Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Girls Gone Exegetical!

WARNING: this is a bunch of questions, a few thoughts, not so many answers. Just so you know.

So, what do you think of girls who write commentaries?

A friend over on the Greekblog mentioned the commentary by Karen Jobes on 1 Peter, of which I've seen a number of positive reviews.

So, say you read it. Say you pastor Karen Jobes' church, and you teach a Sunday School class on 1 Peter. There she sits, authorette of a complex, in-depth commentary on 1 Peter. How does that work? If someone asks you a question you can't answer, do you ask her about it? Do people start looking to her for answers when the questions are asked?

On her profile page for Wheaton, where she is a professor, Jobes herself says:

Watch out if someone asks you to teach adult Sunday School! I was firmly established in a career in computer science when I realized that I was enjoying preparing for and teaching my adult Sunday School class in Bible more than I was enjoying my job. The decision to leave my career in computer science for seminary and eventually for a doctoral program was not quickly or easily made, but was inevitable once the Lord developed in me a passion for teaching the Word of God to the next generation. I realized that if I did not heed his calling, I would reach old age with the regret of a misspent life.

What does that mean? I don't know. It's very reminiscent of the rationale I heard a female Princeton grad "pastor" give in a seminar at BIOLA: the Holy Spirit gives (pastoral) gifts to women, it would be disobedient not to exercise them.

So, women writing commentaries, theologies -- theological/exegetical books on female subordination... is that Biblically OK? Is there any limit?

What about a man leading a Sunday School class, using a textbook written by a woman?

The topic was just starting to simmer when I was at Talbot. They'd recently allowed women to enter the M.Div. program. This stands for Master of Divinity; it is viewed as more of a professional than an academic degree. At the time, it was seen as a pastoral degree.

At the time, the "positive" argument was that women shouldn't be denied the best in education. Maybe... maybe they wanted to be really good Sunday School teachers! Or leaders of women's groups in church! Or just really smart pastors' wives! Yeah, that's the ticket.

Couldn't possibly be that they simply wanted more students enrolled, and if the women turned around and leveraged these degrees to gain pastorates, oh well!

I remember the thought of a fellow-prof at the time. He said, off the record, "That's a little like handing someone a loaded gun, and saying, 'Now, you mustn't ever shoot this!'"

No doubt that was the motivation of some of the ladies. I had one Hebrew student named Sharon. She was simply a delight. She loved the Lord, loved the Word, loved being a woman — as God defined being a woman.

She headed up a woman's ministry in her large, Baptist church, and had great ideas encouraging women to be godly women, wives, mothers. She was also a great Hebrew student. Did a dandy paper on — what else? — Proverbs 31:10-31.

But I'm certain it wasn't the motivation of all of the ladies. Even then, there were feminist speakers on campus. A professorette spoke in chapel (!), gave a very nuanced, codespeak talk about women's ministries. I wrote an open letter of response that caused some flak.

The casuist, chip-on-the-shoulder way of dealing with this culturally-unpopular truth is to ask hard questions like some of mine, and then say, "See? Women can be pastors."

Sure they can. Just not God-honoring, Biblical, Christian pastors (1 Timothy 2:9-15).

Seems wiser to me to get the big things right, the wrestle with the smaller. Of course women cannot be Christian pastors; most men can't, either.

But the questions that start this essay? Not so easy, to me.


4given said...

When I first started blogging I took on this topic... women pastors. Shew... was I ever an idiot. I had no idea people were so "passionate"... you know, to the point of cussing me out and calling me, a women, names like chauvinist. (Hey, come to think of it... you respectfully let me know that I spelled chauvinist wrong. :-/ I did have a very educating blogging conversation on my site with a female pastor overseas for a time.

candy said...

I can understand women not teaching men in a Bible study, but do you think it is wrong to use a commentary written by a woman? The woman isn't technically teaching, and her book is used as a reference. I'm not saying I agree or don't agree, but it sorta seems like splitting hairs I guess. Wouldn't we then go so far as to feel like men shouldn't read women bloggers who teach with the written word?

Even So... said...

I was at RTS Orlando Friday, and the hermeneutics class was about 25-30% women...these very questions came into my mind...

BTW, P&R publishes a commentary on 1-2 Peter by Carol Ruvolo, so taking both those things and drawing possible conclusions, then maybe, perhaps, they might think that....

In any event, necessary to think about, IMHO...

Kevin Stilley said...

I don't wish to respond to your questions, but I can say that Jobes' commentary appears to be quite good based upon my limited use of it. The book was gifted to me about a year ago and has been a blessing.

Connie said...

My husband and I "salute" you--this is a topic that has been with us since the days when our seminary (I audited classes and worked there while he earned his degree) decided to welcome women into programs that were designed for and intended to train men to be pastors.

As a woman, I do not read commentaries by women primarily because IMHO none have surpassed the depth and insight of countless contemporary men and early church fathers with whom God has blessed us.

I do read "Christian living" books written by solid and reputable Xian women when I want/need the aide of a sister-in-Christ to apply God's Word to my life and/or uniquely female situations/trials. But even then, I'm sifting and guarding against any "female bias" or "reverse" chauvinism.

The problem may not be so much reading a commentary written by a woman, but the problem of how SHE conducts herself in a situation such as you described. She has a choice to support, challenge, or usurp the Biblical leadership of the man teaching. A woman who desires to please God will seek to respond graciously and respectfully to her brother in Christ--not grab the opportunity to promote herself and place herself in the position of authority. Her knowledge, education and experience just may be beyond the man teaching, but she still has the responsiblity to respond Biblically.

Many men have been "trained" by our culture (secular and sacred) to back-off and/or show extraordinary preference in gender-sensitive situations. So, to appear to be very tolerant and gracious, some men might defer or relinquish their role as a teacher in the presence of such an "authoress". Which I believe is not a Biblical response.

I began blogging primarily because I wanted other Xian women to get serious about theology. Not so they could go out and write books or go on the preaching curcuit, but so that they could apply scripture to their daily struggles--to know that God has provided the answer and the way. If a man chooses to read my blog (and I know of several) then I'm delighted if the Lord uses it--sort of like sitting around the dinner table and chatting about the things of God. But my greatest desire is that they might point their wife, sister, and mother my way so we can challenge each other as sisters-in-Christ!

Sorry for the LONG comment--you hit a topic that is near and dear to me, thanks!

Connie said...

Sorry, me again!

Regarding what the female Princeton grad "pastor" said at Biola, "the Holy Spirit gives (pastoral) gifts to women, it would be disobedient not to exercise them."

I agree that it would be disobedient. But Scripture is very clear as to what/where our focus is to be, "...encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored." (Titus 2:4-5)

I've got to tell you, I've been married almost 24 yrs. and I still need theologically solid "encouragement" from my sisters-in-Christ on loving my husband.

I've been a mother for a little over four years and you'd better believe I need theologically sound encouragement on loving my children.

As long as I'm on this earth I'll need theologically sound encouragement in all the other areas, too! Why? "So that the Word of God may not be dishonored."

I'm afraid we Xian women run a great risk of dishonoring the Word of God when we do not seek to be obedient first in the areas we have clearly been commanded to look after.

mikepettengill said...

My wife said I’m not allowed to comment on this blog entry…so I have to hurry…woman should be able to get Masters in Bible…not Masters of Divinity…your point exactly…it is a professional degree intended for a specific job that women shouldn’t hold…women can author any book they want…no problem there…however, there are some book/author combinations that I wouldn’t encourage people to read or read myself…”How to Dunk a Basketball” by Garry Coleman, “Married and Lovin’ It” by Bill Clinton, “Better Living Through Natural Choices” by Barry get the point…oh gotta run…Yes Dear…

Tom Gee said...

I'm hesitant to post quick thoughts on such a touchy subject, but here is what has been rattling around in my brain (your mileage may vary).

First, 1 Tim. 2:12-14 seems to say that women are not to teach because, in part, "Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor." So Eve's ability to be deceived is one of the reasons women shouldn't teach men, the implication being that women are more inclined to be deceived about doctrinal matters. (Is that a reasonable understanding of the principle?) So certainly that is a significant caution against women writing commentaries.

Second, if we would not accept a woman teaching a seminary class to pastors on 1-2 Peter, why is a written "seminar" any different than a spoken one? After all, a commentary is essentially an entire course on the books to which it applies. Spoken or written, I don't see the distinction.

Women have written many wonderful and helpful books, particularly in the area of Christian living. But when it comes to authoritative exegesis of the Word, I think that should be the domain of men.

(Minor postscript: I really don't like the title of this post, Dan.)

DJP said... you think...M

You did read the first paragraph, right?

EvenSo— Yep, I agree: that's what I'm saying.

Tom—gosh, it's hard to say that today... but what is Paul saying, otherwise? What is his rationale? If a woman is as reliable and authoritative an exegete as a qualified man, then why can't she be a pastor? That's what I'm wondering. If writing a commentary isn't teaching, then what is it? If it be responded, "Well, she isn't in a class, teaching men. Folks can put the book down or reject it," can't it be responded, "Then why doesn't she preface the boo, FOR WOMEN ONLY? Can't folks walk out of an instructive class in church? Yet that doesn't make it okay for women to teach."

Or is the whole answer that reading a book isn't like putting yourself under a teacher in church? Is the church-setting the whole deal—books are okay, because it isn't "in church"?

Like I said at the outset, I'm asking, not saying.

LeeC said...

The question is one of spiritual authority.

Do we read this as the works of a person who is an authority on the subject? What subject? The Word of God.

Are there no suitable commentaries by godly men?

Is the Word not sufficient?

If the Holy Spirit wants can He not raise up a godly man with the qualifications of an elder to write a tome saying the same things?

If the Word clearly says not to do something, and then someone does that thing, and we accept them doing it because well the end product "seems good to us" are we not pragmatists?

My wife is far better at many things than I. In fact we would quite likely be "better off" fiscally and at home if we swapped roles and I stayed at home, took care of, and homeschooled the kids while she pursued her previous profitable career.

But God says that is not how He wants things to be. And He is wiser than I, praise His name!

There are many things that seem to be natural things do do, or accept, but we are no longer natural men and women, and God often calls us to do things that are inherantly unnatural to us, and sometimes even seeming foolish.
Israel was asked to do some downright silly seeming things to be a peculiar people set apart, and yet we wrestle with why God says what He says about women in spiritual authority. Perhaps that he commands it is enough.

But His commandments are never foolish. Who sits in judgement of whom?

And do we read the commentary as having been written by one in authority?

So thats my ramble on women who write general commentaries.

As for "women writing commentaries, theologies -- theological/exegetical books on female subordination... is that Biblically OK?"

I would say yes absolutely. To me this is merely an extension of the Titus 2 commands in writing.

candy said...

Oops Dan. My bad. I did read the first paragraph but then got caught up with the overall issue.

I think Connie has some good points. Especially about being obedient to what God has called us to first and foremost.

Tomgee I think the issue is not so much that a woman gets deceived because there are plenty of men out there writing who are really really deceived. I think it is more an issue that women have a natural inclination to usurp the authority of a man.

Trinian said...

Watch out if someone asks you to teach adult Sunday School! I was firmly established in a career in computer science when I realized that I was enjoying preparing for and teaching my adult Sunday School class in Bible more than I was enjoying my job.


Tom Gee said...

candy: Oh, most assuredly there are no guarantees against men being deceived. There are endless numbers of men writing doctrinal books who are profoundly deceived!

However, I was referring to one of the two reasons Paul gives Timothy about why women are neither to teach nor have authority over men. (I believe it is reasonable to say that the context here is "in the church." It's not a general statement for outside the church.)

In fact, personally, it doesn't appear to me that women are more deceived, but I will not go against a clear biblical teaching. Personal experience is easily trumped by biblical revelation.

Stefan Ewing said...

Well, I don't have an answer to your question as to what a pastor teaching Sunday School should do in case someone asks a question he can't answer and she can...

...But I have to buck the trend here and say that on principle, I don't really have a problem with the idea of women writing Bible commentaries. If a female author were to bring an extra-Biblical, revisionist interpretation to bear, I would have an issue with that; but I already such issues with all the revisionist interpretations out there by male authors.

By the way, like Trinian was alluding to, Karen Jobes has already been a "bad" influence on me: that bit about leaving the world of computer science to purse teaching the Word of God is not what I needed to read (from a worldly point of view)—may the Lord be blessed for all eternity for his majesty, wisdom, grace, and will, but he just doesn't stop challenging me!

Stefan Ewing said...

D'oh! The last line should of course read:

"May the Lord be blessed for all eternity for his majesty, wisdom, grace, and will, because he just doesn't stop challenging me!

Where would the glory be if God didn't challenge the lost to be saved, nor the saved to be transformed?

Anonymous said...

A couple of questions preceded by this caveat: I am in total agreement with you that the Bible prohibits women from being pastors or holding spiritual authority over a man.

Question one: Can a woman not speak at all to spiritual matters to men, or must the biblically oriented man put his fingers in his ears and sing "lalalala" when a women opines on all things God-related.

Question two: Why are "Christian Living" books exempt. Wouldn't you hope that authors have a biblical understanding of the life issue at hand? If the answer is "you can take it or leave it" how does that differ from a commentary.

I struggle with these questions, too, and I appreciate this discussion.

JackW said...

Who wrote this commentary on 1 Tim 2:14?

"And Adam was not deceived - The serpent deceived Eve: Eve did not deceive Adam, but persuaded him. "Thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife," Gen 3:17. The preceding verse showed why a woman should not "usurp authority over the man." this shows why she ought not "to teach." She is more easily deceived, and more easily deceives."

DJP said...

AprilQuestion one: Can a woman not speak at all to spiritual matters to men, or must the biblically oriented man put his fingers in his ears and sing "lalalala" when a women opines on all things God-related.

No April — just when you speak! Lalalalala....


Well, as I said, I like to start with the irreducibles, and see where we have to go from there. I think the grammatical and contextual irredicible here is that women may not exercise authoritative teaching functions over men in a church context.

But without authority, and/or not in a church context? That's the question at issue.

Poor old Priscilla in her ministry, with her husband, to Apollos, has been tortured until she is an argument for female "pastors," which she clearly isn't. But she is an instance of the permissibility of conversation.

Stefan Ewing said...

John Wesley—an Arminian! ;)

(Sorry, it was too good to pass up, but I'm really not trying to stir the pot here.)

Tom Gee said...

April: Dan will have more thoughtful, biblical and wise answers to those questions than I will (yes, I'm a fanboy :-) ), but I'll give you my "working answers". I am very open to being corrected ... these aren't set in tablets of stone.

Question one: I love have spiritual conversations, doctrinal discussions, with men and women. And any married man who doesn't listen to his wife in spiritual and biblical matters is a fool. The difference, as I see it, is being biblical discussions and public teaching/preaching of the Word.

Question two: Similar to one. The audience for commentaries includes, to a large degree, teachers of the church. Thus writing commentaries is teaching the leadership of the church exegetical material from which they in turn will pass on to the congregation, hence my understanding that this role is restricted to men.

The difference is the nature of commentaries -- authoritative Bible exegesis -- versus writings which explore the broader contours of Christianity. Commentaries state "This is what the word of God means." Other Christian literature says "This is how I live for God, love God, obey God."

See the shift in focus? Admittedly, we are talking a spectrum here, not a sharp divide between commentary and "Christian living" books. I'm only comfortable dealing with the extreme ends ... probably everyone will draw the dividing line slightly differently in the fuzzy middle.

Boy, that's a complicated post. I hope it makes a little bit of sense, though.

Stefan Ewing said...

My comment was in reply to jackw.

DJP said...

TomgeeDan will have more thoughtful, biblical and wise answers to those questions than I will

Oh, boy, did I vaporize THAT expectation!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Dan and Tomgee, for your er wisdom. ;) I really do appreciate that you are wrestling with these issues. Now, if Priscilla had just written a commentary . . .

DJP said...

Well, some says Priscilla wrote Hebrews...

...but that's stupid.

Anonymous said...

Interesting questions, Dan. My son is a Bible Exposition major at TMC, and I have had questions from others about whether or not there are women allowed to pursue the same degrees there. Assume that they are since it's an undergrad program, but certainly not at TMS.

Kim said...

I'd read a commentary written by a woman. I don't think being a woman indicates a lack of facility with theological truths or understanding of the original languages. But then again, I'm a woman.

Would I teach a Sunday School class of men? No; definitely. Would I teach a bible study with men in it? No. Do I assume I'm "teaching" men on my blog? No. I don't presume to teach anyone on my blog other than myself.

I don't have any problem with women learning theology, but my question would be for what purpose. If it's just to enhance her knowledge so that she's an astute servant of God, then I don't have a problem with it. If that's the case, a seminary really isn't required. If it's to have a professional position, like maybe working in a Christian school, then is a graduate degree really necessary?

I think any woman who pursues theological training ought to ensure that it doesn't detract from her God-given roles.

I think it is entirely possible for a man to gain something from a woman's book (how many men out there have read Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth?) but understand completely that in a church setting, she is not to be teaching him.

Miriam said...

What do you think of the argument that the word translated "a man" in 1 Tim 2:12 is genitive singular, thereby implying a relationship between a specific man & woman i.e. a husband?

Is it the woman having spiritual authority over that poor confused Sunday school guy (hey- wasn't his name Apollos or something?) or is it the holy spirit? Also, how much authority did he have in the first place if asking for another point of view challenges it?

While I have to agree that a woman shouldn't be the head of a church body (=in authority OVER), I don't remember being told to test prophets/ teachers/ helpers by the arrangement of their chromosomes, either. Wasn't there something about testing their interpretation by holding it up to the rest of scripture?

Thanks for posting these thoughts & questions- came over by way of pyromaniacs...

DJP said...

Since you ask, paragraph by paragraph:

I think it's a silly and tendentious argument. Paul bases his argument on creation, and the order of creation. Not on marriage.

When a woman teaches or exercises authority over a man, at least in a church context, it certainly is she, in sin, and not the Holy Spirit. I deduce that from the fact that it is the Holy Spirit who moved Paul to forbid it.

If so, then you appear to have forgotten 1 Timothy 2:9-15 at least. A woman may teach and exercise authority over a man in a church context, OR she may walk in believing obedience to the Lord. She may not do both. If she attempts to do so, she instantly disqualifies herself as a teacher, as she is walking in open rebellion against the Lord.

My pleasure, and welcome.

Miriam said...

I think, then, that my question is:

How do you define "teaching"?

To my mind the term would imply someone controlling the course of an education, limiting and directing a discourse of a topic, and correcting or arguing on points as they are made in order to remain in authority over the pupil. Most of these are easier done in person, but I guess you could allow a book to do this.

I appreciate the rejection of a woman excercising authority. But then your real question is, again, about the nature of "teaching" and the intention of an author to exercise authority over an audience.

Second question: Would you give your wife pearls to wear? I am not being sarcastic: if you believe these verses to be literal, then what do you do with the rest of this passage? What is the spirit of this text and how would it apply to your family?

Third: Are the women mentioned in Acts dismissable? I don't know what the party line is there, so I'm seriously asking. Why are they there? Do you think some contemporary women are genuinely gifted by God? If not, where do you think that ability originates?

Thanks! (Of course, only answer what interests you- I don't mean to hijack, I just am really interested in the subject!)

Miriam said...

ps. The "a man"= husband thing is from the K. Arthur precepts study on spiritual gifts I had just happened to flip through the other day.

LeeC said...

Your comment infers that if they do not have the authority to teach over men then they cannot be used by God. Are you saying that if Gods makes some of us as hands, and others as ears, eyes toes ect. Then some are inferior? Is Christ inferior to the Father because He submits to Him?

As for pearls to wear, well our wedding rings are base silver, my wifes choice, but that is preference. There is a vast difference between literal, and literalistic.

Or perhaps I am missing your point.
Do you have a Scriptural reason for not seeing it literally?

Miriam said...

Dismissing, as in not seeing them as an example of teachers.

Biblical support: Yes. There are many things in the new testament we do not take as literal & specific, and the interesting question comes with where you draw that line. That pearl thing was close to hand because it's the same verses.

But I don't want to hijack this thing, (too late? ;-} ) so I'd like to see what DP would answer.

David S Baker said...

1Ti 2:11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
1Ti 2:12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
1Ti 2:13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
1Ti 2:14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

im not sure how people miss this, how can a women pastor read this in her bible get up and go teach men. it is very clear. Corinthians talks about this as well. im my church women are missionary's, they give testimony's, they sing, hold prayer meetings, teach kids or adult women, and so on... our ministry could not be where it is without these powerful women of God. yet, they know the biblical boundary's on what they can do and the reasons for it. lets not stand on our own authority, lets get back to standing upon the rock! the living word needs more respect form this generation, to many people are willing to ignore what they don't like about the word to fulfill they're own wants and desires.

Anonymous said...

David, you seem to be missing the thrust of Dan's question. It's not, "Can women preach?" It's "Are women who blog violating the restrictions God has put on women?"

"This is scripture, obey scripture!" is certainly helpful when things are clear-cut, but perhaps this isn't one of those clear-cut issues. Now what do you think?

DJP said...

April—thanks, but actually I didn't even take on girlblogging. I think Frank's doing that now. I focused on books, commentaries, the like.


Your definition of "teaching" as "controlling the course of an education, limiting and directing a discourse of a topic, and correcting or arguing on points as they are made in order to remain in authority over the pupil" strikes me as a good one.

So — remembering that I introduced this as a question, not a hidden-agenda peroration — would you distinguish that from a book in that one picks up a book and sets it down at will? One retains total control through the process?

Yes, I have given my wife jewelry. It isn't her adornment, though; it isn't the defining focus of her life.

Acts has no example of a woman serving as pastor or teacher or otherwise leader of a church, so I don't understand the question.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, tabbing back and forth between you two while jiggling a fussy baby. I think I jiggled when I should have tabbed. Still, the issue of thinking and expressing themselves theologically isn't as clear-cut as women preaching. Just to be safe, I'll keep my commentary on Hebrews unpublished.;)

Miriam said...

Acts 18:24-28: Apollos was instructed by Priscilla and Aquila, though I would see an argument that since they were actually sharing the gospel with a disciple of John the B, that gets a pass even if you aren't for women talking theology with men. Unless you don't think women should be giving the gospel to men, either. (Hmm...?) Paul asks that they be greeted at the end of 2 Tim.

Also, what about Euodia and Syntyche, who were messing up in Phil 4:2, but are also described as having "labored with me in the gospel struggle"?

And just to live up to your calling me tendentious regarding the translation of "a man" as implying a possesive close relationship, that genitive thingy is originally sourced in Dana & Mantey's "Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament".

If, in ATTENDING a bible study, a woman were to have questions and even intellectual challenges for the men involved, would it be wrong to voice them? Is it preferable, scripturally, for her to be quiet and abide confusion?

This is a very meaty post- such a question will draw people! Thank you.

Miriam said...

Ohh- I forgot.

Yes, I think a book/the written word is completely different from a class. Unless the book has a preface that urges a student to follow it alone, or is put forward as representing the thought of an entire church body.

I think God has said nothing about witholding the gift of knowledge and its dissemination even to men from women in that sense.