(With reference to some issues raised in a comment to a post below)
Argument 1: Jesus did not ordain women as pastors/teachers, or call women to teach and therefore have authority over men so Paul (in, e.g. 1 Tim 2:11-15) confirms that this is right and proper in respect of the order of the church, undergirded as it is by creation and the fall – so arguments about the meaning of ‘authentein’ are possibly irrelevant – including the fact that naming the animals was a role given to Adam and not to Eve. The consequential challenge is to demonstrate from either Genesis or Jesus that women are called to the role of teaching and having authority over men.
I do not think this can be responded to in an Anglican context without a reminder, first, of Anglican approaches to interpreting Scripture. These I summarise as follows: (1) nothing repugnant to Scripture (2) anything consistent with Scripture (3) everything revisable according to Scripture.
(1) is a consistent principle of interpretation through all history of theology.
(2) is the hard won result of arguments with Puritans, tested subsequent to the Elizabethan Settlement, never resiled from despite temptations to do so at different times in English history since E1, thus, for example, we subscribe to the orders of deacons, priests, and bishops, as consistent with Scripture though this is not required by Scripture.
(3) is the principle of the Reformation, put into practice by the English Reformers, and subsequently has empowered Anglicans to consider proposed changes to faith and practice, including consideration of the ordination of women.
To the argument: some minor points to begin with. When engaging with Genesis 1-3 (indeed 1-11) which are important chapters lying at the foundation of all theological reflection about humanity and our relationship to God, some things are theologically ‘clear’, some less so.
Thus at the end of Genesis 1, one of the theological implications of creation is made explicitly clear, namely, that we are made in God’s image, and that we are made ‘male and female’ in that imaging-in-creation, implying a fundamental ontological equality between men and women; and at the end of Genesis 2, another fundamental point is made, that we are made male and female for the purpose of marriage, and marriage is to be an exclusive lifelong commitment.
Less ‘clear’ is the theological lesson of Adam naming the animals. It’s reasonably clear (I suggest) that this signifies a superiority of humanity over the animal species. But can we be clear about other implications of this naming? To draw from that some difference in role between Adam and Eve would have implications beyond the roles of husband and wife, or men and women in ministry: naming animals is a kind of scientific role, should we conclude that women may not be scientists? This would be an absurd restriction on women-in-science, and an outrageous basis on which to make the restriction. Consequently we should look for something more substantive, and, better, much clearer from Genesis before we start drawing conclusions about Genesis providing a basis for restriction of women in teaching and in leadership roles.
The major points for consideration from the argument set out above, then, are these: (a) the (apparent) lack of ordination of women, by Jesus, to the roles of pastors/teachers, and/or Jesus calling women to teach and have authority over women, and (b) the implications of the story of creation and the fall in respect of the relationship between Adam and Eve for ministry roles for women (the connection made explicit by Paul in 1 Timothy 2:13-14).
(a) What did Jesus commission the apostles to do, was it a commission limited to their gender?
At the end of Matthew, Luke’s, and John’s Gospels, and at the beginning of Acts, there are narratives of commissioning of the disciples, mostly, but not exclusively with ‘the Twelve’ in view. But the commission – to baptise, to teach, to make disciples (say, from Matthew 28:20) - is not worked out in practice in terms of an exclusive ministry order of the apostles and of their explicitly ordained successors. Notably in Acts we find ad hoc arrangements being made, along with a broad cast of Christians carrying out the commission of Jesus. One ad hoc arrangement is the commissioning of deacons in Acts 6 because the workload for the apostles has become too great. (The initial deacons, incidentally, are male, but by Romans 16 we have at least one female deacon named). Another ad hoc arrangement is the way ministry leadership develops and incorporates other ministry leaders: Barnabas, for instance, sent to Antioch from Jerusalem (sounds like an ‘official’ extension of the commission of Jesus from Jerusalem based apostles), but then taking initiative to go up to Tarsus to find Saul/Paul to bring him back to Antioch (seems like an unofficial, but inspired thing to have done).
Without canvassing all that the New Testament says about ministry in the days of the apostles, I note two items from a more extensive list of things to consider:
(1) when the apostolic band (Paul, an apostle; Silas, a companion to the apostle; and Timothy, arguably, yes, a minister of the gospel ordained by Paul; plus, the ‘we’, read for the first time in 16:10, is suggestive of Luke, another companion of the apostle joining the band) reach Philippi, their first convert is Lydia, a woman, whose household (without mention of a husband) is baptized, and whose leadership is such that she ‘prevailed’ upon the band to stay. Looks like Lydia was the first leader of the church in Philippi!
(2) The reference to ‘apostles’ in Romans 16:7 which raises significant questions as to (a) the extent of ‘the apostles’ in those days, (b) whether women were numbered among those called ‘apostles’, since one reading of this verse (NOT fairly witnessed to by the ESV) is, “Greet Andonicus and Junia, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners. They are well known among the apostles, and they were in Christ before me.” One reason why they might have been accounted as ‘among the apostles’ is that this couple are the ‘Joanna, wife of Chuza’ (i.e. ‘Joanna = Junia’, and ‘Chuza = Andronicus’, h/t Richard Bauckham) of Luke 8:3, Joanna being one of the disciples of Jesus.
In short, the complex, even messy evidence of the New Testament itself, undercuts any subsequent tendency towards a simple deduction that because none of the Twelve were women, therefore Jesus did not intend women to engage in the apostolic commission to teach and to lead the church.
(b) Given the supportive citation of the story of Adam and Eve in creation and the fall when Paul prohibits in 1 Timothy 2:12 and justifies it in 1 Timothy 2:13-14, what are the implications of the creation and the fall for ministry roles for men and for women?
In a number of ways, this simply takes us to the way we read 1 Timothy 2:12-15 and apply it to life today. Here goes again! The roles of women in the ministry of the early church of the days of the apostles does raise the question whether Paul was laying down in 1 Timothy 2:12 a blanket ban on all women teaching and leading men in mixed gender congregational settings; a ban on Phoebe, Prisca, Lydia, Junia, Euodia and Syntyche, to say nothing of the prophesying daughters of Philip the Evangelist undertaking any kind of teaching role or leading role in the mixed congregations of the early church. Imagine the prohibition in 1 Timothy 2:12 was not, in fact, in line with a general and, it should be said, somewhat draconian policy, given the esteemed women mentioned above circulating in the life of the early church (most notably, perhaps, Prisca/Priscilla). How might 1 Timothy 2:13-14 have been understood?
“For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”
The first thing that would not have been understood is that women are inherently prone to being deceived and consequently untrustworthy of the role of teacher because this would make a nonsense of the entrusting of the role of teacher to women (re other women and children) in Titus 2:3-5. It would also make a nonsense of the role of Prisca/Priscilla as a teacher of the faith.
More likely is that 2:13-14 would have been understood in terms of the danger of women taking a stance, as Eve did, in which (a) they listen to the word of the devil and permit it to deny the word of God, (b) act upon that word and thus disobey the word of God, and (c) draw men along with them in their disobedience. In the particular context of the Ephesus of 1 Timothy, Paul’s prohibition may have had particularly in mind (i) the cultural context of female dominated religion, i.e. the cult of Artemis in Ephesians (ii) the pervasiveness of false teaching affecting the church, especially a false doctrine of marriage as something to be forbidden. To this false teaching, incidentally, 1 Timothy 2:15, with its affirmation of the goodness of childbirth (and intrinsically also of sex and marriage), may have been a rejoinder.
In other words, 1 Timothy 2:13-14 is invoked because of a specific problem at Ephesus (a problem not confined to Ephesus in the long history of the church), but the implication is that 1 Timothy 2:12 does not apply where women are faithful and obedient to the word of God, allowing the word of God to deny the word of the devil.
Consequently the story of the creation and the fall does not set out for all time a rule for the role of women in relation to men which precludes women from teaching or leading men. We might note, incidentally, that the role of women as ‘helper’ (Genesis 2:18, 20) is a general role of support and supply, of companionship and partnership in the enterprise of life. Nothing in Genesis 2, which ends with male and female as ‘one flesh’ and not as two people in distinct roles, implies a rule for all time about the specific role or roles of women in relation to men, least of all an implication about not teaching or leading men.
If it did then Deborah, Huldah, Priscilla, and Phoebe should have been roundly castigated in Scripture for their disobedience to that rule. But in fact we find the opposite: these women are honoured for the way in which they discharge their callings.
Avalanche of Books by Ridley College Faculty
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