It’s all Greek to me

There’s a little word in the Greek in  1 Timothy 2:12 that makes all the difference. That word is oude.

 

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It appears there are two prohibitions for women in 1 Timothy 2:12. The first is teaching; the second, assuming or usurping authority. But they are separated by this little word oude.

Again, I’m indebted to Philip Payne’s book,Man and Woman, One in Christ for this understanding. Philip Payne studied the Bible in its original languages from his youth. His father was a Bible scholar who every day, after breakfast and dinner gave him a fresh translation of a chapter from either the Greek New Testament or the Hebrew Old Testament. Spirited discussions would ensue. In 1973, his assumptions about male headship were profoundly challenged when a scholar stated that “no passage of Scripture properly understood and in its context excludes women from any form of Christian ministry.” To check this out, he read 1 Timothy in the Greek daily for several months. Key word studies led to some shocking discoveries, such as how the English translations introduce masculine pronouns into the list of qualifications for overseers and deacons.

Here’s one of his findings:

In every use of the word oude  (31 times) in the letters that are indisputably written by Paul, the word is used to combine two ideas into one single idea. The ideas may be similar–the one bringing a greater understanding to the other, or they may join conceptually different ideas.  But every time they express a single idea. There is not a single unambiguous instance when they convey two separate ideas. In English it would be like saying “hit ‘n run.” You can’t separate the two ideas to convey the same meaning.

Let me give you some examples:

  • Whom no man has seen and  no man is able to see (1 Tim 6:16)
  • For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel and  not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants (Romans 9:6-7)
  • Paul, an apostle, not from men nor  through men (Galatians 1:1)
  • There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10)
Payne’s conclusion is this: There is only one prohibition for women in 1 Timothy 2:12, the combination of teaching with usurping or assuming authority over a man. There are not two prohibitions:
  1. Women are not allowed to teach
  2. Women cannot have authority over a man

It’s a single prohibition. Women cannot teach with self-assumed authority over a man. I don’t think any of us would disagree with this statement applied either to women or to men. It works grammatically; it fits the context of false teaching in Ephesus and it doesn’t prohibit women like Priscilla, who was in Ephesus at the time, from teaching men

 

 

10 thoughts on “It’s all Greek to me”

  1. that is very good–it goes to show that when you interpret something you need to do it for the time period of which it is concerned first then in the application for your current time you see how the issue fits in with your present situation–when it comes to women teaching men it comes down to are they speaking the teaching of gods being or are they teaching by their own natural self–and its the same for men

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  2. My understanding, (and I’ll stand to be corrected if I’m wrong), is that King James believed in the ‘divine rights of kings’, and that much of the language in the New Testament was heavily influenced by him. Especially when it comes to hierarchical terms land titles. I`d be interested to see if anyone else has any knowledge on this, and how much this has influenced thinking in mainline churches. Personally, I think it has a profoundly negative affect.

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    1. King James did believe in the divine right of kings, as did all the kings of England for many centuries. My investigation of this shows that 47 scholars worked on the King James translation. I don’t know how much actual influence King James had.

      I have a favorite story about the divine right of Kings. In the little village where my parents lived for a long time, which in on the south coast of England, there is a mudbar in the estuary. Legend has it that King Canute (995-1035AD) was a Christian and he wanted to prove that he wasn’t divine. So he sat on his throne on the mudbar and commanded the sea to go back as the tide came in. Of course, he got wet, and that proved he wasn’t divine.

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      1. Which begs the question: What does the theological degree MDV imply? It stands for Masters of Divinity. Does that mean they have mastered being divine? (-: Maybe they should go sit on the mudbar on the south coast of England.

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  3. Just a little technicality, in your list of four examples above, the “(oude)” in parentheses in the first two examples should really be after the negative, “no” and “not.” This is because the first two letters of the word, “oude”, are a negative, such as “no” and “not.” Having it placed where it is, seems to indicate that the word, oude, is the Gk. word for “and,” which it is not. Rather, it is the word for “and no” and “and not”.

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