Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Terry Schiavo

What a mess!

Something smells fishy somewhere (no offense to fisherpeople).

On the one hand, I don't get the husband. The money's gone, the parents will take care of her, her wishes don't seem to be that clear--why not divorce her and raise your new family and let the parents take care of her. After all, they've got a wad of cash now to tap that would support her with a vengeance!

On the other hand, I have real problems with Randall Terry and others who say Terry tried to speak. I'm not much for conspiracy theories. Ockam's Razor says that the most straightforward explanation is usually the correct one. That means that conspiracy theories by their very nature are from the get go less likely explanations of things.

I guess the husband is going to allow an autopsy, so then we'll know better what was really going on.

But to step back from this specific incidence, what are so many Christians really angry at? Is it

1. that they don't believe Schiavo is really in a persistent vegitative state and that a murder is taking place?

2. that they don't understand what a persistant vegitative state is and think that because her eyes are open and her head is moving that there is really awareness of any kind there?

3. that they don't believe a person whose body is still breathing on its own can be allowed to die, even if the "human" part of the brain is gone?

I know that the first possibility is the majority of what I'm picking up on, and that's fair enough. Surely those who are saying "We should err on the side of life" are correct. As the one dissenting judge said initially, I don't see the harm in taking another brain scan. I don't either. Why not before you make a truly grave error?

I'm also afraid that there's a good deal of number two going around. It's unfortunate in a way that the whole brain doesn't die at the same speed. They tell me the "me" part of the brain dies first. With each passing minute without oxygen after five minutes, I will go from brain damage to a new category, "minimally conscious state." Then from my point of view I'm gone, but my shell goes to a persistent vegitative state to a coma to a coma on life support to a corpse. I would hate it if this situation turned out to be a case of "Christians looking stupid" because of ignorance.

But I have also heard the third option expressed. I have a family member who put it this way: "the Bible says that the life is in the blood, not the life is in the brain." True, but I don't think that was exactly what Leviticus was really talking about. Nevertheless, it seems a coherent position, and I respect it.

So what do you think?

Sunday, March 27, 2005

At Even

Just after darkness fell at the end of the first day, the disciples were gathered together in one place in Jerusalem. Since morning, both Peter and Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus, risen from the dead. They had gathered to make sense of it. Some of the disciples still didn't believe it was real. They thought Peter and Mary had wanted to see Jesus so badly that their minds had played tricks on them.

Two other followers suddenly rushed in. "We've seen Jesus!" they exclaimed. "We were on our way home to Emmaus when a man joined us. We invited him for supper and when he broke bread, we knew it was him. Then he just disappeared."

As they were talking, Jesus just appeared, out of nowhere, in the room with them."Shalom lechem," he said, Peace to you.

When they were convinced that it was he, he reminded them that he would appear to them again in Galilee. Over the next forty days he appeared to them at different times and places. He appeared to Peter, Thomas, and Nathaniel by the Sea of Galilee. He commissioned the disciples on a nearby mountain. Then forty days after his resurrection, back in Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost, over five hundred believers saw him ascend to the skies.

He would appear to others at various times for the next three years. The most notable were James, his own brother, and last of all, the apostle Paul.

No one has ever claimed to find Jesus' body. Indeed, one of the earliest rationalizations about the empty tomb comes from individuals who accused the disciples of stealing his body. But you'd think they would have confessed when they were about to die for their faith. They didn't.

The First Day of the Week

Early in the morning just after sunrise, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Joses, and Salome took spices they had bought and went to Jesus' tomb to anoint his body.

But when they arrived to the tomb, they found the stone rolled away from the entrance. Jesus' body was nowhere to be found. They encounter a man who startles them.

"Do you, do you know what's happened to the body?"

"He is not here. Tell the disciples to go back to Galilee; he will appear to them there."

Trembling and bewildered they left the tomb.

Where was his body? Who had taken it to Galilee? Should we tell anyone? What if they accuse us of taking the body. They decided they would not tell anyone until they could figure it out.

"Back so soon," Peter asked. He, James, and John were waiting on them, and they would all go to Galilee together.

"You're back awefully soon," Peter said.

"Were you able to get the stone rolled back?" Peter asked. The women remained silent.

Finally Mary got up the courage to say. "It was already rolled back."

"What?" A look of distress came over Peter and John.

"Did you see the body?" John asked.


Peter and John ran out of the house in Bethany. They both ran all the way to Jerusalem to the tomb. Nothing was there but the linen cloth.

John immediately began to think of resurrection. Peter just couldn't quite get his head around it all. They both hurried back to Bethany.

"Was there anything else that happened, anything else that you remember," Peter asked the women.

"There was a man there. He said that Jesus would appear to you in Galilee."

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Saturday Evening

Back to Galilee, that's what to do, go back to Galilee.

It had been Sabbath. Can't travel that far on the Sabbath. He had to wait till the end of Sabbath. Now it's dark. Now it's the first day of the week. Peter would sleep and leave early in the morning.

Would they want me back in Galilee? Did Herod know who to look for? I'll go back to fishing. I'll go back to my wife and family.

The Marys were going to try to anoint his body in the morning. Not me. I couldn't stand to see his body, not after all that.

I would wait for the women to get back from anointing the body, then we would all leave for Galilee.

Sabbath Evening

What had happened?

Less than a week before, they had entered Jerusalem triumphantly. Jesus had authoritatively condemned the temple establishment by overthrowing the tables in the temple.

Just twenty-four hours ago they were eating supper with him. Now he was in the tomb.

Peter had gone back to Bethany. He, James, and John kept looking out the window, half expecting someone to come arrest them.

How could they have been so wrong? He had said he was the Messiah. God was going to restore His kingdom on earth. Peter had been ready to die for Jesus. But he was not ready for Jesus to die. That was completely unexpected. He would have fought to the death, but Jesus simply went with the men from the high priest.

What would he do now? How could God forsake Jesus? How could God let them crucify him?

There had to be something else to do. There had to be something more. What should I do? What should I do?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Almost Evening

It was the day before the Sabbath, and evening was quickly approaching when the Sabbath would begin.

A member of the Sanhedrin called Joseph went to Pilate to ask for the body. He had an unused tomb carved out of the side of a rock face.

Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. Most people suffered much longer, that was part of the idea.

But after Pilate had verified it, he allowed it.

Joseph wrapped Jesus' body in linen, and placed it in the tomb.

Mary Magdalene and another Mary watched where they laid Jesus' body. Because the sabbath was on them, they would have to wait till Sunday to anoint the body.

The Ninth Hour

At the ninth hour, about three in the afternoon, Jesus cried with a loud voice the Aramaic words of Psalm 22:1: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

Some around him didn't understand what he was saying. They thought he was calling for Elijah. They had heard him talking about someone coming from heaven. Maybe he was calling for him.

Someone saw his pain and ran for some wine vinegar, and offered it to Jesus.

Then Jesus gave out a long cry, and breathed his last breath.

A centurion was struck by his death. This was not the death of a criminal or an insurgent. This man must be innocent. This man must be righteous.

But Jesus remained hanging on the tree while the others were dying and his followers looked on from a distance.

The Sixth Hour

At about the sixth hour, darkness came over the land.

The Third Hour

It was about the third hour when they crucified him, nine in the morning.

They had flogged him. The Roman soldiers had mocked him, putting a purple robe on him like he was a king. They fashioned a crown out of thorns and put it on his head.

"Hail, king of the Jews," they said, bowing before him in mockery.

Jesus was in no condition to carry the cross. He was physically exhausted. His body had been beaten to a pulp. But most of all he carried the weight of the world.

A man from Cyrene named Simon had come for the Passover. The Roman soldiers grabbed him from the crowd and forced him to carry the crossbeam for Jesus. They brought Jesus just outside the gate to a place the Jews called "Golgotha," the place of a skull.

Pilate had fashioned the charge carefully: "THE KING OF THE JEWS." He wanted to mock the people.

They offered him wine vinegar to deaden the pain, but he refused it.

Two criminals were crucified with him. They mocked too. One of them was particularly harsh: "You're a disgrace, claiming to be our messiah. Where's the Son of Man now?"

The soldiers threw dice to see who would get Jesus clothes. Meanwhile Jesus hung naked from the cross.

The Crowds

A little later Pilate takes Jesus and a murderer to the crowds.

"Because I am such a good man, I will release a Jew to you. Here are two kings. Which one do you want? Barabbas? He has murdered one of your own. He's a thief."

"And then there's Jesus. He's your messiah. Sometimes he turns tables over in the temple. He doesn't talk much."


Pilate looked at his assistants puzzled. "What's with these Judeans?"

"Barrabas or Jesus?"


Pilate looked at Jesus. Why were the crowds so angry with him?

"Then what do you want me to do with Jesus, your king?"


Pilate was puzzled.

"Very well, then. Release Barabbas, flog Jesus and crucify everyone in the prison."


Some Jewish leaders take Jesus to Pilate. Pilate has come down from Caesarea to keep close watch over the city at the Passover.

The Jewish leaders ask Pilate to come out to them. They want to observe the festival that evening, so they do not want to become unclean by entering a Gentile's house and such a place of uncleanness.

Pilate wants to know the charge.

"He's another fake messiah."

Pilate takes a look at Jesus and smiles. "Bring him in."

"So I finally get to meet the king of the Jews." Pilate says. "Are these charges true? Are you the king of the Jews?"

Jesus said nothing.

This intrigued Pilate. Jesus was not like the usual insurgent. He did not seem violent.

"You know I hate these priests. They're suck ups. It's all about themselves and their power. They're paranoid you know. But why do they hate you?"

Jesus remained silent.

"You know you don't help yourself if you don't say anything. And I have better things to do today than stand here talking to you."

Still Jesus said nothing.

"It's a simple question. If you aren't planning on being king just tell me. Maybe I'll set you free. You either think you are and are a lunatic, or you're not. Tell me, are you indeed the king of the Jews."

Jesus looked him straight in the eye and smiled.

"I am."

Rarely did Pilate feel at a loss for words, but this one stumped him. He looked away.

"This guy's crazy but harmless. We'll set him free to the people at the festivities."

Early Morning

Early in the morning Caiaphas and some elders interrogate Jesus. Witnesses testify that Jesus has said words against the temple, words about its destruction.

"Is this true? Are you an insurrectionist?"

Jesus remains silent.

"Are you going to take over Israel? Do you think we priests have made the temple unclean? Are you going to take it over and purify it? You're not even a priest."

Jesus remains silent.

"Do you really think you can defeat the Romans and us? Where are your supporters? Where is your army? What Judean will follow a Galilean? You're from Galilee. A king of Israel must be from the tribe of David, a Son of David."

Jesus remains silent.

"Tell us now, do you really think you are the coming king? Look at you, beaten up by my guards. Do you really think you are the king of the Jews? How can you think you are God's anointed one? Are you indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"

Jesus waited. He certainly did not look like a king. But he looked the high priest right in the eye.

"I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God. You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds to visit God's judgment on the earth."

The high priest dismissed him. "Take him to Pilate. I have too much to do today to worry with this guy. Tell Pilate he's another fake messiah. Tell him to crucify him."

Middle Night

Judas comes to the garden with a crowd holding swords and clubs. He greets Jesus with a kiss on the cheek. They don't know which one is Jesus. One of those with Jesus cuts the ear off of one of the high priest's servants.

"Funny that you arrest me this way," Jesus says. "You'd think I was a revolutionary. You always could have arrested me when I was teaching in the temple."

The disciples with Jesus scatter. A young man, maybe a son in the house where they ate the last supper, has come out with only an outer garment. They grab it, and he flees away naked.

They take him to the high priest's house. Peter follows from a distance. As he warms himself outside by a fire, he is accused of following Jesus. He denies it--three times before the night is done.

Annas, the high priest's father-in-law, interrogates him. Jesus is mostly silent. Perhaps he turns Jesus over to the guards for the night. They mock and beat him.


Jesus knows what is coming. They go to the Garden of Gethsemane, a place where Jesus had been meeting with his disciples.

He is troubled. He knows what Judas is doing. He knows they are coming. He knows what is about to transpire.

Pray, he tells Simon, James, and John. You will be tempted to sin. Pray not to give in to temptation. "I will not give in," says Simon.

"Simon, tonight you will deny me thrice."

In his humaness he does not want to die. "Lord, let this cup pass from me if it is at all possible." But he knows. He knows.

Peter is asleep. John is asleep. James is asleep. He is awake.

Let them sleep. The time has come.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Last Supper

It is now Jewish Friday. The sun has gone down and Jesus eats with his disciples. They are in the upper room of a certain house in the city.

They break bread. Jesus knows what Judas is up to, trying to force his hand, trying to make him reveal who he is to Israel.

"One of you is going to betray me," Jesus says.

"Surely not I," says Judas. Perhaps they have talked. Perhaps Judas has tried to convince Jesus to make his move against the Romans. The action in the temple was a start. Now Jesus must finish the work. Judas is clever. He will force Jesus into it by bringing the Jewish leaders against him. Then God will come and reveal who Jesus is.

Jesus knows that's not how God has it planned. He has already told them--this bread you eat, it is like my body, broken for you.

They eat. Drink up, he says. I will not drink with you again until we drink afresh in the kingdom of God.

It is now after supper. Judas has left.

They drink again. This wine is like my blood. God will make a new covenant with you all through my blood. My life will be like a ransom for God's people. Through my death God's wrath will come to an end.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

1 Timothy 2 and Women 3: The Verses Themselves

A Close Reading of 1 Timothy 2:11-15
So 1 Timothy 2:11-15 appear in the context of a discussion about the honorable conduct of worship. We notice right off the bat that we are in different territory than we were in at Corinth. We hear about past prophecies, but we are now focusing on "depositing" teaching, order, and structure for the future. Paul spends about half of chapter 2 laying down guidelines for the honorable conduct of women/wives in the worship of his day. Gone are discussions of tongues and prophecy. Instead, the focus is on prayer and instruction.

It seems to me that Paul's comments in these verses are meant to present honorable behavior with a view to the husband-wife relationship in particular. These verses are usually discussed in terms of all women and all men, but it is not clear at all to me that this is the best way to read them. The word for "wife" is of course the same as the word for "woman" in general (gyne), and the word for "husband" is also the word for a male (aner). The context must determine whether a marital relationship is in view.

The presumption would of course be that most men and women are married. Therefore, when Paul says "women dress modestly," we might just as well say "wives dressing modestly." This seems to be the way Paul is thinking here. He is not thinking of women as women, as independent beings the way we would think of them. The underlying thought of the passage is that women are wives. Women are individuals who are subject to a husband.

The explicit mention of subjection in 2:11 confirms that wives are primarily in view, for I can think of no biblical passage that speaks of women being subject to men in general. Genesis 3:16 says that as a consequence of her sin, Eve's desire is to her husband, and he will rule over her. Similarly, the Adam-Eve relationship Paul will mention in 2:13-14 is a husband-wife relationship.

2:11-12: "Let a wife learn in quietness in complete subjection, for I do not permit a wife to teach or have authority over a husband, but to be in quietness."

This sentence begins and ends with "in quietness," confirming that this is a unit of thought. Paul thus details what it might mean to learn in quietness and subjection--it means not teach or take authority over your husband. I would not think that this necessarily means absolute silence, but an attitude of submission to his instruction. It would probably imply not questioning what he is teaching or presuming to correct his teaching. Paul no doubt assumes that the husband's instruction is correct instruction, and the assumption seems to be that the man is better equipped to know true teaching from false teaching than the woman is.

I feel like I should stop for just a second to point out how foreign so much of this line of thought is both to our context and to Paul's writings overall. In our context, women are just as likely to know true teaching as their husbands. Indeed, this is the implication of us both equally having the Spirit. Except in 1 Corinthians 14 if original, we have never seen Paul say things quite like this in any of his other writings. His tone and demeanor are different from earlier. Here we find none of the reciprocity of 1 Corinthians 7 or 11, where even when he is chiding women he takes time to point out that "the husband's body belongs to his wife" and "the man comes out of the woman." Something has changed here, and we do the Bible no service to pretend that it hasn't. We want the full witness of Scripture, not just one moment in the symphony of revelation.

Let me say again that we should see the husband-wife relationship in view in these words, because Paul probably doesn't even consider the possibility that a woman would be talking to a man who wasn't her husband. In other words, Paul assumes a woman wouldn't be talking to a man who isn't her husband. But even in the husband-wife relationship she should listen rather than speak.

2:13-15 : "For"
Before looking at these verses specifically, we notice that Paul is about to defend the charge he has just given in 2:11-12. The following verses are thus a defense of why a wife should be in quietness and not teach or exercise authority over her husband.

Defense 1 (2:13): "For Adam was formed first, then Eve."
This is an argument from "birth order." While in our culture we tend to feel all children should be valued equally, ancient culture clearly favored and valued the firstborn over the later born. In general, the firstborn had authority over all the other children. Paul defends the authority of a husband over a wife by pointing out the order of creation.

A couple comments in terms of bridging the gap between then and now. I want to remind you of my sense that the Bible tends to be more "in general, with exceptions" than "absolutely never." We remember that in the case of Jacob and Esau, the Bible sanctions that the younger would rule over the older.

I also note that this comment is in conflict with the spiritual principle of Galatians 3:28: "In Christ there is not 'male and female.'" I mentioned earlier that Paul words this oddly. After saying "neither-nor" twice, he says "not male and female." A plausible explanation is that Paul is alluding to Genesis 1:27, where God makes them "male and female." In other words, Galatians 3:28 pictures the undoing of the male-female distinction made in creation. Thus in heaven we are like the angels, and we neither marry nor are given in marriage.

Defense 2 (2:14-15): "And Adam was not deceived, but the woman--having been deceived--has come to be in transgression. But she will be saved through childbearing, if they remain in faith and love and holiness with chastity."

These are hard words on more than one level. This seems to be Paul's main argument. Women should not be in the role of teacher because they are easily deceived, like Eve was. The letter's theme of false teaching here comes into view. If the wives teach their husbands, we find ourselves in the same situation that Adam and Eve were in, and we know what happened then. It was not the husband who was deceived by false teaching; it was the wife who led the husband astray.

Notice how easily Paul slips from discussing Eve--"she"--to talking about wives in general--"they." If "in Adam" all die, "in Eve" all women are subjugated to their husbands. The consequences of Eve's sin was 1. increased pain in childbearing and 2. subjugation to the rule of the husband (Gen. 3:16). We see both of these consequences of sin in this passage.

In a sense, Eve is "saved" from her transgression through childbearing. The easy switch from "she" to "they" applies the same to the "Eve's" of Paul's day: wives. They will be saved from the stain of Eve's sin through their childbearing. But even this is conditional on them remaining "in faith and love and holiness with chastity." These attitudes likely relate to being subject to their husbands.

Although I'll deal with the appropriation of these verses at a later time, I can already see a serious problem when it comes to applying these words to today. Paul's argument is primarily based on the consequences of Eve's sin. True, the Lord does not free a woman of painful childbearing when she becomes a Christian. In that sense women continue to experience the consequences of Eve's sin.

On the other hand, the book of Hebrews represents the final word in the Bible on Christ's atonement and probably takes us one step closer to a full understanding than even Paul on this subject. While Paul could offer a sacrifice in the Jerusalem temple even at the end of his ministry (Acts 21:23-26), Hebrews teaches that there can no longer be any sacrificial system now that Christ has died for sins: "With one offering he has forever perfected those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14).

In other words, it is blasphemy to suggest that there are sins for which Christ's death did not atone. The idea that Christian women are still held accountable for the sins of Eve in some way thus contradicts one of the most important truths about Christ's death. If in Adam all die, in Christ all are made alive. If in Eve all women are subjugated to their husbands and have painful childbirth, in Christ there is not male and female and eventually women's bodies will be transformed to be like Christ's glorious body (1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21).

Again, our understanding of Scripture is immature if we do not see that some of the arguments biblical authors make have to do with the thinking of their day. Take for example Paul's argument in Galatians that the promise to Abraham was to his seed singular rather than to his seed plural (Gal. 3:16). Paul's point is that the promise of justification only comes through Christ, the singular seed of Abraham. Paul's point is true and inspired. Indeed, I have no problem saying that his argument was inspired.

But Paul was not using the words as they were originally meant, and this argument would not convince any Jew today. Seed here is used collectively, a singular that stands for a plurality. Originally, the promise was indeed about the countless Israelites (plural) who would inherit the promise land. It happened.

My point is that the arguments God might inspire me to use today would not be the same arguments God would inspire someone else to make in a different time and place. The conclusion is the point of the inspiration more than the path to get there.

In 1 Timothy 2:11-15, the point is that the women of Paul's churches, and perhaps Ephesus in particular, should not be usurping authority over their husbands. They should be quiet in the worship. I am quite willing to say that this was indeed what God wanted them to do.

However, I am overwhelmingly certain that God does not have this message for His church today. Indeed, I would be so bold as to say that anyone who would apply these verses directly to today is out of the will of God and is "kicking against the goads" (Acts 26:13), "happily fighting against God" (Acts 5:39), with a "zeal without knowledge" (Rom. 10:2).

Examine your heart, anyone who would take this tact, to see if you are in the faith. God takes His women as seriously as He takes His men. And anyone who would put a stumblingblock in front of any of his children..., well Matthew 18 has some rather scary words involving a millstone.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

1 Timothy and Women 2: The Broader Context of 1 Timothy

The Place of 1 Timothy 2:12-15 in the Letter
There are two things you should have on your mind after you have finished reading 1 Timothy. The first is false teaching; the second is church order. These two emphases are not unrelated, for sound leadership and orderly structures are some of the best protections against false teaching.

I find the comments directed at Timothy directly in the letter to be very helpful in unfolding the import of this letter:

1 Tim. 1:3: "Just as I urged you to remain in Ephesus when I was going into Macedonia, command certain individuals not to teach false things..."

1 Tim. 1:18: "I am enjoining this command to you [to stop false teaching?], Timothy my child, according to the preceding prophecies about you, so that you might fight the good fight [foretold] in them.

1 Tim. 3:14: "I write these things [about church order] to you hoping to come to you soon. But if I am delayed, I write them so you may know how it is necessary for the house of God to conduct itself, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth."

1 Tim. 4:6: "If you point out these things to the brothers [about false teaching], you will be a good servant [diakonos] of Christ Jesus, nourished on the words of the faith and the good teaching that you have followed..."

1 Tim. 6:2: "Teach and urge these things [duties of widows, elders, slaves]..."

1 Tim. 6:11: "But you, O man of God, flee these things [false teaching, love of money]..."

1 Tim. 6:20: "O Timothy, gaurd the deposit [that which Paul is leaving Timothy, particularly in regard to sound teaching]."

A quick glance at these references shows that 1 Timothy looks to a time when Paul will not be there to direct the church at Ephesus, when Timothy will be in charge. Paul is leaving Timothy a "deposit" of sound teaching and practice whereby the church can continue on track "if Paul is delayed." On all reconstructions I know of the time of the letter, it appears that Paul never did return to Ephesus after he wrote these words.

The verses with which we are concerned, 1 Timothy 2:12-15, arguably appear in the middle of a block of teaching about the orderly conduct of the church: 2:1-3:13. This section is immediately preceded by direct comments to Timothy regarding prophecies that apparently foretold that he would fight false teaching one day (1:18-20). Immediately following this section Paul gives the whole purpose of the letter: in case he is delayed, he wants Timothy to know how God's house, the church, should conduct itself.

The section in which these verses appear, therefore, does not directly address false teaching, although it is no doubt a guard against such. Paul presents a picture of the honorable church. False teaching may stand somewhere in the background of what Paul says, but these are general statements about what the ideal church looks like.

So, "first of all," Paul urges that the church of God should pray for secular authorities (2:1-7). Prayer and intercession is something the Ephesian church should do in worship. Then Paul speaks of what men do in worship--they pray with lifted hands rather than raising their hands in anger or arguing (2:8). Paul then says how the women--likely wives are primarily in view--should dress, presumably in worship especially. They should dress modestly and not with great show (2:9-10).

This thought about women continues. Not only should they "adorn" themselves with good deeds (2:10), but women should learn in subjection in quietness (2:11). Again, the worship setting seems primarily in view. It is at this point that the verses in question appear. Paul will not allow wives to teach or exercise authority over their husbands, but to be in quietness (2:12). It is a point of debate whether women in general or wives in particular are in view. But this is a matter for the next entry.

The remainder of the section relates to the appropriate characteristics for overseers and deacons in the church, as well as for their wives (3:1-13).

Our verses thus seem to be about the honorable conduct of wives in the typical church of Paul's day.

Next post, a close reading of these verses in this context.

Friday, March 18, 2005

1 Timothy 2 and Women in Ministry: Introduction

While I won't be presenting on 1 Timothy 2:12-15, a friend of mine encouraged me to go ahead and discuss this second verse on my blog. This will take several entries.

First, while 1 Corinthians 14 clearly cannot prohibit women from prophesying in the Christian assembly (=church), 1 Timothy 2:12 sure sounds like it does:

"To teach, to a women I do not permit, nor to have authority over a man, but to be in quietness."

Let me say up front, however, that if this means a woman cannot prophesy in church, then Paul has contradicted himself. And prophecy involves teaching, since 1 Cor. 14:31 indicates learning as a consequence of prophecy.

How can we harmonize these two comments--or should we? They do not harmonize easily. Let me brainstorm what the possibilities are:

1. Teaching in 1 Timothy is not the same as the kind of teaching that takes place in prophecy.

2. Paul has becomed hardened as time has passed on this issue, perhaps because of abuses he has seen, or perhaps environmental factors are pushing in this direction.

3. Paul is having a moment of hardness on this issue because of things going on at the time, such as things going on at Ephesus, or perhaps environmental issues are pushing in this direction.

4. 1 Timothy is pseudonymous, and the Pauline churches have become hardened over time for whatever reason, or environmental factors have pushed the church in this direction.

5. The scope of 1 Timothy 2 is different from the scope of 1 Corinthians 11. When Paul says he does not allow women to teach or have authority over men, he means "in general." There are of course exceptional women who rise to the fore from time to time.

In my opinion none of these are very pleasing for one reason or another. Number one is the easy answer, but it has all kinds of theological problems. If men and women both have the same spirit (and we now know their minds are both potentially capable of thinking and leadership), then why would we arbitrarily put certain limitations in what God could do through them?

This fact pushes us toward contextual factors: problems within the church or problems outside the church. As far as problems inside the church, we might mention the possibility that wealthy women sometimes served as conduits for false teaching. There is some evidence for this at Ephesus (e.g., 2 Tim. 3:6).

Certainly the culture did not smile on women taking leadership and this factor might have pushed away from the full exercise of the Spirit in the church. 1 Timothy marks a definite move toward institutionalization in its rules about bishops and deacons, and Paul is looking toward a church that does not have him around to give it direction. All these features might contribute toward an explanation of hardness on Paul's part.

This explanation will be more satisfying than the idea that 1 Timothy is pseudonymous, which means that it was written under the authority of Paul's name as a representation of his voice to the church, but some time after he had died. In other words, some individual with authority would have attempted to present Paul's voice to the next generation, what he thought Paul would say (I presume it would be a he). We have many Jewish and non-Jewish examples of these kinds of writings in the ancient world.

The majority of evangelical scholars do not believe there are any writings of this sort in the New Testament. In contrast, the majority of non-evangelical scholars--since they do not find the practice problematic--almost assume without argument that 1 Timothy was not written by Paul. Most evangelical scholars have difficulty concluding that a pseudonymous writing could be anything but a lie: "It says Paul wrote it; Paul must have written it." The possibility is thus eliminated regardless of what evidence there might be.

What we find is that both sides largely have formed their conclusion before they even read the letter. Non-evangelicals presume Paul didn't write it because that's what they've been taught. Evangelicals presume Paul wrote it because he has to have written it.

I will also take the position that Paul wrote 1 Timothy. I do, however, believe it is possible to argue that a pseudonymous writing could be "honest" in that day though we would consider them wrong today. There are some evangelical scholars who argue that pseudonymity need not be lying. For example, the recent NT introduction coauthored by Joel Green of Asbury Seminary, Paul Achtemeier of Union in Virginia, and Marianne Thompson of Fuller argues that it would have been lying for someone not to put Paul's name on a writing if they thought it represented his teaching (I myself find this particular argument somewhat of a stretch). Nevertheless, I personally submit to the broader evangelical judgment that pseudonymous writings cannot be in the New Testament.

Of course whether 1 Timothy was pseudonymous or not, it is in Scripture, and we must take it seriously. God allowed these words to be in His Word, so we must treat them as an authority over us in an appropriate way.

The scope argument seems another viable possibility in interpretation. This is the idea that statements like 1 Timothy 2:12 were never meant to exclude exceptional women who we immediately recognize have God's hand on them. It's the idea that most biblical comments are meant on the level of "in general this, but there are exceptions."

My postings for the next few entries will go like this:
1. Placing 1 Timothy 2:12-15 in the Letter
2. A Close Reading of 1 Timothy 2:12-15
3. Placing 1 Timothy in Time and Place
4. Placing 1 Timothy in Paul's Ministry
5. Appropriating 1 Timothy 2:12-15

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Women 4: Appropriating 1 Corinthians 14:34-35

Appropriating 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
In this entry I will assume that these verses are, in fact, a part of the original text of 1 Corinthians. Assuming that they are, how do we appropriate them today?

First, I have shown in an earlier entry that whatever the verses might mean, they cannot prohibit women from a prophetic role or from public prayer. If they did, Paul would contradict himself on a fundamental level within the space of a few chapters. 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 deal with worship disruption, particularly from wives in conversation with the worship going on around them, perhaps with prophecies in particular. They must refer to a particular kind of disruption that Paul found particularly irritating in his churches.

Accordingly, our quest is at an end. No matter how you slice it, these verses relate to women causing disruption and specifically do not relate to women God anoints with prophetic messages. The passage does not even address the question of whether women could participate in church leadership. Indeed, it is difficult to say that the church at Corinth even had some fixed leadership structure at all, given its "charimatic" bent.

No doubt the overwhelming majority of leaders in ancient churches were male, given the patriarchal nature of ancient society. The fact that most churches met in homes no doubt led to similar leadership structures to those of the home, which surprisingly must have pushed in more than one way. While men were the heads of their wives in ancient society (e.g., Aristotle says so), the home was the domain of the woman and she directed its activities (e.g., even over male slaves and certainly children). In contrast, Men belonged to the public domain.

Surprising to some, 1 Corinthians on the whole adds credence to the idea of women in ministry. 1 Corinthians 11 sanctions women's involvement in public prayer and prophecy, while 14:34-35 are a tangent to this discussion. But since we are on this topic, let me make some comments on the issue in general. What if 1 Corinthians 14 had seemed to deny women roles of leadership in the church?

First let me note that the "scope" of the current discussion is different from the scope of the biblical discussion. Current evangelical culture has adopted a kind of "absolutist" scope to all its discussions that is, in the end, unbiblical. We tend to apply general principles in an absolute sense, meaning, without exception.

But this is not the way Jesus talked about ethics: "Humanity wasn't made for the Sabbath rule, the Sabbath rule was made for humanity." In other words, there are frequently exceptions to the rules. In general, we should be careful to assume that biblical injunctions are meant to be exceptionless in scope, even when they are worded as "all" statements. Even the Pharisees made room for exceptions, and Jesus gave more exceptions than they did.

The attitude of at least much of the Old Testament, as well as I would say Luke-Acts and most of Paul, is similar in scope when it comes to women. Certainly in the Old Testament, you expected most leaders and prophets to be men. Priests seem to be men exclusively.

However, this general pattern was not an absolute. Even the non-Christian and very "sexist" Aristotle, as he sets out his idea that the husband is the head of the wife and household, indicates that sometimes there are women who "depart from nature." These societies allowed for the exceptional woman like Deborah, who led armies. Similarly, Josiah takes the Book of the Law to Huldah the prophetess to verify its authenticity.

In short, while the general expectation in Bible times was that men would lead, there was a sanctioned place for exceptional women who "departed from nature." My read of Acts 2 is that at least some early Christians believed the frequency of such women would only intensify in the eschatological age. The Spirit is the great leveler. When the Spirit fills women, women become in Christ just as much as men are in Christ, for "in Christ there is not 'male and female'" (Gal. 3:28). Thus when God pours out his Spirit, both sons and daughters would prophecy (Acts 2).

Two things made this prophetic role difficult 1. the husband-wife relationship and 2. the cultural view of females. Let me first make it clear that the husband wife issue is distinct from the women in ministry issue. You can believe that the husband is the head of his wife and yet still approve of women in ministry. What if, for example, a husband wanted his wife to be a minister. How then would husband headship contradict women in ministry? There is also the issue of single women, virgin prophetesses as we see in Acts 21. Of course you can guess my position, I think this is more "earth-think," more concession to ancient culture.

The Corinthian women seem to have wanted to exploit their new found freedom in a way that shamed their husbands. Further, the longer we go into the New Testament, the more "defensive" the church becomes socially. Christianity increasingly conforms to the social values of the day on these issues. Colossians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Peter all represent a move toward the "respectable" in Mediterranean culture, particularly when it comes to the roles of women.

The eschatological, prophetic function of women that seems so striking in some of Paul's earlier letters and in the descriptions of Acts gives way to institutionalization in the later Paul. The "early" Paul who speaks of Christ's return as immanent mentions several women as his fellow workers and says there is no "male and female" in Christ. In contrast, the "later Paul" who fights heresy and strives to pass on sound doctrine has little positive to say about women in the church. Meanwhile, 1 Peter tells women and slaves to "hunker down" and suffer like Christ did, since the judgment was beginning.

In this mix if we are to distinguish heavenly principle from earthly practice, there can be little ambiguity. In Christ there is not "male and female." The wording evokes images of Genesis 1:27: "male and female created He them." In Christ this gender distinction is undone. In heaven they "neither marry nor are given in marriage." Everyone is like the angels without subordination to one another as wife to husband. The heavenly trajectory is set.

The idea "I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man" is not an exception to the heavenly principle. It is in conflict with the heavenly principle. Is not teaching a matter of the Spirit rather than the flesh? And yet it is exactly in the realm of the Spirit that "there is not 'male and female.'" In the light of the heavenly trajectory, we can only view such a rule as a concession to the earthly. And if a woman can receive a prophetic word from God as much as a man, if a woman has the Spirit as much as a man, why would she be silent if God has given her something to teach?

If we wish to fit this statement with the principles of Scripture, indeed with Paul's teaching elsewhere, we must resort to what I have called "cheap harmonizations." We must suggest that Paul is dealing with particular problems at Ephesus or that he is dealing with a widespread problem that leads him to generalize. But what we cannot do is take his words in 1 Timothy 2:12 as absolute. To do so contradicts far more crucial principles about the nature of being in Christ. Indeed, to take the logic of that passage too rigidly leads us into heresy--how can a woman be "saved" from the transgression of Eve by childbearing? Christ died for all sins, including the sin of Eve!

And then there is the fact that there is of course nothing particularly Christian about women being subject to men. Any old non-Christian agreed--Aristotle, for example. It is when Christianity moves toward the equality between men and women that we are moving in the heavenly direction. Anything less--particularly in an age when we don't even have to deal with persecution or disorder--is to submit to earthly principles when the heavenly ones are available. It is to continue the institution of slavery when the possibility exists to abolish it.

Reason and Experience
Let me briefly close by applying two of the prongs in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

First, does it make sense to, say, pick a less qualified, less gifted, less wise male as a minister over a wiser, more gifted female? Answer: no. Yet this is exactly what the absolutist position of a Southern Baptist would lead us to do.

I'll go ahead and say it--that's stupid. Let's say I'm on plane about to crash. The pilot is unconscious. There is only me and a woman there. I don't know how to fly a plane. But let's say she does, in fact that she has a pilot's license. Should I insist on flying the plane because I have male reproductive organs? I have a hunch that God's just a little smarter than that.

Now remind me again why people argue against the very possibility of a woman in ministry? Oh, that's right, one single verse in 1 Timothy whose context, scope, and meaning is debated.

What then about experience? There are women who feel God calling them into ministry. Are we going to tell them to become nurses because they're mistaken? Isn't that pretty shaky--to tell someone who thinks God's calling them that they're mistaken? Of course both men and women can be mistaken about God's call. But you better pray really hard before you tell someone something like this.

I leave with this question: why would we continue with rules based on bodies and the earthly when we know what the heavenly will be like? When it actually is a positive witness for Christ in America--unlike the way it would have been perceived in Paul's day--why not even promote it? What would a prohibition of women in ministry indicate about God anyway? What's the point God would be trying to make? That He's testing us to see if we'll follow an arbitrary rule that makes no sense and is prone to turn people away from Christ, a rule that was "worldly thinking" even in the days of Paul?

Or just maybe God is expecting us to do what we did with slavery--to seize this opportunity to make the world just a little more glorifying to God than it is when it is under the power of Sin. We can take the Spirit's cue and make the earth look a little more like heaven will.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Women 4: Response to Ben

Ben asked some good questions, so here are some quick thoughts:

Ben: Dr. Schenck,If we are to assume that these verses are early interpolations, 1) who may have composed and added them to this epistle? 2) Do you suppose the reason for the addition is the same reason Paul included these verses if they are original? 3) If these verse are not original, was their addition inspired? If not, what sort of paradigm shift must we make from the common evangelical approach to inspiration? 4)Would this sort of early interpolation be found elsewhere in the New Testament?Thoughts floating in my head...interested to hear yours.~Ben

Great questions. I think we must suppose that they were added very early indeed, perhaps even as an addition to the original manuscripts.

And while I don't think they fit very well with the flavor of the 1 Corinthian Paul, they fit very well with the 1 Timothy Paul. In this sense I can pass the buck to David Smith, who's going to discuss the place of 1 Timothy in the women in ministry debate. We have to deal with 1 Timothy whether these words in 1 Corinthians were original or not.

Given the church hermeneutic I advocate, the question of their early inclusion and persistence is an important one. I would place it into the bag of objections to women in ministry raised by those who point out that women have not held pastoral offices in the church from as early as the late first century except in certain off the mainstream groups like the Montanists. If I adopt the kind of church hermeneutic I use with the Trinity, how can I then support women in ministry from this angle?

I think of the words of a friend of mine who ultimately converted from the Anglican Church to the Roman Catholic Church: "I will support women in ministry when it is affirmed by an ecumenical council." I think he was sincere.

And this is partially my position. I will support women in ministry because I believe we are in a period leading up to a consensus on women in ministry. It may not completely look that way now, but I can't imagine even the Roman Catholic Church holding out on this one for very long. The idea of compartmentalizing roles in the church because women don't have certain physical organs is simply incomprehensible in my mind in the light of the truth of the gospel. And when people are only maintaining positions that don't make spiritual sense because it's the "rules," I can't see these ideas lasting for very long.

I see the same thing with the pro-slavery parts of the church 150 years ago. It's "obvious" to us today that they were on the wrong side of the issue and we have a hard time today even believing that the hearts of such individuals were right with God. They were just on the wrong side of history. In reality it's more complicated than this, but I do believe Christians a hundred years from now will view anti-women in ministry people similarly.

I put this in the same category as "Moses said give them a writ of divorce because of the hardness of your hearts." I truly believe God's word to the church today is, "God allowed the New Testament church to conform to the patriarchal values of its day because of the hardness of their hearts. But God did not intend it to be so, as it is written, 'In Christ there is neither male nor female.'"

I'll reiterate many of these thoughts in my final blog on the subject.

There are other places in the Bible where I would suggest that what you see is not what you get. I treat these as fully Scriptural, which may imply some inconsistency on my part in the way I am tempted to dismiss 1 Corinthians 14:34-35.

For example, I tend to see 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 as misplaced, although I accept Paul as its author. I have no external evidence for this conclusion, only the fact that it seems so inappropriate to its context.

I suspect that there probably are other very early interpolations or textual problems for which we have no textual evidence, but I consider it highly problematic to go around suggesting such unless you have really, really good internal reasons for the suggestions. I actually can't think of any.

Some thoughts...

Women 3: Was 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 Original?

Textual Issues Relating to 1 Corinthians 14:34-35
Most scholars, both "liberal" and "conservative," consider these verses original. The manuscript tradition tends to preserve even the most unlikely readings, so it is generally a bad idea to suggest "interpolations"--additions to the biblical text--without at least some textual evidence.

A. External Evidence
There is manuscript evidence of some variation in where these verses appear in 1 Corinthians 14. But all manuscripts have the verses somewhere in the text. The vast majority of manuscripts place them where they currently appear in all translations of 1 Corinthians today. However, several manuscripts in the Western tradition place the verses at the end of the chapter after verse 40.

It is sometimes claimed that these are all late. However, Codex D dates to the 500's, as does the Latin translation known as italic d (even possibily the 400's). Further, the church father Ambrosiaster places the verses here, and he dates to the 300's. As far as manuscripts go, these are early witnesses. The earliest substantial manuscript of Paul's writings dates to around 200, and we won't find many more before the 300's and 400's.

Nevertheless, this is fairly weak evidence for a different location for the verses in 1 Corinthians, and it is even weaker evidence still for the absence of these verses from the original manuscript of 1 Corinthians. However, in the presence of what I consider to be strong internal evidence, I suspect this minor variation points to something significant in the history of these verses.

The standard question is the following: how might we explain the different location of these verses in the Western tradition? If they are original, we might note that they seem rather out of place in their current location. We might suggest that someone placed them at the end to clarify the train of thought about prophecy in chapter 14. Perhaps.

Could some "pro-women" individual have removed them at some point, only for them to be tacked back on at the end of the chapter? This seems a stretch. Who were these "pro-women" individuals? Montanists of the late 100's? We don't really hear much about groups like this. On the one hand, if such individuals existed, surely they would have removed the verses rather than move them. And if someone had put them back in, why wouldn't they have put them back where they were in all the other manuscripts?

Another possibility is that these verses were originally placed in the margin of an early manuscript of 1 Corinthians, perhaps even as a marginal comment on one of the originals. I say one of the originals because letter writers sometimes kept a copy of a letter with them at the point of origin. Accordingly, from a very early date the marginal comment may have been copied into two different places in the text. Some of those that made their way to Rome--or perhaps some very early one translated into Latin (even at Corinth, for the official language of Corinth was Latin)--put the marginal comment at the end of the chapter rather than in the location in which most manuscripts now have it.

If this latter scenario is true, it must have happened very early on indeed. If we accept the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, then perhaps Paul himself added the comment later to 1 Corinthians. If someone denies the Pauline authorship of 1 Timothy, perhaps its writer added the comment in response to a perceived problem in the worship of that day. For those who aren't acquainted with this issue, it is primarily evangelical scholars who argue for Paul as the direct author of 1 Timothy. Most non-evangelical scholars think 1 Timothy was written several decades after Paul's death pseudonymously, although recent days have seen an increasing number of scholars willing to reconsider this twentieth century "consensus."

On the whole, the evidence is weak against these verses not being in the original text of 1 Corinthians. For this reason, most scholars both liberal and conservative alike accept their Pauline authorship. We would need strong internal evidence to argue against their originality.

B. Internal Evidence
In my opinion, the internal evidence does turn out to be strongly against the verses being original. On the whole I would conclude against their originality. Accordingly I stand among a small but significant number of scholars--conservative and liberal alike--who do not think Paul would have written these verses at this point of the text. Other scholars who take this stand include Gordon Fee, a conservative pillar of evangelical scholarship (with charismatic sympathies), as well as Richard Hays, who in the vast scheme of things is a conservative Methodist.

1. The Immediate Context of the Verses
My first observation is that these verses stand out as a foreign body in the argument of 1 Corinthians 14. They pop out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. Here is how Codex D reads at this point:

"Let two or three prophets speak and let the others pass judgment. And if something should be revealed to another who is sitting, let the first person be silent. For you are all able to prophesy individually so that all may learn and all may be encouraged. And the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets, for God is not about confusion but about peace, as in all the churches of the saints. Or did the word of God go out from you or did it come to you alone? If someone seems to be a prophet or someone spiritual, let them understand that what I am writing to you is the command of the Lord. And if someone is ignorant, he is ignorant."

No one would think something was missing here if we didn't know how the text reads. Indeed, the comment about peace in all the churches of the saints flows directly into the question of whether the Corinthians themselves are the origin of the gospel or the sole recipients of it. Similarly, prophecy remains the subject of discussion in this rendition, while the two verses 34-35 do not explicitly mention it. When we consider that Paul has nothing to say forbidding women from prophecying when he directly addresses the issue in chapter 11, 14:34-35 are puzzling at this point of the text. They interrupt what otherwise is a clear train of thought.

2. The Content of the Verses (14:34-35)
I tried in my previous entry to figure out what these words might mean given what Paul says earlier in 1 Corinthians 11. I concluded that Paul must have meant them in a very limited sense, for he has nothing to say against women prophesying in the assembly when that is clearly what he is talking about. Ultimately, I can't come up with anything other than what I called "cheap harmonizations" in my last entry if these verses were original. I have difficulty ascribing these verses to Paul unless they represent an "emotional moment" for him.

Let me clarify what I am saying here. There are "emotional moments" in the Bible. If our theology of Scripture cannot handle them, then our theology of Scripture is inadequate. When the writer of Psalm 137 writes of the blessedness of someone who would bash the babies of the Babylonians against a rock, is this not an expression of deep anger and vengeance toward the Babylonians? When Paul writes that he wishes the individuals agitating the Galatians would castrate themselves, is this not an expression of emotional anger on Paul's part (Gal. 5)? I see no other way to process these comments.

And so I note that the tone of these verses is not Paul's normal tone toward women in his early writings (excepting 1 Timothy also as atypical). I mentioned in the previous entry that even in 1 Corinthians 11 when he is probably dealing with certain women causing problems in Corinthian worship, he feels compelled to step back and point out that men are still not independent of women. In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul points out that a husbands body belongs to his wife.

He considers individuals like Euodia and Syntyche his fellow workers in Philippians 4. He considers Priscilla and Junias coworkers in the Christian enterprise and commends Phoebe as a "deacon" of the church of Cenchrea (Rom. 16:1). This is the same word used in Philippians of leaders in the Philippian church (Paul uses a masculine form of the word too).

But given its current context, the verses seem particularly harsh. In their current context, they are preceded with the words "as in all the churches of the saints," a statement that significantly broadens the scope of the prohibition. And the comments that follow make these verses also sound particularly harsh--"did the word of God go out from you or did it come to you alone?" This makes it sound like Paul is not only forbidding, but chastising the Corinthians for letting women speak in church.

But perhaps the most telling aspect of these verses is the fact that they give a command to the churches, plural: "Let women be silent in the churches." 1 Corinthians is not addressed to churches, plural, but to the singular church at Corinth (cf. 1 Cor. 1:2). The Corinthian church has no control over other churches, and Paul was not writing to any church but the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians. This minor point places these words at a point in time when Paul's letters were read as Scripture directed at all churches--a point of time probably after Paul's death. It is our tendency to read these words as universal in scope that leads us to miss this major breach of context.

Finally, we have already pointed out that the reference to the Jewish Law also seems somewhat out of character for Paul. It's the kind of argument I make when I'm emotional and pushed in a corner. Paul generally resists using the Jewish Law as a basis for ethical command. If these verses are original, we might suggest that the problem Paul addresses comes primarily from Jewish women in the church.

Notice also the heavy use of honor-shame language in the verses. This heavy "emotional" element is absent from the earlier places where women are addressed in 1 Corinthians. If Paul wrote them, they bespeak a problem in the Corinthian community (or in the Ephesian community) that is under Paul's skin when he writes this part of 1 Corinthians 14.

In summary, if the verses are original, I see them as an "emotional moment," almost an outburst on Paul's part because of something that is eating at him. On the other hand, I am more inclined to see them as an early interpolation. The context flows more smoothly in their absence, and they seem to contradict Paul's message and tone both in the rest of the letter and in the bulk of his other writings, as well as in Acts.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Women 2: Does Paul Contradict Himself?

Does Paul Contradict Himself?
My first claim is that 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be absolute in scope or else Paul would significantly contradict himself in the very same letter.

In my next entry, I will discuss the question of whether these verses were actually in the original manuscript of 1 Corinthians. But the majority of interpreters, both liberal and conservative alike, have concluded that these verses were a part of 1 Corinthians. I will thus discuss in this entry what these verses might have meant if they were indeed a part of the original of 1 Corinthians.

We notice first of all that the overall context of these verses is the disorderly worship of the Corinthian community. In particular, the verses just before (14:29-33) and after (14:37) relate to the orderly use of prophecy in the church. This fact might make you think that Paul was forbidding women from prophesying in the church or perhaps any spirit type speaking such as speaking in tongues.

However, this is exactly what these verses cannot mean if Paul is not to contradict himself, for Paul has already assumed that women could pray and prophecy in the public assembly. Here we turn to 1 Corinthians 11. In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul says "every wife who prays or prophesies with uncovered head shames her 'head.'"

Prophecy is not something that someone does in private, and prayer was never silent in this period of history even when one prayed alone (cf. the OT story of Hannah, story in Augustine). Paul presumes in 1 Corinthians 14 that prophecy is something that builds up the church (14:4). It is a word from God to the assembled body of Christ. In other words, the praying and prophesying of 1 Corinthians 11 is praying and prophesying in public worship.

A further item of note is that the woman in question is a wife. Paul does not indicate whether or not the same considerations would apply to an unmarried woman, but the "head" that an uncovered woman shames is not only her physical head. Paul has already defined the "head of a woman" as her husband in 11:3. The wife is thus dishonoring her husband when she prays or prophesies in the public assembly with uncovered head.

The dynamics here are almost certainly related to inappropriate interaction with males who aren't her husband. She engages in public speech with uncovered head in the presence of men who aren't her husband. She engages in a spiritual activity in the presence of angels (11:10) and God Himself, also a putative male (11:13). Unveiled (a hair rather than a face covering), she shames her husband by immodest behavior in the presence of these other males.

So there is indeed subordination here, but it in no way impinges on this wife's ability to pray or prophesy publically. Such a factor is completely absent from Paul's thinking at this time. In fact, he is careful to note that "however neither is a wife separable from her husband or her husband from his wife in the Lord, for as the woman came out of the man, so also the man comes by way of a woman, and all things are from God" (11:11-12).

Any reading of 14:34-35 must take these things into consideration. When Paul says, "let women be silent in the churches," he cannot mean women who are led by God to pray or prophesy. If he did, he would contradict himself on a fundamental level in the matter of only a few pages. We would have to say he changed his mind or that he was two faced on the issue.

14:34 goes on to speak of the need for subjection as well: "for it is not fitting for them to speak, but let them be subject, as even the Law says." We get the impression that an issue of submission to husbands is involved here and thus that some women at Corinth may be shaming their husbands by way of their speech in public worship.

The mention of the Jewish Law is curious, since Paul does not usually use the Jewish Law in this way. He has indeed mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9 that he was not under the Law (9:21).

14:35 makes it clear that a husband-wife issue is at least partially involved in these verses. "And if they want to learn something, let them inquire of their own husbands at home." This verse is perhaps the most revealing of all, particularly in the light of the worship context of these words. If these words are original, then the context leads us to see women asking questions in a way that interrupts the prophetic word. Not only are they interrupting the worship by asking questions, but they are asking questions of other women's husbands.

Paul responds 1. that they should ask their own husbands and 2. at home rather than in the middle of worship.

"For it is shameful for a woman to speak in the assembly" (14:35). If Paul is not to contradict himself, he must mean a particular kind of speaking, namely, the disruptive interaction with other husbands pictured here.

These words thus have everything to do with 1. the disruption of worship, 2. inappropriate behavior toward other males and thus indirectly toward their wives, 3. inappropriate behavior in relation to their own husbands. Insofar as these conditions do not connect well to our context, very little of these verses apply directly to our worship context. Paul addresses a particular stereotypical woman of the first century as women's roles were then understood.

What these two verses cannot preclude, however, is the prophetic role of women in the church. We have ample evidence from Acts that women were involved in prophecy (e.g., Acts 2:17; 21:9) and that in fact their involvement in prophecy was part of the arrival of the kingdom of God. We cannot imagine that Paul addressed these words to the Phoebe's, the Priscilla's, the Junias', the Lydia's, the Euodia's, the Syntyche's, the Lois', or the Eunice's.

If that's what these verses meant, then the Bible would contradict itself on a grand scale. And no cheap harmonizations will do. If the Bible sanctions even one woman speaking at some point in public worship, then the scope of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 cannot be universal or absolute. That's quite a challenge for the opposing view. Just think, only one woman and your argument's toast.

And what spirit in someone would make them want to make that argument? Not the Spirit of Christ, since in Christ "there is not male and female." In heaven there is no subordination, for they "neither marry nor are given in marriage."

In reality, almost no group really keeps these verses. How many female Sunday School teachers do we have? How many woman sing special songs in worship or read Scripture? I know there are some fringe groups, but I'm quite willing to say they have little of God's Spirit in them if such a bias is truly heart felt on their part.

It's one thing to do something because you truly believe it is the will of God, perhaps something you don't understand but feel like you need to do to be obedient. It's quite another thing when you want to find a way to argue something like this. That's a spiritual problem.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

1 Corinthians 14 and Women in Ministry 1: Introduction

If I have my weeks straight, I will be presenting a talk on "1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and Women in Ministry" this Thursday. The setting is a class on Women in Ministry taught by Dr. Constance Cherry at Indiana Wesleyan University. I thought I would do some preparation on the blog. I'll resume Sin later. :>)

Question: What does 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 imply about women in ministry today?
Answer: Absolutely Nothing!

There, the talk is over, we can all go home now.

Okay, okay, since others think it does have something to do with the issue I'll at least go through the motions on this "slam dunk" passage. Dr. David Smith has a much harder one to deal with the following week: 1 Timothy 2:12-15.

There are at least three reasons why this verse is irrelevant to the current discussion on women in ministry:

1. Given other comments in 1 Corinthians, it cannot be an absolute statement or else Paul would majorly contradict himself.

2. There are strong textual issues that suggest it was not even a part of the original manuscript of 1 Corinthians.

3. It would go counter to the fundamental principles of Christianity to use any Bible passage today to forbid called women from ministering in any capacity to which God calls them.

That's where I'm headed in the next few days. Here we go...

Friday, March 11, 2005

Sin: Who is Wronged?

Who is Wronged?
Next, who are the different parties that one can wrong?

The easy answer is 1. God, 2. others, or 3. yourself. David Drury mentioned in an earlier comment that some also make a distinction in number two between 2a) other Christians and 2b) non-Christians.

I make these distinctions so we don't miss out on any kind of wrongdoing. Regardless of the answer, we want to ask questions like "Will God hold us accountable for damage we've done to our own bodies in one way or another?" Similarly, some are so focused on sins toward others that they might miss out the possibility that there are wrongs we might do toward God that don't directly hurt ourselves or others. My purpose in this entry is not so much to assess the level of guilt or of punishment for different types of wrongdoing. My purpose is merely to think about all the different kinds of wrongdoing.

So what are wrongs we might commit toward God? I would say that all wrongdoing either directly or indirectly wrongs God. If I hurt some innocent person, I am offending God both because of His revealed commands and because Christians believe humanity was made in God's image. God says, "You mess with one of mine; you mess with Me."

Do I wrong God when I do not do my part to defend the defenseless of all kinds? When I do not "feed the poor" of all kinds? The orphan, the widow, the unborn? Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats would say yes. Some here might make a distinction between those in the church and those outside. Both still fit thus far in our rubric of overall wrongdoing.

By extention, I wrong God on some level by disregarding myself. I can do this physically of course. I can wrong myself by overworking or chain smoking or going on alcoholic binges, and these wrongings of myself indirectly wrong God by treating His creation with less than what it deserves. I can wrong God by undervaluing myself, treating an individual God loves with less than the respect one of His creations deserves.

A real place of growth I think would be to realize how we might wrong God in ways that do not wrong others or myself. An easy extension of my above comments is in the way we treat God's creation. Flagrant disregard for God's creation is an improper attitude toward something God has made and blessed. I continue to puzzle at so many American Christians who seem to have a kind of militant anti-environmentalism. A common sense care for God's creation seems obviously Christian to me. The fanatic environmentalists are not my point. My point is simply, doesn't it glorify God to be good stewards of His creation?

How else might I wrong God? Does homosexual practice wrong God? The Bible asserts that it does. Male homosexual practice also often harms the bodies of those involved. Other than the physical consequences, I'm not sure how else it might harm others or ourselves. Perhaps someone knows a psychological argument they could share. But regardless, the Bible asserts that it wrongs God if not indirectly, then directly as disobedience to His command.

We can wrong God by not giving Him His due as well as by disobeying His commands. An area that drives us to ponder long and hard is how we might wrong God by not giving Him His due. His due is everything. His due is absolute. How could anyone possibly ever give God His due?

These are things for us to reflect on as we go forward...

Sin: What is Wrongdoing?

What is Wrongdoing?
I want to start off with a definition of wrongdoing that is as broad as possible. That means we will be careful about any "wrongs" we then say don't count as sin. I'm going to define wrongdoing as anything a person does that is harmful, negative, or in some way undesirable to someone.

Second, I want to make a distinction right off the bat between wrongdoing and guilt. A person can wrong another person unintentionally. In some cultures, the act itself implies guilt, even if you accidentally knocked the other person out the window. I've heard stories of missionaries whose life came into danger because they accidentally killed a person in a traffic action. We have trouble understanding this idea, but notice that the cities of refuge in the Old Testament were for those who unintentionally killed someone else.

By contrast, our culture has a very loose sense of guilt in relation to wrongdoing in the sense I am taking it. We will consider a person free of guilt if we can show they were insane or had extenuating circumstances like an abusive childhood. I personally feel our culture needs some clarification on the purposes of criminal penalty as we've shifted from the idea of justice to the idea of rehabilitation as the purpose of incarceration.

Now the fun begins. Sometimes you have to "hurt" someone on one level to "help" them on another. Allowing a child to experience the consequences of a bad choice is undesirable to him or her, but it is not wrongdoing. Justice is not wrongdoing by definition, even if it is perceived negatively by the person experiencing it (see earlier blog on justice). Indeed, the Greek word translated as "wrongdoing" in 1 John 5:17 has the fundamental sense of an unjust action (adikia).

Further, there are actions that bring growth that are not wrongdoing. A child may think homework is a teacher doing them wrong. A child may think making you take medicine is wrong. But these are "just" actions that have the benefit of the child in mind. Surely we wouldn't want to say that the "end justifies the means" either. You can't kill innocent Joe because it will benefit Kate, Carl, and Cindy. This leads us to a vague idea of justice versus injustice. We all have a certain common sense that knows actions that benefit but are unpleasant are not unjust.

Next, it is clear that there is both intentional and unintentional wrongdoing. For our purposes, I would like to divide these into four categories: 1. accidental wrongdoing where no guilt is involved (i.e., no deficiency on my part resulted in the accident), 2. accidental wrongdoing where guilt is involved (i.e., something wrong about me resulted in the accident), 3. subtly intentional wrongdoing that I didn't think about fully consciously, and 4. intentional wrongdoing--I knew it was wrong and I did it any way or I knew what I should do and I didn't do it anyway.

My tradition, the Wesleyan tradition, has almost exclusively identified sin with the fourth type of wrongdoing. Some would identify sin with all four as any kind of imperfection at all. I personally think that we can roughly speak of 2-4 as kinds of sins with varying levels of seriousness.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

What I Believe about Sin: Defining Sin

Defining Sin
The first step in answering any question is asking the question clearly. When we're having a debate that just seems to go around in circles, there's a good chance that we aren't clear about what we're debating. Asking the right question gets us more than half way to good answers.

I'd have to rank the question of sin as one of those many issues where there's a lot of confusion because we're not quite sure what we're talking about. What is sin? I can't answer whether it's something I can avoid unless I know what it is.

The Bible talks about sin in different ways, which adds to our confusion. What are the "unintentional sins" of Numbers 15? What does Hebrews 4:15 mean when it says Jesus was without sin, if he was fully human like me? What is a "sin unto death" in 1 John 5:16 in contrast to a "sin that does not lead to death" in the same verse?

The Bible is not presented to us as a textbook of theology. Even Romans fits at a certain point of Paul's ministry, and it is only later theologians who have distilled it into a theology textbook. What I'm saying is that the Bible never sets about giving us absolute, philosophical definitions of things. This is a task we do in theology class after we have looked at all the different ways God spoke to different people about an issue in the Bible. Our theologians then synthesize all the individual teachings in Scripture in the light of 2000 years of Christian history, hopefully with a good dose of the Holy Spirit behind them.

But I would say we got lucky on this issue. 1 John has a statement about sin that seems like an excellent starting point for discussion: "All wrongdoing is sin" (1 John 5:17). We could get more profound, but this just seems like a great starting point. It leads us to what I think is the best way of formulating the right questions. When I ask "What is sin?", I am asking "What is wrongdoing?"

Formulating sin in this way--"sin is wrongdoing"--leads to what I think are the right questions on this issue:

1. How do I know what "right" and "wrong" are? What is the standard that tells whether or not a wrong has been done?

2. Who is wronged? God? My neighbor? Can I sin against myself?

Once I have answered these questions, other questions will follow. Can I wrong someone unintentionally? What are the consequences of wrongdoing--are they all the same or are there different consequences for different sins? Can I live without sinning on one level or another?

These are the questions I hope to address in the next few blog entries.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Bush and Social Security

Bush is on a 60 stop tour to promote his social security plan. I think I probably am about average on this one--in the middle.

Is there a problem with Social Security? I thought everyone thought there was a couple years ago. I feel like this is an issue that the vast majority of us are unqualified to decide--fallacy of improper authority. I don't care what Joe Average's opinion is on whether Social Security is on the fritz or not, because the truth is not democratic (fallacy of the appeal to the majority). Why does any old fool think he or she can comment authoritatively on the subject?

I have a saying I've developed but just haven't had the chance to use anywhere yet, so how about here: "The truth doesn't care." Truth doesn't care about me or you or our feelings. If something is true, then it's true. End of story. So whether or not Social Security is in trouble would seem to be something that would be easily answered by those who know the figures. That's what I hate about politics. It makes half of us think stupidly and the other half become deceitful about the truth. Somewhere in there are honest people, but it seems so hard to know who they are. I personally most trust individuals like John McCane and Colin Powell. I trust Bush Jr's intentions, but not his brain.

No doubt some of you reading this blog know a lot more about the figures than I do. I'm perfectly willing to believe that something needs to be done with Social Security. And it's a little like global warming. I'm not competent to tell whether or not global warming is taking place or not. But if it is, then I don't care who likes the concept and who dislikes it. If there's a problem, we need to solve it. How stupid to play political games with issues like these! Why does Joe average fight vehemently for one position or the other just because of the group they're in? There are stronger adjectives to describe this way of thinking, but since there might be children reading I'll refrain.

So I'm quite willing to see a need for reform sometime soon. Greenspahn is another person I trust both in intention and in brain, and he's thrown his hat in with the "problem" side.

But as I've written before, I don't trust Bush's brain and the brains of his advisors any further than I can throw them (I realize the metaphor doesn't work, but I couldn't think of anything else on the spot). The polls seem to show that the American populace feels the same way as I do deep down. Bush has long spent his "trust me, I'm President" capital, and he's now facing a second term when he doesn't have the blank check he had for so long after 9-11. Notice that the rest of the world now stands up to us as equals, where they used to feel more like they needed to go along with us.

Not that I'm saying his plan is bad. Maybe it's a great plan! I just don't know and I think the rest of America feels like I do--we just don't know. Do I want to trade the Devil I know for a Devil I don't know?

Personally, I've never thought of Social Security as something I would count on. The amounts are barely subsistence level as they are. I'm thankful to have a pretty good TIAA-Cref set up with the university--this is an incredibly good place to work when it comes to retirement, kudos to Barnes and the Trustees!! So I'm not counting on SS to do anything for me--I've almost written off that money.

But as a Christian, I'm thankful that the government is forcing me to support people like my wife's Aunt Ruth, who lives almost solely off of Social Security. I'm a failure at living out Jesus' example on social justice and I'm glad someone's making me be like Christ--ironically the non-Christian government. Did she earn that money I'm giving her? No, probably not. But I think a good social contract has back up systems for everyone within the contract. Would it be Christian for me to suggest she die because she's not able to do anything productive for society any more? Would I want society to do that to me after I'm infirm? It's not capitalistic, but it's Christian.

As a friend of mine commented the other day, It's spelled C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. Learn to love it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Are the 10 Commandments Christian?

On the one hand, the answer to this question is a no-brainer--of course they are. They're in the Christian Bible, so they're Christian.

But then again, Christians generally read the Bible through filtered glasses. The filters include things like: 1. the things Christians believe in general, which has been influenced heavily by 2000 years of church history, 2. the specific Christian traditions a person comes from (e.g., Baptist, Wesleyan), and 3. contemporary American culture and the many ways it influences us. I don't have a problem with this in general--it seems to be part of how God makes the meaning of the Bible transcend particular times and places.

But I'd like to take a minute to talk about what the 10 commandments really meant--the ancient Israelite meaning, not the pop meaning you might hear on Christian radio or the "figurehead" role it's playing in the news today.

First of all, who is the "you" of "You will have no other gods before me"? Both Exodus and Deuteronomy are very clear--it refers to ancient Israel. "Hear, O Israel" (Deut. 5:1). "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt..." (Exod. 20:2; Deut. 5:6). So why do we think this is about us? Well, it is about us now in some way because these words have become Scripture, and they're in our Bible. But it didn't originally address me. I'm a Gentile by birth, and these commandments specifically addressed ancient Israel.

Different traditions number the "10 words" (Decalog) differently. For Jews, the "I am the LORD your God" is the first "word." For Christians, the first one at least includes "you shall have no other gods before me" (Exod. 20:3; Deut. 5:7). Here we remember that the ancient Israelites were henotheists more than monotheists. They believed in the existence of other gods, but they weren't allowed to worship them. There were plenty of gods on the market--Ba'al, Dagan, Marduk...--but they were to put none of them before Yahweh.

Israel's God was Yahweh (translated as LORD in all caps in most translations), while the other nations paired up with other gods on the list. Deuteronomy 32:8 expresses it well:

"When the Most High [El Elyon] apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the numbers of the gods; the LORD's own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share" (NRSV).

El Elyon was the king of the Canaanite pantheon, like Zeus in the Greek system. In this passage El Elyon, also here called Yahweh, allots the other gods to the other nations and then takes Israel for himself. We can take this statement somewhat poetically. But needless to say, it makes me a little uncomfortable to hear Moses expressing the "god situation" in terms that fit so easily into Canaanite religious categories. The picture here is not unlike if some Greek were to say that Zeus gave Troy to Poseidon, Delphi to Apollo, and then took some city for himself. Compare Psalm 82, which uncomfortably uses similar imagery

It's not really until the middle chapters of Isaiah that we begin to see the "absolute monotheism" that we all think of as monotheism. Of course we would have no problem believing that there was an evil being behind Ba'al, but we would call it a demon (cf. 1 Cor. 10:20). Our categories are clearly not the same as Moses'.

For Lutherans and Catholics, the first commandment continues into what other Protestants call the second commandment: don't make idols of living things and don't worship them. This is not a commandment that any of us are in danger of violating literally, which is of course how it was originally meant.

I'll follow the standard Protestant numbering for a while. The third is "Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain." This was about swearing by Yahweh. Jephthah gets the award for "most stupid oath" in the Old Testament. He swears by Yahweh that he will sacrifice the first living thing that comes out of his house if Yahweh gives him the victory. It turns out to be his daughter.

But Jephthah does not violate the commandment. He does not invoke God's name in vain. He gives his daughter two months to mourn dying a virgin, then he sacrifices her.

Jesus has undercut the need for this commandment--it need never apply again. Jesus says that you won't ever need to swear by Yahweh if you are a person of your word. "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all" (Matt. 5:34).

Is the third commandment Christian? Jesus implies that a Christian should never need use it.

The fourth commandment is not Christian if we read it literally. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Originally, this commandment was 1. about Saturday and 2. about not working. I have no problem with thinking of Sunday as a day of rest or with the way Christians today "translate" this commandment. But that isn't what it meant, and Christians are not obligated to keep this commandment according to the New Testament.

First of all, only Seventh Day Adventists worship on Saturday. The Jewish Sabbath was a Saturday not a Sunday. No New Testament passage equates Sunday with the Jewish Sabbath. Christians in practice simply do not keep the Sabbath of the 10 commandments.

The only New Testament passages that mention the Sabbath in the literal sense refer to the Jewish Sabbath on Saturday. The ones most important to us are in Paul's writings and unanimously prohibit Sabbath enforcement among non-Jews.

Colossians 2:16: "Do not let anyone condemn you [Colossian Gentiles] in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."

Romans 14:5: "Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord..."

There is simply no biblical basis for considering the fourth commandment in its literal meaning as binding on a Christian today.

Well I've gone on quite a bit. My purpose is to expose how much "culture" is involved in the current Christian politics with regard to the Ten Commandments. I have no problem with them in a courthouse, and I have no problem with the way Christians today are applying them.

What really bugs me is that the conservative political machine is shooting us in the foot with its machinations. I think we could have the 10 commandments in our courthouses if these people weren't making such a direct connection between them and the Christian religion. And of course it bugs me that some of these people think they speak for God when they don't have a clue what the Bible really meant. Some of them wouldn't recognize Jesus or Moses if they were standing right in front of them. Now that I think of it; they'd probably crucify him because he was too "liberal."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Death Penalty and Justice

Today the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty for underage youths (younger than 18) is unconstitutional in the sense that it is cruel and unusual punishment. I thought I would develop some thoughts on justice I've been pondering.

First justice is blind. It is neither loving nor unloving; it just is. The best standard of justice I can think of is the lex talonis: "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." The idea is that justice in its blindness exacts one eye for an eye taken. Less than an eye taken is mercy; more than one eye is vengence. But blind justice with her scales exacts the exact equivalent of the crime.

Of course in practice it will often be impossible to determine what the equivalent penalty is. Then there is the matter of intent. Here I note that the Old Testament considers it just for a person to take the life of someone who has accidentally caused the death of another. The cities of refuge were established as locations of mercy for those who killed accidentally. They did not protect those who murdered intentionally.

The OT also has all kinds of penalties even if your animals do damage to someone else's property. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Intention comes into play in the dispensation of mercy, but is irrelevant for justice.

Jesus indicates that we are to live individually as instruments of mercy. In other words, justice is not the concern of the individual Christian. Mercy is.

On the other hand, Paul indicates that authorities are servants of God to execute wrath on wrongdoers (Rom. 13:5). I would argue that there is therefore nothing intrinsically unchristian about the death penalty as a punishment for those who have intentionally murdered others. Further, the Bible does not treat human life as if it has absolute value. On the contrary, physical life is a rather low value in comparison to eternal concerns.

Interestingly, I would further argue that the idea of prison as a place of reformation is not a clear secular idea, except insofar as it benefits society as a whole (the utilitarian argument). Society does not "owe" a criminal the opportunity to reform. That is, the reformation of criminals is not motivated by justice.

But how are we to view these things as Christians in a country where it is possible for us to affect the system in Christian ways that go beyond justice?

I think as Christians we care about the criminal in ways secular philosophy has no reason to. We want criminals to be redeemed if at all possible. As Christians, therefore, I think we will discourage the use of the death penalty so that criminals are given as long as possible to come to Christ. We will push for prisons as places of reformation because God loves the whole world.

These are some quick thoughts, largely undeveloped. I think I observe all kinds of cultural factors at work in this debate, and they interestingly seem to be affecting both Christians and pagans. I do not object to the current trajectory. I just find it fascinating that the world seems to be arguing for positions that seem more specifically Christian.

But I think other systems are not intrinsically less Christian, such as the old French sense that a life must be taken for a life. I think of Les Miserables or The Three Musketeers, where the death penalty is dispensed without prejudice or vengeance--only as justice.