By Arnold Voigt
Where one begins determines where one will come out.
The New Testament is problem-solving literature. The writers are addressing audiences who lived in real-time real-world environments, environments that were frequently antithetical to the Gospel. Conflicting ideologies and theologies impacted communities of faith and demanded responses. Not only did the external environments raise issues, but so did the environments within gathered church and human heart: Paul, for example, could address and affirm the baptized recipients of his letters as “saints” and then graphically expose the behavior of these very same people as sinful. The ultimate aim of the problem solving writings was to ground the faithful in Christ: “But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a J. H. C. Fritz’s Pastoral Theology. None of the apostles sat down and topic by topic and principle by principle laid out a pastoral theology, a “what to do” in this circumstance or “how to do” in that context. Often it is Paul, having founded a church on his missionary journeys, who hears of a problem, then sits down and pens his letters. Appropriate pastoral counsel for this situation is given.
How are we to understand this pastoral counsel? We have several options. We can take it for revealed precept. We can understand that the authors by divine inspiration are stating principles, laying down laws, and that as they were given to the first generation church, so they are conscience-binding and valuable as is for the twenty-first century church. We can go to this literature seeking principles to follow, believing that as we follow “what the Bible says,” God will be pleased.
Or we can use a different lens. We go to the text knowing it to be God’s problem solving literature. What is the basic problem? How to organize congregations? It goes deeper. Pointedly, what is the problem in the recipients’ relation with God and others? In the human heart? What in this text exposes sin, lies about God and lies about others? To what little gods do those in the text bow down? What is it that is used to justify?
The text, we will find, is also God’s problem solving literature. God doesn’t leave people hanging. Jesus hung instead, for us. He became sin for us. That’s another way of saying “the forgiveness of sins.” The Apostles point us to the One who reveals the heart of God. How, we ask, does this text show us our sin and open us up to the grace of God?
As an example, in Romans Paul takes eleven chapters to spell out the righteousness of God, laying out God’s justifying grace in Jesus Christ to be received by faith for all who have fallen. Then comes chapter 12, verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore …” All that follows is based on what came before. Paul demonstrates what it means to live out life rooted in “the mercies of God” (Romans 12:1). Where one begins determines where one will come out.
As we reflect on the theme of the ministry of all the baptized, we come to texts frequently used within the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in the discussion of women’s roles in ministry. How we approach these texts determines where we come out. The Commission on Theology and Church Relations (CTCR) of the LCMS in its 1985 document1 approaches the texts by inserting its theological spokes in the wheel-hub of a principle, namely, the Order of Creation. This principle it defines as
the particular position which by the will of God, any created object occupies in relation to others. God has given to that which has been created a certain definite order which, because it has been created by Him, is the expression of His immutable will. These relationships belong to the very structure of created existence.2
Women are to be subordinate, subject to “the ‘ordering into’ and ‘subordination to’ (hypotage) which is demanded by God’s will, …”3 a subordination which is “for the sake of orderliness and unity.”4 While the CTCR does indicate that there is “no basis here for suggesting a superiority-inferiority relationship”5 and that the New Testament “continues to uphold this teaching of equality of the image of God in both sexes,”6 it goes on to describe what is actually an inequality by defining the “equality” that exists as only “a spiritual equality [emphasis added] of man and woman before God.”7 Women and men are included in “a divinely mandated order which is to be reflected in the work and worship of the church,”8 an order which eliminates women from ministry: God has assigned “specific identities to each sex.”9 What this reasoning grants with one hand, it takes back with the other.
Using the Order of Creation as template, texts are read in the light of this principle. An example: noting that “woman is created to be a helper for man,” a reference to Genesis 2:18, the CTCR document explains in a footnote:
It has been argued that the word ezer [which means helper] does not necessarily imply subordination in any way. Sixteen of the twenty-one uses of the word in the Old Testament refer to God as a superior helper to human beings. The remaining three [sic] refer to men helping other men. But ezer must be seen in context. The phrase says that God created woman to be a help for man; that is to say, the purpose of her creation was to be a help to the man. There is apparently some kind of subordination indicated by the phrase.10
The footnote does not supply support from the context. After saying the word “does not necessarily imply subordination,” the conclusion becomes “there is apparently some kind of subordination.” The conclusion goes against the grain of evidence.11 Woman is defined not in terms of her relationship to God but in terms of her relationship to man, as a helper. Here the principle of the Order of Creation determines how the text is read. Where one begins determines where one will come out.
So where do we begin?12 What this essay proposes is that we read the texts as problem solving literature. Peter comes to Jesus: he has a problem with his brother, but he also has a formula, a principle, by which to solve it: “Seven times?” Jesus responds, “It is not a matter of principles; it is the matter of what’s in your heart.” We are justified, finally, not by our gender nor by our principles or lack thereof. We are justified by faith and not by works of the law: all of our good works, proper intentions, denominational biases are refuse “because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus as my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
How, then, does this work?
1 Timothy 2 can serve as a case study. This text in the literature is used as the theological rationale, the sedes doctrina, for Order of Creation thinking. The text is interpreted as supporting a “divinely mandated social order,”13 an order in which women are “to keep silent,” that is, not be included in the office of the public ministry. In this essay we attempt to read this passage through the eyes of a pastor seeking to apply God’s accusing law to a community bound to failed theology and antagonistic behavior. He then applies an evangelical solution in which the New Person in Christ can arise and use the gifts of God. The long and short is so that the Gospel can be heard, so that all “may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing all may have life in his name.”
Paul’s14 concern here is, as is the concern in all the New Testament, “How is the Gospel working out God’s purposes among the baptized?” The Gospel was not doing well in Ephesus. “[P]rofane myths and old wives’ tales” (1 Tim. 4:7) have seeped into the minds and hearts of the people. Some have “a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words,” all of which results in “dissension” and “wrangling” (6:4-5). Others “occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith” (1:4). Sound teaching is being compromised (1:3ff.; 6:3), and some “desiring to be teachers of the law” are doing so “without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions” (1:7).
Behavior results that is “contrary to the sound teaching that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1:10-11). Men are arguing angrily (2:8). Women are choosing to dress inappropriately or indecently (1:9). False teachers encourage some women, including wives, to flaunt respected behavior and traditional roles (4:7; 5:13; 2 Tim. 3:6-7). As a result some have “suffered shipwreck in the faith” (1:19-20).
What is the issue for Paul? Paul had warned the Ephesian elders about “savage wolves” from the outside and “some even from your own group” within (Acts 20:29-30). Paul knows that if false teaching and ill behavior continue, the “message of his [Christ’s] grace” (Acts 20:32) and the announcement of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus will not be heard (1 Tim.1:15-16; 6:21; 2 Tim. 2:16-17, 23; 4:3-4). So Paul sends this letter. He instructs Timothy on what to address and how to address it.
First, Paul uses his own life as an example, showing that the Gospel does set people free from self-imposed agendas and “acting ignorantly in unbelief” to serve the living Christ (1:12-14).
Second, he corrects the mistaken theology. In 1 and 2 Timothy the issue of false doctrine is addressed persistently (4:1-3; 6:3-5, 20-21; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:16-18, 23; 3:6-9; 4:3-4, 14-15). It is logical to assume that since the author addresses and mails the letter to Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3), he has in mind the “myths and old wives’ tales” that are prevalent in Ephesus.
Ephesus (1:3) is the site of the cult of the goddess Artemis. Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Paul had a tough time there with both doctrine and life (Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:8-9).
Earlier in the Epistle Paul offers other correctives to mistaken theologies which depart from truth and marginalize the mediating grace of Christ:
Artemis: “There are many gods!
Paul: “No, there is one God and one mediator … Christ Jesus” (2:5).
There were other doctrines that needed clarification. In the theology of Artemis, the Mother Goddess represented the great parent of all nature. Other deities were the daughters and sons of the all-creating Earth Mother. Artemis is called a virgin, not because she was one, but because she had not submitted to a husband. “No bonds tied Artemis to any male she would have to acknowledge as master.”15 She often had a young lover, a male consort who held a subordinate position. Gnostic ideas were circulating:16 Eve sends “her breath into Adam, who has no soul.”17 Adam addresses Eve: “You shall be called ‘Mother of the Living,’ for it is you who have given me life.”18 Eve is called the “female instructor of life…. She taught me a word of knowledge of the eternal God.”19 The high priestess assumed power in the cult, and thus the Artemisian and its cult made Ephesus “the bastion and bulwark of women’s rights”20
Converts to the Christian faith still need tutoring in faith in order to wash out remnants of this corrupting belief. (The effect of this pervasive Artemisian culture on the young church would be similar to that of ideologies of racism seeping into white congregations in the South in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s). The pastor reminds the women in Ephesus that Artemisian emphasis on Eve’s primacy and female domination does not square with the basic account given in Genesis. He writes: “For21 Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (verses 13-14). The argumentation would go this way:
Artemis: Eve pre-exists Adam and is the source of all the living: she gives Adam life and is primary!
Artemis: “Eve gives life! Adam was not told this; he was deceived about his priority by the gods.”
Convert from Artemis: “Eve, as goddess, is a source of enlightenment and knowledge!”
Paul: “No, the biblical account makes clear the woman, too, was deceived just like Adam and became a transgressor!”
Paul’s message, which is “sure and worthy of full acceptance,” is that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am chief” (1:15). He is hearing the wrong Gospel from the Ephesian Christians. The women who are speaking are bound into a wrong Gospel, a Gospel which does not connect to Christ or share the real “enlightenment,” the forgiveness of sins. Paul wants to keep the “Good News” good (1:11).
So, third, based on this correction,24 “nourished on the words of the faith” (4:6), Paul gives sanctified pastoral counsel to correct the behavior and strengthen life with Gospel in the congregation: “Let a woman learn in silence [Greek: hesychia] with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to usurp authority [Greek: authentein] over a man; she is to keep silent [hesychia]” (2:11-12).
A process is established: “Let’s be clear about the Gospel! Women who want to speak should learn!”25 Simply by okaying learning for a woman, a pattern has been broken: that a woman should learn is already beyond the normal Jewish synagogue pattern. If a woman has the gift from God, either learning or teaching, receive it with thanksgiving (4:4).
How? “… in silence.” The word translated as “silence” [hesychia] in 2:12 is the same word found in 2:2, “… that we may lead a quiet and peaceablelife….” It is a reference to demeanor and attitude, a receptivity that is unagitated (Acts 22:2), a behavior that applies as well to males (cf. 1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:12; 1 Tim. 2:2; 1 Peter 3:4, where the same word is used and all references are to a “peaceful” deportment). The word hesychia does not mean “shutting the mouth” nor “not talking.” Paul is discussing behavior, not pastoral office functions; hesychia is not surrounded in this passage by words such as “pastor” or “presbyter”; it is not a technical term that means “don’t preach.”26 Paul is not qualifying gender participation in an office. He is not stifling gifts. He is concerned that Jesus be presented as the Mediator, the giver of life, not Eve. That’s what he wants learned.
Again, how? She is to learn in a receptive attitude “with full submission.” With “full submission” to whom or to what? The text is not explicit. The context is how women should learn. 1 Timothy is concerned with false teaching. Used with hesychia, it can mean submission to the teaching (Acts 11:18) or to what is presented (Acts 21:14). The object of submission, then, is not Artemisian theology nor men or husbands but “what is taught,” namely “what has been received” (1 Cor. 11:23; 2 Tim. 3:14-15) in the Christian tradition. They are to “submit” to the Gospel, the words which bring faith (4:6), to hear that Jesus is the Mediator.
While the learning is going on, what is proper behavior? Paul says, “I permit no woman to teach or to usurp authority [authentein] over a man; she is to keep silent [hesychia].” His approach is not “I have this from the Lord” (as in 1 Cor. 11:23). It is “I permit” (cf. 1 Cor. 7:25), Paul’s sanctified sense giving pastoral counsel. Behavior based in hesychia (unagitated demeanor, peacefulness) will result in two actions: it will not teach (false) doctrine,27 nor will it act unruly in a “conceited, understanding nothing … morbid craving for controversy” (6:4) manner. Behavior will not “muscle in” (authentein),28Artemesian-like,29 and dominate men. There would be qualified teachers in the community (4:4-16). Don’t “muscle them out.” Then the contrast: “While learning, she is to remain in hesychia.”
Paul is addressing behavior which reflects negatively on the church. Paul is not eliminating women from some office; he is not denying the use of any gifts for ministry women might have, including the gift of pastor or teacher (Eph. 4:11). He is not establishing gender criteria for the pastoral office but seeking to order life in the community so that the good news of the forgiveness of sins be heard.30 It won’t happen if persons are focused on their outward appearance (1 Tim. 1:9-10). It is not going to happen if women “swayed by various impulses [and] who will listen to anybody” (2 Tim. 3:6-7) keep muscling in to voice Artemesian opinions.
And the Gospel will not be heard if men won’t pray but continue their anger and argumentation (2:8), letting their ire muscle in and destructively control. The pastoral corrective has implications for the men as well: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may be puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil” (3:6). “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Don’t let sinful behavior stifle the hearing of grace.
This is not a text about limiting ministry, of who gets to do ministry and who does not. It is not about gender fitting into an order of creation. It is not about “office” and who has “authority” for this and who does not. Paul sees conceited persons (1 Tim. 6:4) whose behavior (usurping authority) is the opposite of Gospel-motivated behavior. The text demonstrates Paul’s concern for how ministry is done in order to enable the Gospel of grace to be heard within the community of faith and as a witness to the public community.
We are reflecting on the ministry of all the baptized. Baptism is Christ’s work: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4).
What is this “new life”? It is inclusion “in Christ.” Christ joins us to himself, and as such we are reborn and renewed and become “heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-6). This is the vertical dimension. It is inclusion in the work of Christ. “Walking in newness of life” is an outcome of baptism. “Walking” is a Jewish expression for conduct and activity. It is the horizontal dimension. There now are new connections with sisters and brothers in Christ, new ways of relating, dying to stereotypes, to the categorizing of individuals and to putting boundaries around them. These no longer justify. One is not baptized halfway. We are joined to Christ and his work without regard to race, economic status, or gender.
In addition, Christ breaks the “walls” between male and female demanded by order of creation theology. Paul writes,
For he [Christ] is our peace, in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Eph. 2:14-16)
The “dividing wall” of “hostility” between Jew and Gentile is a wall built because of sinful attitudes of individuals and/or groups which became “institutionalized.” Paul quotes his own walls, his “confidence in the flesh”: “circumcised on the eight day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6). These are the walls, the boxes, inside of which he once found his security. The “hostility” created led to the persecution of Christians. The “hostility” results from buying into the “credo” (“law with its ordinances and commandments”) that one’s ethnicity or zeal or ritual or history or blamelessness justifies one before God and is crucial in God’s scheme of things.
A theology which affirms “mandated relationships” is a theology which builds “dividing walls.” Jesus came to break down walls, walls of sin between God and humanity (the vertical dimension) and walls of hostility between peoples (the horizontal dimension). Christ “made both groups into one.” This breaking-down and joining into one can in no way be limited to what happens vertically, spiritually, between God and people. It must also include what happens between peoples as they live out of “the mercies of God.” The book of Acts is the account of the struggle to build community between Jew and Gentile based on Christ and not on race. The First Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15); Peter’s vision and meeting with Cornelius (Acts 10); Paul confronting Peter on Peter’s duplicity (Galatians 2:11-14); Philemon being encouraged to receive Onesimus as a Christian brother; the women in Corinth, having little authority in secular life, needing to wear their “authority” in the church to indicate that “in Christ’s fellowship woman is as essential to man as man to woman” and “it is woman’s duty to have a sign of authority on her head” (1 Cor. 11:10-11 NEB); Gentile and Jew within the communities of faith reconciled and becoming co-workers in the Gospel: all these are examples of Christ breaking down dividing walls and “creating in himself one new humanity.” These are new realities. The Good News puts everything on a different footing.
We are not stating anything new when we state that we in the LCMS are a “male-dominated church.” Recently this mindset has been undergirded with the idea that God is male. There is talk of the subordination of the Son to the Father in the Holy Trinity; a website presentation outrightly affirming “God is Male”; journal articles concluding that an aspect of the image of God is maleness; a seminary professor suggesting that baptisms performed by woman clergy are invalid. In the extreme the logic seems to be
Jesus is male.
Jesus is God ’s image/icon (Col. 1:15).
Ergo, God is male.
Or, in support of a male-only clergy, going the other way,
Jesus is male.
Jesus is God’s image/icon.
Ergo, only males can represent Christ.
When a divinely mandated relationship paradigm is employed, this kind of theology is the outgrowth. It is needed to sustain the boxes and boundaries. Emphasizing walls and divisions to sustain order of creation theology marginalizes women and relegates them to second-class status. Even if we deny this with official statements, our lack of inclusion of women in the full ministry of the church contradicts our statements.
In Galatians Paul writes, “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ” (3:27-28). We create divisions, walls, when we elevate a created distinction (Jew, Gentile, male, female) into an absolute. Paul takes us beyond “spiritual equality.” We ordain males regardless of race; we do not support slavery. If baptism puts Jew and Gentile on a level playing field in terms of participation in the ministry of the church, or Afro-American and Asian-American and Anglo in terms of our culture today, so also baptism puts male and female on a level ministry playing field. If we affirm “Jew and Gentile” as candidates for ordained ministry, integrity demands we affirm “male and female” as well; to deny one is to deny the other. Refusing to allow women to serve as lectors, congregational presidents, communion assistants and, yes, even clergy is a powerful example of actions which shape understanding. They are actions which build a fence that says women so gifted by the Spirit need not apply. We cannot claim one type of relation with Christ and his people for one gender and deny it for another. “He has made us both one” (Eph. 2:14), not just “spiritually” but in role, in service, in purpose. That is Christ’s gift and call in baptism.
We clergy (male) are the ones who write the theology which informs the posture of our synod. How are we bound to our “maleness” instead of to Christ? How has using our “maleness” as lens distorted and filtered our hearing of God’s purposes and will? How have male biases learned in our denomination’s culture shaped us to think less of women? Do we reflexively think that God is unable to use a woman in the community of faith to lead us in worship, to proclaim to us the Gospel, to teach us males authoritatively? Or that he would forbid a woman because she is a woman to announce to us in a public worship setting the forgiveness of sins for which we hunger? What is the benefit, the profit, the payoff of forbidding women in public ministry? Is the refusal to permit women in public ministry a theological issue, a “woman problem” or our problem, a male clergy problem?
We are shaped by our denominational culture as the women in Ephesus were shaped by the Artemisian culture out of which they came. Are we finding justification in unexamined tradition and culture? Are the gods of our denominational culture gods who suggest that “true enlightenment” can only come through male clergy? There are no “male sins” or “female sins”: what the Law says to one it says to the other. Perhaps what we need to learn from the study of Paul’s letter to Timothy in Ephesus is that males are “usurping authority” by building walls and boxes—who gets to do ministry—instead of centering on God’s call in Christ and gifting of all for ministry. The gospel promises, and faith is, a change of existence.
Can baptism serve as the “ordination waters” for a woman as it does for those who are male? Baptism says we belong to Christ, are owned by Christ, not by gender (although I am gender) and not to race (although I am race). Clothed in Christ, we are also gifted by the Spirit “who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses” (1 Cor. 12:11). Baptism—Christ born in us–gives us permission to use the gifts, to trust this “yes” that God gives, and sets us on the path of service to God through service to others. And gifts are released so that through ministry, personal or public, many “may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing might have life in his name.”
Where one begins determines where one will come out.
1Women in the Church: Scriptural Principles and Ecclesial Practice: A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod September 1985. Hereafter cited as WIC-CTCR.
3WIC-CTCR, 41, quoting Peter Brunner.
7Ibid. If there is spiritual equality, then one would assume that women as well as men could be involved in ministry, even public ministry, which is ministry about spiritual realities.
9WIC-CTCR, 22. The CTCR document would be more helpful if it had a clearer distinction between “identities” and “roles.”
10WIC-CTCR, 3, footnote 29.
11Part of the context is Genesis 1:26-31, which describes the creation of man and woman as different but with equity: they are created male and female, both in the image of God, both are told to be fruitful and multiply, and both are given dominion. Ezer is used primarily of God. Part of the context is Adam, who cannot find companionship in animals; they are not his equivalent. Adam is not looking for a servant but “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Given the context, ezer as “helper” is better seen as a teacher encouraging a student or a nurse prompting the health of a patient, not as a subservient individual “who scrubs the floor.” This context suggests not subordination but mutual encouragement.
12Why even begin? A recent email asked, “If the church has forbidden women in ministry for two thousand years, why the change now? If Missouri in its more than 150 years has never ordained women to ministry, why now?” The question can just as well be asked, “Since the New Testament does not take a stand against slavery, why not slavery now? And why did it take the church until the mid-1800s to question slavery?” Both issues demonstrate how strongly sin is rooted in the lives of God’s people and how stopped up our ears are because of our culture. The Missouri Synod has a culture of male dominance. How long will it take before our denomination opens its ears to hear God’s judgment on the way women’s gifts for ministry are denied? This is not a “feminist” question. It is a question of honoring what baptism means.
13A subtle sea change occurs between what Luther says regarding God’s fluid “ordainings” and the CTCR’s static “Order of Creation” thinking. CTCR-WIC talks about structure and mandated social connections, which includes hierarchy, and says that the “obligatory character of these orders of things derives from the Creator Himself…. Luther employed such terms as Stand (“station”) and Beruf (“calling”) to refer to relationships in the order of creation” (WIC-CTCR, page 21). The CTCR relates this law to order (taxis) (page 31). Well, not quite. Luther talks about “stations” which God has established, “such as the station of father and mother, of priests and levites according to Moses’ Law, of servant and maid, marriage, the station of lords and subjects, Sabbath and feast days, worship and church order, and the like. All this is His work or His undertaking, for He commanded and instituted it” (Luther’s Works, 13:338). Luther’s concern is that the various “stations” in which people find themselves not be disparaged because they are not that of clergy or priest—a common denigration in his day. No one’s station is to be despised. The maid in her kitchen is serving her Lord just as the priest at his altar. These are “all God’s works … honorable and glorious … so that whoever knows them must praise them as fine stations.”
When Luther uses the German Stand or Beruf, the terms do not signal hierarchy or “obligatory character of mandated orders” but a positioning, the role in which people find themselves. In “The Office of the Keys and Confession” in the Small Catechism, Luther writes, “Here consider your station according to the Ten Commandments, whether you are a father, mother, son, daughter, master, mistress, servant, whether you have been disobedient, unfaithful, slothful; whether you have grieved any person by word or deed; whether you have stolen, neglected, or wasted aught, or done other injury.” “Stations” are the gifts one has received and the arena in which one uses these gifts as one lives out life in faith or unfaith, using those factors that are part of his or her own particular biography. 1 Corinthians 7 is a good example of Paul’s advice to people in various “stations.”
Lutheran theologian Einar Billing, in his essay “Our Calling: A Statement of the Relationship of Christian Faith and Christian Living,” discusses the GermanBeruf and the English “calling.” Luther, he says, relates calling to the Gospel, not to the Law: “… the call is the forgiveness of sins. Or, more specifically expressed: my call is the form my life takes according as God Himself organizes it for me through His forgiving grace. Life organized around the forgiveness of sins, that is Luther’s idea of the call.”
God’s care for creation sees to it that humanity arranges itself so that life can go on, and he allows humanity to do it in numbers of different “orders”: governments are democracies, monarchies, socialist states or dictatorships; families are patriarchies and matriarchies, polygamous and arranged marriages, “Leave It To Beaver”-types and single-parent families; and different cultures do it differently. The “orders” change: dictators are overthrown, singles marry, spouses are widowed, children become adults. In these “ordainings” and arenas God calls us to live, forgiven and forgiving.
Using concepts like “divinely mandated creation orders” and “natural precedence by birth” puts people in “boxes” and makes the boxes absolute. Divinely mandated creation orders undergird the 1800s pro-slavery movements and the Aryan race concept in pre-World War II Germany and in other religions the caste system in India. For example, the American pro-slavery movement used the Scriptures in the same way they are used to justify women’s subordination in the church:
A high view of the inspiration of Scripture:
The Apostles write of slavery: “Slaves, be obedient to your masters.”
The Apostles write of hierarchy: “Wives, be subject to your husbands.”
Acts 17:26 decrees that different “colors” have certain boundaries in which they should live. “May it not be said in truth, that God decreed this institution before it existed.” (pro-slavery theologian Thornton Stringfellow).
“The particular position which, by the will of God, any created object occupies in relation to others.”
Old Testament teaching:
Abraham had slaves.
The Israelites had an all male priesthood.
New Testament teaching:
Galatians 3:28 only abolishes spiritual distinctions, not slavery (Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon)
Galatians 3:28 abolishes only spiritual distinctions, not male authority over women.
Jesus’ New Testament precedent:
Jesus did not overturn slavery (in Luke 17:7-10 he even supports it).
Jesus did not choose women for his twelve apostles.
Accidents of birth are determinative:
“The negro [sic] slaves born in the South are the happiest, and, in some sense, the freest people in the world.” (Fitzhugh, pro-slavery advocate).
“He is the ‘firstborn’ and hence would have a natural precedence by birth.”
Slavery is a merciful institution which provides for the gospel influence on slaves.
There is blessing in the male headship in church and home.
To argue that males have “a natural precedence by birth” is akin to arguing that white skin is better than black skin or vice versa. Gender and race are both created givens, and the arguments use the same logic. “Justification” by gender or race is not justification. Examples and a complete discussion are found in Swartley, Slavery, Sabbath War & Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1983), pages 1-66.
14A discussion of authorship and recipient are both beyond the scope of this paper. The canonical author identifies himself as Paul and addresses the letter to Ephesus; we use this and assume a familiarity with the heretical theologies and practices of the Artemisian cult (Acts 19).
15Gritz, Paul, Women Teachers, and the Mother Goddess at Ephesus: A Study of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in Light of the Religious and Cultural Milieu of the First Century (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1991), 38-39.
16Cf. 1 Tim. 6:20: “Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge [gnosis].”
17“On the Origin of the World,” Nag Hammadi Library (www.nag-hammadi.com/).
18Hypostasis of the Archons 220.127.116.11-17 (www.nag-hammadi.com/).
19“On the Origin of the World,” op.cit.
20Markus Barth, Ephesians, Anchor Bible (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974), 2:661.
21“For …” (Greek: gar): this is not necessarily illative; that is, it does not need to be interpreted as connecting verse 13 with verse 12, thus understanding verse 13 as giving theological justification for a practice established in verse 12 . Why should a prohibition for women be given theological reasoning when a roughly parallel action by men has no such support? It can give an illustration. See Holmes, Text in a Whirlwind (Sheffield Academic Press, 2000), pages 242-249, 298-299.
221 Corinthians 11:11-12 is Paul’s way of erasing order of creation importance and putting the relationship in an evangelical context: “Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. For just as woman came from man, so man come through woman; but all things come from God.”
23This assertion would not have been necessary had there been no doubt about whose creation came first.
24Perhaps even the difficult verse 15 (“Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty”) is a correction. In the Gospel of the Egyptians (a Gnostic writing) the Word (Jesus) tells Salome the End will come. Salome asks, “Until when shall men continue to die?” Jesus answers, “So long as women bear children.” Salome responds, “I have done well then in not bearing children” (quoted by Clement of Alexandria in Montague Rhode James’ The Apocryphal New Testament [Oxford: Clarendon Press 1924], pp. 10-12, and found atwww.earlychristianwritings.com). The writer of 1 Timothy then would be encouraging women not to think of childbearing as impinging on salvation.
25Women do speak in worship without censure. Cf. 1 Cor. 11:5.
26The terms for deacon, pastor or elder are not used in this text. The question of ordination is not the focus (if indeed the New Testament even speaks of it). The text is a pastoral correction of an abuse of a privilege already granted elsewhere in the church (1 Cor. 11:5).
27The verb form here appears thirteen times in the New Testament and usually has a modifier or a direct object. Here it has neither. Since the context is false teaching and subsequent behavior deriving there from, the implication of the word is that Paul will not allow false teaching about Artemis to continue in the congregation. Elsewhere in the New Testament when teaching the faith and authority are coupled, exousia is the word of choice (cf. Matt. 28:18-20).
28There is much discussion about authentein. The lexicons indicate authentein’s unsavory flavor: “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, to dictate to” (BAGD); “From authentes … an actual murderer … an absolute master or ruler” (Liddell and Scott); “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic” (Thayer); “a self-doer, a master, autocrat … to domineer” (Robertston). The usual Greek noun used by Paul for “authority” or “power” (exousia) is not used here.
Recently the CTCR has published a study relying on Scott Baldwin’s chapter in the book, Women in the Church, A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995). The CTCR concludes that “the English Standard Version accurately translates 1 Timothy 2:12: ‘I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet” [emphasis is the CTCR’s]. Yet in that conclusion the CTCR ignores what it lists in its report as Baldwin’s conclusions (that the word means, for example: to control, to dominate, to domineer, to play the tyrant, to act independently, to exercise one’s own jurisdiction). A CTCR member in a 1997 review of Baldwin comments, “We cannot be absolutely sure in proposing an exact definition for authenteo. In some ways it remains ‘obscure.’ But I think anyone with an open mind who looks at the lexicons must agree that the word carried enough association with unseemly, improper, arrogant, autocratic, even violent, use of authority, that to translate this word simply ‘to have/exercise authority’ without any qualification is intellectually dishonest. The translation (including the 46 passages translated by Baldwin himself) almost without exception qualifies the use of authority, indicating it is autocratic, independent, harsh, domineering, etc., but seldom, if ever, as positive (except when the subject is God and then the authority is absolute) or even neutral. It is inconceivable to me that after all this, anyone would still insist that the word can be properly translated simply as ‘to have authority’ assuming it to be understood in a positive sense.”
In the same book, another of the authors, Kostenberger (pages 156-179), shows that actions coordinated by oude are always viewed as either both positive or both negative. The prohibition of “false teaching” and “domination” would meet this pattern.
29While forbidding women from practicing “domineering authority” (authentein) over men, the author is not saying the obverse: that men have authority over women. Who has authority in the church? Is it not the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, and his word of grace? If anything, the author, by linking [false] teaching and domineering authority (“… ouk … oude ...,” see Endnote 27), suggests a contrast between true authority (“words of faith,” 4:6) and Artemisian “authority.” In the New Testament when “teaching” and “authority” are coupled, exousia is the word of choice for “authority.”
30Martin Luther: “Everything in the Christian church is so ordered that we may daily obtain full forgiveness of sins through the Word and the sacraments appointed to comfort and revive our consciences as long as we live” (Large Catechism, Tappert, 417:54f).