Tag: women in the church

Towner, “Resonance, Dissonance, Resistance and 1 Timothy 2.8–15”

Phil Towner has added an essay to the voluminous literature on 1 Tim 2:8–15:

Philip H. Towner. “Resonance, Dissonance, Resistance and 1 Timothy 2.8–15: The Eschatological Obsolescence and ‘Rewriting’ of a Proscriptive Text.” Między Oryginałem a Przekładem 53.3 (2021): 67–84.

A PDF of the article (which is in English) may be obtained at https://journals.akademicka.pl/moap/article/view/3861 .

The article is a reworked version of Towner’s 2010 ETS presentation of nearly the same title. According to the introductory article in the journal, the essay was presented “in the Workshop on Contemporary Theory and Practice of Bible Translation, an interconfessional seminar which takes place at the Pontifical Urbaniana University at the beginning of every academic year.

Abstract: “This study asks whether translation might be a valid mode of (literary)
criticism. It approaches a hortatory biblical text (1 Timothy 2.8-14 [3.1a]),
somewhat notoriously and rigidly applied in some quarters of the church
as containing timeless ethical instruction concerning women in the church,
from the standpoint of its intertextual network, listening for resonance and
dissonance as the relevant intertexts and precursor texts are explored. It
is ultimately diagnosed as a text that is eschatologically obsolescent, and
translated/rewritten, on the basis of its intertextual composition, to reflect
the openness inscribed by the authorial Other.

Wedgeworth, “Good and Proper: Paul’s Use of Nature, Custom, and Decorum in Pastoral Theology”

An interesting article which could be considered a “hidden contribution to Pastorals scholarship“:

Wedgeworth, Steven. “Good and Proper: Paul’s Use of Nature, Custom, and Decorum in Pastoral Theology.” Eikon: A Journal for Biblical Anthropology 2.2 (2020): 88–97.

Eikon is the journal of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, formally known as the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wedgeworth’s article uses 1 Tim 2:8-15 as its primary text, thus contributing to the ever-increasing literature on that passage.

The essay does not have an abstract, but an excerpt from the beginning will serve to summarize: “This essay will investigate to what extent the Apostle Paul uses a sort of natural-law reasoning in his argument against women teaching or holding an office of authority in the church. The primary textual subject will be 1 Timothy 2:8–15, but parallel New Testament passages will be considered insofar as they provide additional support for understanding the logic of Paul’s argument. I will argue that Paul is making a kind of natural law argument, by way of custom and decorum. This is not a simple appeal to human intuition, neither is it a generalized observation of empirical data taken from nature. It is, however, an argument based on the concepts of basic honor to authority figures, an element of the natural law, and the social power of decorum, of what is proper or fitting for social relationships between men and women. These are concepts grounded in a particular philosophy of nature and the morally formative role of custom. While appropriately using language and categories from the creation order, Paul is indeed employing a particular kind of natural-law application of this biblical account in order to prescribe customary social relations between men and women in the church.”

The full issue of Eikon which includes Wedgeworth’s article is here, and an online version of the full article is here.

Hylen, “Women διάκονοι and Gendered Norms of Leadership”

Susan E. Hylen has produced an article on the γυναῖκες of 1 Tim 3:11: “Women διάκονοι and Gendered Norms of Leadership.” Journal of Biblical Literature 138.3 (2019): 687–702. This article follows work done in connection with women, and in connection with the Pastorals, in her monographs A Modest Apostle: Thecla and the History of Women in the Early Church (OUP, 2015) and Women in the New Testament World (OUP, 2019). I offer the following simply as a summary without evaluation, for the benefit of interested readers.

Here is the abstract: “Interpreters generally acknowledge that the syntax of 1 Tim 3:1–13 points to the presence of women διάκονοι. Many of these interpreters, however, are tentative or deny the presence of women διάκονοι because of their assumptions about gendered social norms of the period. I argue that early readers of 1 Timothy would understand the ideals represented in the qualifications for διάκονοι as applying to women as well as to men. I assess social norms and practices of the period, especially in and around Ephesus, including the gendered virtues used to honor high-status women of the time. I conclude that the women introduced in 3:11 would likely have been understood as women holding the same titles as the male διάκονοι, just as women held many of the same civic and religious titles as their male peers.”

I’ll paraphrase and expand on that a bit: Hylen understands the διάκονοι, both male and female, to be community leaders of some sort (and this is not a novel understanding, particularly since John Collins’s Diakonia [1990]). Many scholars are influenced by the syntax and structure of 1 Timothy 3 to understand the “women” of 1 Tim 3:11 to be female διάκονοι equivalent to the male διάκονοι in the preceding verses, not (necessarily) their wives. However, because they read 1 Tim 3 in light of the restrictions of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (particularly regarding women’s speech), and what they understand to be the restrictive social norms for NT-era women in Ephesus, they then reject the understanding that the “women” could have held leadership roles.

Hylen argues to the contrary that this line of thinking misunderstands the complex nature of the social roles of the time. Women were understood as “inherently inferior to men” (690), yes, but this was not necessarily considered a deal-breaker as regards leadership roles. Hylen adduces evidence that both married and unmarried women independently owned and controlled property, acted as patrons, held religious and civic office, and spoke out when appropriate. Therefore, Hylen argues, the virtues often applied to them should not (always) be read and translated in ways that suggest passivity and subordination, but in ways which reflect this active participation (e.g., σωφροσύνη as “self-control” rather than “modesty”). Hylen argues further that “multiple norms shaped the social world in this period” (697), such that on the one hand “women were expected to be subordinate to men who were their social peers” but were also viewed favorably in some cases when they were involved in public speaking or leadership roles.

Given this background, Hylen does not read the qualifications for the “women” of 1 Tim 3:11 in terms of subordination and passivity, but as connected with leadership roles. In this context, she takes a position on 1 Tim 3:12 which to my knowledge is unique: while arguing that male διάκονοι are addressed in vv. 8-10, and female διάκονοι are addressed in v. 11, she finds that both male and female διάκονοι are addressed in v. 12. To the anticipated objection that the “one-woman man” qualification of v. 12 could hardly apply to women, Hylen argues that “[i]t was common to speak of a mixed-gender group using vocabulary that indicated men alone” (699).

In sum, Hylen does not argue “that men and women were considered equal, for this would certainly have been anachronistic in the Roman period. … Nevertheless, women’s capacities to own property and act as patrons were also enshrined in law and social practice. Women of the period negotiated complex social norms that encouraged both deference and leadership” (702).

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