Six questions that have never been answered.

 

Dear Egalitarian Friends,

We know that many of you within the evangelical world hold your views because you have been convinced that egalitarianism is what the Bible teaches. You tell us that our differences on male and female roles are just differences in interpretation, and that Bible-believing Christians can honestly and fairly interpret the Bible to support complete equality in most or all roles for men and women in the family and the church. You say that you are sincere in adopting your views not because of modern cultural pressures but because you think that the Bible itself supports your position. In response to this, we want to say that we appreciate your sincerity in these matters and we believe that you are telling us the truth about your motives.

There are, nevertheless, certain questions of fact that come up frequently in your writings. We focus on these specific questions in this letter because they do not involve detailed arguments about interpretation, but involve only matters of factual data. We are simply asking to see the evidence that has convinced you about certain key interpretations of Scripture passages. If you can point out this evidence to us, then we will be able to understand more fully how you have come to your understanding of key passages. But if you cannot point out this evidence, and if no one among you can point out this evidence, then we respectfully ask that you reconsider your interpretations of these passages.

Here are our questions:

1. kephal: Where the Bible says that the husband is the “head” (kefalh) of the wife as Christ is the “head” (kefalh) of the church (Eph. 5:23), and that the head of the woman is the man (1 Cor. 11:3), you tell us that “head” here means “source” and not “person in authority over (someone).” In fact, as far as we can tell, your interpretation depends on the claim that kefalh means “source without the idea of authority.

But we have never been able to find any text in ancient Greek literature that gives support to your interpretation. Wherever one person is said to be the “head” of another person (or persons), the person who is called the “head” is always the one in authority (such as the general of an army, the Roman emperor, Christ, the heads of the tribes of Israel, David as head of he nations, etc.) Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the “head” of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons. So we find no evidence for your claim that “head” can mean “source without authority.” Can you show us any evidence?

We would be happy to look at any Greek text that you could show us from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD (a span of 12 centuries). In all of that literature, our question of fact is this:

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for “head”  (kefalh) is used to say that person A is the “head” of person or persons B, and means what you claim, namely, “non-authoritative source”?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if we cannot, then we suggest that you have no factual basis for your interpretation of these key verses, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if such factual basis existed. We would also respectfully ask that you also  reconsider your understanding of these verses.
 

2. hypotass_: Where the Bible says that wives are to “be subject to” to their husbands (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5; and implied in Eph. 5:22, 24), you tell us that the verb “be subject to” (hypotass_, passive) is a requirement for both husbands and wives — that just as wives are to be subject to their husbands, so husbands are to be subject to their wives, and that there is no unique authority that belongs to the husband. Rather, the biblical ideal is “mutual submission” according to Eph. 5:21, “be subject to one another,” and therefore there is no idea of one-directional submission to the husbands authority in these other verses (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:1, 5; and Eph. 5:22, 24).

But we have never been able to find any text in ancient Greek literature where hypotass_ (passive) refers to a person or persons being “subject to” another person, and where the idea of submission to that persons authority is absent. In every example we can find, when person A is said to “be subject to” person B, person B has a unique authority which person A does not have. In other words, hypotass_ always implies a one-directional submission to someone in authority.

So our question is this:

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for “be subject to” (hypotass_, passive) is used to refer to one person in relation to another and does not include the idea of one-directional submission to the other persons authority?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if we cannot, then we suggest that you have  no factual basis for your interpretation of these key verses, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also  reconsider your understanding of these verses.
 

3. “or” (Greek h): In 1 Cor. 14:36, some of you argue that the Greek word h (“or”) shows that the preceding verses are a quotation from the Corinthian church which Paul denies. Therefore you say that Paul is not really telling the Corinthian church,

the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says.  If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church (1 Cor. 14:34-35), 

but the Corinthians are saying those things, and Paul is just quoting them. You tell us that Paul's response might be paraphrased as “Are you crazy?” This, you tell us, is the force of the tiny Greek word h, which is usually translated “or.” You tell us that h, “or,” is used in Greek to deny what has just been said.

Our problem is that when we look at other examples of h used in constructions like 1 Corinthians 14:36, it functions in just the opposite way to what you claim. In fact, h is used in rhetorical questions to affirm what has just been said, and we can find no examples where it is used to deny what has just been said. This is also what all the Greek lexicons tell us as well.

So our question is this:

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for “or” (h) is used in rhetorical questions to show that the writer is denying what has just been said?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if we cannot, then we suggest that you have no factual basis for your interpretation of this key verse, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also  reconsider your understanding of these verses.
 

4. authente: In 1 Tim. 2:12, Paul writes, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men.” Many of you claim that the word translated “have authority” (auyentein) means “misuse authority” or “domineer” (or even “instigate violence”) in this sentence, so that Paul is not prohibiting women from having authority over men, but he is prohibiting women from misusing authority or domineering over men.

Our problem is this: we have never seen any clear example in ancient Greek literature where auyentein means “domineer” or “misuse authority.” Whenever we have seen this verb occur, it takes a neutral sense, “have authority” or “exercise authority,” with no negative connotation attaching to the word itself. We are aware that a related noun, authent_s, has several different meanings, but that is not the word Paul used, and we are interested in the word that Paul actually used.

So our question is this:

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where the verb authente  means what you claim, namely, “misuse authority or domineer” (or even “instigate violence”)?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if you cannot, then we suggest that you have  no factual basis for your interpretation of this key verse, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also  reconsider your understanding of these verses.
 

5. “neither X nor Y”: In 1 Tim. 2:12, where Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” the grammatical structure in Greek takes the form, “neither + [verb 1] + nor + [verb 2].”  

Regarding this verse, many of you tell us that the phrase “to teach or to have authority” means “to teach in a domineering way,” or “to teach in a way that usurps authority.” You base your understanding on the idea (already mentioned above) that the verb authente_ has a negative sense such as “domineer” or “usurp authority.”

But we have a second problem with this: when we look at other examples of this Greek construction, in the form “neither  + [verb 1] + nor + [verb 2],” only two patterns occur: (a) verb 1 and verb 2 are activities or concepts that are both viewed positively, such as “neither sow nor reap,” or “neither eat nor drink,” or  (b) verb 1 and verb 2 are activities or concepts that are both viewed negatively, such as “neither break in nor steal” or “neither leave nor forsake.” (In fact, Andreas Kestenbergers research found 52 examples of this structure in the New Testament, and 48 more examples in Greek literature outside the New Testament (from 3rd century B.C. to 1st century A.D.), and the pattern was the same in all 100 examples.  So we wonder how your interpretation can claim that verb 1 (“teach”) is a concept that is viewed positively but verb 2 ("have authority”) is a negative concept (“domineer, usurp authority, or instigate violence”).

So our question is this:  

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where the pattern “neither  + [verb 1] + nor + [verb 2]” is used to refer to one action that is viewed positively and one action that is viewed negatively?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if we cannot, then we suggest that you have  no factual basis for your interpretation of this key verse, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also  reconsider your understanding of these verses.
 

6. Women teaching false doctrine at Ephesus: In 1 Tim. 2:12, where Paul says, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” many of you say the reason for Paul's prohibition is that women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus (the church to which 1 Timothy was written). Our problem in understanding the basis for your claim is that we see no evidence inside or outside the Bible that tells us that any women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus. More than that, since Paul's prohibition applies to all women, it seems to us that your position really needs to show that all the women at Ephesus were teaching false doctrine. So we are wondering if there is any text that tells us that all (or any) Christian women were teaching false doctrine in the church at Ephesus.

We recognize that some women were gossiping at Ephesus (1 Timothy 5:13), but that is not the same as teaching false doctrine — we all know people who gossip but who don't teach false doctrine! We have read evidence about people teaching false doctrine at Ephesus, but they are not women, they are men. So, for example, Paul talks about “Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some” (2 Tim. 2:17-18). He also speaks of “Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20), but these are men, not women. Similarly, Paul warns the Ephesian elders, “from among your own selves will arise men speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30), but here he says these false teachers will be men (Greek andres), not that they will be women.

So our question is this:

Will you please show us one reference in all of ancient literature, whether inside or outside the Bible, that states that all the Christian women at Ephesus (or even that any Christian women at Ephesus) were teaching false doctrine?

If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if we cannot, then we suggest that you have no factual basis for your interpretation of this key verse, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if you did, and that you also reconsider your understanding of these verses. We know that there are many other questions of interpretation on which we may differ, and we realize that these matters do not solve all of those questions. But we thought that these matters might be the simplest to resolve, since they just involve questions of factual evidence.

Thank you for considering our questions. We look forward to hearing a response from you.

Sincerely yours,

Wayne Grudem, Ph.D.

President, CBMW


 

    This article is taken from The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood



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