Posted On March 29, 2018

How to Use a “For” Clause: 1 Timothy 2:12 and Egalitarianism

by | Mar 29, 2018 | Theology

Woman preaching

Screenshot from RLBC Media — https://vimeo.com/181028592

Did Paul mean in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he is really prohibiting women from teaching or exercising authority over men on a permanent basis? Let’s do some grammar work.

12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to remain quiet.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.

15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with good sense.

(1 Tim 2:12–15 CSB)

This is, of course, one of the battleground passages for the never-ending theological dispute between complementarians and egalitarians. Egalitarian speaker Jory Micah says of this passage the following:

Paul’s phrase, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” comes across as if he is saying, “I never ever allow women to teach men in church,” in the English language.  In Greek, however, there is a “present active indicative verb which can be translated, ‘I am not presently permitting a woman to teach or to have authority over men.”[1]  In other words, Paul never meant for this passage to be a universal and continuous principle.[2]  Perhaps he was suggesting that women stay quiet and listen so they could “catch up” on the learning they were previously denied, so that one day they could teach and hold authoritative positions in the Church.  No matter what the exact intentions were, it is clear in Pauline letters that the Apostle not only allowed women to be in church leadership, he welcomed it.

Jory’s footnotes: [1] Don Williams, The Apostle Paul and Women in the Church (Van Nuys: Bim Publishing, 1977), 112.; [2] Ibid. *
Peterson, Jory. “A Study of Female Headship in the Christian Church During the First and Second Century and How This Applies to Female Leadership in the Church Today.” Masters thesis at Regent University, August 2010. Retrieved 22 March 2018. http://jorymicah.com/about/masters-thesis/

Some time in late 2016 when I was interacting with Jory’s** material for the first time, I observed a few conservatives opposing this argument without having a good grasp of what the argument is, so I’m going to break out some Greek syntax.

Uses of the Koine present tense

Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Accordance ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 513.

The truth is that this grammatical argument for the “present active indicative verb[s]” for “allow” isn’t coming out of thin air. What we call the “progressive present” (or “descriptive present”) is a legitimate and common usage of the present tense in the Greek New Testament. I’ve appended here the table of contents from Wallace’s grammar concerning usages of the present tense. Click the image to enlarge it.

So yes, the progressive present, thereby translated “I am presently allowing” is a legitimate translation of the verb…devoid of its context. And as with anything in language, how we understand the usage of this verb depends on how it is used in context, and that is why I’m bringing out this “for” clause, which occurs in verses 13 and 14.

13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.

(1 Tim 2:13–14 CSB)

The Greek word γὰρ (gar) here begins what we call a “γὰρ clause” or “for clause” which indicates the reason why the above assertion is true. We can logically construct the text in this way:

The reasons why I do not allow a woman to teach or have authority over a man are that:
1. Adam was formed first, then Eve.
2. Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.

Paul gives us two reasons. The first reason is rooted in the creation act: Adam was formed first. That’s even before the fall. The second reason is rooted in the fall. By way of this context, we can now look back to determine in what way Paul is using the present tense of “allow.” Taken in the way Jory advocates, the logical statement would go as follows

The reasons why I am not presently allowing a woman to teach or have authority over a man are that:
1. Adam was formed first, then Eve.
2. Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.

But that doesn’t make for a cogent argument. The conditions under which Paul applies such a temporary restriction do not cease to exist. Rather, because the conditions underlying the restrictions are permanent, so is the restriction.

Another egalitarian argument in this passage points out that Adam is the transgressor in this story because he simply stood by and allowed Eve to take the fruit. Adam is likely guilty of this, but is Paul referring to this aspect in particular? Let’s see if that holds up exegetically.

The reasons why I do not allow [or am not presently allowing] a woman to teach or have authority over a man are that:
1. Adam was formed first, then Eve.
2. Adam was negligent in his responsibility to prevent Eve from eating the fruit.

Or for short: “Women may not teach men because Adam was negligent.” This also doesn’t logically follow. If we follow the “for clause” by how it functions logically, we can see clearly that Paul intends to convey a permanent command.

Wallace has his own comment on the issue in his grammar, so I’ll leave you with his remarks. In summary, don’t let a little Greek lead you down paths of false doctrine.

1 Tim 2:12 διδάσκειν γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man If this were a descriptive present (as it is sometimes popularly taken), the idea might be that in the future the author would allow this: I do not presently permit. . . However, there are several arguments against this: (1) It is overly subtle. Without some temporal indicator, such as ἄρτι or perhaps νῦν, this view begs the question. (2) Were we to do this with other commands in the present tense, our resultant exegesis would be both capricious and ludicrous. Does μὴ μεθύσκεσθε οἴνῳ . . . , ἀλλὰ πληροῦσθε ἐν πνεύματι in Eph 5:18 mean “Do not for the moment be filled with wine, but be filled at the present time by the Spirit” with the implication that such a moral code might change in the future? The normal use of the present tense in didactic literature, especially when introducing an exhortation, is not descriptive, but a general precept that has gnomic implications.30 (3) Grammatically, the present tense is used with a generic object (γυναικί), suggesting that it should be taken as a gnomic present. (4) Contextually, the exhortation seems to be rooted in creation (note v 13 and the introductory γάρ), rather than an address to a temporary situation. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: an Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 525. https://accordance.bible/link/read/Wallace_Greek#8925

Wallace, 525.

* I’ll openly admit that I haven’t looked at Jory’s source material; it’s at the Dallas Seminary library, but I don’t feel like making a long road trip to get it. Take this as a criticism of Jory’s argument, not necessarily Williams’.
** “Micah” is Jory Micah’s middle name, and using her actual last name Peterson would be an unnecessary pejorative. I find calling her Jory to be “the lesser of three evils.”

 

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