This post concludes a three-part series on women, society and the Church based on New Testament letters.

Today’s entry continues with additional perspectives from Dr Philip B Payne of the Evangelical Free Church who is a New Testament specialist and seminary professor. Yesterday’s post examined hair and headcoverings.

Dr Payne has more insights into St Paul’s epistles and the controversies about how some Christians view women in relation to their husbands and whether they should be ordained. Emphases mine below.

Romans 5 and ‘federal headship’

From one of his blog posts featuring a Q & A, Payne warns:

beware of extrapolations that are not clearly taught in Romans 5. “Adam’s federal headship” is not a biblical expression. Neither “federal” nor “headship” are words that occur in the Bible. Although you wrote about “the discussion on headship in this context,” in fact, Romans 5 mentions nothing about the authority of Adam or of husbands, nor does it mention  “head,” or “headship.” It is about the universal implications (especially death) of Adam’s sin and the universal implications of Christ’s sacrificial death that satisfies the penalty for the sins of all and offers life to all who will accept Him. It is inappropriate to draw conclusions regarding a hierarchy of authority in marriage from a passage that is not about a hierarchy of authority or about marriage. This passage stresses the universality of the consequences of Adam’s sin for all people, women as well as men. It says nothing about the authority of men over women, whether in society, the church, or the home.

And in the comments writes:

In the case of the Trinity, there is a wealth of statements in the Bible that require or point to the idea that Christ is God and that the Spirit is God. In the case of “headship” there are only a few passages that use “head” in a way that, in English, imply headship, namely leadership. Man and Woman, One in Christ, pages 119-123, however, lays out a wealth of data demonstrating that this usage was not common to Greek. Pages 123-137 demonstrates that “source” is a well established meaning of “head” in Greek …

What I do not find in Gen 1-2 … is anything about “headship,” which in English refers to an authority structure in which the “head” has the authority to command obedience form the other person. Instead, I read of both man and woman together being made “in the image of God” and together “having dominion” over the other creatures. In Eph 5:23 Paul uses apposition to define “Christ head of the church” as “he savior of the body” …

In 1 Cor 7, Paul’s longest passage about marriage, he specifies exactly the same conditions, opportunities, rights, and obligations for the woman as for the man regarding twelve distinct issues about marriage (vv. 2, 3, 4, 5, 10–11, 12–13, 14, 15, 16, 28, 32 and 34a, and 33 and 34b). In each he addresses men and women as equals. His wording is symmetrically balanced to reinforce this equality. The strikingly egalitarian understanding of the dynamics of marital relations expressed in Paul’s symmetry throughout this passage is without parallel in the literature of the ancient world. It is all the more impressive because it is focused on the marriage relationship, a relationship that traditionalists regard as intrinsically hierarchical based on the “created order.” Against a cultural backdrop where men were viewed as possessing their wives, Paul states in 7:2, “let each woman have her own husband.” Against a cultural backdrop where women were viewed as owing sexual duty to their husbands, Paul states in 7:3, “Let the husband fulfill his marital duty to his wife.” It is hard to imagine how revolutionary it was for Paul to write in 7:4, “the husband does not have authority over his own body, but his wife does.” Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, page 131 writes, “Paul offers a paradigm-shattering vision of marriage as a relationship in which the partners are bonded together in submission to one another, each committed to meet the other’s needs” …

Gen 3 teaches the mutual responsibility of the woman (later named Eve after the fall) and the man for the fall. It teaches nothing about the “headship” of the man. It is especially precarious to speak of “Adam” as responsible to the exclusion of “Eve” since Eve was not named until after the fall and since the Hebrew word “adam” is applied in Gen 1 to both the man and the woman together. Paul, too, identifies the first woman falling into transgression (1 Tim 2:14). Eph 5 teaches mutual submission. In fact, the word “submit” does not even occur in Eph 5:22, but is dependent on “submitting to one another” in Eph 5:21. It is, therefore, misleading to speak of “headship” in either case as exclusively male. Both transgressed causing the fall, both are given dominion, and both are to submit to one another.

Women prophesying in public and in church

From this Q & A post on 1 Corinthians 14:34-38, Payne reminds us of Philip’s daughters in Acts who prophesied publicly:

Although it is not explicitly stated, several pieces of evidence suggest that the meeting place for both of these cases where Paul sought out the church in Caesarea was in Philip’s house.

Acts 18:22 states, “When he [Paul] had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church, and then went down to Antioch.” In this instance, “the church” identified Paul’s audience, namely the believers in Caesarea who gathered to be with Paul at that time. Nothing in the context indicates that “the church” was a location. One cannot “greet” a location. One only “greets” people.

Acts 21:8-14 RSV states:

On the morrow we departed and came to Caesarea; and we entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. And he had four unmarried daughters, who prophesied. While we were stayiing for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle and bound his own feet and hands, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this girdle and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there begged him not to go up to Jerusalem… And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “The will of the Lord be done.”

There is no indication in Acts 21:8-14 of a change in location from “the house of Philip the evangelist.” In particular, the reference to “a prophet Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us he took Paul’s girdle…” specifies “coming to us.” This constitutes evidence that Philip’s house is probably where Agabus came. “We [Paul and his companion(s), including Luke] and the people there” confirms that this location, presumably Philip’s house, was large enough to accommodate them all. Philip’s house was thus probably the location to which a traveler coming all the way from Judea went to find Paul, where a church meeting including Agabus’s prophecy and exhortation took place. The reference to Philip’s four daughters who prophesied coming right after “we entered the house of Philip the evangelist” shows that the house would have to be big enough for them all to live there. Since Agabus apparently prophesied in that house, it would be odd if Philip’s own daughters never prophesied there.

Since this was the place where Paul and his companion(s) went to greet the church in Caesarea and since it also were Agabus went to find Paul, it was, most likely, the regular meeting place of the church in Caesarea. Since both Acts 18 and 21 describe Paul going somewhere in Caesarea to meet believers, and since Acts 21 specifies the location as Philip’s house, it is more likely that Paul’s earlier visit to the church in Caesarea in Acts 18 was to Philip’s house than anywhere else.

At the very least, it would be precarious to assume that Philip’s house was not the meeting place where Paul greeted the church at Caesarea in Acts 18:22. Consequently, one should not assume a difference in location between “church” (Acts 18:22) and “house” (Acts 21:8). Both passages deal with a public meeting of the church in Caesarea

You ask whether the audience of prophesy may be only a handful. Theoretically, yes. Is such a small group what Paul has in mind in 1 Cor 11? He probably has in mind a typical church gathering in Corinth. We don’t know how big those were typically. Rom 16:1 refers to “the chuch of Cenchrea [the port of Corinth].” This shows that there were localized “churches” in Corinth. The churches in Corinth probably had recognized meeting places or homes where they would gather for worship, but they may have had worship in a variety of places. Could any of these have included worship of just a handful of people? There is no reason it could not. Is it likely that Paul had such a small group in mind when writing 1 Cor 11:2-16? Probably not.

Women and ordination

In a Q & A post comparing the pronouns in 1 Timothy 3 (addressing the question of who should be ordained) and 1 Timothy 5 on the role of widows, Payne explains:

I have to deal with the fact that the standard Greek texts of 1 Timothy 3:1–13 have no masculine pronouns because most  translations insert them into the text, and English readers incorrectly assume that there are corresponding masculine pronouns in the underlying Greek text, when there are not.

Furthermore, there is no dispute that 1 Tim 5:3-16 is dealing specifically with women. Widows are repeatedly identified as the subject (5:3, 4, 5, 9, 16). 5:3 has a feminine article. 5:5 has a feminine participle, which, like the following feminine participles, identifies the subject as female. 5:6 has a feminine article and two feminine participles. 5:9 has a feminine participle that makes it unambiguous that “one-man woman” (ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή) specifically describes a woman. 5:10 has a feminine participle. The comparative adjective in 5:11 is feminine. 5:12 has a feminine participle. 5:13 has two feminine participles. 5:14 has a pronominal adjective identifying the subject to be younger women. 5:16 has a feminine pronoun and is part of this section on widows, so it is not correct to say that there are no feminine pronouns in this passage discussing the role of widows. 5:16 also has a feminine article with “widows.” Each of these factors and the standard use of χήρα to identify female widows [“χήρα, -ας, ἡ fem. of χῆρος = bereft (of one’s spouse)” BAG 889] make it clear that Paul is not talking about men who have lost their wives as widows

The subject of 1 Tim 5:9 is the feminine χήρα, which, apparently without exception in Greek literature refers only to women. Furthermore, 5:9 has a feminine participle that makes it unambiguous that the one-man woman specifically describes a woman. There is no corresponding element in the context of 1 Tim 3:2 that makes it unambiguous that “one-woman man” (μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα) specifically describes a man.  1 Tim 3:1 specifically states that “whoever [τις, the same word used of widows in 1 Tim 5:4] desires the office of overseer desires a good work.” Paul clearly intends this to encourage people to desire this good work. Is it likely Paul would identify the subject as “whoever” and encourage them to desire this good work if for women it was forbidden fruit?

Two of the most prominent complementarians acknowledge this phrase does not clearly exclude women. Douglas Moo acknowledges that this phrase need not exclude “unmarried men or females from the office … it would be going too far to argue that the phrase clearly excludes women….” Douglas J. Moo, “The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11–15: A Rejoinder,” TJ 2 NS (1981): 198–222, 211. Thomas Schreiner acknowledges, “The requirements for elders in 1 Tim 3:1–7 and Titus 1:6–9, including the statement that they are to be one-woman men, does not necessarily in and of itself preclude women from serving as elders….” Thomas R. Schreiner’s “Philip Payne on Familiar Ground: A Review of Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters.” JBMW (Spring 2010): 33–46, 35.

The closest English equivalent to “one-woman man” is “monogamous,” and it applies to both men and women. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines monogamy on p. 920, “1. the practice or state of being married to only one person at a time 2. [Rare] the practice of marrying only once during life 3. Zool. the practice of having only one mate—monogamist n. —monogamous… adj.”

In any event, there is a general consensus that 1 Tim 3:2 is an exclusionary phrase. It excludes from the office of overseer those who are not monogamous (and probably those who are not living in sexual fidelity). It is generally agreed that it is not a requirement that all overseers must be married. Otherwise Paul and Christ could not be overseers, and Christ is the only person named in the NT as an overseer (ἐπίσκοπος). Indeed, if being a “one-woman man” is a requirement rather than an exclusion, virtually the entire Catholic priesthood would be excluded. If this were an exclusion, even if it were to be proven to be exclusively male in reference, it would not exclude women from being overseers. It would simply exclude men who are not “one-women men” from being overseers.

Matt — my reader who posed this question a few weeks ago — I hope this goes some way towards answering your question. It certainly presents another angle from a linguistics perspective.

It would have been good if these arguments — not necessarily from Payne, Moo or Schreiner themselves — had come out around 25 or 30 years ago when women’s ordination was a hot topic. Most people — myself included — have a difficult time with it, because until the late 20th century, only sects had women preachers. Established churches all over the world — many of them to the present day — ordained men only. Until this issue is clarified once and for all citing Scripture in a learned way, many faithful will be suspicious of women’s ordination and their rise through the ranks to the episcopacy.  This subject also divides clergy, and it is not just a matter for English-speaking countries.

Something more for readers to discuss over Christmas dinner!

End of series