participate.
In the next and final chapter, Scot fleshes this out a bit more. I’ll post on it tomorrow.
Some of my comments:
Often hierarchicalists accuse those supporting women teachers and leaders of ignoring or evading the bits of the Bible they don’t like. This isn’t the case at all. There are principles and truths that Paul is concerned about in these texts – they just aren’t the ones that hierarchialists have seen in the text.
Something I think Scot could have made more of is that both texts mentioned in this post are extremely difficult to interpret and understand. It is like listening to one side of a phone conversation. You catch what one person is saying but things he says are only fully understood by the person on the other end of the line. So it is with both these texts (and 1 Corinthians 11 about coverings and angels). The Corinthians and Timothy would have known exactly what Paul meant – truth is we can’t be sure. And here’s the point:
I think it is deeply unwise, exegetically weak, pastorally damaging, missionally disastrous and theologically myopic to insist that women are to be excluded from teaching and leading in the church on the basis of a highly contentious reading of notoriously difficult passages of Scripture.
Can’t say I’m on the fence on this one.
Comments, as ever, welcome.