The Bible–Puzzle or Telescope?

The Bible–Puzzle or Telescope?

We need to read our bibles. God wants us to read our bibles—it is the story of Him revealing hidden things to us we would otherwise never know! Fair enough. But I first want to ask an important question—what is the best way to think of the Scriptures?

Different Christians answer in different ways; most often as the result of the different emphases of their theological traditions mediated from seminaries to pastors. How you answer the question above will determine what you think happens when you read your bibles. Only one of these answers is the best answer—which one is it?

We will first take a look at a passage from Psalm 119, then look at two possible frameworks for reading Scripture (a puzzle or a telescope?), then wrap up with what I feel is the best approach.

Words Which Give Light

Psalm 119 is a beautiful love song to God’s revelation. Today, on this side of the Cross, we often assume the psalmist is simply talking about the Bible (e.g. “I have hidden your word in my heart,” Psalm 119:11). But he was probably talking about revelation in a general sense.

“Revelation” is when God personally unveils Himself to His people to communicate things we would otherwise never know.[1] God revealed Himself in many ways—through visions, prophecies, individual guidance, dreams, divine appearances, angels, direct speech, most definitively in Jesus Christ (God’s “Word” (Jn 1:1, et al), His revelation, message, and literal speech embodied in the incarnation) … but also in written records. Strictly speaking, the bible is more an inspired and truthful record of God’s revelations than “the” revelation all by itself.[2] My point is that, while my comments here will focus on the Scriptures, all references in Psalm 119 to “the word” are probably about more than “the bible.”

Think about what the psalmist says in Psalm 119:129-136. He says God’s statutes are wonderful, and this loveliness drives him to loving obedience (Ps 119:129). This is not the rote obedience of a legalist, but the joyful response of a good child. He declares “the unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple,” (Ps 119:130). As God communicates to us (however He does it—“words” here means “speech”), His light shines into us, bringing understanding even to the most ordinary among us. God’s speech, His message, unspools and casts light into our hearts, minds, and souls—into our very being. 

So, the psalmist wants more and more—“longing for your commands,” (Ps 119:131). He wants more light, more understanding, more relationship. He wants to be a better child. He knows relationship with God is not about rote doctrine. “[R]evelation is primarily a spiritual transaction rather than mere illumination of the intellect … [i]t is easy to see how far removed this is from the bare communication of truth to the mind.”[3] It is “those who love your name” (Ps 119:132) who receive mercy, not “those who follow the checklist.”

So, when the psalmist asks God to “direct my footsteps according to your word” (Ps 119:133), he is asking for more than “help me not do that bad thing again.” There is that, but the reason why he asks “let no sin rule over me” is because he loves God and wants to be an obedient child (cp. Deut 6:4; Mk 12:28-32; Mt 9:13 (cf. Hos 6:6)). He even asks to be rescued from those who hinder him from obeying God’s precepts (Ps 119:134).

When he asks “make your face shine on your servant” (Ps 119:135), he is playing on God’s personal revelation as a luminescent cloud. Just as Moses came down from the mountain with his face all aglow from actual contact with Yahweh, so the psalmist figuratively asks for God to turn to him with blessing, with favor, with divine help—“teach me your decrees.” His love for God flows so deep that “streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed,” (Ps 119:136). This is not the fuming rage of a legalist (cf. Jn 9:19-34), but the sorrow of a child brokenhearted about externalism in the congregation.

As we consider the psalmist’s attitude about God’s revelation, His “word” (in any format), let us return to the question I asked at the beginning—what is the best way to think about the Scriptures?

  1. a puzzle piece we look at to categorize knowledge, or
  2. a telescope we look through to see, know, experience, and love God?

Which model does our passage best suggest? To answer this question, we will consider each model in turn.

Bible as a Puzzle

When you believe the bible is one big puzzle to be sorted into categories, with various passages filed under this heading or that (“the proper task of theology is to exposit and elucidate the content of Scripture in an orderly way”),[4] then you may tend to read in a cold, analytical, and sterile fashion. It does not mean you will have this attitude—it just means you may lean in that direction, to greater or lesser extent.

  1. Faith can unwittingly become about intellectual knowledge. Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe in the virgin birth? Do you believe Jesus died on the Cross? Do you believe in the resurrection? And so it goes—intellect can unconsciously supplant trust, love, and commitment.
  2. And so, bible study can unconsciously degenerate into an autopsy—cold, dispassionate, clinical.
  3. We end up reading the bible for doctrine, for knowledge—not for love (notwithstanding the honest caveats).

This is often more an attitude or ethos than a conscious decision. Let me share one example from one very influential evangelical theologian from yesteryear. He is discussing the definition of “revelation.”

I have learned a lot from Carl Henry. I like Carl Henry. But, where is the love? Henry saw the Scriptures as a puzzle to be sorted, filed, indexed. A theologian was like a lawyer preparing a brief—“logical consistency is a negative test of truth and coherence a subordinate test.”[5] He looked at Scripture to find truth. This mindset may produce something like the following, which is largely a precis of some of Henry’s system:

  1. God reveals Himself through the bible—all knowledge (even revelation about Christ[6]) flows from the Scriptures. It is the “basic epistemological axiom.”[7]
  2. God does not reveal Himself as personal presence. That would open the door to a subjective mysticism. Instead, He reveals Himself via propositions—“a rational declaration capable of being either believed, doubted, or denied.” Revelation must be cognitive, which means it must be propositional, which means the Scriptures are the ballgame,[8] and the implication is the bible is a storehouse of data.
  3. Therefore, the Spirit’s job in this context is to help us interpret this data that is the bible. He has no meaningful role apart from this.[9] Henry saw danger when the Spirit was “severed from the Word,” and by “Word” Henry meant the Scriptures, not Jesus.[10] Representing this perspective downstream from Henry, John MacArthur did not misspeak when he wrote that the bible “is the only book that can totally transform someone from the inside out.”[11] It is telling that MacArthur did not credit Jesus with granting life, but rather the bible (energized with “Spirit-generated power”).[12]
  4. So, the most important thing we can do is study the bible. “Only the Bible can effect that kind of change in people’s lives, because only the Bible is empowered by the Spirit of God.”[13] The inevitable corollary is a strong defense of Scripture’s integrity, which explains the emphasis from these quarters on Scripture’s inerrancy.
  5. And so, our focus may subtly shift from relationship with the Messiah to whom the bible points, to “the bible” itself—to doctrine, knowledge, cold logic. Henry did not think rationalism was an error, so long as it was based on valid premises.[14]
  6. The bible becomes, de facto, the only channel for relationship with God. This is why many Christians who trend towards “knowledge” as their relationship paradigm for God are very uncomfortable with the “Jesus reveals Himself to Muslims via dreams” issue—because the bible is not in the driver’s seat. In a similar way, these Christians often speak about the Spirit to say what He does not do—it is frequently negative. I suspect these Christians are wary of something non-rational, something supernatural, something they cannot understand with the intellect.[15]

Here is an example. Sometime in years past, I was with a group of pastors, and we were discussing the “problem of evil.” One pastor brought up an example of someone who “walked away from the faith” after suffering sexual abuse as a teen. The woman told her pastor that, if her abuser ever became a Christian, “I could never share heaven with him!” 

A man in the group stabbed the air with a forefinger. “Her attitude is that ‘I’m more righteous than God, and so I’m more qualified to make a decision about that person’s fate!’”

There was a moment of silence. I suggested, “Maybe she’s just really hurting? Maybe that’s all that was behind that comment.”

You see, to him, there is not a person here with feelings—there is only icy logic, a remorseless conclusion based on theology. He did not see people who hurt—he saw problems to be categorized into doctrinal cubbyholes, to be sorted, filed, tagged. In practical terms, he unwittingly acted as if the Bible were a cadaver, and the question at hand was an excuse to grab a scalpel, slice it open, and pick at it. This man read the bible for knowledge. It was cold. Clinical. There was no love.

Of course, not everyone is like that pastor. But, some pastors (and some ordinary Christians) are not too far downstream from this. There is a better way!

Bible as a Telescope

At the back of all this is this question—what is a relationship with God about? There is a continuum, with “love” and “knowledge” at opposite poles. A ditch lies at either end—God is either Jello or an iceman. Both poles are important (it is kind of important to know about God, after all!), but you will likely tend towards one over the other—Carl Henry certainly did.

So, let me declare this—love must be the foundation for your relationship with God. Moses said it. Jesus affirmed it. I think that is pretty definitive! On this continuum, trend towards love.

If you think faith is about love and trust in Jesus, you will look through the bible to connect to God. But, if you think faith is about information about Jesus, then you may look at the bible as an end in and of itself. This last approach misses the point.[16]

Let me give you a few examples:

  1. You love espresso. You have an expensive espresso machine. Which is more important—the machine or the espresso it produces? The espresso, of course! Suppose someone objects, “Well, without the machine, we wouldn’t have espresso!” This is missing the point—the goal is to drink espresso! The machine is only valuable insofar as it makes the coffee.
  2. You have a telescope. It is a great telescope—the best! You set it up in your backyard, ready to go. Someone keeps gushing about the telescope; its the features and its general awesomeness. “Isn’t it great?” he asks. It might be a wonderful telescope, but the goal is to look through the scope to see the heavens! The telescope is not the point—it is simply a means to a greater end. It is a tool. To obsess over the telescope is to miss the point.

What I am suggesting is that the bible is a telescope. It lets us see, know, and experience God. It channels God, by the power of the Spirit. It does not exist for its own sake—its only job is to provide a scope to look through to see God and experience Him. We do not look at a telescope—we look through it to see the heavens. In the same way, you look through the Scriptures to see God—you do not look at it!

We saw from our text that as God’s revelation unfolds to us, it brings “light” to our eyes, giving understanding to the simple (Ps 119:130). The Scriptures (God’s truthful record of His revelation) are a telescope which bring God into focus, make Him present, confront us with Him for teaching, rebuking, correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16)—“direct my footsteps according to your word” (Ps 119:133).

In another place, the psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path,” (Ps 119:105). God’s revelation lights our path so we can find our way to Him, so Jesus—the true light (Jn 1:9)—can shine upon we who are in darkness and guide our feet into the way of peace (Lk 1:79). Elsewhere, Solomon says our spirit is “the lamp of the Lord, that sheds light on one’s inmost being,” (Prov 20:27). We are lamps waiting to be lit by Yahweh—“light and life to all He brings!” (cp. Jn 1:4). His revelation—ultimately Jesus as the light of the world—illuminates us from the inside out. The Scriptures are a witness to that revelation (Jn 5:46)—they connect us to Jesus.

Read the Scriptures with Love!

This is what I’m saying, in the end:

  1. Read the bible to know God, not to know about God. This is not a call to toss doctrine to the winds—it is not a “we don’t need no theology in this here church!” attitude. It is a plea to keep warmth, love, and personal encounter with Christ via the Spirit at the forefront. Carl Henry was right to acknowledge that personal faith is a gift of the Spirit,[17] but I fear some who follow in his theological train unwittingly make the same acknowledgments in a pro forma manner.  
  2. Read the bible to love God, not to love facts about God. The demons know true doctrine and it does them no good (Jas 2:19)! “The purpose of theology [and bible reading!] is to clarify the propositions involved in faith, but we must never mistake belief in propositions for the faith.”[18]
  3. Read the bible to grow closer to Him in relationship, not to pick at Scriptures with tweezers.

I have one more example to give. Many years ago, I spoke to an individual who did not believe spiritual illumination helped us understand the bible. Instead, she said the Spirit “allows me to receive the text as it is.” I asked her to explain. She said the Spirit never helped people agree on what a text means. She said she had people in her church who were more spiritual than she, but worse bible interpreters—thus a person’s spirituality was irrelevant. The matter would always be settled by grammar, syntax, rules of interpretation.

I interrupted and asked her flat out, “Are you saying you never pray and ask to understand the bible?” She grimaced, then stammered a bit. “I don’t want to say the word ‘understand’ …” She then rallied, and repeated that interpretation was always settled by grammar and interpretative rules, and that the Spirit simply “enables me to accept the text as it is.”

Basically, she followed Carl Henry. She looked at the Scriptures to discover truth from the ink on the page or the pixels on the screen—she did not look through them to see, know, experience, and love God. If we are not careful, our faith may grow cold and rational. Emil Brunner remarked that “[t]his confusion, this replacing of personal understanding of faith by the intellectual, is probably the most fatal occurrence within the entire history of the church.”[19]

We need to read our bibles, but in the right way! 

  1. I like my espresso machine, but only because through it I see my espresso—the machine is a means to an end.
  2. We love our bibles, but only because it is a telescope we look through to see, know, and love God.
  3. The bible in your hand is God’s divine means to an end, and that end is a relationship with Him.
  4. It is not a puzzle we look at—it is a telescope we look through.

So, when you read your bibles, read them with an attitude of love—not the attitude of a mortician—so that through the Scriptures you can see, experience, and love God. Read for formation, not simply for information.[20]

[1] See Edgar Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia: Roger Williams Press, 1917), p. 141. 

[2] This need not be categorized as a neo-orthodox statement. Long before Barth or Brunner put pen to paper, Edgar Mullins repeatedly called the Scripture “the record of God’s revelation,” (Christian Religion, pp. 137, 140, 142), as did Alvah Hovey before him (Manual of Christian Theology (New York: Silver, Burdett and Company, 1900), pp. 42, 85.   

[3] Mullins, Christian Religion, p. 141. 

[4] Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 1 (Waco: Word, 1976), p. 238. See especially ch(s). 13-14.

[5] Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, p. 1:232. 

[6] To Henry, the Scripture is the reservoir or conduit of divine truth (Thesis No. 11, God, Revelation, and Authority, vol. 4(Waco: Word, 1979), p.7). It is the end of the line. The Spirit’s role in this context is to illuminate the Scripture (see Thesis No. 12, God, Revelation, and Authority, p.4:129) by enlivening it so we understand what it says. He only helps us interpret but imparts no new information (God, Revelation, and Authority, pp. 4:273, 275)—this is illumination, according to Henry. The Christian looks at the Bible as an end in and of itself.

[7] Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, pp. 1:218f. 

[8] See Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, pp. 3:455-459. 

[9] To Henry, the Scriptures are the vehicle and the Spirit simply shines a light upon them. “God intends that Scripture should function in our lives as his Spirit-illumined Word. It is the Spirit who opens man’s being to a keen personal awareness of God’s revelation. The Spirit empowers us to receive and appropriate the Scriptures, and promotes in us a normative theological comprehension for a transformed life. The Spirit gives a vital current focus to historical revelation and makes it powerfully real,” (God, Revelation, and Authority, p. 4:273).   

[10] Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, pp. 3:482f. “The Bible supplies no basis for the theory that the logos of God must be something other than an intelligible spoken or written word.”

[11] John MacArthur (ed.), The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), p. 19.

[12] This relentless focus on the Scriptures to the exclusion of anything else led Emil Brunner to intemperately accuse such adherents of idolatry. “The habit of regarding the written word, the Bible, as the ‘Word of God’ exclusively—as is the case in the traditional equation of the ‘word’ of the Bible with the ‘Word of God’—an error which is constantly on the verge of being repeated—is actually a breach of the Second Commandment: it is the deification of a creature, bibliolatry,” (Revelation and Reason: The Christian Doctrine of Faith and Knowledge, trans. Olive Wyon (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1946), p. 120). 

[13] MacArthur, Inerrant Word, p. 20. 

[14] “The Christian protest against rationalism in its eighteenth-century deistic emphasis on the sufficiency of human speculation unenlightened by divine revelation is legitimate enough. What is objectionable about rationalism is not reason, however, but human reasoning deployed into the service of premises that flow from arbitrary and mistaken postulations about reality and truth. Christian theology unreservedly champions reason as an instrument for organizing data and drawing inferences from it, and as a logical discriminating faculty competent to test religious claims,” (God, Revelation, and Authority, p. 1:226). Emphasis added.

[15] Carl Henry wrote, “There is but one system of truth, and that system involves the right axiom and its theorems and premises derived with complete logical consistency,” (God, Revelation, and Authority, p. 1:227). 

[16] For the position I am advocating, see especially (1) Emil Brunner, Revelation and Reason, pp. 3-57, 118-136, and (2) William Hordern, A New Reformation Theology (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1959), pp. 31-76.  My telescope analogy is from Hordern (p. 70). For a helpful cautionary note hitting the brakes on Brunner (et al) while disagreeing with Henry’s more rationalistic perspective, see Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2013), pp. 157-163. See also James L. Garrett, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), pp. 168-182 for a solid, helpful discussion on the bible and authority in Christianity.   

[17] Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority, p. 1:228.

[18] Hordern, New Reformation Theology, p. 72.  

[19] Emil Brunner, Truth as Encounter: A New Edition, Much Enlarged, of ‘The Divine-Human Encounter’ (London: SCM Press, 1964), p. 165.   

[20] Justo Gonzalez, Knowing Our Faith: A Guide for Believers, Seekers, and Christian Communities (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2019), p. 27. “… our main purpose in reading the Bible must not be information, but rather formation. When we read, for instance, the story of Abraham, what is important is not that we learn by heart the entire route of his pilgrimage, but rather that somehow we come to share that faith which guided him throughout his journey.”

What 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Means

What 1 Timothy 2:11-15 Means

This passage is not about circumscribing women’s roles in church life. It is a response to a particular situation among certain Christian women in the Ephesian congregation involving false teachers, moral and sexual asceticism, and a tyrannical and domineering attitude towards men—all of which is causing a disturbance in the force.

Christians should not carelessly impute complementarian or egalitarian perspectives on gender roles to interpreters of this passage—it is not a shorthand for alleged “apostasy.” This is my paraphrase:

Woman must learn in a calm and peaceful manner—with complete obedience. I don’t permit woman to be to be lecturing or being a domineering tyrant to man. Instead, she must be calm and peaceful. This is what I mean—men and women are partners and so a domineering attitude towards men is wrong. Also, Eve was deceived while Adam wasn’t—we need one another!

But women will be rescued from all that false teaching about men and sexual abstinence by embracing their role as mothers—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

What follows is my commentary.

A Third Rail of the New Testament

This passage is the flashpoint of the controversy about women’s roles in the church. It has drawn significant attention over the past generation as the “can women preach?” question has become more pressing. People often take one of these two approaches:

Circumscribing women’s roles

Women must remain silent during corporate worship, may never teach men, ought to be subject to their husbands via a gendered hierarchy, are somehow functionally inferior to men as evidenced by Eve’s deception by the serpent, and women’s primary role and conduit to spiritual fulfillment is to be pregnant.

One representative example is William Hendriksen. He wrote that women do not belong teaching in the church, just as fish do not belong on dry land. Spiritual welfare is imperiled if women give in to this “unholy tampering.” She is a woman; thus she cannot teach. She follows, is receptive, is a user of tools the man invents. To teach is contrary to her nature. She is only a blessing to man to the extent she realizes this fact. Sin entered creation when she chose to lead, rather than follow. Adam was not deceived, but she was—thus Hendriksen hints (but does not say) that she is intellectually inferior. Only by way of bearing children are women truly happy—though Betty Friedan would surely beg to differ.[1]

Solving a local problem in Ephesus

These advocates believe we must interpret the passage in the context of a local situation regarding some Christian women in Ephesus. This framework re-colors the whole thing in a very different hue. This means the translation choices in most English translations can be made better, and that the passage is really about Paul telling Timothy to not let certain spiritually immature female troublemakers cause disturbances in the community. 

One representative example is Linda Belleville. She emphasizes the context of the letter as an aid to interpretation, and concludes: “A reasonable reconstruction of 1 Tim. 2:11-15 would be as follows: The women at Ephesus (perhaps encouraged by the false teachers) were trying to gain an advantage over the men in the congregation by teaching in a dictatorial fashion. The men in response became angry and disputed what the women were doing … Paul would then be prohibiting teaching that tries to get the upper hand and not teaching per se.”[2]

The literature on this passage is immense. Scholars continue to issue dueling essays. And so it goes. But, any competent student of koine Greek can ignore most of the literature. Any trained pastor can form reasonable and well-informed conclusions by consulting lexicons, his favorite intermediate grammar, by minding the context which prompted Paul’s letter … and only then dipping a toe (no more than that—you may not make it out alive!) into the tsunami of literature on this passage. We need not be intimidated by the oodles of paper, ink, and megabytes spilt on this passage.

My Presuppositions

These are some conclusions which guide my interpretation of the passage. In other words, I do not come to this passage as a blank slate. This is not the place to defend these presuppositions, but I do wish to disclose that they exist:

  1. Phoebe was a deacon (Rom 16:1), and thus held an office in a local church. This presumably meant she was articulate, spiritually mature, and a good Christian woman.
  2. The “women” in 1 Tim 3:11 are female deacons.
  3. Aquila and Priscilla were a church planting team; there was no gendered hierarchy at work whereby she merely “helped” her husband.
  4. Gen 2:18 does not say a woman is a subordinate “helper” to the man—an assistant’s role. The word actually expresses something like “help without which a task is impossible.” A figurative extension at Gen 2:18 would be “Eve completes Adam” as a man, because neither is complete without a relationship with the other.[3]
  5. Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche his “co-workers” in the Gospel who have “contended” with him (Phil 4:2-4). The strong “we need to get along” vibe throughout the whole letter to the Philippians may have as its object the conflict between these two women. 
  6. The Philippian church apparently met in Lydia’s home (Acts 16:13-15, 40). She may have been a leader in the church, but in any case was likely influential—Euodia and Syntyche attended worship there.
  7. The gender conflict at Genesis 3:16 is a result of the Fall, not a feature of the good creation (contra. the Danvers Statement, Affirmation 3). This suggests the New Covenant ethos would not accept a construct for the Christian marriage relationship which sees women as functional subordinates—it aims at modeling the better tomorrow (i.e. the original intent of creation) today. The Scriptures do not flatly outlaw slavery, but sane interpreters discern a trajectory which abolishes the concept as the new tomorrow draws closer. I see a similar ethos at work with gender hierarchy.[4]

I cannot accept any interpretation of this passage which suggests the following:

  1. Women are, at an innate level, intellectually, emotionally, or otherwise functionally inferior to men. I have worked alongside women for 20 years in the military and in State government. They are not functionally inferior to men in any manner relevant to the passage. Those who suggest otherwise are either sexist[5] or naïve.
  2. Women literally cannot speak during worship services.
  3. Conflict with other advice Paul has given about women’s roles in the congregation—all the advice must be rationally harmonized.
  4. Any advice that suggests women can only be happy and fulfilled if they have children.

1 Timothy Context

False teachers stalk the land in the Ephesian Christian community:

  • They focus on idle weirdness or absurd speculations, desiring to be teachers but understanding little (1 Tim 1:3-5). Some have departed from a faith centered on love and service in favor of this idle foolishness (1 Tim 1:6).
  • The focus on a pastor’s character qualities is perhaps a corrective to the false teaching (1 Tim 3:1-7), as are those of the deacons (1 Tim 3:8-10).
  • The woman deacons are specifically not to be “malicious talkers, but temperate and trustworthy in everything” (1 Tim 2:12). This focus on temperance comports quite well with Paul’s twice-repeated emphasis on calmness and peaceableness (ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ; 1 Tim 2:11-12).
  • Paul’s warning about not being hasty to lay hands on anyone is a call to be really sure pastors and deacons are stable people with proven character (1 Tim 5:22) (i.e. not like these false teachers or their women converts).
  • Paul gave instructions to Timothy so can explain how believers ought to conduct themselves in the household of faith (1 Tim 3:14-15)—presumably because false teachers have thrown everything into an uproar.
  • A bizarre sexual and moral ascetism has taken root, causing people to depart from the faith (1 Tim 4:1-5). This may be the same sexual ascetism which was at play in Corinth (1 Cor 7).
  • Younger widows are a problem in this Christian community—gossiping, spreading rumors, teaching weird things they do not understand, and some have even departed the faith (1 Tim 5:13-15; cp. 1 Tim 4:7).
  • False teachers likely bring accusations against elders, so Timothy must be cautious before entertaining these allegations (1 Tim 5:19).
  • Love of money is behind at least some of this madness (1 Tim 6:10).

Some commentators believe Artemis worship is behind the false teaching and the women in Ephesus (see Acts 19). The idea is something like “Artemis worship elevated women, and Christian women were being deceived into believing they could take that ethos into the Christian community, and so that’s why the women were being domineering tyrants and lording it over men.”

The problem is that I have not personally found any evidence to support the idea that Artemis worship taught women to elevate themselves while simultaneously denigrating men. A coterie of scholarly, reliable, general bible reference tools fails to mention this idea, which indicates this point is not as settled as its advocates would have us believe. If one must dig into specialist journals to substantiate this claim, then is it really an argument with traction? This does not mean the idea is wrong, but it should give one pause before pegging the false teaching as being connected to Artemis worship.

We can say at least this for background:

  1. Artemis worship suffused Ephesian culture.
  2. It was a major engine of the local economy.
  3. It focused on a female, virgin goddess likely linked to a fertility cult.
  4. Male eunuchs worked as priests in the Artemis temple (Strabo, Geography, 14.1.23)

One need not posit an “Artemis + female exaltation + male denigration = Ephesian false teaching” nexus in order to understand what is happening, here:

  1. Certain women are being disorderly, ostentatious, domineering.
  2. These traits are fruit of the false teaching in the church, which is characterized by idle speculations, old wives tales, asceticism, and love of money.
  3. Pastors are being accused of error, likely by the false teachers and these tyrannical women who are immature and unstable in their faith.
  4. So, the believing community is generally quite unsettled and messed up by all this.

Craig Keener’s summary is correct: “In 1 Timothy, false teachers advocating asceticism (4:3) based on the law (1:7) are undermining the work of Paul and his companions in Ephesus (1:3).”[6]

The first thing Paul wants Timothy to do is re-center the congregation around prayer, so the community can lead quiet, peaceful lives.

1 Timothy 2:1-10

1-2: I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (NIV)

It’s the duty of the Church to pray on behalf of two groups; (1) all people, and (2) people in “high positions.” The two prepositions (“ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων ὑπὲρ βασιλέων …”) suggest these are two groups.

The purpose of these prayers (“ἵνα … διάγωμεν”) is so that Christians might lead peaceful and quiet lives, for the spread of the Gospel.

3-4: This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (NIV)

Again, this quiet life is an aid to evangelism—a strategy so the church can be the church and get on with its mission.

5-7: For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles (NIV)

This is an aside about Christ, which stems from the discussion of the church’s mission in vv. 1-4.

8: Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing (NIV)

Paul returns to his charge to Timothy that he wage the good warfare” against Satan by “holding faith and a good conscience,” (1 Tim 1:18-19). He begins with advice about the men, and here we have the first evidence about the specific problem in Ephesus which bears on our passage. The men are angry and are quarreling—but why?

There was evidently something in the air which prompted Paul to offer this advice—sane men do not generally go about being angry or disputing about stuff without some perceived justification. There is an unmentioned “something” there that is causing problems. Some disagree and think Paul is just giving instructions about prayer for no pressing reason.[7] This is simplistic—why are the men upset and the women acting the way they are? There is an elephant in this room! There is something wrong.

9-10: I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God (NIV).

Now, to the women. The Ephesian Christian women are being materially ostentatious when they ought to be modest women known for their good deeds—for Christian fruit.

Again, something is happening here that prompts Paul to write what he does. Are these twin issues—male hostility and female outward showiness—related? Because what follows centers on female Christian behavior (the men are not mentioned again),[8] they likely are related, and certain ladies are the culprits.[9] This is a uniquely Ephesian problem, and what follows ought to be interpreted in light of the specific local situation which prompted Paul to write what he did to Timothy.

I once heard an impassioned sermon where the preacher made this verse about how women should dress modestly. It is true this command is in the text, but there is something more going on. 

1 Timothy 2:11

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission (NIV)

γυνὴ ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ μανθανέτω ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ. Woodenly, this is rendered, “The woman must learn quietly, with complete submissiveness.” The ESVs rendering turns the verb into a second-person imperative directed to Timothy (“let the woman …”). This is incorrect—it is a third-person imperative with “woman” as the subject of the verb = “the woman must learn …” The NIV is correct, here.

v.11 is Paul’s summary statement, with vv. 12-14 fleshing out the issue. Women’s actions in Ephesus are a threat to the congregation, in some form or fashion. Paul is talking about women in general, not wives.[10]

Should ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ be rendered as “in quietness”? This word can refer to:[11]

  1. demeanor—an inward calm[12] or a quiet, peaceful manner[13]—in which case it means something like “without causing a disturbance”, or
  2. it literally means the woman must say little or nothing.

Due to 1 Corinthians 11:5 and to practical experience, it likely means the former. The women in Ephesus must not create disturbances, be loud, disruptive, be a loud distraction. “In the present context listening quietly with deference and attentiveness to the one teaching is indicated.”[14]

ἐν πάσῃ ὑποταγῇ (“in complete submission”). To whom must the ladies submit? Likely either to their pastors, or to God. Perhaps it is best to leave it open, but my money is on their pastors.  

We are left with a translation that reads something like, “Woman must learn in a calm and peaceful manner—with complete obedience” (ἐν conveys manner in both instances, here).

This command about manner—“in a calm and peaceful manner, in complete obedience”—suggests there is something going on in the Ephesian Christian community which prompted Paul’s remark. He is calling for a peaceful demeanor or attitude among certain ladies—something is wrong. This will be fleshed out in the verses to come.

1 Timothy 2:12

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet (NIV)

διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλʼ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ. “In fact (conjunction of emphasis),[15] I do not permit (verb) woman (direct object) to be teaching (infinitive direct object #1, complementing the verb) or exercising authority over (infinitive direct object #2, complementing the verb) a man.

Paul does not permit the disruptive women in the Ephesian congregation to do two things:

  1. “teach,” and
  2. αὐθεντεῖν

The word αὐθεντεῖν (in any form) occurs only here in the NT, and nowhere in the LXX or the apostolic fathers. This word’s meaning is a point of great contention in the church gender debates, but it isn’t nearly as difficult as some would have it be. One scholar suggests that standard lexicons expunge any meaning which suggests a negative sense (“domineer,” etc.).[16] This cannot be taken seriously. Still, we ought to be cautious about what this word means:

  • BDAG: “to assume a stance of independent authority.”[17]
  • Louw-Nida 37.21: “to control in a domineering manner.”
  • Liddell-Scott: “to have full power or authority over.”[18]
  • Friberg suggests, “strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over.”[19]
  • Mounce: “to have authority over; to domineer.”[20]
  • Moulton and Milligan suggest “master, autocrat.”[21] This analysis is likely better because it goes beyond the single NT usage.

I take Moulton and Milligan as definitive; the word does not mean “exercise authority,” here. The NIV is incorrect. It means something like “to domineer.” Context is determinative for me. Because I think certain women in Ephesus are being disruptive, disobeying their pastors, I believe a negative connotation of “domineering tyrant” is best.

διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός. This is an objective genitive, with “men” acting as the implied object of the infinitives. So, we ought to render it something like “I do not permit woman to be teaching or being a domineering tyrant to man.”

What does “teach” mean? διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός.

Paul does not permit the disruptive women to be teaching or being domineering tyrants. Because I interpret “domineering tyrant” as a negative connotation, the “teaching” must also be rendered in a negative fashion.[22] The prohibitions are either positive or both negative. The negative conjunction οὐδὲ joins negative clauses of like kind together—examples abound in the New Testament where it essentially functions as an “or” to connect two negative things (Mt 6:20, 28; 1 Pet 2:22, etc.) In these circumstances, the conjunction follows on the heels of a preceding negation, and that is what we have here (οὐκ … οὐδὲ).

So, I think we are on safe ground to render the generic “to be teaching” as something more negative, like “to be giving lectures” or “to be giving diatribes.” Linda Belleville suggests the “neither … nor” construction in this case further defines a shared purpose—women should not teach with the aim of domineering over a man.[23] I am skeptical.[24] Regardless, I do not think I even need to go there if I render “teach” in the negative manner which the construction suggests.

Instead, Paul says, ἀλλʼ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ—which NIV translates “she must be quiet.” We now meet our friend ἡσυχίᾳ once more, and again it can carry one of two meanings; (1) complete silence, which is impossible to harmonize with Paul’s statements in 1 Cor 11, 14, or (2) a demeanor marked by calm peace. Because this v.12 continues on from v.11, I take the word to have the same meaning of demeanor as it did previously—it is not about “silence.” So, we are left with a phrase that means something like “Instead (a strong adversative conjunction), she must be calm and peaceful!”

So, in full, v. 12 reads: “In fact, I don’t permit woman to be to be lecturing or being a domineering tyrant to man. Instead, she must be calm and peaceful.”

Who is this representative “man” to whom the generic woman must not modify her behavior? Because the discussion of pastoral leadership follows right on the heels of this discussion, I presume the Christian women in the Ephesian congregation are being unruly, disrespectful, and abusive towards their pastor—Timothy.

What is it that they cannot teach? Likely the Gospel and its implications, because these confused women do not understand it—they are immature. The issue is that of immature Christians (who, in this specific context, happen to be women—likely younger widows) who think they know something when they in fact do not. They want to lecture, harangue, or push their diatribes onto the pastor, and they must stop. Paul will not permit it to continue, which means Timothy must end it. The issue is not “women can’t teach.” The issue is “Christians (who, in this case, happen to be women) can’t act like this!”

Where is this haranguing not to occur? I think it is best to see this as a general prohibition that it must not happen in the gathered life of the congregation. This means Sunday morning, at the Lord’s Supper, at bible study, at any event where the congregation is present or otherwise invited. To make it just about “Sunday morning” is restrictive in an artificial and cardboard manner.

1 Timothy 2:13-14

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor (NIV).

Paul provides two reasons for his instructions about demeanor (the conjunction is explanatory for what came before)[25]—reasons why women must be calm and peaceful, must show full obedience, mustn’t lecture/harangue, or be domineering tyrants towards men:

  1. because Adam was made first
  2. and because Eve was deceived, and Adam was not

The difficulty is understanding what on earth Paul means to say. Are women intellectually inferior? Is Adam somehow better than Eve, because she was created after him? We must dive into the text a bit more:

πρῶτος. “Because Adam was made first, then Eve.”

This can mean either[26] (1) “first in a sequence,” which means Adam was created before Eve, or (2) “most prominent/important,” in which case Paul would mean something like “Adam was made foremost.”

The first sense is correct. This does not mean Eve is ontologically inferior. It either suggests (1) some kind of hierarchical ordering between men and women,[27] or (2) a simple sequence of events to advance a simple explanation for Paul’s prohibition on domineering conduct—Eve completed Adam as his partner, not as his domineering boss.[28]

I do not believe a hierarchical ordering is in the cards because it has a poor connection to what Paul is saying. Women must not be domineering tyrants towards pastors, must be calm and peaceful in church, must not lecture and rail at their pastors … because of male headship in the marriage relationship and the church? Would it not be better to simply say “don’t do it because it’s wrong”? That is essentially what Paul is saying in the second option, explaining the statement in v.11. He is saying, “You can’t act that way. I won’t permit it. Men and women are partners—a team!” The false teaching is producing an attitude among certain women that must be stopped!

Admittedly, this position depends on the reader importing theological freight from Genesis 2:18 and 1 Corinthians 11:11. This doesn’t mean it is wrong, but it does require one to discount the “plain meaning” in favor of a “deeper” analysis.[29]

Both perspectives believe the women are acting wrongly. Some believe the wrongness is their rebellion against male headship. I say the wrongness is their spiritual attitude of haughtiness that (for whatever reason) denigrates men, making them angry and argumentative. This is the fruit of a toxic atmosphere of false teaching + sexual and moral asceticism—something foul is in the air in Ephesus!  

ἡ δὲ γυνὴ ἐξαπατηθεῖσα. What is Paul’s point when he says Adam was not deceived, but the woman was? There are at least five options available:

  • Women are spiritually or morally weaker. Allegedly, if the woman had listened to Adam, her functional superior, all would have been well. Harvey writes, “Eve, the first woman, is here regarded as representative of her sex, showing in her weakness the relative inferiority of woman in that form of intellectual and moral strength required for leadership and the exercise of authority …”[30] Women make up most of our churches. They also likely pray more. This option is incorrect. I admit I refuse to accept this option on principle.
  • Women are emotionally fragile. You can try and make that work for 1 Peter 3:7, but it will not work here. The implication is that women are intellectually stunted, no matter how hard you nuance it. Eve was too emotional to sort the thing through; she got confused. Paul never says anything about that here. He simply says she was deceived, and Adam wasn’t. There was no emotion clouding Eve’s judgment.
  • Women are intellectually inferior. No nuance, Eve just was not as smart as Adam. I work with female investigators and attorneys every day in my other life. To believe women are intellectually inferior is sinful, absurd, and insulting.  It is ridiculous. It is wrong and I refuse to accept it.
  • This is what happens when women ignore male headship. Schreiner takes this position, disclaiming any implications of functional inferiority. “In approaching Eve, then, the Serpent subverted the pattern of male leadership and interacted only with the woman. Adam was present throughout and did not intervene. The Genesis temptation, therefore, stands as the prototype of what happens when male leadership is abrogated.”[31] I simply do not see this as reality in the world, and therefore cannot take it seriously. With no malice intended, it makes as much logical sense as arguing that burgers must always be served on pretzel buns. My response to the pretzel bun and to Schreiner is to ask, “says who?” In my professional life in civil service in federal and State government, I have seen no ill-effects from a lack of “male headship,” and my own marriage has never adhered to the Danvers framework.[32] I simply see no warrant for Schreiner’s position, or for pretzel buns. And, to be blunt, the text says nothing about Eve sinning because she failed to let Adam lead her—nothing at all. To adopt that interpretation is to predicate it on something that does not exist (see Linda Belleville, “Women in Ministry: An Egalitarian Perspective,” in Two Views on Women in Ministry, rev. ed., James R. Beck (ed.) (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), p. 91).
  • Paul is basically saying “women aren’t always right—remember Genesis!?” In the context of criticizing certain domineering tyrant women in the Ephesian church who are influenced by false teaching, Paul points to the penultimate example of woman making an error. This need not be a sexist remark. Paul may simply be saying, in essence, “Hey, anyone can be wrong! When we go it alone we can make bad decisions—just look at what Eve did. You guys are making the same mistake!”[33]

There are no good options. I cannot accept any position which emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually denigrates women. This leaves me with no choice but to accept the last option, even though I admit it is not perfect. I think this is the best option. The others simply make less sense experientially and logically.

The true meaning in vv. 13-14 (as I understand it) cannot be brought out in translation unless you opt for a paraphrase. Here is mine: “This is what I mean—men and women are partners and so a domineering attitude towards men is wrong. Also, Eve was deceived while Adam wasn’t—we need one another!

1 Timothy 2:15

But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (NIV)

This is a very difficult verse. The conjunction marks a contrast; instead of being a domineering tyrant who harangues her pastor, women will be saved through childbearing, etc., etc.

What does “saved through childbearing” mean?

  • The act of giving birth accomplishes salvation. The preposition expresses means. This is absurd and cannot mean that.
  • A veiled reference to Jesus. She will be saved by the childbearing; that is, the birth of Jesus.[34] The preposition expresses means. In this case, Eve morphs into Mary (Eve’s offspring; cp. Gen 3:15), who brings the Messiah into the world and is thus spiritually saved. This is such a veiled reference that I find it improbable. Also, Paul is writing after the cross, so this future assurance (the verb “will be saved” is indeed future) would be functionally meaningless to Christian women in Ephesus—Jesus has already come and gone! Some try to drive a wedge into the middle of the verse, whereby the “will be saved” refers to Eve (cp. Gen 3:15), and the present “if they continue” teleports us to Eve’s collective offspring in the here and now. This seems forced, but the closest antecedent to the verb “will be saved” is indeed Eve, from v.14.
  • A reference to proper roles. The women will be rescued from this aggressive and domineering ethic in connection with bearing children. The preposition is attendant circumstance, and the “saving” is not spiritual but temporal—there is no way on earth the “saving” could be spiritual and still fit the rest of Scripture. So, this would be a summary swipe against the entire worldview of these immature Christian women, who are evidently embracing the sexual asceticism Paul will soon mention (“they forbid people to marry,” 1 Tim 4:3). It is tempting to see a proto-feminism at work here, but I think that is too fraught with anachronisms and the potential for misunderstanding and knee-jerk rejection to use profitably, even if it does communicate well when properly understood. The fact is that these women are being domineering, arrogant, overbearing, contemptuous of men, and do not respect authority—they do not know what they do not know. They can be saved from this road that leads to misery by embracing their role as prospective mothers rather than shunning it.[35] This does not mean a woman is only complete if she is pregnant; it just means it is wrong to deliberately hate the gender God gave you, and the defining characteristic of female gender is the ability to conceive life.
  • Childbearing as a temporal trial to be overcome. Henry Alford suggests this one. This childbearing is a woman’s particular cross to bear (Gen 3:16), if she passes through this test and yet perseveres in faith, love, etc. The childbearing is the woman’s hinderance in the way of salvation, but if she pushes through (no pun intended) she shall be saved. 

The third option is the best, because it fits contextually, but it relies on a bit of work from the reader. However—and this is critical—it would not have been a chore for Timothy to get what Paul meant! After all, it was a letter to him, about his problems, in his church. He knew exactly what Paul meant. We must put ourselves into Timothy’s position, in light of the context we can glean from the letter, to discern what Paul must have meant. Of these three options, the third is frankly the only one which makes sense.

A rendering would look like this: “But women will be rescued from all that false teaching about men and sexual abstinence by embracing their role as mothers—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

My Rendering of the Passage

Here is my full rendering of 1 Tim 2:11-15, in light of everything I have discussed:

“Woman must learn in a calm and peaceful manner—with complete obedience. I don’t permit woman to be to be lecturing or being a domineering tyrant to man. Instead, she must be calm and peaceful. This is what I mean—men and women are partners and so a domineering attitude towards men is wrong. Also, Eve was deceived while Adam wasn’t—we need one another!

But women will be rescued from all that false teaching about men and sexual abstinence by embracing their role as mothers—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

Dangerous Waters?

It is difficult to analyze this passage and set aside the freight which comes along with it. One the one hand, Wayne Grudem declares “evangelical feminism” is the slippery road to ruin. “[T]he egalitarian position ultimately bears various kinds of destructive fruit in people’s lives.”[36] On one recent podcast featuring two speakers from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and a seminary president, one man remarked that egalitarianism had its “toes pointed” in the direction of another religion.[37]

On the other hand, the editors of Discovering Biblical Equality protest that males do not have unilateral leadership authority simply because they are males—“[t]hat is the main argument of this volume.”[38]

Grudem (et al) suggests liberalism and sexual and gender confusion await us all if we fail to hold the line.[39] This is perhaps why like-minded scholars have banded together to produce three editions of a book devoted to 1 Timothy 2:9-15. The barbarians are at the gates, and so the complementarian fort must be held. Au contraire, I’m not convinced that one’s interpretation of this passage is a short-hand for liberalism, a slippery slope to drag queen story hour, or imputes the full freight of complementarian or egalitarian perspectives.

[1] William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Pastoral Epistles, in NTC (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1957), pp. 108-112.

[2] Linda Belleville, “Exegetical Fallacies In Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” Priscilla Papers 17:3 (Summer 2003), p. 9.

[3] “The naming of the animals, a scene which portrays man as monarch of all he surveys, poignantly reveals him as a social being, made for fellowship, not power: he will not live until he loves, giving himself away (24) to another on his own level. So the woman is presented wholly as his partner and counterpart; nothing is yet said of her as childbearer. She is valued for herself alone,” (Derek Kidner, Genesis, in TOTC (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 70).

For examples of where this word certainly doesn’t connote a subordinate assistant kind of role, see (1) Ex 18:4: God is Moses’ “helper,” which surely doesn’t indicate a subordination; (2) Deut 33:7 (cf. 33:29): Moses blesses tribe of Judah, and prays for God to be its “helper”―again, not a subordinate concept; (3) Isa 30:5: Isaiah taunts Israelites for seeking “help” from Egypt―not a subordinate relationship!; (4) Ezek 12:14: God taunts the King of Judah and promises to thwart all his “helpers” who plan to help him escape the coming captivity―not a subordinate relationship = he is lost without them; (5) Hos 13:9: God is Israel’s “helper” = not a subordinate relationship; (6) Ps 20:2: God sends “help” from his sanctuary when God’s people pray = not a subordinate relationship; (7) Ps 70:5: God is the psalmist’s “help;” (8) Ps 89:19: God gives “help” to David when He chooses Him to be king; (9) Ps 121:1-2 (cf. Ps 124:8; 146:5): The psalmist lifts his eyes up to the hills and wonders from where his “help” comes = it is from God!; (10) Dan 11:34: God will give the wise ones “help” during the time of tribulation.

I could go on, but this sampling makes the point. The woman is not a “helper,” but a partner without whom the other is incomplete—and vice versa.

[4] This is a redemptive-movement approach. “Relative to when and where the words of Scripture were first read, they spoke redemptively to their given communities. Yet, to stay with the isolated words of the text instead of their spirit leads to an equally tragic misreading. To neglect reapplying the redemptive spirit of the text adds a debilitating impotence to a life-transforming gospel that should be unleashed within our modern world. Such an approach truncates the application process; it severely dwarfs the positive potential of Scripture,” (William J. Webb, Slaves, Women & Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001), p. 50).

[5] By this, I mean prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination against women on the basis of sex. See “sexism, n.2”. OED Online. September 2022. Oxford University Press. (accessed December 02, 2022). 

[6] Craig Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2014), p. 600.

[7] Walter Lock, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastor Epistles, in ICC (reprint; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1959), p. 29. 

[8] “The passage addresses women (2:9-15) in considerably more detail than men (2:8) here, perhaps because women are erring more severely in this congregation,” (Keener, Bible Background, p. 605).

[9] Thomas Schreiner says we lack enough information to make this conclusion (“An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” in Women in the Church, ed. Thomas Schreiner and Andreas Kostenberger (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), p. 125). I think Schreiner is being rather too careful, here. 

[10] Schreiner’s analysis is correct (“An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” pp. 126-127). Lock disagrees (Pastoral Epistles, p. 32).

[11] BDAG, s.v. “ἡσυχίᾳ,” p. 440.

[12] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), s.v. “ἡσυχίᾳ,” p. 193.

[13] Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), s.v. 88.103, p. 753.

[14] I. Howard Marshall and Philip H. Towner, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, in ICC (London; New York: T&T Clark International, 2004), p. 453.

[15] I’m tempted to see the conjunction as explanatory, but Richard Young cautions that this is a very rare usage (Intermediate Greek, p. 183). BDAG doesn’t even list the category (p. 213).

[16] Al Wolters, “The Meaning of αὐθεντεῖν,” in Women in the Church, p. 80. Wolters’ article is a long word study and this approach (while helpful) is incomplete. The word means “authority” of some sort, either in a positive or negative sense. Wolters seeks to take the negative sense off the table because it conflicts with his complementarian convictions. Fair enough, but word studies can only take one so far. Context is very suggestive for meaning, and it’s here that Wolters fails to establish his case. Allies often cite his article as an allegedly definitive take on the issue, but it’s simply a word study which advocates a conclusion based on what Wolters admits is a weak dataset, while neglecting a study of meaning based on context. I believe the complete context of 1 Tim 2:11-15 supports the conclusion that the word more likely bears a negative meaning here (“domineer,” etc.).

[17] BDAG, s.v. “αὐθεντέω,” p. 150.

[18] Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, revised by Henry Jones and Robert McKenzie (Oxford: OUP, 1968), s.v. “αὐθεντέω,” p. 275.

[19] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), s.v. “αὐθεντέω,” p. 81.

[20] William Mounce (ed.), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), s.v. “αὐθεντέω,” p. 1101.

[21] James H. Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (reprint; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 91. See also (1) G. Abbott-Smith, Manual Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1937), p. 68; (2) A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 4 (Nashville: Broadman, 1931), 1 Tim 2:12; (3) Henry Alford, The New Testament for English Readers: A Critical and Explanatory Commentary, New Edition., vol. 2 (London; Rivingtons; Deighton, Bell and Co., 1872), p. 521; (4) Marshall and Towner, First Letter to Timothy, p. 457; (5) also the discussion by Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” in Discovering Biblical Equality, pp. 210-221; (6) Lock, Pastoral Epistles, p. 32.

[22] “In the context the fact that Eve was deceived is cited as a parallel, and this strongly suggests the conclusion that behind the present prohibition lies some particular false teaching by some women. Otherwise, the reference to Eve’s being deceived and sinning is pointless,” (Marshall and Towner, First Letter to Timothy, p. 458).

[23] Linda Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” in Discovering Biblical Equality, 3rd edition, ed. Ronald Pierce, Cynthia Westfall, and Christa McKirkland (Downers Grove: IVP, 2021), pp. 222-223. 

[24] Some scholars also claim the two infinitives (“be lecturing … being a domineering tyrant”) convey a single idea. This is desperate reasoning. The concepts Paul communicates are separate, though related. They are certainly not the same. 

[25] Efforts to make the conjunction not be explanatory are very weak and cannot be taken seriously. 

[26] BDAG, s.v. “πρῶτος,” 1, 2; pp. 892-894.  

[27] William Mounce, Pastoral Epistles, in Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 46 (Nashville: Nelson, 2000), p. 130.

[28]  “If the sense of verse 12 is that women are not permitted to teach men in a domineering fashion, then verse 13 would provide the explanation, namely, that Eve was created as Adam’s ‘partner’ (NRSV Gen 2:24) and not his boss,” (Linda Belleville, “Exegetical Fallacies In Interpreting 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” Priscilla Papers 17:3 (Summer 2003), p. 8).

[29]  Schreiner remarks, “The complementarian view has the virtue of adopting the simplest reading of the text,” (“An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” p. 138).

Some interpreters think Paul is correcting a proto-gnostic heresy that perverts the real creation story and may be the root of the false teaching. This may be possible, but I’m not convinced. See Marg Mowczko, “Adam and Eve in Ancient Gnostic Literature and 1 Timothy 2:13-14,” 09 March 2015.

[30] H. Harvey, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, First and Second Timothy and Titus, and the Epistle to Philemon, in American Commentary, ed. Alvah Hovey (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1980), pp. 34-35. 

[31] Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” p. 145.

[32] I disagree with the concept of male headship as described in Danvers, Affirmation 5. Rather, I agree with Application 3 from the “Men, Women, and Biblical Equality” Statement from CBE International (  

“In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking the fulfill each other’s preferences, desires, and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other, but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself. In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical means of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other.”

This is not the forum to litigate this understanding of mutual submission, but it informs my rejection of Schreiner’s “this is what happens when women ignore headship” proposal.

[33] Marshall and Towner propose much the same thing. “Later Gnosticism is not necessary as a basis for this in view of the foundation that a realised resurrection doctrine might provide (see Schlarb 1990). If it is teaching in a way that misuses authority and domineers and if women were forcing their way into the teaching rota on the basis of an enthusiastic understanding of the reversal of fortunes connected with the Eschaton, then v. 13 merely calls for balance and a respect for their first-created male counterparts (cf. Witherington 1986:123). If a claim to the women’s right to teach was being defended by appeal to the Adam—sinner representative model (Rom 5), then v. 14 counters with an effective illustration of longstanding precedent that parallels the Ephesian women with their present state of deception at the hands of false teachers.

The conclusion to be drawn is that two closely related things were happening. The women were associated with the heretical teaching of the opponents and they were exercising their role as teachers in a way that was not acceptable and that appears to have been based on the heretical teaching with a bizarre interpretation of Gen 1–3. The author responds to them by insisting that Gen 1–3 does not support their claim to have authority over men,” (First Timothy, pp. 466-467).

[34] Lock, Pastoral Epistles, p. 33. 

[35] Marshall and Towner write, “The point is probably directed against a belief that women should abstain from childbirth, just as they should abstain from marriage (cf. Kimberley*, who reads the text against a later Gnostic background). Though they may not teach, women will still be saved by fulfilling their Christian duty in motherhood,” (First Timothy, p. 470).

[36] Wayne Grudem, Countering the Claims of Evangelical Feminism (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006), p. 301. 

[37] Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, “Complementarianism in the Church,” timestamp 14:30 – 16:00, 27 October 2022.  

[38] Ronald W. Pierce, Cynthia Westfall, and Christa McKirland (eds.), Discovering Biblical Equality: Biblical, Theological, Cultural & Practical Perspectives, 3rd ed. (Downers Grove: IVP, 2021), p. 6. 

[39] Grudem, Countering the Claims, pp. 282-284. 

My Translation of Micah 5:1-3

The prophet Micah wrote a wonderful prophesy about Jesus Christ, the One who would come forth for God to be the ruler par excellence in Israel. I’ve spent some time translating the passage from the Septuagint; the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which Jesus and the early Christian used. I plan to write a bit about this passage soon. For now, I’ll just leave you with the translation.

There are some differences from the English translation in your Bibles, because they’re translated from Hebrew, not Greek. The verse numbers from the Septuagint are also different, sometimes. This is one of those times. In your English Bibles, this passage will be Micah 5:2-4. Here, it’s Micah 5:1-3:

Micah 5(1-3)You can find more of my pitiful translations from the New Testament, the Septuagint and an ancient creed or two here.

Is Inerrancy a Necessary Doctrine?

inerrancyIn the book, Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy, Kevin Vanhoozer (responding to Michael Bird’s essay), wrote:

Why should the rest of the world care about North American evangelicalism’s doctrinal obsession with inerrancy? First, it may be only a matter of time, given globalization and patterns of higher education, until the rest of the world is faced with similar challenges to biblical authority posed by biblical criticism, naturalistic scientism, and skeptical historicism. If you can find McDonald’s or Starbucks in Taiwan and Timbuktu, can Richard Dawkins or Bart Ehrman be far behind?


James Merrick and Stephen Garrett (ed.), Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013; Kindle ed.), KL 3189-3192).

Ehud is . . . Jason Bourne

bourneThe people are downtrodden and oppressed. An evil, pagan king rules over them with an iron fist. Year by year, he demands tribute from his vassals. The people cry out, desperate for somebody to rescue them. There was only one man for the job. A man so cunning, he makes Ethan Hunt look like a child. A man so dangerous, he makes 007 look like a pitiful kitten. A man so deadly, nobody can stop him. That man is . . . Ehud, the original Jason Bourne.

And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He gathered to himself the Ammonites and the Amalekites, and went and defeated Israel; and they took possession of the city of palms. And the people of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years.

But when the people of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. The people of Israel sent tribute by him to Eglon the king of Moab.

And Ehud made for himself a sword with two edges, a cubit in length; and he girded it on his right thigh under his clothes. And he presented the tribute to Eglon king of Moab. Now Eglon was a very fat man. And when Ehud had finished presenting the tribute, he sent away the people that carried the tribute.

But he himself turned back at the sculptured stones near Gilgal, and said, “I have a secret message for you, O king.”

And he commanded, “Silence.” And all his attendants went out from his presence.

And Ehud came to him, as he was sitting alone in his cool roof chamber. And Ehud said, “I have a message from God for you.”

And he arose from his seat. And Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into his belly; and the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not draw the sword out of his belly; and the dirt came out. Then Ehud went out into the vestibule, and closed the doors of the roof chamber upon him, and locked them.

When he had gone, the servants came; and when they saw that the doors of the roof chamber were locked, they thought, “He is only relieving himself in the closet of the cool chamber.” And they waited till they were utterly at a loss; but when he still did not open the doors of the roof chamber, they took the key and opened them; and there lay their lord dead on the floor.

Ehud escaped while they delayed, and passed beyond the sculptured stones, and escaped to Se-irah. When he arrived, he sounded the trumpet in the hill country of Ephraim; and the people of Israel went down with him from the hill country, having him at their head. And he said to them, “Follow after me; for the LORD has given your enemies the Moabites into your hand.” So they went down after him, and seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and allowed not a man to pass over. And they killed at that time about ten thousand of the Moabites, all strong, able-bodied men; not a man escaped.

So Moab was subdued that day under the hand of Israel. And the land had rest for eighty years.

Judges 3:12-30



Delighting in God’s Law

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes;
    and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep thy law
    and observe it with my whole heart.
35 Lead me in the path of thy commandments,
    for I delight in it.
36 Incline my heart to thy testimonies,
    and not to gain!
37 Turn my eyes from looking at vanities;
    and give me life in thy ways.
38 Confirm to thy servant thy promise,
    which is for those who fear thee.
39 Turn away the reproach which I dread;
    for thy ordinances are good.
40 Behold, I long for thy precepts;
    in thy righteousness give me life!

Psalm 119:33-40 (RSV)

Good Book

bookIf you’ve traveled in Baptist fundamentalist circles, then you’ve likely encountered various flavors of King James Only-ism. This is a movement which, to a greater or lesser extent, promotes the King James Bible as the only English translation of the Scriptures for Christians to use.

I do not agree with this movement. I cannot support any movement which elevates a translation above the original Greek and Hebrew text.

If you prefer the Textus Receptus for the New Testament, that is lovely. Good men, like Kent Brandenburg, have written helpful books promoting this printed Greek text, which underlies the KJV, NKJV and the newer Modern English Version. If you prefer the Byzantine Text, fine. If you prefer the eclectic text, such as the UBS-5 or the NA-28, even better!

I wanted to recommend a good book about the preservation of Scripture to folks who may want some resources on this issue. What makes this volume unique is that is was written by fundamentalists for people in fundamentalist churches. Here is a synopsis:

The solid facts of the process by which the Bible has come to its present form are explained in detail. The book includes textual criticism of the existing manuscripts and autographs, including the Textus Receptus, the Majority, Eclectic, and Minority texts, and the Masoretic Text. It also provides needed answers to the arguments of those who adhere to extreme or exclusive positions. This book is excellent for pastors, teachers, and laypersons alike. It will prove that all conservative versions are, without a doubt, translations of the plenary verbally inspired Word of God.

The book is entitled God’s Word in Our Hands: The Bible Preserved for Us, and it costs 99 entire cents on Kindle. It’s written in an easy-going, conversational style. You can understand it. Buy it. Read it. Understand it. Use multiple English Bible versions to compare during your devotional reading. Grow in the Lord. 


Are You Blessed?

How blessed is the one whose rebellious acts are forgiven, whose sin is pardoned!

How blessed is the one whose wrongdoing the Lord does not punish, in whose spirit there is no deceit.

When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer.

Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.” And then you forgave my sins.

For this reason every one of your faithful followers should pray to you while there is a window of opportunity. Certainly when the surging water rises, it will not reach them.

You are my hiding place; you protect me from distress. You surround me with shouts of joy from those celebrating deliverance.

I will instruct and teach you about how you should live. I will advise you as I look you in the eye. Do not be like an unintelligent horse or mule, which will not obey you unless they are controlled by a bridle and bit.

An evil person suffers much pain, but the Lord’s faithfulness overwhelms the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be happy, you who are godly! Shout for joy, all you who are morally upright!

  • Psalm 32 (NET)

Help from the Lord!


I look up toward the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the LORD, the Creator of heaven and earth! May he not allow your foot to slip! May your protector not sleep! Look! Israel’s protector does not sleep or slumber! The LORD is your protector; the LORD is the shade at your right hand. The sun will not harm you by day, or the moon by night. The LORD will protect you from all harm; he will protect your life. The LORD will protect you in all you do, now and forevermore.

  • Psalm 121 (NET)