Monday, November 2, 2009

"I Do Not Permit a Woman to Teach or Have Authority"... in Seminaries?

Before we get going, I should remind you that I am an evangelical. This includes the belief, among other things, that I am an inerrantist. I am also a complementarian. Just about all of my past writing on CiC on the subject can be found here. Got it? Good, because those are important presupposition for where this post is going.

You won't be surprised that I was none too impressed by Biola Professor Allan Yeh's sociological/cultural musings in defense of egalitarianism at Scriptorium Daily. Apparently David Nilsen of Evangelical Outpost felt the same way, so he wrote this. Yeh responded back here. Don't want to read all that? Fine enough- I skimmed a lot of it myself.

In the process of said skimming, I noticed this exchange, starting with Yeh's original post, then Nilsen's response, then Yeh's counter-response:
    Yeh: I hardly know of anyone at Biola who would have a problem with sitting under the tutelage of a female professor (and professors teach, heaven forbid!). Even Talbot School of Theology, the most strongly Complementarian of the seven schools at Biola, has female professors. And we often have female preachers in Biola’s chapel and nobody seems to mind.

    Nilsen: The only thing that this comment proves is that many evangelicals don’t follow their theology consistently. It doesn’t constitute support for egalitarianism. Moreover, it confuses the office of church elder with that of seminary (or college) professor, which is not even a New Testament category. I am a complementarian, yet I have no scruples about female professors because I do not believe that the Bible prohibits women from teaching in such a capacity. According to complementarianism, the Bible’s restriction of female service in the church is actually an extremely limited one, and thus any honest debate must be equally limited.

    Yeh: I don’t see how you can be OK with female seminary professors but exclude women from preaching in the church...First of all, as I said in my blog, Biola has both female seminary professors (in Talbot School of Theology) and often has female preachers in chapel, so it’s not like only one but not the other is allowed. Secondly, I see seminary professors as analogous to generals in the army. Generals (professors) train their captains (pastors) who train their troops (laity). So why is it OK for the professors (who are teaching theology) to be female, but not for pastors? Theology, which is taught by seminary professors (who are sometimes female), reaches the minds and hearts of male pastors, and trickles down to laypeople via sermons. These are not categories that are mutually exclusive. Can you say that generals and soldiers in the army can be female, but captains can’t? It doesn’t make sense.
In short, the question for complementarians is: why can a woman teach in a seminary but not in a church?

The answer is much simpler than Nilsen's unnecessary vagueness and Yeh's convoluted analogy suggest: it is about authority.

1 Tim. 2 specifically forbids women "teaching and exercising authority" over men. I would suggest three things here: (1) the terms are mutually defining; (2) the thrust of 1 Tim. 2:9-15 as a whole is about authority (with teaching as representative of that authority); (3) "teaching" in the Pastoral Epistles consistently refers to an authoritative kind of teaching unique to church leadership. Put another way, forbidding teaching here does not forbid all teaching, but only that particular authoritative type.

Which is exactly why a woman can teach in a seminary: because a seminary professor simply does not exercise local church authority like a pastor does. Seminarians should be constantly weighing the teaching they are receiving, not submitting to it even when they disagree. Further, professors do not exercise spiritual authority over the lives of their students and cannot discipline them for sin. Church elders, by contrast, deserve a unique measure of submission beacuse they are in some charge of exactly these thigns (Heb. 13:17).

The issue is basically the same with a woman preaching in a chapel setting: she teaches God's Word but otherwise exercises no real authority in that setting, especially if a male is the one in ultimate authority for those chapels (as is the case with Dr. Todd Pickett at Biola). This seems to me to be well within the bounds of Paul's teaching.

Obviously I've not said everything I could about 1 Tim. 2, but I would point you to Kostenberger's remarkably convincing article in Women in the Church on the relationship between "teaching" and "exercising authority" in that passage. In any case, let this be a reminder for both sides on this issue to be more careful: facile charges like Yeh's and vague counter-arguments like Nilsen's simply do not help. We must force ourselves to always return to the teaching of the text.


DC said...

In 1 Tim 2:9-15 the Greek words are usually mistranslated as woman and man. A better translation would be"I do not pernit a wife to teach or usurp authority over a husband". This passage does not restrict women generally in ministry but restrict wives from dominating husbands.

Andrew Faris said...


I read your article, and most of its content is assertion without argument.

The vast majority of Gk. scholars disagree with you for any number of reasons, and I'm with them. There isn't a contextual reason to say that aner should be translated "husbands" here.


Anonymous said...

You claim the Greek words are usually mistranslated as woman and man.


I looked through a dozen or so English translations and it appears the translators in each case disagree with your better translation.

It appears you have missed the mark here.

DC said...

The Greek word aner means a particular man rather than man in general. It would be incongruous to translate that as women generally and men generally as it is done in most translation of 1 Tim 2.

The references to Adam, Eve and childbearing in vs 13-14 of 1 Tim 2 provide overwhelming contextual support for translating aner and gune as husband and wife.

In a parallel passage 1 Cor 14:34-35 "women" are instructed to "ask their husbands at home". Does this apply to single women or should women be translated as wives as gune is in many other places.

I believe my argument to be very strong, and have yet to find a rebuttal. Your post fails to document why I am wrong. You refer to Greek scholars who disagree with me but fail to mention who they are or link to articles that actually rebut what I have said. If such articles exist I would appreciate you posting them.

DC said...


I do not deny that most English translation disagree with me,and by implication, the translators. That is not the point. My point is that, in light of both the meanings of the words aner and gune and the contextual clues in 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2, that such translation is not justified.

Andrew Faris said...


You haven't found a rebuttal? You should check Kostenberger and Schreiner, Women in the Church, Mounce's commentary on the pastorals in the WBC series, the articles on this passage in Recoving Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (Grudem and Piper, eds.), Women and Men in Ministry (Saucy and TenElshof, eds.), Knight's commentary in the NIGTC series. So many of these deal with the "particular man" or "husband" approach that I cannot help but wonder if you haven't found a rebuttal because you haven't looked in the requisite scholarly sources. Stan is also right: there is no major translation that takes your view, and given the scholarship that goes into such translations, I suggest that the weight of the case falls on you.

More directly to your point, childbearing is a marital issue, but it almost seems like an add on to the passage, doesn't it? Besides that, the reference to Adam and Eve doesn't necessarily point to husbands and wives as it does a created order. Even if these things could both be taken the way you take them, "overwhelming" is overstatement. If it was that overwhelming, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Most importantly, can you please cite one significant Gk. lexicon that takes your view of aner?

Let me be more direct: that claim is plainly wrong. Of course aner can and often does refer to a specific person or a husband, whereas anthropos is the general word for "mankind". But aner does not always mean "a particular man." Cf. Jn. 1:13, Rom. 4:8, 1 Cor. 11:3 (which, by the way, specifically refers to every man!) Eph. 4:13, every use of the word in James, and perhaps most importantly, 1 Tim. 2:8, where it is the men in every place- clearly not particular men.

The distinction you should make between the two terms is that aner refers specifically to males, whereas anthropos does not.

Again, I refer to my earlier challenges: (1) Have you read any of those scholarly sources? (2) Find me a single Gk. lexicon that says that aner refers to a particular man.


DC said...

Strong's Concordance contain the following definition of aner

A primary word (compare G444); a man (properly as an individual male): - fellow, husband, man, sir.

The normative use of the word aner is that of a particular individual, group of individual males.Of the 215 references to aner in the New Testament, 90% are translated husband, or reference to particular individual or particular group of males rather than males in general. Saying this does not mean that it cannot used in other ways, but abnormal usages of a word are usually indicated by contextual clues,

I do stand corrected on one point: the use of the word overwhelming is an overstatement. You have also overstated in saying my article is without argument. You may disagree with the case I present but I do present a reasoned case.

Your repeated appeal to the majority of Greek scholars takes away from your argument. The meaning of the word aner is not established by taking a vote but by the evidence of how the word was used. At least one Greek scholar agrees, and his reputation is second to none on your list.

You claim that the burden of proof is on me because the "weight of scholarship". That is pure sophistry, not to mention arrogance. In the pursuit of truth the burden is on all of us,like the Bereans, to check out what we read or hear, and not simply take the scholars or pastors word for it. We each must draw our own conclusion and speak what we believe with integrity.

Based on context clues and the normative meaning of aner I have concluded that 1 Tim 2 is talking about husbands and wives and I have heard nothing in this discussion that, to my mind, refutes that.

On this one,my brother, I simply must disagree. Perhaps next time we will agree. Thank you for your time and have a blessed day

Anonymous said...

Alas this is a big topic of heated discussion.

Dallas you are correct that we should not hold majority view for the sake of popularity must be correct. If we did then we wouldnt have a reformation and no one but clergy would be reading the Bible.

But your view on the context supporting your argument is not so black and white. In the passage aner is used for general men already. Also gune has just been used generally. So are we to go from a general view to a narrow view? Is Paul zooming in on the marriage relationship?

The only argument from the context for Husband and wife is the reference to Adam and Eve.

But I do admit that this is not the easiest passage to understand within the context of the New Testament. I refer to Ben Witherington's blog ( where he makes a compelling argument.

Having said all this I am still trying to agree with him, but i still hold to the view of Andrew. Which is not to say that i am right either.

Some questions i have to ask, especially in what sounds like a heated discussion is, should we be divided over this? Should we be like the Corinthians in a sense and cause arguments and divisions or focus on Christ and be united?

The bottom line is: We should be united in Christ, although we disagree on some things we should hold firm to the Lord Jesus.

Andrew Faris said...


What do you mean by "united"?

DC said...

Dan, I do not believe that Christians need be divided over this issue in the sense of calling each other hereticks. I do not doubt that Andrew is a brother in the Lord whose views agree with mine on many other issues such as the resurrection, Biblical inerrancy, etc. We simply do not agree on this issue.

How one views women in ministry is not salvational. There is essential unity as brothers in the Lord for people who disagree here.

Practical unity can be a little trickier. Once a church forms a policy on whether women are eligible for positions of ministry then believers who disagree are faced with a choice on whether to stay or leave.

Anonymous said...


I mean united in Christ. This means not being divisive over small matters, but rather encouraging one another in the Lord, loving the other and serving the other out of reverence for God.

The reason i mention this is that both Dallas and yourself seem a little hot under the collar in this issue. I want to encourage you both that even though you do not agree with one another it doesnt mean that you don't try and love and encourage the other.

Andrew Faris said...


Dallas and I agree on one thing: neither of us considers the other a non-Christian. For that matter, we also agree that there are some non-essentials that are quite important even for fellowship.

What you perceive as "hot under the collar", I would suggest is firm argumentation. There once was an era where Christians didn't have to couch everything in "I like you and could fellowship with you..." before they argued. They called each other out because they were passionate about truth.

That's all this conversation is. I suspect Dallas and I would get along just great, even if I think his reading of 1 Tim. 2 is completely wrong!


A & R said...


I think Andrew is correct that about the translation of aner and gune.

However even more convincing is the fact that Jesus selected 0 women out of 13 leaders (the twelve including Paul)to have authority over the church. I am no mathematician but that gives your perspective a 7.7% chance of being valid.

Anonymous said...

I think one important aspect to consider on this topic is the switch from plural to singular to plural within the text of 1 Tim 2:8-15.

Vs8: men (plural)
Vs9-10: women (plural)
Vs11-15a: woman (singular)
Vs15b: they (plural) - could point to plurality of women or combining a plurality of men and women in that it points all the way back to vs8

I guess the struggle is that there was no specific exegeting of the text in the article above, though links were given to others. We just don't know the specifics of why you believe what you believe, Andrew. But it is a lot to address. Maybe you could do a 20 part series on this topic. :) We all recognise this is not a simple what-does-black-ink-on-white-paper-say issue.

My question, Andrew, is that your article seems to purport that only elders can teach in the local church, since they carry the authority and teaching in the local church setting is one aspect of that authority (I hope I understood you correctly). But what happens when I let a deacon of mine teach on a Sunday, or I've let someone who is neither elder or deacon 'preach' from the word, or allow a ministry friend outside of my local church teach who is not an elder in our church? Of course, the local church is to be submitted to my elder-pastoring role. But here are people teaching from the Word who are not elders of the local flock I oversee.

Or, if teaching/teacher and pastor are giftings (as it seems from Eph 4 and Rom 12), then cannot people be allowed to function in their gifting-ministry. And I have always loved 1 Cor 14:26 - 'What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction (teaching in NASB), a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. (NIV)

Some of these things mentioned in 1 Cor 14:26 seem authoritative. Yet it says that when the church assembles together, 'each one has' (gender neutral). If a women can teach and prophesy (which seem 'authoritative' to me), why can they not serve in an elder role? If a woman can be a prophetess (I think you believe such still exists, knowing your connection with Ken Berding, and I think he believes such still exist), and such carries authority (at least as I understand), why can women not serve as elders?

These are just questions I ask when considering the topic.

Andrew Faris said...


You have way too much here for me to try to address any of it specifically without it becoming another entire post.

Maybe you could trim it down to a couple more focused questions if you want my response?

I'll say this, and maybe it'll help: I do not believe that only elders can teach in church. I just believe that when teaching happens, authority should not be subverted.

So, for example, at the church where my dad was senior pastor, one time a woman preached on sunday morning. She was a police chaplain and had some remarkable stories and encouragement to give. But everyone knew that she was basically a guest preacher under the auspices of my dad as pastor- no one thought that Kathleen somehow was exercising spiritual authority above the males. And I was perfectly comfortable with it.

Regarding prophecy, Berding is a good person to bring up. If spiritual gifts are the ministries themselves and not latent abilities, then the problem you bring up is eliminated because nobody- not men or women- have internal spiritual giftings that they must share. Instead, God gives the ministries to the church, and He'll do that within the structures He's allotted.

Regarding everyone sharing prophecies and such, I've seen this done in a way that authority structures are not subverted. My Dad's church was a charismatic church and women often were prophesying, but those prophecies were always subject to weighing by the congregation and the leadership most certainly could say, "We don't think that's from the Lord." This affirms the authority of the leadership.

I hope that begins to help.


Anonymous said...

Andrew -

Thanks for the response. Yeah, I knew you wouldn't be able to answer all my questions in a comment box. That's why I suggested a 20-part series. :) I only wanted to share questions I have been thinking through. I used to be more complementarian - allowing women to function in any gift/ministry role, except for eldership, as that role was only for men. But I had begun to read Gordon Fee, Scot McKnight, a few thoughts by Millard Erickson, and Cunningham & Hamilton's book on women, and I really started asking questions about this eldership thing and restricting it solely to men. So, I only shared questions that have come to mind in my studies from the past 6+ months.

Thanks for clarifying that you believe it ok for others, outsides of the eldership, to teach/preach in the local gathering. And, yes, such can be done as those people are submitted to the oversight of the local elders. It is a very healthy thing. Good stuff!

But here I am believing that apostles and prophets still exist (not in a whacko sense and subverting present day a's and p's above the Scriptures), and I believe that women can function in those two ministries, as we see NT women functioning in them (I think Priscilla, along with here husband, had an apostolic ministry, though the word is never found next to her name, but she just functioned in what I believe apostles are in their essence; possibly Junias, but that is another article, right?). So if women can function as apostles and prophets, why not elders?