Re: 1 Timothy 2:12

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Oct 19 1999 - 08:27:41 EDT

I'm not really going to try to have much more input on this matter, chiefly
because I've already stated as clearly as I can my own views about how the
text ought to be construed. But I'd like to make an observation and
personal comment to which I would welcome any personal (off-list) response
but which I do not think it appropriate to discuss on the list itself.

My observation is that the text of the Bible turns out, sooner or later, to
be an embarrassment for most of us (I won't say all, but I have seen this
happen to persons of conservative as well as to persons of liberal
theological tendencies). By "an embarrassment" I mean that we encounter,
sooner or later, a passage that says something that strikes as wrong or
shocking or inconsistent with what we think "the real teaching" of the
Bible about one or another topic is. Such passages tend to confound or even
shatter our fragile theoretical hermeneutical assumptions. I think the
passage in John 20 involving the text LABETE PNEUMA hAGION was such a
passage for some who find what the passage seems to be saying inconsistent
with chapter 2 of Acts. Romans 16:7 with its commendation of Junia as
"distinguished among the apostles" is such a passage for some others. For
me this chapter of 1 Timothy is such a passage, and I confess that I find
it difficult to square the passage we've been discussing in this thread
with Galatians 3:28 and with my own reading of Genesis 1-3. I frankly don't
see how anyone who thinks the Bible teaches gender-egalitarianism can be
comfortable with chapter 2 of 1 Timothy. I've confessed my own discomfort
in previous posts on this thread.

What disturbs me more than the passage itself, however, is what seems to me
to be a temptation that I imagine we all feel when confronting such a
passage: "It can't mean what it seems to say, so it must mean something
different." If it's not this passage then it may be some other: after
looking for a simple solution such as an overlooked variant in the
manuscript solution, we consider more desperate alternatives such as the
possibility of interpolation of the passage into a context where it doesn't
belong, or we seek to reinterpret the grammar and vocabulary to mean
something other than what they pretty clearly seem to indicate.

And yet, as I wrote just a few weeks ago, "Nevertheless, however much
interpretation may depend upon what the reader brings with him/her to the
Greek text being interpreted, the process of interpretation can hardly be
arbitrary. While we may all be inclined to favor one legitimate alternative
way of understanding a text over another legitimate alternative on the
basis of our personal belief, I think (I certainly HOPE) that we all want,
so far as we are able, to avoid EIS-egesis: we want to read a meaning that
we honestly think is there in the text for us to see, not to force upon the
text a meaning that we think would be convenient to find there. So, yes:
our theological assumptions do
have a bearing on how we look at the alternative meanings that grammatical
analysis discloses to us--and occasionally they may even incline us to
construe the syntax in a way that seems suspect to others, but I really
don't believe any of us honestly wants to be deluded about what the text
really means."

I think we're facing the danger and temptation here of wanting to force
upon the text an interpretation that won't fit. I'm not making any
accusations here, although it must appear that I am. I don't question the
sincerity of the effort to construe the syntax of 1 Timothy 2:12 so as to
imply gender-egalitarianism, but I question the wisdom of it.

I frankly don't think it has ever been adequately established that
AUQENTEIN ANDROS can mean "be independent from a husband." I have been
interested to read the items contributed by Maurice O'Sullivan, John
Barach, and Charles Powell on this matter, but I must say that the view
I've expressed above has only been strengthened by what they've reported of
the literature on the question.

Finally, however paradoxical it may seem, I have to say that I am still
personally convinced that the Bible DOES teach gender-egalitarianism, but I
simply don't think we can force such an interpretation on 1 Timothy 2. This
is certainly NOT the appropriate forum to discuss that larger issue, but if
there is more to be said about the grammar and diction of this verse that
is not repetitive of what has already been said, let it be said. I shall
hunt for examples of AUQENTEW with a genitive; the instances cited in LSJ
are not in the Perseus text database (that's almost exclusively Homeric and
classical Attic literary texts); I'll check TLG texts.

Enough already.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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