Sunday, June 1, 2008

Of Pallor or Valour?

"Now, having established a woman's valued place in Scripture, we find confusion within various teachings regarding a woman's role. How can we understand passages used to diminish a woman's role within the body of Yeshua? Let's look:

"Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." 1 Timothy 2:11-15

But what does it mean? Women have to be silent all the time? Let's carefully examine the 1 Timothy passage.

Women are to learn in silence. Silence here is Greek hesuchia (Strong's 2271). It is NOT phimoo which would mean 'muzzle' (contrary to how many may want read it) Hesuchia is better rendered 'quietness' and is translated more accurately in 2 Thesalonians 3:11-12 "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Yeshua Messiah, that with quietness/hesuchia they work, and eat their own bread." Clearly, in this passage, it is not assumed hesuchia means that they are to never utter a word. Simply put, they held their tongue and kept the peace. (as in Acts 22:2). This sort of quietness denotes making a conscious choice not to speak out and stir things up, not the same as being muzzled and never ever uttering a single sound ever. Big difference. So back to the 1 Timothy passage, women are to learn in quiet peace and not teach or usurp authority over a man, but instead, will hold her tongue. The word teach here is didasko (Strong's 1321) meaning "to give instruction." So are we saying that women may give no instructions at all? Let's look closer now at what it means to 'usurp authority' -- it comes from the Greek authenteo (Strong's 831) and means to dominate or take control. Women are simply commanded not to dominate or control men with their teaching. Now this is beginning to make sense. This is not a prohibition against women doing any teaching, but instead a prohibition against women having disciples. Yochanan The Immerser and Yeshua are two important examples of teachers with dedicated disciples. Their disciples lived with them, slept with them, traveled with them everywhere, learned from them, lived their lives according to their teacher's instruction. It is *this* relationship a woman is being warned of. Women are not to take disciples, because such a leader would dominate and teach -- strongly influence their follower's lives. For a woman to take on disciples, she would upset G-d's order and have dominance over men. We can be sure it is this type of leadership teaching role being prohibited here, since we have examples of women performing other types of teaching elsewhere in Scripture. Let's look:

And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly." Acts 18:26

Notice that she does not dominate here - she is acting as a helpmeet; she is helping to teach a man alongside her husband. She is not taking on disciples or doing anything unbecoming of a woman. Yet she is helping to teach. "
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jonathan said...

Well, I know I get pretty upset when I see a woman walking down the street with a trail of disciples behind her! How unbecoming! With such logic, Oprah is certainly destined for hell -- that is unless her ratings drop...

I can't deny the importance of this kind of academic probing, but I wonder at its limits. In the world of philosophy, for instance, it isn't unusual for an expert in a certain thinker to tout the importance of that thinker for our current world. For instance, a Hegel scholar may write a book demonstrating that Hegel prefigures and anticipates certain movements in feminism, or ethics. But was that really important for Hegel? We will never know, because Hegel has been gone for 200 years.

To my mind, while such a thing is an important part of how academics contribute knowledge, it is also a kind of "frankensteining" of a philosopher - taking someone long dead, and reinvigorating him with the lifeblood of a contemporary and contentious issue. Relevance, and all thanks to a frankenstein monster!

A similar thing can happen with the bible. Now that we have a burning issue - the role of women - all attention turns to the careful probing of that scant collection of verses that include the word 'woman'. How is Paul relevant - how can his words relate to what we now deal with?

Both sides of this debate are guilty in this case, of frankensteining the apostle Paul - probing his words for generous readings that assert a certain point of view - one that can speak to us today in a world of accomplished and successful women.

There is value in this, for sure, and some readings are very persuasive. But is this what the bible is for?

Bible fights, while worth fighting, rarely decide. Even the inestimable Martin Luther could not convince the majority of the Roman Catholic church with his insights that are so very clear to us protestants.

Perhaps we need a better way of reading the bible that gives less emphasis on trying to determine what Paul meant, or what his words are supposed to mean for us. God didn't drop a "code" onto humanity to be cracked every time we run into problems. This book is for the most intelligent, and the least. It is simple and complex, but it is never easy. And it certainly isn't a ouija board, or a magic eight ball, for us to use in times of difficulty.

If our world was in the throes of famine and global hunger, I am sure we Christians would probe biblical texts for verses that address our responsibility when it comes to food, and those that desperately need it. In fact, the bible is quite clear what we are supposed to do when we become aware of hunger around us. Sadly, we ourselves aren't hungry enough, and God's holy, divine and infallible word can fall on deaf ears for those with bellies that are full. If we were hungry too, though, those texts would take on new meanings for sure.

Our world decides these texts. Our issues, our struggles bring these texts to life. And so we can ask: does the text bring hope to women, or does it bring despair?

I will listen to the interpretation that brings hope, and I will ignore the one that brings despair -- like the post written by 'john' several posts below. I will believe in the hopeful one because that one is the right one. It is right, because it is about hope.

Anonymous said...

Who, or what, is the Women's Leadership Forum? Just would like to know where this is coming from!