Posts Tagged ‘Paul’

Living On The Edge: challenges to faith

September 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Today Christians in the Western world are typically living in a post-Christian society. Christian beliefs are met with skepticism, and people see little reason to believe. Christians are confronted with daily challenges to their faith, and often struggle to understand the relevance of Christianity to modern life.

The book ‘Living On The Edge: challenges to faith‘ (due to be printed in November 2013), addresses those concerns. For an overview of the book, click here.


Is 1 Timothy 2:11-12 a time limited text?

The Claim

Hugenberger (a moderate egalitarian/soft complementarian), notes the view of Spencer (a strong egalitarian), that Paul’s prohibition on women speaking in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is time limited, a temporary prohibition until the women of the ecclesia have abandoned their heretical teaching:

‘In addition Spencer notes that rather than using the imperative mood or even an aorist or future indicative to express that prohibition, Paul quite significantly utilizes a present indicative, perhaps best rendered “But I am not presently allowing.”29 This temporary prohibition, then, is based solely on the regrettable similarity between the Ephesian women and Eve in that the women of Ephesus had been deceived and as such if allowed to teach would be in danger of promoting false doctrine.’[1]

Hugenberger then explains why this suggestion is improbable:

As attractive as this interpretation appears, serious objections have been raised against it in recent years.

First of all, some caution may need to be exercised against an overly simplistic picture of the Jewish or Greek cultural background at times assumed for our passage.32 For example, Eunice and Lois (2 Tim 1:5; 3:15) appear to have known the Scriptures better than might be inferred from the Jewish practice adduced by Spencer, although Spencer acknowledges the possibility that women could learn privately.

Most seriously, S. T. Foh has argued that the women of 1 Tim 2:9–15 do not appear to be one and the same as the false teachers elsewhere.

She notes that these women are treated in a radically different manner from the false teachers since they are urged to “continue in faith, love, holiness, and sobriety,” while the women mentioned in 2 Tim 3:6–7, for example, “can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

Moreover, as Foh points out, there is no Scriptural warrant for the underlying assumption that Eve taught Adam to eat the forbidden fruit.’[2]

‘Finally, this view fails to explain why Paul stresses the temporal priority of Adam rather than merely mentioning Eve’s deception.’[3]

Egalitarian Commentary

Egalitarian Barron similarly exposes the weakness of this argument:

‘First, defenders of the traditional view have argued that Paul’s blanket statement, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” sounds universal.

If what he really meant was “I do not permit a woman to teach error,” and that he would have no objection to women teaching once they got their doctrine straight, why did he not say that? Kroeger received criticism even from a fellow egalitarian for failing to deal with this point.16 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [4] below]’[5]

Indeed, Barron rightly notes that the argument is incompatible with the common egalitarian claim that women were teaching in the ecclesias because they were sufficiently educated and doctrinally sound:

And egalitarians are in no position to interpret Paul’s dictum as a temporary prohibition, needed until women could surmount cultural obstacles to education—not when, out of the other side of their mouths, these egalitarians are championing women (one of whom, Priscilla, labored in Ephesus) who did fulfill a teaching or leadership role in the NT.17

Not all women of Paul’s day were intellectually impoverished or hopelessly contaminated by pagan practices, yet Paul seems to prohibit all women from teaching in Ephesus.

The egalitarians seem forced into the implausible claim that no woman in the Ephesian church was sufficiently orthodox and educated to teach.’[6]

Egalitarian Gordon Fee likewise dismisses the idea that the prohibition is temporary:

Despite protests to the contrary, the “rule” itself is expressed absolutely. That is, it is given without any form of qualification. Given the unqualified nature of the further prohibition that “the women”29 are not permitted to speak, it is very difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in public.’[7]

So also egalitarians Soderlund and Wright:

‘I Timothy 2:11-12 thus remains as the one apparently clear case of Paul’s imposing a ban on women’s ministry.’[8]

[1] Hugenberger, ‘Women In Church Office:  Hermeneutics Or Exegesis?  A Survey Of Approaches To 1 Tim 2:8-15’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (35.3.349), (September 1992).

[2] Ibid., p. 349.

[3] Ibid., p. 350.

[4] ‘16. Liefeld, “Response to Kroeger” 245’

[5] Barron (egalitarian), ‘Putting Women In Their Place:   1 Timothy 2 And Evangelical Views Of Women  In Church Leadership ‘,Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (33.4.455), (December 1990).

[6] Ibid., pp. 455-456.

[7] Fee, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians’, p. 706 (1987).

[8] Soderlund & Wright, ‘Romans and the People of God’, p. 239 (1999).

Does 1 Corinthians 14:34 contain a quotation from Paul’s opponents?

May 11, 2011 1 comment

The Claim

Egalitarians such as Bilezikian[1] and Arichea,[2] claim that the restriction on women speaking found in 1 Corinthians 14:34 is a quotation from Paul’s opponents rather than the words of Paul himself.

The Facts

The interpretations of Bilezikian and Arichea are strongly motivated by the egalitarian view they bring to the text.

Bilezikian writes from an unabashedly egalitarian position, calling for “deliberate programs of depatriarchalization” (p. 211) in our religious institutions and “a systematic effort of deprogramming” in our thinking so that we do away with “regard[ing] the opposite sex as opposite” (p. 210; italics his).’[3]

‘He [Daniel C. Arichea Jr] has also written numerous Bible studies for young people and on the subject of women in the Scriptures, one of which is entitled “Laying to Rest the Misconception of the Subordinate Role of Women in the Church.”‘[4]

To reinforce the egalitarian motivation behind his interpretation, Arichea lists among the ‘advantages’ of this interpretation the fact that it is supportive of the egalitarian case:

‘a) It changes the passage from that of an oppressive text that can be used as an anti-feminist tool to one which advocates the active participation of women within the church.’[5]

‘f) The spirit of Gal. 3:28 is not violated by Paul in any way.’[6]

Nevertheless, Arichea himself lists a number of objections against this interpretation of the text:

‘However, there are objections to this position as well, among which are the following:

a)  There simply is no way to be certain, since the Greek text does not contain any interpretive markers of any kind. What then if Paul was actually advocating the silence of women in the church?

b)  Such a position advocating the active participation of women in the church service seems too advanced for Paul and for the early church at that stage of its history.

c)  Canonical history seems to indicate that vv 34-35 was understood primarily as an admonition to silence, as is clear in the repetition of these same arguments in 1 Tim. 2:11-15.

d)  But the main objection has something to do with the difficulty of relating the passage to its immediate and wider context. Considering that the subject of the whole of chapter 14 is orderliness in the worship service, which came under threat due to the practice of speaking in tongues, it would be rather unlikely for the chapter to contain a section asserting the right of certain people, and specifically the women, to speak in the church service.  It would be more likely for an admonition to silence to be included rather than a justification for speaking.’[7]

Arichea also states clearly that the translation suggestion which he finally proposes has no support from the scholarly consensus whatever:

‘Considering the whole argument, it does seem that this third option is worth considering and pursuing further. It should be noted, however, that no translation (to my knowledge) has followed this option, nor has it been mentioned in the notes accompanying various translations. Of all the commentaries I have examined, only one advocates this position.’[8]

Scholarly Commentary

This suggestion has not found significant support among scholarly commentators, and remains a marginal position even among egalitarians.  It is rejected by egalitarians such as Johnson and Witherington,[9] [10] [11] Fee,[12] Hays,[13] Horrell,[14] and Keener.[15] Thiselton notes other commentators rejecting the suggestion.[16]

Following the scholarly consensus, these verses are represented as Paul’s words (not a quotation from the Corinthians), by the CEV, GNB/TEV, HCSB, ISV, Message, NAB, NASB95, NET, NCV, NIRV, NIV, NLT, TLB, and TNIV. In fact, no standard modern Bible translation renders these verses as a quotation.

[1] ‘…Paul is quoting derisively the words of his Judeo-Christian opponents,’, Bilezikian, ‘Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible’ (3rd ed. 2006).

[2] Arichea, ‘The Silence of Women in The Church: Theology and Translation in 1 Corinthians 14.33b-36’, The Bible Translator, p. 110 (46.1.1995).

[3] Trotter, review of Bilezikian‘s ‘Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible’, in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 12 (30.1.101), (1987).

[4] 2008-09 Bulletin of the Duke University Divinity School; this is a publication by the university at which Arichea works.

[5] Arichea, ‘The Silence of Women in The Church: Theology and Translation in 1 Corinthians 14.33b-36’, The Bible Translator, p. 110 (46.1.1995).

[6] Ibid., p. 110.

[7] Ibid., p. 110.

[8] Ibid., p. 110.

[9]The best refutation of this view is given by Ben Witherington, who argues that the previous quotes of Corinthian views in the letter were actually stated and then refuted or circumstantially modified by Paul.’, Johnson, ‘1 Corinthians‘, p. 272 (2004).

[10] ‘More telling against this view is the large number of words in verses 34-35 that resonate with the immediate context (Witherington 1988:90-91).’, ibid., p. 272.

[11]Witherington offers stronger and more detailed arguments why the hypothesis of Odell-Scott and Flanagan and Snyder are open to doubt. In sum, because of such phrases as as in all the churches of God’s holy people, and because 6:12; 10:23; 7:1 et al. represent not “rebuttals” but circumstantial qualifications “they raise more questions than they answer.”359  With a deft turn, he adds: “In all probability Paul is anticipating the response he expected to get (v. 36) when the Corinthians read his argument (vv. 34–35).”360’, Thiselton, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A commentary on the Greek text’, p. 1151 (2000).

[12] ‘The very first word *e, “or,” “either… or,” or the interjection “what!”) should not be seen as introducing a statement rejecting the previous two verses, as if they were an aberrant Corinthian viewpoint, but as Paul’s anticipation that his rules to control speech practices at Corinth would anger the Corinthians.  As Gordon Fee correctly points out, “Has God given them [the Corinthians] a special word that allows them both to reject Paul’s instructions… and to be so out of touch with the churches?” (1987:7210).

It appears that the Corinthians were trying to make up their own rules, and perhaps even thinking their own word is sufficient or authoritative or even the word of God themselves” (cf. v.36; Witherington 1988:98).’, Johnson, ‘1 Corinthians‘, p. 277 (2004).

[13] ‘Hays considers it “far fetched in the extreme” to think that Paul was quoting theCorinthians in verses 34-35 before he rejects the statement in verse 36. (Hays p.249)’, Mayer, ‘The Women Should Keep Silence in the Churches’, Resources for Sustenance and Renewal(2002).

[14] ‘D.W. Odell-Scott’s attempt to offer an ‘egalitarian’ interpretation of 14.33b-36 based on the contrary force of the particle h (at the beginning of v. 36 is highly implausible in relation to vv. 34f (which must then be read as a statement of Corinthian not Pauline opinion); the particle’s ‘contrary force’ makes much better sense in connection with v. 33.’, Horrel, ‘The social ethos of the Corinthians correspondence: interests and ideology’, p. 187 (1996).

[15] ‘Some have argued instead that Paul here quotes a Corinthian position (1 Cor 14:34–35), which he then refutes (1 Cor 14:36); but 1 Corinthians 14:36 does not read naturally as a refutation of 1 Corinthians 14:34–35.’, Keener, ‘Man and Woman’,  in Hawthorne, Martin, & Reid, ‘Dictionary of Paul and his letters’, p. 590 (1993.)

[16]Horrell finds the view of Odell-Smith and Allison “implausible” not least because, as Conzelmann also notes, v. 36, which attacks the self-important claims of some at Corinth to be “different,” then leaves v. 33b either as part of the Corinthian slogan, which would not cohere with our knowledge of Corinth, or as simply hanging without continuation until after an overly long quotation, or as belonging to vv. 26–33a, which, apart from Barrett, KJV/AV, RV, Alford, and Phillips, is widely accepted as belonging with vv. 34–37 (as UBS 4th ed., NRSV, REB, NIV, NJB, Conzelmann, and most writers).357 “The point about the particle … makes most sense when v. 36 is linked with v. 33.”’, Thiselton, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A commentary on the Greek text’, p. 1151 (2000).

Paul knew how his statements sounded

Mitigated Statements

As with Jewish society, 1st century Greco-Roman society contained a wide range of attitudes towards women, from the misogynist to the egalitarian.[1]

From this socio-historical background, we know that private associations were free to decide on their own codes of conduct even if these breached social norms, [2] and that 1st century Christian women (whether Jews or Gentiles), would have had reasonable expectations of participating in the congregational worship as a result of their previous religious experiences.

Paul would therefore have been aware of how his commandments concerning women sounded, and accordingly sought to soften the message.[3] [4] [5]

Egalitarian scholars have noted this particular feature of Paul’s commandments, in the seven passages in which he gives commandments concerning the relationship of men and women in the ecclesia and the family using a formulated style.

Walker provides a detailed analysis of these passages. [6] [7]

Specific Texts

1 Corinthians 11:3-16:

* Commandment: Women’s heads should be covered when praying and prophesying

* Reason: The woman is the glory of the man, woman came from man, woman was created for man, and because of the angels

* Mitigation: In the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman; just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman, but all things come from God

1 Corinthians 14:34-35:

* Commandment: Women should be silent in the ecclesias, they are not permitted to speak

* Reason: Let them be in submission, as the Law says; it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church

* Mitigation: If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home

Ephesians 5:22-25:

* Commandment: Wives, submit to your husbands

* Reason: The husband is the head of the wife

* Mitigation: Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them

Colossians 3:18-19:

* Commandment: Wives, submit to your husbands

* Reason: It is fitting in the Lord

* Mitigation: Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the ecclesia

1 Timothy 2:8-15:

* Commandment: Women must learn in all submissiveness; I do not permit a woman to teach or to hold authority over a man, she must remain quiet

Reason: Adam was formed first, and then Eve, and Adam was not deceived but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression

* Mitigation: She will be delivered through ‘childbearing’,[8] if she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control

Titus 2:4-5:

* Commandment: Wives are to be subject to their own husbands

* Reason: So that the message of God is not discredited

* Mitigation: [not explicit]


All these passages contain instructions concerning the role and relationship of women in the ecclesia and in the family which Paul knew would be seen by women themselves as placing limits on their participation in the ecclesia and placing them under the authority of their husbands, and which he sought to soften in some way as a result.

Four of these passages appeal explicitly to other passages of Scripture for support,[9] and none are explained as a response to an existing local situation, nor justified as just a cultural accommodation.[10]

[1]But studies of Roman society have found a variety of indicators about the status of women, and what was true about women in the eastern part of the empire was not necessarily true about women in the western empire. On the one hand, there was the household headed by the husband/father/master, a hierarchical order-obedience structure that included those who were economically dependent. On the other hand, there were emancipatory ideas about women that allowed them greater freedom and economic independence (some were even the heads of households).’, Tanzer (egalitarian), ‘Eph 5:22-33 Wives (and Husbands) Exhorted’, in Meyers, Craven, & Kraemer, ‘Women in scripture: a dictionary of named and unnamed women in the Hebrew Bible, the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, and the New Testament‘, p. 481 (2001).

[2] ‘Whereas in the larger outside world, both Roman control and residual customs mitigated against mixing men and women, slave and free, foreign and religious practice; in the voluntary associations there was a lively atmosphere in which these mixes could be tried out and experienced without threat of larger social catastrophe or consequences.’, Nerney, & Taussig, ‘Re-imaging life together in America: a new gospel of community‘, p. 12 (2002).

[3] ‘a “mitigation,” “softening of the blow,” or “saving phrase” to make the statement, assertion, or command less offensive to women.’, Walker, (egalitarian) ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia, p. 106 (28.1983).

[4] ‘In 11:11–12, however, he backtracks lest the Corinthians become confused and think that he implies that women are inferior to men. He is not attempting to establish a gender hierarchy that places women in a subordinate role. Since he argues from hierarchy to make his case about head coverings, he needs to caution against any misapplication of what he says. Women and men are interdependent in the Lord.’, Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, pp. 508-509 (2003).

[5]In other contexts, among some gentiles, Paul’s moral conservatism and reaffirmation of traditional roles for women would have appeared too confining (this appears to have been the case in Corinth).’, Witherington (egalitarian), ‘Women’, Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, volume 6, p. 959 (1996).

[6]a. General Statement, Assertion, or Command (vv 8–12) I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men; she is to keep silent. b. Reason or Justification (vv 13–14) For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. c. Mitigation, Softening of the Blow, or Saving Phrase (v 15) Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.’’, Walker, (egalitarian) ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia, p. 197  (28.1983).

[7] ‘In some passages, the pattern becomes more complex, and, at times, it is not clear whether element “c” is present at all. Thus, the pattern of 1 Pet 3:1–6 is ‘a’ (v 1a), ‘b’ (vv 1b–2), ‘a’ (vv 3–4a), ‘b’ (vv 4b–6a), with v 6b either a continuation of ‘b’ or perhaps a very subtle form of ‘c.’ The pattern of 1 Cor 14:34–35 is ‘a’ (v 34a), ‘b’ (v 34b), ‘a’ (v 34c), ‘b’ (v 34d), ‘a’ or possibly a subtle form of ‘c’ (v 35a),16 ‘b’ (v 35b). In Titus 2:4–5, the pattern is a simple ‘a’ (vv 4–5a), ‘b’ (v 5b), with ‘c’ absent altogether. Three of the passages introduce a somewhat modified form of element ‘c’ with a command to husbands that they love their wives. Thus, Col 3:18–19 follows the simple pattern, ‘a’ (v 18a), ‘b’ (v 18b), ‘c’ (v 19), while Eph 5:22–33 has the more complex pattern, ‘a’ (v 22), ‘b’ (v 23), ‘a’ (v 24), ‘c’ (vv 25–33a), ‘a’ (v 33b); and 1 Pet 3:1–7 has the pattern, ‘a’ (v 1a), ‘b’ (vv 1b–2), ‘a’ (vv 3–4a), ‘b’ (vv 4b–6 or perhaps 4b–6a with 6b a very very subtle form of ‘c’), ‘c’ (v 7). The analysis of 1 Cor 11:3–16 is again complicated by the question of the unity of the passage.17 If it is a single unit, then the pattern is apparently ‘a’ (vv 3–6), ‘b’ (vv 7–10), ‘c’ (vv 11–12), ‘b’ (vv 13–16), although the distinctions are not as clear here as they are elsewhere. If, however, the passage is divided into three pericopes, as has been suggested, then the following patterns emerge: “Pericope A” follows the pattern, ‘a’ (v 3), ‘b’ (vv 8–9), ‘c’ (vv 11–12); “Pericope B” the pattern, ‘a’ (vv 4–6), ‘b’ (vv 7,10,13,16), with no ‘c’; and “Pericope C” consists almost entirely of element ‘b,’ with ‘a’ only implied and ‘c’ absent altogether.18’, ibid., p. 107.

[8] The precise meaning of the Greek word here is a matter of interpretation; the majority of commentators understand it as a figure of speech for the role of the woman as wife and mother, sometimes as ‘motherhood’, such as EDNT, ‘According to 1 Tim 2:15 in its interpretation of Gen 3:16, bearing children / motherhood is the special task of women, including according to v. 15b a life in faith (possibly a reference to the rearing of children in faith; cf. b. Ber. 17a): σωθήσεται δὲ διὰ τῆς τεκνογονίας.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testamen’, volume 3, p. 340 (1990-c1993), and ANLEX, ‘bearing children, childbearing, motherhood (1T 2.15)’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller ‘Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, volume 4, p. 376 (2000); ‘The final interpretation may be termed “the majority view.” 44 This view would hold that Christian women are not saved through teaching and asserting authority, but by attention to their traditional role.  “Childbearing” serves as a figure of speech to illustrate Paul’s argument that women need not behave as men but rather fulfill their divinely appointed role to find salvation.’, Moss (complementarian), ‘1, 2 Timothy & Titus’, The College Press NIV Commentary (1994).

[9] 1 Corinthians 11:7-9; 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:13-14, 1 Peter 3:5-6.

[10] The commandment in Titus 2:5 for wives to submit to their husbands is justified here by ‘So that the message of God is not discredited’, but the same commandment is also accompanied by two additional reasons elsewhere; Ephesians 5:23, ‘The husband is the head of the wife’, Colossians 3:18, ‘It is fitting in the Lord’.

Reading in context: lexical-syntactical analysis

Lexicography & Context

Lexical-syntactical analysis is the means by which a text is analysed according to the meaning of individual words and the way in which they are used in their context. [1] [2]

Contextualizing Phrases

These are phrases used consistently by Paul to provide a specific context for his words.

Universal application throughout all ecclesias[3]

* 1 Corinthians 4:17, ‘He will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church.’

* 1 Corinthians 7:17, ‘I give this sort of direction in all the churches.’

* 1 Corinthians 11:16, ‘we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God

* 1 Corinthians 14:33, ‘As in all the churches of the saints’

* 1 Timothy 2:8-9, ‘So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute. Likewise the women are to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control’

* 1 Timothy 3:14-15, ‘I am writing these instructions to you in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God

Offence to non-Christians is to be avoided

* 1 Corinthians 11:32, ‘Do not give offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God’

* 1 Corinthians 14:23, ‘So if the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and unbelievers or uninformed people enter, will they not say that you have lost your minds?’

* 2 Corinthians 6:3, ‘do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.’

* 1 Timothy 3:7, ‘And he must be well thought of by those outside the faith

* 1 Timothy 5:14, ‘So I want younger women to marry, raise children, and manage a household, in order to give the adversary no opportunity to vilify us

* 1 Timothy 6:1, ‘prevent the name of God and Christian teaching from being discredited.’

* Titus 2:5, ‘so that the message of God may not be discredited

Responding to local ecclesial issues

* 1 Corinthians 5:1, ‘It is actually reported that sexual immorality exists among you, the kind of immorality that is not permitted even among the Gentiles, so that someone is cohabiting with his father’s wife.’

* 1 Corinthians 5:9, ‘I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people’

* 1 Corinthians 7:1, ‘Now with regard to the issues you wrote about

* Galatians 1:6, ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel.’

* 1 Timothy 1:3, ‘As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings’

* Titus 1:3, ‘The reason I left you in Crete was to set in order the remaining matters and to appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.’

Standard modern English translations show a phrase of universal application is used by Paul in the context of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16,[4] 1 Corinthians 14:34-35,[5] Ephesians 5:22-25,[6] Colossians 3:18-19,[7] 1 Timothy 2:8-15,[8] Titus 2:4-5,[9] and 1 Peter 3:1-7.[10]


Parallelomania[11] is an error in assembling background sources for a particular text, whereby the interpreter reads ‘parallels’ into the text from historical sources, simply on the basis of isolated similarities of words, phrases, or concepts.[12]

A well known example is the misreading of the Greek word gnōsis in 1 Timothy 6:20[13] as a reference to Gnostic teaching. Having decided that the word referred to Gnosticism, expositors attempted to find evidence throughout the letter that the Gnostics were the specific false teachers mentioned. The conclusion that Paul was warning against Gnostics was then transferred wrongly to Paul’s other letters. [14]

The result was a false interpretation disregarding historical evidence that Gnoticism did not exist in the 1st century. New findings often result such errors. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran and the Nag Hammadi library in Egypt, prompted Bible commentators to look through the New Testament for similar words to those used in these texts, assuming identical thoughts, concepts, and backgrounds on the basis of mere similarity of vocabulary.

Though corrected repeatedly in the relevant scholarly literature, this error continues in populist, and even some academic works.[15] The ‘selective fallacy’ occurs when ‘parallels’ are drawn only from those sources which the interpreter has previously determined are relevant. [16] [17]

[1] ‘Lexical-syntactical analysis is the study of the meaning of individual words (lexicology) and the way those words are combined (syntax) in order to determine more accurately the author’s intended meaning.’, Virkler & Ayayo, ‘Hermeneutics: Principles and processes of Biblical interpretation’, p. 98 (2nd ed. 2007).

[2] ‘Lexical-syntactical analysis does not encourage blind literalism: it recognizes when an author intends his words to be understood literally, when figuratively, and when symbolically, and then interprets them accordingly.’, ibid., p. 98.

[3] See also Acts 14:23, ‘When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches’.

[4] 1 Corinthians 11:4, ‘any man’, 11:5, ‘any woman’, 11:16, ‘we have no other practice, nor do the churches of God’, referring to all men, all women, and all the ecclesias.

[5] 1 Corinthians 14:33, ‘As in all the churches of the saints’, 14:34, ‘the women’ (or ‘the wives’), referring to all the women (or wives), in all ecclesias.

[6] Ephesians 5:22, ‘wives’, 5:25, ‘husbands’, referring to all wives and all husbands.

[7] Colossians 3:18, ‘wives’, 3:19, ‘husbands’, referring to all wives and all husbands.

[8] 1 Timothy 3:14-15, ‘I am writing these instructions to you in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God’, explicitly referring to how all people should conduct themselves in the ecclesias.

[9] Titus 2:2, ‘Older men’, 2:3, ‘Older women’, 2:4, ‘the younger women’, ‘their husbands’, referring to all older men and women, all younger women and their husbands.

[10] 1 Peter 3:1, ‘wives’, ‘your own husbands’, referring to all wives and all husbands.

[11] ‘Nearly forty years ago, Samuel Sandmel published his SBL presidential address for 1961 under the title “Parallelomania,” which he defined as “that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction” (p. 1). His article remains very useful but I think the discussion can be carried further today.’, Davila, ‘The Perils of Parallels’, lecture at the University of St Andrews (April 2001).

[12] This does not mean that all parallels are necessarily invalid; ‘I am not denying that literary parallels and literary influence, in the form of source and derivation, exist.’, Sandmel, ‘Parallelomania’, Journal of Biblical Literature (81.1), (1962).

[13] 1 Timothy 6:20, ‘O Timothy, protect what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and absurdities of so-called “knowledge.”’.

[14] ‘We must beware of imposing an outside situation upon the letters. For instance, in previous generations some scholars read Gnosticism from the second and third centuries A.D. into the New Testament letters, so that the opponents in almost every Pauline letter were identified as Gnostics. Virtually no one advocates the Gnostic hypothesis today, for it is illegitimate to read later church history into first century documents. The Gnostic detour could have been avoided if scholars had read the Pauline letters themselves more carefully, for evidence for full-fledged Gnosticism cannot be read out of his letters.’, Schreiner (complementarian), ‘Interpreting the Pauline Epistles’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (3.9), (1999).

[15] ‘Scholars are prone to engage in “parallelomania” where information from the Dead Sea Scrolls or Nag Hammadi or the Church Fathers is imposed upon the New Testament documents.’, Schreiner, ‘Interpreting the Pauline Epistles’, Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (3.9), (1999).

[16] When searching for true parallels, all possible sources should be evaluated, and criteria established for assessing which of the sources contains genuine parallels to the text under study; interpreters committing the ‘selective fallacy’ choose their source on the basis that they already believe it is the source of the parallels they expect to find.

[17] ‘An excellent article by Robert Kysar (1970:250–55) shows that Rudolf Bultmann and C. H. Dodd in their commentaries on John (specifically the prologue) used entirely different sources of evidence to “prove” their respective theories. Rarely did either consider the parallels adduced by the other. In other words, they chose only those parallels that would support their preconceived notions. This happens all too often in scholarly circles. Instead of a comprehensive study of all possible parallels in order to discover which best fits the context, scholars will select only those most favorable to the thesis and ignore the others. Further, they will often accumulate numerous examples in order to overwhelm the reader with volume. Carson calls this “verbal parallelomania, … the listing of verbal parallels in some body of literature as if those bare phenomena demonstrate conceptual links or even dependency” (1984c:43–44).’, Osborne, ‘The Hermeneutical Spiral: A comprehensive introduction to biblical interpretation’, p. 91 (2nd rev. ed. 2006).

What is ‘the law’ in 1 Corinthians 14:34?

Scholarly Commentary

The very phrase which Paul uses is found in a number of proximate Jewish writings, and its meaning is not in doubt. It is a clear reference to a principle drawn from the Biblical text (not a direct quote), either to the Pentateuch[1] or some other part of the Old Testament.[2]

Several commentators note that this appeal to ‘the Law’ is a standard form of argument in Paul’s writings.[3] [4] [5] [6]

Of twelve standard modern Bible commentaries,[7] almost all of them understand this is as a reference to the Law of Moses or a general principle from Genesis or the Old Testament; of these commentaries only one egalitarian commentary disagrees.[8]

Bible Translations

Only one standard modern translation gives this passage an egalitarian interpretation.

* CEV: The text has ‘as the Law of Moses teaches’, referring explicitly to the inspired Law of God given in the Old Testament

* ESV: The text has ‘as the Law also says’, the definite article and capitalization indicating that this is a reference to the law revealed in the Old Testament, not Jewish oral tradition or Roman law, and a footnote says ‘[ver. 21]’, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:21, where Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11–12 and refers to it as ‘the Law’

* GNB/TEV: The text has ‘as the Jewish Law says’, the definite article and capitalization, which may be a reference to the Jewish oral tradition rather than the Law of Moses

* HSCB: The text has ‘as the law also says’

* The Message: The text has ‘God’s Book of the law guides our manners and customs here’, referring explicitly to the inspired Law of God given in the Old Testament

* NAB: The text has ‘as even the law says’

* NASB95: The text has ‘just as the Law also says’, the definite article and capitalization indicating that this is a reference to the law revealed in the Old Testament, not Jewish oral tradition or Roman law, and a footnote says ‘1 Cor 14:21’, where Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11–12 and refers to it as ‘the Law’

* NCV: The text has ‘as the law says’

* NET: The text has ‘as in fact the law says’

* NIV: The text has ‘as the Law says’, the definite article and capitalization indicating that this is a reference to the law revealed in the Old Testament, not Jewish oral tradition or Roman law

* NIRV: The text has ‘as the Law also says’, the definite article and capitalization indicating that this is a reference to the law revealed in the Old Testament, not Jewish oral tradition or Roman law

* NLT: The text has ‘just as the law says’

* NRSV: The text has ‘as the law also says’

* TLB: The text has ‘the Scriptures also declare’, referring explicitly to the inspired Old Testament

* TNIV: The text has ‘as the law says’, and a footnote says ‘ver 21; Ge 3:16’, referring to 1 Corinthians 14:21, where Paul quotes Isaiah 28:11–12 and refers to it as ‘the Law’, and citing the subordination of Eve in Genesis 3:16 as the specific principle Paul has in mind

[1] Paul’s reference to the teaching of “the law” probably has the Genesis creation narratives in mind, with their implications for order and propriety in relationships between men and women (see Thiselton 2000: 1153–54; Bruce 1980: 136; Carson 1987: 129; Keener 1992: 86–87; see also commentary on 1 Cor. 11:2–16 above).[1]’ Beale &. Carson, ‘Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament’, p. 743 (2007).

[2] ‘Against the argument that the use of οὐ γὰρ ἐπιτρέπεται, there exists no permission, is not Pauline, several writers refer with approval to S. Aalen’s argument that the key word is drawn here by Paul from a rabbinic formula used in the context of biblical texts, especially in the Pentateuch, which express a principle often introduced with νόμος λέγει, the law indicates.363 BAGD, Moulton-Milligan et al. and Grimm-Thayer provide instances of the verb in the sense of it is permitted (sometimes with the perfect stative sense, there exists permission) in the papyri, Josephus, and other first-century sources.’, Thiselton, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A commentary on the Greek text’, p. 1151 (2000).

[3] ‘In particular, Paul felt quite comfortable in employing Scripture texts from the Old Testament to prescribe and interpret aspects of assembly activities. In 1 Cor 5:4 the church is assembled to censure a sinful fellow believer. The expulsion of wayward believers is authorized on the basis of a frequently found command (“Expel the wicked man from among you”) from Deuteronomy (e.g., 17:7; 19:19; 22:21, 24; 24:7). First Corinthians 11 provides a singular example of the use of Genesis material from the Creation and Fall Narratives to insure propriety regarding liturgical head coverings in the worship assembly of believers. More to the setting and context of 1 Cor 14, Paul refers to the Law (though the quotation is principally from the Prophets) to interpret the phenomenon of tongue speaking in a worship service in the Roman colony of Corinth.’, Oster, ‘1 Corinthians’, The College Press NIV Commentary (1995).

[4] ‘The apostle’s reference to “the Law” (ὁ νόμος, ho nomos) is not as enigmatic as many scholars have suggested. This type of use of the Old Testament is generally in line with Paul’s technique at other places in 1 Corinthians.’, Oster, ‘1 Corinthians’, The College Press NIV Commentary (1995).

[5] ‘The same apostle Paul who so naturally curbed unacceptable male and female head coverings practices during prophecy and prayer on the basis of principles from Genesis and challenged aberrant tongue speakers at Corinth with a theme from Isaiah, could with equal facility curb aberrant women’s speech with a theme from Genesis.’, ibid.

[6] ‘Fourth, “as the law says” does not refer to secular law restricting women’s actions in the public arena but to the OT law.34 Paul’s presumed impatience with the law is exaggerated. He appeals to it in the context in 14:21 and also in 7:19 and 9:8–10 (cf. Rom. 3:19; 7:7). The problem is that he does not cite a text from the law, and no OT passage instructs women to be silent. Perhaps he refers to a general assumption that the law calls for the wife’s submission to her husband.’, Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 672 (2003).

[7] Orr & Walter, ‘1 Corinthians’, The Anchor Bible (1976); Robertson, et al, ‘A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the First Epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians. 2nd ed.’, The International Critical Commentary (1971 ed.); McArthur (complementarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, MacArthur New Testament Commentary (1984); Ellingworth & Hatton, ‘A Handbook on Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians’ (2nd ed., 1994); Morris, ‘The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians’, The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (2nd ed., 1985); Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (2003); Beale & Carson, ‘Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament’ (2007); Oster (complementarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, College Press NIV Commentary (1995); Hodge, ‘An Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians’ (1980 ed.); Bruce (egalitarian), ‘1 and 2 Corinthians’, New Century Bible Commentary (1971); Kistemaker, ‘Exposition of the First Epistle to the Corinthians’, New Testament Commentary (1986).

[8] Fee, ‘The First Epistle to the Corinthians’, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (2nd ed., 1987).

Does ‘kephalē’ mean ‘source?

The Claim

Egalitarians sometimes claim that the Greek word kephalē, commonly translated ‘head’, should be translated ‘source’ in New Testament passages concerning the relationship between men and women.

The Facts

Although the meaning of the word kephalē has been debated extensively among evangelical commentators for years, among professional lexicographers there is no debate. Standard professional lexicons do not include the meaning ‘source, origin’ for kephalē as understood by egalitarians, nor do recognized authoritative lexicographers debate whether the word means ‘source, origin’ or ‘chief, ruler’.

Despite years of egalitarian arguments and claims of new evidence, none of the standard lexicons has accepted the egalitarian definition of the word kephalē.[1] [2] Standard professional lexicons specifically identify kephalē as having meanings such as ‘first, superior rank, pre-eminent status, leader, master, head’ in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Standard Lexicography

Standard professional lexicons define kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3 as a reference to pre-eminent status or authority.[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8][9]

No Dispute

From the evidence provided, readers will see for themselves that there is no genuine lexical controversy over the definition of this word. All the standard lexicons agree. The following quotation from a conservative complementarian scholar describes the current verifiable lexical consensus.

Is there any dispute in the lexicons about the meaning of κεφαλή ?  Where does this leave us with regard to the dispute over kephalē in the ancient world? Up to this time, Liddell-Scott was the only Greek-English lexicon that even mentioned the possibility of the meaning “source” for kephalē. 87 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [10] below]

All the other standard Greek-English lexicons for the NT gave meanings such as “leader, ruler, person in authority” and made no mention of the meaning “source.” 88 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [11] below]

But now the editor of the only lexicon that mentioned the meaning “source” in any connection says that κεφαλή “does seem frequently to denote leader or chief … and here it seems perverse to deny authority” and, “The supposed sense ‘source’ of course does not exist.”

These recent developments therefore seem to indicate that there is no “battle of the lexicons” over the meaning of κεφαλή but that the authors and editors of all the English lexicons for ancient Greek now agree (1) that the meaning “leader, chief, person in authority” clearly exists for κεφαλή, and (2) that the meaning “source” simply does not exist.’[12]

Egalitarian Agreement

Perriman notes the lack of evidence for the definition ‘source’.[13] Liefeld dismisses the definition ‘source’, supporting Grudem’s analysis. [14] [15] Tucker disputes claims for the definition ‘source’.[16]

Osiek explains that the ‘headship’ metaphor to express leadership was well established in Hebrew and Greek before Paul,[17] considering critics of the revisionist interpretation of kephalē have made a convincing case.[18]

[1] An entry in the 1968 edition of LSJ9 has been cited by egalitarians as evidence for their understanding of kephalē, but the editor of the lexicon has explained that this was not the intended meaning of the entry (which has been misinterpreted), that the entry was badly worded, and that the meaning ‘source’ for kephalē as asserted by egalitarians does not exist.

[2] Though a number of the standard professional lexicons have been updated recently with additional lexicographical information derived from additional lexical studies or the discovery of new sources; BDAG, Louw/Nida, LSJ9, and Swanson, for example.

[3] ‘of persons, designating first or superior rank head (1C 11.3);’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller ‘Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, volume 4, p. 229 (2000).

[4]in the case of living beings, to denote superior rank (cp. Artem. 4, 24 p. 218, 8 ἡ κ. is the symbol of the father; Judg 11:11; 2 Km 22:44) head (Zosimus of Ashkelon [500 A.D.] hails Demosth. as his master: ὦ θεία κεφαλή [Biogr. p. 297]) of the father as head of the family Hs 7, 3; of the husband in relation to his wife 1 Cor 11:3b; Eph 5:23a.’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer, ‘A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature’, page 541 (3rd ed., 2000).

[5]The meaning of κεφαλή as leader, chief, master, which is attested for the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents (see also KQT 197f.) and mediated through Hellenistic Judaism (LXX, Philo, T. 12 Patr.), allows Paul in 1 Cor 11:3 to combine the sociological fact of ancient patriarchalism (Theissen 107f.) with the theological idea of origin and rule.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testamen’, volume 1, p. 285 (1990-c1993).

[6] ‘87.51 κεφαλή, ῆς : (a figurative extension of meaning of κεφαλήa ‘head,’ 8.10) one who is of supreme or pre-eminent status, in view of authority to order or command—‘one who is the head of, one who is superior to, one who is supreme over.’ ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός ‘who is the head, (even) Christ’ Eph 4.15; παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός ‘Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ1 Cor 11.3.’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 738 (2nd ed. 1989).

[7] ‘… 2. LN 87.51 superior, one of pre-eminent status, figurative extension of first entry (1Co 11:3;’, Swanson, ‘Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains:  Greek (New Testament)’, DBLG 81, #5 (2nd ed. 2001).

[8] ‘2. In 1 C. 11:3, in relation to the question of the veiling of women in divine service, Paul says: θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι, ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. From 11:7: ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων• ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἄνδρός ἐστιν, we learn that to the direct subjection of the man to Christ corresponds the fact that the man is εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ, and to the position of man as κεφαλή of the γυνή corresponds the fact that she is the δόξα ἀνδρός.’,  Kittel, Bromiley, & Friedrich, ‘Theological dictionary of the New Testament’, volume 3, p. 679 (1964-c1976).

[9] ‘(II) Metaphorically of persons, i.e., the head, chief, one to whom others are subordinate, e.g., the husband in relation to his wife (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23) insofar as they are one body (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:8), and one body can have only one head to direct it;’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’, G2776 (electronic ed., 2000).

[10] ’87. Professor Al Wolters has pointed out to me in private correspondence (Dec. 7, 1997), however, that the recognition that Herodotus 4:91 speaks of the “sources” of the Tearus River with the plural of κεφαλή is rather standard in Greek lexicons in other languages than English. I agree that κεφαλή is applied to the sources of the river in the Herodotus passage, but I would also agree with the analyses of Glare and Chadwick that this is simply an application of the word to the geographical end-points of a river, and fits the common sense “extremity, end-point” for κεφαλή, and should not be counted as an example of a new meaning, “source.” (Wolters himself thinks the Herodotus reference is a result of semantic borrowing from Persian, and so has a rather un-Greek character. This is certainly possible, and would not be inconsistent with my understanding of κεφαλή.)’, Grudem, ‘The Meaning Of κεφαλή (“Head”): An Evaluation Of New Evidence, Real And Alleged’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, p. 61 (44.1.2001).

[11] ’88. See BAGD 430; Louw-Nida, 1:739 ; also the older lexicons by Thayer, 345, and Craemer, 354; also TDNT 3:363–372; as well as the sixth German edition of Walter Bauer, Griechisch-deutsches Wšrterbuch (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1988) 874-875; and most recently A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (ed. J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996) 254; similarly, for the patristic period see Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon 749, as cited above’, ibid., p. 61.

[12] Ibid., p. 61.

[13] ‘Perriman (1994: 612–14) notes that this connotation does not occur in the LXX, and the evidence adduced from extrabiblical sources is ambiguous and unpersuasive. Perriman (1994: 621) points out that nowhere “do we find anything like the idea of material origin that ‘source’ must imply in this context (woman created out of the body of man).”’, Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 515 (2003).

[14] ‘The meaning “source,” adduced by Bedale as a clue to some of Paul’s passages, lacks clear evidence.’, Liefeld (egalitarian), ‘Women, Submission, and Ministry in 1 Corinthians’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, authority & the Bible’, p. 139 (1986).

[15] ’In my judgment, however, it is no longer possible, given Grudem’s research, to dismiss the idea of “rulership” from the discussion.’, ibid., p. 139.

[16] ‘In conclusion, it is my impression that whatever the word kephale meant to the apostle Paul as he wrote 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5, it was generally interpreted by the church fathers and by Calvin to mean authority, superior rank, or pre-eminence. These findings bring into question some of the Mickelsens’ assumptions — particularly that the “superior rank” meaning of kephale is not “one of the ordinary Greek meanings” but rather a “meaning associated with the English word head.”’, Tucker (egalitarian), ‘What does kephale mean in the New Testament: A Response’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, authority & the Bible’, p. 117 (1986).

[17] ‘Does the Bible teach male headship? I would certainly say it presumes male headship. References to individuals as “head” (rosh, Hebrew, or kephale, Greek) are quite common in biblical and other ancient sources, and of the numerous examples, they are nearly always male: a military commander, a chief of a clan, a ruler, or the leader of a group of people. This metaphorical use of the word for “head” tells us that the people of ancient biblical times considered the anatomical head as the guiding agent of the body.’, Osiek, ‘Did Early Christians Teach, or Merely Assume, Male Headship?’, in Van Leeuwen (ed.), ‘Is Equal Regard in the Bible?‘, p. 23 (2004).

[18] ‘More recently, the argument has been put forth that kephale (head) can ,mean “source” rather than “leader,” particularly in the case of 1 Corinthians 11:3, where Paul says that the head of the man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. There is some good evidence for interpreting kephale as “source” here, but I think that the critics are correct that most of the evidence does not support that interpretation as a general meaning.’, ibid., p. 24.