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Wright’s chapter on the case for ordaining women starts off a little oddly. He acknowledges that he used to teach that “the creation of man and woman in their two genders is a vital part of what it meant that humans are created in God’s image. I now regard that as a mistake” (p. 64).

His reason for considering it a mistake is that Genesis notes that both plants and animals are also divided into male and female (pp. 64-65). Now this last observation is quite true, but it is a curious reason for dropping a connection that the book of Genesis explicitly makes. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27, ESV). It would be better, I think, to take this passage as a straight up declaration, and to take the similarities exhibited by the surrounding world as animated typology. The created order exhibits the traits of male and female as a declaration of the glory of man and woman, the woman is the glory of man, who in turn is the glory and image of God (1 Cor. 11:7). Clearly, the mere possession of the male/female distinction is not a sufficient condition for bearing the image of God. But no one ever said that it was.

By the way, for any who want to pursue this a bit further, I have written a small book on the topic, Why Ministers Must Be Men.

Early on, Wright objects to the way the discussion frequently goes.

“Instead of taking texts in a vacuum and then arranging them in a hierarchy, for instance by quoting this verse and then saying that it trumps every other verse in a kind of fight to be the senior bull in the herd (what a very masculine way of approaching exegesis, by the way!), we need to do justice to what Paul is actually saying at this point” (p. 65).

There is some temptation to have a little fun at this point, but I resist it manfully as a temptation. But let me share with you what I was tempted to say. I was tempted to say, but refrained from saying, that another masculine way of doing exegesis might be to rank verses in a different kind of hierarchy, privileging those texts that are talking about the issue in question, while back-grounding those passages that are about something else. The reason I did not say this is that I know plenty of women who know how to discuss the point at issue and plenty of men who don’t. So there’s that.

As an example of this quaint procedure, developed by dead male theologians, but applauded by sensible females, suppose we were debating whether or not Og, king of Bashan, had an iron bedstead. One might argue, as I would, that the Pentateuch says that he did (Dt. 3:11). In response, someone else might argue that arbitrary role responsibilities, assigned according to sex, such as the man taking out the garbage, and the woman doing the ironing, is no longer tenable in the light of the full revelation of the gospel in Christ (Gal. 3:28). An example of my hegemonic approach to exegesis would be to privilege Dt. 3:11 over Gal. 3:28, even though I heartily approve of Gal. 3:28.

Speaking of Gal. 3:28, Wright spends some time there, not surprisingly, but argues for something that nobody was disputing — i.e. that women are full members of the body of Christ.

He then offers one line of argument from the fact that “Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16:7.” And so he does. But an apostle is a word that, like deacon, is descriptive of both a function and an office. An apostle is a “sent one,” and the sent one has the authority of the one sending, according to the designated purpose. Jesus was an apostle of God, for example (Heb. 3:1). The Twelve were apostles of Christ (Matt. 10:2). Paul and Baranbas were sent by the church at Antioch (Acts 13:3). I myself have been sent out to mow the lawn before.

After spending some time discussing how Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, saying that this kind of language is used — as it was with Paul and Gamaliel — for those studying to be rabbis, he goes on to say this:

“Like much in the Gospels, this story is left cryptic as far as we at least are concerned, but I doubt if any first-century reader would have missed the point” (p. 70).

But this presents a difficulty. The second generation of first century readers, if Wright is correct, did miss the point, massively. Wright has to argue for a form of restorationism here. After the death of the last apostle, this new way of doing ministry in Jesus fell off the face of the earth until it was restored by theological liberals, many centuries later.

His argument from 1 Cor. 14:34 was contextual. He says that this silence for women was not an absolute ban because of how women were instructed to pray and prophecy (1 Cor. 11:2-11). I do agree with him here, and think it is a point well taken. He says that in the ancient church, men and women sat separately, and because the message would be in a formal kind of discourse that the women did not know, speaking only “a local dialect or patois” (p. 72), special instructions had to be given. “Anyway, the result would be that during the sermon in particular, the women, not understanding what was going on, would begin to get bored and talk among themselves” (p. 72), and would have to be told to pipe down.

But this argument, in order to work, has to assume that the assembly was being led by the males. If this was “a new era in Jesus” running on all cylinders — as Wright argues it was — then how could the new leadership, including women as it now did, be losing the women? Why were the women, on the women’s side of the church, unable to follow the reasoning of Philip’s daughters? Or of Mary, who was a rabbi who had sat at the feet of Jesus?

Secondly, Wright wants to argue that men and women in leadership in the church should display badges of their respective sexual identities, without confusion. And, as far as that goes, good on him. But that is not Paul’s argument. He does not say that the women who pray or prophesy should “look like girls.” He says that they should look like they are in submission to their husbands (1 Cor. 11:5). Wright has to argue for more than our egalitarian age is demanding, and for far less than the text requires. That is how you fall between two stools, which is what Wright is doing here.

The locus classicus is, of course, 1 Tim. 2:12. The first citation here is Wright’s rendering, and the second is from the ESV. Wright’s treatment of this is . . . singular.

“They must study undisturbed, in full submission to God. I’m not saying that women should teach men, or try to dictate to them; rather that they should be left undisturbed. Adam was created first, you see, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived, and fell into trespass” (1 Tim. 2:11-14).

“Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Timothy 2:11–14, ESV).

But in order to get this interesting result, Wright has to insert words that Paul inexplicably left out. Take, for example, “to God,” and how Wright applies the word not to the inviso-verb “saying.” This is an interesting procedure. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Wilson: “I am not saying that you should commit adultery.” Sometimes you lose things in translation, and other times you pick extra things up.

Wright did do two things in this chapter that I appreciated. First, he is clearly trying to prepare his arsenal beforehand for the next set of battles (on homosexual ordination), and he wants to argue that Paul requires men and women to maintain “gender differentiation during worship” (p. 74). “We should certainly stress equality in the role of women but should be very careful about implying identity” (p. 77). This is like trying to stop a punch by holding a piece of tissue paper in front of your face, but I do think it is well-intentioned.

“The underlying point seems to be that in worship it is important for both men and women to be their truly created selves, to honor God by being what they are and not blurring the lines by pretending to be something else” (p. 75).

But of course, we live in a time when the blurring of distinctions, particularly sexual distinctions, is being done with a wet sponge, particularly among the Anglicans. And while I think that Wright wants to hold the line there, he has introduced novel ways of translating passages that others may now, with glad shouts of joy, apply to their own projects. Paul said this: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites. . .” (1 Cor. 6:9, NKJV). The EJV renders it this way: “I am neither confirming nor denying that the homosexuals and sodomites will not inherit the kingdom” (1 Cor. 6:9, Elton John Version).

But the second thing I appreciated is that Wright recognized, in a number of places, that his case was kind of thin. “We gain nothing by ignoring the fact that Jesus chose twelve male apostles” (p. 69). “That’s a lot of perhapses” (p. 74).

“I fully acknowledge that the very different reading I’m going to suggest may sound initially as though I’m simply trying to make things easier, to tailor this bit of Paul to fit our culture” (p. 79).

Yeah, that’s what it sure seems like, but I really appreciate him saying so.

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Keith Bradshaw
Keith Bradshaw
8 years ago

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A Wheelr
8 years ago

Your arsenal of wit never runs dry and never fails to crack me up. Of course, it is not funny that this guy is relying on his Klennex-strength foundation for his arguments with Truth.

Andrew
Andrew
8 years ago

On the contrary, Doug’s wit frequently runs dry, often droll, and occasionally snarky or biting

David Trounce
David Trounce
8 years ago

I would have thought that the fact that God replicated the male and female distinction throughout the rest of creation would indicate just how vital the distinction is.

Willis Vida
8 years ago

//But this presents a difficulty. The second generation of first century readers, if Wright is correct, did miss the point, massively. Wright has to argue for a form of restorationism here. After the death of the last apostle, this new way of doing ministry in Jesus fell off the face of the earth until it was restored by theological liberals, many centuries later.//

Exactly. Very true and well put.

Arwen B
Arwen B
8 years ago

You mentioned that Wright, in the previous chapter, admitted that women were not considered reliable witnesses. Considering that what the apostles were teaching was what they had witnessed, if women were not thought to be reliable witnesses, how could they have then been trusted to teach properly?

Is this as much of a discrepancy as it seems? If so, how did Wright address it?

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

The Timothy verse seems pretty incontrovertible to me. I guess you could argue that it is describing Paul’s own perspective (“I do not permit…”) rather than a general prohibition. But then you have that whole bit about Adam and Eve and well, it’s an uphill battle.

Harsh verse though. The whole thing basically amounts to “STFU women; if not for your stupidity we wouldn’t be in this mess.” It’s not surprising that Wright tries to soften it.

katecho
katecho
8 years ago

Matt wrote:

“if not for your stupidity we wouldn’t be in this mess.”

Paul is equal opportunity when it comes to knocking down pride or superiority within the body. Paul removes boasting from any direction:

“However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God.” — 1Cor 11:11-12

bethyada
8 years ago

Arwen, I don’t think so. While I don’t agree with Wright’s position here the issue with women being considered unreliable is cultural. If the apostles were making it up why claim women as witnesses as that does not help their case. The apostles themselves did not consider the women (or women in general) unreliable. Thus the apostles were not forbidding women teaching (if they were) for reliability issues. Andrew, your comment seems odd. I don’t agree with all Doug writes but even on those topics he is witty. One can acknowledge his wordsmithy without agreeing with him. He may annoy… Read more »

Andrew Lohr
8 years ago

‘STFU stupid ladies, Adam was not deceived’ is harsh on ladies? Hey, this non-deceived guy let his lady get fooled by the snake oil salesman, and then bought the same oil himself, tho he knew better and she didn’t? He sounds more guilty than she, not less; tho the text does credit him with knowing something she didn’t, and applies this to how church should work. (From James Jordan). “A prudent wife is from the LORD…in multitude of counselors there is safety.” Women can have something to say that’s worth listening to sometimes (tho not as overseers in church, I… Read more »

David Smith
David Smith
8 years ago

All I can say is the exegetical contortions necessary to make 1 Timothy 2:12 – 15 say what Wright asserts it does are simply staggering.

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

He sounds more guilty than she, not less

I don’t know; who has to sit in the corner and be quiet? How does this verse not render women second class, at least in the church?

Mr. Fosi
Mr. Fosi
8 years ago

So, in Matt’s world, if you can’t hold office in the church, you are “second class in the church”. Funny how that doesn’t work that way in the church where I’m a member. None of my fellow female members would regard themselves as second class, nor would any of the men consider them so. But I guess if Matt thinks so, then it must be so. This is an interesting logic that leads to all kinds of absurd statements. Let’s apply the logic more widely: Church leaders who have fallen into gross public sin, then have repented, but are barred… Read more »

Reuben K.
Reuben K.
8 years ago

For those of you discussing the “STFU, ladies” train of thought- consider this: It was the woman who was deceived- but it should have been the man if it was going to be anyone. Paul knows this. He states that the man, being formed first, was designed for and created to a role of leadership, which in his (correct) application to the life of the church means that husbands should be the ones on the theological frontlines, doing the spiritual reconnaissance and taking care of doctrinal skirmishes out in front of the forward march of the home. The man is… Read more »

A Wheelr
8 years ago

Matt says: It’s not surprising that Wright tries to soften it. If I may submit the observations of a woman without treading into the area of teaching, I disagree. God is an expert on women and how to handle them. First, you must go back to Genesis. God put a curse upon women. Gen. 3:16 thy desire shall be to thy husband This is not implying that women only desire their husbands and want to wrap ourselves around their ankles, never letting them go. The implication is that we want to be in control, dominating. Ugly, yes, but I have… Read more »

Eric Stampher
Eric Stampher
8 years ago

If woman (in the garden & in the pew) = Mankind — then WE were deceived and WE should, like Job, clam up when Jesus-God-the-MAN speaks.

So Doug’s book titled “Ministers” maybe should rather be “Preachers” and/or “Pastors” who stand up front.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
8 years ago

I find myself in the odd position of thinking you’re giving him too much credit, albeit on what may be a minor point: “Like much in the Gospels, this story is left cryptic as far as we at least are concerned, but I doubt if any first-century reader would have missed the point” (p. 70). Aren’t large portions of the New Testament written to address, clarify, reiterate, or emphasize points that first century readers missed all over the place? This point isn’t central to his argument, but it seems like assuming that intelligent contemporary readers of the gospels even within… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
8 years ago

Oh, I wasn’t clear on why I think that’s “giving him too much credit.” It’s because you pass over that in a way that implies that you’re conceding it, only questioning what the next generation apparently did with it. While I do think that’s a stronger point in this particular discussion, I would have liked to see a strike at the root here of the idea that if it’s in the gospels, then its implications were clear enough to everyone at the time, that we can assume that they were operating in light of it.

Gianni
Gianni
8 years ago

Jane, I had the same impression: well said. Exegete away!

BillB
BillB
8 years ago

The implication is that we want to be in control, dominating. Ugly, yes, but I have yet to meet a woman who does not struggle with this

I’ve yet to meet a human who does not struggle with this.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
8 years ago

BillB, indeed, but only women struggle with it in relation to our husbands. :-)

Ken Miller
Ken Miller
8 years ago

Hey Doug, This is totally off topic, but I don’t see anyway to contact you on your blog. I think you should do an post on “Why Skinny-Jeaned Wearing Hipsters are in Rebellion Against Their Maker.” I’ve been trying to find online tips for improving my professional wardrobe, and I’ve been rather disgusted at the countless examples of how male clothing is not just becoming androgynous, but outright feminine. Men wearing skinny jeans to highlight their slender legs and skinny waist-lines!?! I’m sorry, but that’s perverse. Old-skool feminism made women more masculine. Today’s political correctness and the LGBT dominated fashion… Read more »