Monday, August 30, 2010

Another Interesting Post on Scott McKnights Page

Elders: For Men Only? (you can read the Scott post here)
August 23, 2010

From CBEs wonderful Arise newsletter...Do you hear the arguement that only males can be elders? Where does the bible say an elder must be a male? Margaret Mowczko sketches a response to these questions

Margaret Mowczko, a singer-song writer, for many years, lives in Austrailia. She writes about biblical eqaulity in marriage and in ministry for her website, Newlife

Some people think that the moral qualifications for church leaders recorded in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 were written only about men and apply only to men. They believe that the implication in these passages is that only men can be church leaders. Yet in the better, older Greek manuscripts, these passages are completely free from masculine pronouns; and in all Greek manuscripts there is no use of the word "man" or "men" whatsoever.

All of the qualifications listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9 can be readily applied to both men and women equally. The one seeming exception is where it says that a church leader should be, literally, a one woman man. This is usually translated into English as "the husband of one wife."

The phrase, a one woman man, is however an idiom, and there are dangers in applying it too literally. Because it is an idiomatic expression, many people have had difficulty explaining and applying its meaning in the context of contemporary Western church culture; a culture that is vastly different from first century church culture.

If taken literally, the one woman man requirement would rule out unmarried, widowed and divorced men and women from being church leaders; yet Paul says that being single and celibate enables people to serve God better (1 Cor. 7:32-35). The real intent of this expression is marital faithfulness in the church leader who is already married.

All of the qualities listed in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, including the ability to lead one's household, are in fact equally applicable to both genders. According to Paul, it is not only men who can lead their households. Paul advised the younger widows in the Ephesian church to remarry, have children and "keep house" (1 Tim. 5:14). Interestingly, the word Paul uses for "keeping house" here is oikodespotein, which literally means "to be the master of a household." The King James accurately translates 1 Timothy 5:14 as: "I [Paul] desire therefore that the younger widows marry, bear children, rule the household, and give no occasion to the adversary for insulting."

Undoubtedly most church leaders in early church times were male, and yet it is never stated in the New Testament that a church leader must be a man. The New Living Translation (NLT), (which gives the impression of being gender inclusive because it frequently translates adelphoi into "brothers and sisters") has taken the bold step of inserting the statement, "so an elder must be a man" into 1 Timothy 3:2. This statement simply does not appear anywhere in any Greek manuscript of the New Testament. The translators of the NLT have inserted this statement to put across their biased opinion that a church leader must be a man. They have tried to pass off their opinion as being "the Word of God." Had Paul wanted to say "an elder must be a man" he would have done so.

The opening sentence of 1 Timothy chapter 3 literally says, "If someone aspires to overseeship, he/she desires a noble task." There is absolutely no gender preference suggested here whatsoever.

What are your thoughts?


Turtle Woman said...

Translation, as they say, has always been a deeply political act.
We know very little about what went on in the early church with women leaders, because women get erased.

So now, we have women writing theology, and women translating, and magically, things are not as they appear to be.

I remember reading all these revised translations in 'Daughters of Sarah" magazine in the early 80s and it was just fascinating.

I think the feminist movement also made evangelicals focus on trying to stuff the genie back in the bottle. It was the conservative fear of women in leadership, women in rebellion that upset the apple cart I hope forever.

Turtle Woman said...

I always laugh at males saying only males can run things. It's just so self serving it almost seems comic in the 21st century.

Rachel said...

I am very comfortable with that reading - having come from a background without women in leadership (and I approved of that) I now am absolutely baffled at my younger self! Of course women and men are both equally important and of course we all have roles. But I am no longer convinced that gender roles are God-given - instead it makes more sense to me that they're a result of the Fall.

I used to go to a Christian women's group that had male leaders (who weren't allowed to the sessions since the sessions were women only) because it was believed that women couldn't be leaders. How completely crazy!

However, I don't think that my theology changed because of being convinced of Bible passages (much as a would hold the Bible to be central to my faith). It was more that my experiences of the world just showed me that it's obvious that women can lead as well and as badly as men can.

Keep making us think Brenda!