b-greek-digest V1 #27

b-greek-digest            Sunday, 3 December 1995      Volume 01 : Number 027

In this issue:

        Re: Women elders and apostles (long) 


From: Will Wagers <wagers@computek.net>
Date: Sat, 2 Dec 1995 23:17:42 -0600
Subject: Re: Women elders and apostles (long) 

I apologize to the bandwidth impaired for the length of this posting;
however, these gentlemen are difficult to critique without quoting them
substantially. Also, it would be tough to make my points without writing a
full paper, if not a book. Because the intellectual backgrounds of the
gentlemen are so interwoven with theology, disavowing them of certain
notions would be a long (and fruitless) task. I am not a Greek scholar, but

Jim McGuire writes:

> Regarding the discussion of whether women can be elders, I think it
>important to consider 1 Timothy 2:11ff.
- -snip-
>Paul said that a woman should not teach a
>man because Adam was created first, then Eve.  In other words, it stems to
>the very foundation of creation itself.  This transcends culture and history
>and lands on the foundation of how God created man and woman.  In Genesis,
>man was created first and then woman as a helper.

Quite right. In the ancient Greek (and other) scheme of things, being
created second and from man, woman is second in priority, purity, etc. She
is, in effect, man's demiurge - the one who gets her "hands" dirty by
physical creation. We see this same relation in most ancient Near Eastern
philosophy in both gods and semi-divines (human prototypes).

>If we let the text of Scripture speak here, we will have to admit that
>Paul's reasons given there for women not teaching or exercising authority
>over men is not cultural. -snip- But Paul's reason transcends all this and
>on creation, the foundation.

"Paul's" reasons don't transcend anything - neither Hebraic nor
Hellenistic, nor any other Near Eastern culture. He uses an ancient logic
with which any male or female would have been familiar and understood from
various ancient myths (many of which go back to creation), not to mention
common social practice. In this, he is very much a child of his times. His
point of view is easily demonstrated as common to his culture.

>In any interpretation of Scripture, one should always bear in mind the
>historical record.  One must ask the question why church history for 1900
>years has interpreted this different from some of the more modern
>interpretations.  Have we all of a sudden discovered something that has been
>missing for centuries from any records except a few stray cultish brands?  I
>do not believe this subject is that hard to understand biblically.

Mr. McGuire's case would be much stronger without this paragraph. This is
not what is commonly meant by bearing "in mind the historical record".  It
is precisely the historical record which is excluded from this discussion,
i.e. the history of the ancient Near East. So, Mr. McGuire is correct,
although not exactly for the right reasons - theology, as usual, limits and
colors his reasoning (and, he is doubtless proud of it).

At this time, I expected a delicious display of implacable, scholarly
outrage from Carl W. Conrad, but (unaccountably) he makes exception to his
normal righteous indignation to the theologizing of threads writing:

>I am violating my own principle here--that we should be discussing the
>Greek text and not arguing theological positions, but frankly, I think this
>is a point on which our theological positions have a profound bearing on
>what we are ready to see in the NT texts presented to us.

Exactly. I think this admission illustrates that we are *always* arguing
our theological positions, though some and sometimes more subtly than
others. We should bear this ever in mind, even when not so forthrightly
stated. In any case, the floodgates are open.

>(1a) I think that the Genesis creation narrative is being misapplied in 1
>Tim 2, is being applied to a matter on which it has no bearing. In my
>judgment the key element in the Genesis 2 account of the creation of the
>man and the woman is to be found in Genesis 2:23 where "the man" recognizes
>that "the woman" is a true and valid mate to himself. The point is not that
>woman is secondary to "man" but rather that man and woman are fundamentally
>and essentially one in nature. (If there should be any question about this
>being the REAL point of this narrative of the "how" of woman's creation,
>then it should be resolved, in my judgment, in consideration of the key
>text from the earlier creation narrative, Genesis 1:27 (TEV): "So God
>created human beings, making them like himself. He created them male and
>female, blessed them ..." So I can see no basis in the Creation stories for
>any assertion of the secondary nature or status of females to males.

Thus, Mr. Conrad proves himself correct - "our theological positions have a
profound bearing on what we are ready to see in the NT texts presented to
us". Genesis depicts the creation of man and woman in a manner typical of
Near Eastern myth. Man and woman are created together, even as are the gods
created in pairs, because neither exists without the other. It is in this
sense, that they are of one flesh, just as Jesus and God are of one
substance as the Hellenists say. We are dealing with archetypes, prototypes
of human relationships derived from divine relations. Man derives his
superiority merely from having been born first - the most ancient of
priorites. In all things, whether men, gods, forces of nature, etc., the
prior is the more pure, the more divine, the more spiritual, the wiser,
etc. It is so in modern logic, mathematics, and physics. (This is one
reason Jesus had to pre-exist Mary; otherwise, she would be superior to
him.) What is missing from the entire discussion is an understanding of how
the ancients viewed creation and generation.

(please see the postings quoted following Mr. Conrad's.)

>(1b) I think the argument of 1 Timothy 2:14 might as well be taken up at
>GEGONEN. This is no more adequate a justification for not allowing women to
>teach than is the preceding argument; in fact, its foundation is even
>shakier, because it is in clear contradiction to the facts of the narrative
>in Genesis 3.

Viewed in the way the ancients viewed it, there is no contradiction, but,
rather, a confirmation of all their traditions.

> If Adam was "not deceived," and if it is the woman who "was
>deceived and was in transgression," then why is the punishment in Genesis
>3:14-19 laid upon all parties involved, serpent, woman and man? The man is
>not a whit less guilty than is the woman.

There is no contradiction. Being of one flesh, man-and-woman could no more
be assigned separate fates than could light-and-dark or any other duality.
So, Adam is sentenced for Eve's transgression: the serpent is sentenced for
its instigation. Also, the Anthropic Principle comes into play here: Had
they not been cast out, we wouldn't be here arguing about it.

>(2a) As an adherent of reformed theology, I hold that scripture interprets
>scripture, meaning that it is the whole of canonical scripture, and not the
>part, that is authoritative.

Aha, the real culprit in all of this- the rule of faith. How else could so
many divergent interpretations be maintained? Under the rule of faith,
justifying scripture by scripture, all external factors - e.g. ancient
culture, history, philosophy, science, theology - tend to be excluded from
the discussion: it becomes theological. Having slipped the anchors of
scholarship and the realities of ancient thought, the seas become choppy,

>(2b) So far as the status of men and women in the church (and, by
>implication, in the way women and men should relate to each other
>institutionally and socially in general), I believe that Paul has stated
>the nature of redeemed humanity in fully egaliarian terms in full
>accordance, so far as I can see, with the teaching and practice of Jesus,
>in Galatians 3 ...
- -snip-

Uh, yes and no. The egalitarian aspect is manifest in two ways: 1) man and
woman were created together, so they must be saved together because of the
impossibility of separating them - they exist as a sexual duality;  2) it
is from Jesus that all forms were taken, and it is to him that all forms
must (can) return: As the Demiurge (John 1), Jesus contains the "forms" of
both male and female. This is certainly not the modern, political variety
of egalitarianism.

I hope no one is offended by my statements (or my ignorance). But, frankly,
with such blatant, theological grounds for interpreting scriptures, it
seems to me that the entire enterprise is flawed, regardless of prowess in
ancient languages.



- ------------------------------
I think the following exchange from B-Hebrew@virginia.edu is both relevant
and pertinent here:

>On Mon, 20 Nov 1995 JDANIELS@asc.scottlan.edu wrote:
>The only time "ishshah" (doubling in the Shin apparantly from an
>assimilated Nun) is used prior to 2:24 is in 2:22, where the writer of
>Genesis recounts how God "built the rib which He had taken from the man
>into a woman (L + "ishshah"), and in 2:23, where "ish" calls this formed
>rib "ishshah" (patterning the activity of God in naming appropriately the
>objects of His creation).  I don't think the idea of "wife" in these two
>instances fully brings out the intended emphasis of "woman" as a correlary
>to "man", and that is perhaps why the NRSV, and virtually all English
>translations translate it "woman" in 1:22 and 23.  However, I don't think
>it is inappropriate to understand "ishshah" as wife since the writer of
>Genesis does, as you have pointed out, make the connection, but I don't
>think it is the entire focus of the creation narrative.  The words
>"ishshah" and "ish" are both translated as "woman, wife" or "man, husband"
>depending on the context (c.f. 3:6, where "ish" is usually translated
>"husband" instead of "man" to bring out the relationship highlighted in
>the narrative).
>I appreciate your desire to see such a strong notion of the marriage
>relationship here and I believe 1:24-25 properly understood is some of the
>strongest teaching on marriage.  The "agenda" of the creation account
>includes the marriage relationship, however it is much more broad.  When
>1:24 is introduced (a later perspective on the situation by the writer),
>it makes a needed transition into chapter three (i.e. "husband/wife")
>where we see this relationship deteriorate.
>You might also notice Genesis 5:2 where the writer uses "adam" in a way to
>refer to both of them.
>I don't know if I have helped or confused, but context is one of your best
>clues in determining the meaning of the Hebrew words which often have many
>David Rising

<Will Wagers writes:>

I think etymology is one of your best clues (because context is so easily
distorted to match one's own) combined with a sympathy for the emotive
thought of ancient peoples.

ish comes from an unused root meaning "to be extant". So, it may mean "male
being". It can also be translated "mankind" (Job 12:10). The primary
meaning of ishah is like ish or enoshe, which means "a mortal". So, it
seems to me that ishah means merely the female counterpart of a mortal,
male being. Using Semitic divine, immortal male beings as a guide, their
counterparts are thought of as much more than wives: as literally one flesh
or substance, the other half of a dichotomy without which neither half
exists. In other words, for man(kind) to be born, male and female had to
exist. Conequently, marriage would be the least of the relationship between
them. Besides, if there are only two of you in the whole cosmos - what's
marriage go to do with anything? I can't see marriage being implied where
so many other, deeper things are implied (remember how you felt when you
first met her?). Elsewhere, when the metaphor becomes more mundane, it
*would* refer to marriage, as the highest type of bonding possible for us
regular people.

However, this primal, divine relation of male and female which is the
closest possible - one step removed from being a single force or substance
- - is obviously used as the paradigm and ideal of human marriage. By
interpreting ishah to everywhere mean "wife", the model would be redefined
in purely human terms and, therefore, debased: the case for marriage would
be weakened. In fact, in needing to translate ishah into two words - woman
and wife - the linguistic point is already lost. It would be much better to
translate it as woman in all cases and to *understand*, as the ancients
did, that the proper relationship between man and woman is marriage of the
highest type possible.

I guess this is the real problem which Jack Daniels is trying to address.
He writes:

> Specifically I am trying to determine
> if "ish-ah", prior to 2:24-25, is intended to refer to women in a
> general sense; or wife in a specific sense.  The answer, I think, is
> significant to one's understanding of the Western notion of the
> primacy of the marriage relationship (my agenda!).

I think that having an agenda (and who doesn't) makes it difficult to
"hear" what the ancients are saying. It is much easier and more natural to
let the text "speak" to us than to speak to it. And, most people can't do
both at the same time.

If you see the first man and woman as being just like us, ordinary rotting
flesh, instead of as semi-divine prototypes of us, intermediaries between
us and God, then justifying marriage must be based primarily on more direct
statements made elsewhere. It becomes a matter of rules and discipline.
But, originally, this story illustrated in a beautiful, non-dogmatic,
universal manner - it didn't justify or prove - how we came to be what we
are - images of God.

Hope this was worthwhile (I enjoyed thinking it through),



End of b-greek-digest V1 #27


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