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Published Date: July 30, 2010

Published Date: July 30, 2010

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Asking the Wrong Questions

Interpretation is a complex adventure. The reader compounds this complexity, in part by asking (and not asking) certain questions. Such questions guide and sometimes limit or even obstruct the interpretive process. Interpreters have tended to ask certain specific questions concerning Paul’s words about women. This article examines two such questions and finds them wanting.

No singing allowed: The role model question

If the silence of Scripture as to woman’s public work . . . is reason sufficient to oppose it, then no woman should be allowed to sing in church, or partake of the Lord’s supper as there is not the faintest allusion in the Bible as to her having ever done either.  —Sister Silena Moore Holman, 18881

The first question probes the Bible, especially the New Testament, for the presence (or absence) of women whose titles or actions may justify certain roles for modern women. This question could be phrased: What roles do women fill in the New Testament which can therefore also be filled by women today? Driving the question is the assumption that women currently need a biblical role model to permit participation in each potential task.

This role model question is common. Hierarchists and egalitarians alike ask it. The former remind us what Christian women did not do in the first century. They may point out, for example, that the New Testament contains no examples of women filling the roles of elder or preacher. The latter, on the other hand, celebrate roles women did fill. They emphasize, for example, Phoebe the deacon (Rom. 16:1) and Junia the apostle (Rom. 16:7).

Indeed, hierarchists and egalitarians have posed the role model question to the very same texts. For example, while the former focus on Priscilla the helper who taught only with her husband, Aquila, egalitarians emphasize Priscilla the teacher whom both Luke and Paul name first.2 Similarly, while egalitarians frequently appeal to Philip’s four daughters who filled the role of prophet (Acts 21:9), one hierarchal challenge argues that it would be “inappropriate to assume that one is a prophet in Acts, merely because he or she prophesies.”3

The role model question is natural. The Bible itself prompts us to emulate great personalities of the past, most notably in Hebrews 11. Untold numbers of women naturally have turned to the Bible in search of women who share their calling. Many Christian leaders, female and male, have searched Scripture hoping to find ancient women who justify certain roles for modern women. Consider the recent example of Leslie Flynn, himself a minister, who explains that, upon learning of his daughter’s intention to preach, he set out “to see what part women played in early church life.”4

In addition to being common and natural, the role model question can be helpful. Specifically, it can be helpful when the answer is positive—when an affirming example is available. Flynn,
for example, concludes that first-century women indeed did preach. As a result of this positive answer, his quest is a helpful one. If, however, Flynn had arrived at a negative answer—that the New Testament affirms no example of women preaching—his quest would be inconclusive. He would be at a stalemate, a standoff with an argument from silence.

Mention of this stalemate may remind us of the stalemate at which hierarchists and egalitarians find themselves. This reminder, in turn, prompts me to express the first weakness of the role model question. To argue on the basis of such questions is to play with a stacked deck: The hierarchist who finds the Bible to be silent regarding a woman filling a particular role should not use that silence to forbid a modern woman from filling the same role. An egalitarian, on the other hand, who does find biblical precedent for a woman filling a particular role should indeed use that evidence to encourage modern women to act. Clearly, this is good news for egalitarians; it is almost too good to be true! Hierarchists, however, will quickly perceive that the deck is stacked against them and, understandably, will react defensively. Therefore, it is my observation that answering the role model question rarely advances the egalitarian cause as far as expected. Instead, the answers tend to strengthen the stalemate: Phoebe was a deacon (No, she was merely a servant). Priscilla was a teacher (No, she was actually a teacher’s helper). Deborah was a leader (But she needed help from Barak). Junia was a well-known apostle (No, she was well known to the apostles).

The role model question has other weaknesses, and they all arise from the failure to take seriously the genre of Paul’s letters. While no one would dispute the importance of genre in theory, many fail to appreciate its importance in practice. Interpreters frequently minimize the foundational reality that everything Paul wrote was in an occasional letter.

The occasional letter—a letter written for a specific occasion—is a genre where silence is to be expected. Paul’s letters are not blueprints. They cover neither all aspects of his ministry nor all aspects of modern ministry. Paul wrote more letters than we have,5 and the letters we do have mention only those leaders he has occasion to include. Consider the several women who appear only once in Paul’s letters: Phoebe (Rom. 16:1–2); Mary (Rom. 16:6); Junia (Rom. 16:7);6 Tryphaena, Tryphosa, and Persis (Rom. 16:12); the mother of Rufus (Rom. 16:13); Julia and the sister of Nereus (Rom. 16:15); Chloe (1 Cor. 1:11); Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2); Nympha (Col. 4:15); Claudia (2 Tim. 4:21); and Apphia (Phlm. 2). Surely, other women go unmentioned altogether, and their names and roles forever will be shrouded in silence.

In addition to arguing from silence, the role model question also minimizes the distance between first-century Mediterranean cultures and the modern interpreter. Significant differences have evolved over two millennia. For example, one use of the role model question which overlooks certain cultural differences arises from Romans 16:1: “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant (diakonos) of the church in Cenchrea” (NIV).7 Following the logic of the role model question, a translation that avoids the title “deacon” or even “deaconess” also avoids validating modern women who would fill this role. The debate over whether Phoebe held the office of deacon, however, is too enmeshed with our modern situation. The ancient office of deacon was emerging and is not identical to the modern office of deacon.8 Moreover, this office continues to develop. If, for example, a Southern Baptist, an Anglican, and a Lutheran were deliberating whether Phoebe held such an office, they would each be pondering a different question.

Consider, for example, an alternative translation which could result in a similar dilemma. The word “minister” means “servant” and is a legitimate translation of diakonos. To assign Phoebe the title “minister,” however, would be problematic for some. Problems would arise not because of the ancient meaning of the Greek word diakonos, but because of modern connotations of the English word “minister.”9 The debate would be sabotaged by the reality that “minister” does not mean in twenty-first-century America what “minister” meant in first-century Cenchrea. Similarly, the New Testament era knows no roles that correspond cleanly with such modern realities as Bible translator, campus minister, Christian education minister, hospital chaplain, military chaplain, music minister, pastoral counselor, Sunday school teacher, youth minister, and the numerous other roles some women feel called to fill. As a result, the role model question is not sufficient to span the cultural gap.

Part of this cultural gap is linguistic. Simply stated, Greek and English do not work the same way. Returning to Phoebe, for example, confusion results when interpreters defend Phoebe’s status as deacon by wrongly claiming the noun diakonos is grammatically masculine.10 While Greek nouns typically have only one gender, diakonos is among that cluster of nouns with common gender; that is, their gender changes based on context.11 In Romans 16:1, diakonos is indeed feminine in spite of its inflected ending, and we can infer nothing of substance from the grammatical gender of the word.

A second example of the linguistic gap concerns an uncontested rule of Greek grammar (and several other languages): The masculine gender typically describes a group including both men and women.12 In Acts 12:12, for example, the clause “many people had gathered and were praying” is grammatically masculine, though Rhoda and Mary are present. Similarly, in Mark 5:38, “weeping and wailing” translates two masculine plural participles, yet women are undeniably involved. Again, when Peter affirms that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” both Acts 2:21 and Joel 2:32 (LXX13 3:5) use the masculine adjective pas (“everyone”) in spite of the proximate references to daughters (Acts 2:17) and female slaves (Acts 2:18). This rule of grammar challenges the claim that elders in the New Testament are always men. Neither Paul nor Acts mentions any individual elder. Instead, we read of elders in the plural and in the abstract.14 On the basis of grammar, therefore, we cannot say whether these plural references include women elders. The objection that an elder must be a “one-woman man” (1 Tim. 3:2, Titus 1:6) must confront the fact that this same phrase describes deacons (1 Tim. 3:12), yet Phoebe the diakonos is clearly not a “one-woman man.”

A final problem with the role model question is that it promotes a double standard. Men ministering in the twenty-first-century church do not, in fact, submit to the assumption that they need the justification of a first-century male role model. What man, for example, would work with children or offer hospitality only after searching Scripture for a male exemplar? Furthermore, a man need not hesitate to follow the example of a biblical woman. What man would postpone following the example of Ruth or Esther, Lois or Lydia, in fear that some of their actions are limited to women? Careful consideration of this double standard reveals the fatal flaw of the role model question: There are no exclusively female roles! A woman filling a “man’s role,” by preaching, for example, is viewed by many as acting dishonorably. But a man filling a “woman’s role,” by working in the nursery, for example, is viewed by many as acting honorably.

In summary, though common, natural, and sometimes helpful, a close look at the role model question reveals four flaws. It argues from a stacked deck and, therefore, may alienate hierarchists or the undecided. It is an argument from silence which overlooks the occasional nature of Paul’s letters. It does not take seriously the vast gap between first-century cultures and the modern world. Finally, it lays upon women a burden of interpretation and application that men are not expected to bear.

Outdoing the Amish: The normative question

Jesus ordered his disciples to walk, staff in hand. So it is—but is that the point for our understanding of ministerial travel? Should we try to outdo the Amish?  —Krister Stendahl, 195815

A second question is equally common: When does Paul speak to a specific occasion, and when does he speak to all people at all times? Consider William J. Webb, who shows in the introduction to his book Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals that people tend to ask questions such as, “How do I determine which components of the biblical text should apply today and which should not?”16 The question is often framed using the operative word “normative” and its supposed opposite, “culturally bound.” The prior assumption is that Paul intended some, and only some, of his statements to guide the actions of all Christians in all places and eras.

Like the role model question, the normative question is common, natural, and sometimes helpful. It has, in fact, been especially helpful to me. The trajectory that has led to my current egalitarian position was launched in part by a 1978 article by S. Scott Bartchy, which categorizes texts about gender as normative, descriptive, or problematic. Normative texts (Acts 2:17–18; 1 Cor. 7:4–5, 7, 11:11–12; Gal. 3:28) “declare ‘the way things are to be’ in the New Covenant (i.e., now) without reference to any particular problem or misunderstanding within the Christian community.”17 Problematic texts (1 Cor. 14:34–35, 1 Tim. 2:11–15) are problematic, not because of our distaste for them or our inability to understand them, but because they arise out of “special problems within the Christian communities.”18 Since my initial encounter with this article, however, I have come to the fuller understanding that a normative statement and a statement dealing with a problem are not categorically exclusive. “Normative” need not be synonymous with “literal.” Thus, the principle behind a text, rather than a surface reading of the text itself, can indeed be normative.

In spite of its helpfulness, however, the normative question will eventually lead us astray. To begin, borrowing a statement from an interpreter grappling with the normative question, “[T]here
will be difficult decisions to be made as to which parts of the total biblical revelation should take priority for the decision of this issue.”19 Not only are these decisions difficult, but no one has the authority to make them, and no consensus is emerging regarding which select segments of Scripture should function as normative in the twenty-first century. Many Christians, for example, appeal to 1 Timothy 2:11–12 as normative and therefore as a guide to the interpretation of other passages. Such a stance is based on 1 Timothy 2:13–14, which steps outside the culture of Paul and Timothy by invoking Adam and Eve. Many of these same interpreters also argue that Galatians 3:28 (“no longer male and female. . .”) is of limited applicability because it addresses a specific question: Who may be saved? In contrast, however, other Christians consider Galatians 3:28 the normative text that provides an interpretive principle for the culturally bound 1 Timothy 2:11–12. Instead of agreement, the result is more sophisticated disagreement.

More destructive than disagreement about Scripture is disregard for Scripture. The quest for what is normative disregards the subject of 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (NRSV, italics added). When the “all” of this text is replaced with “some” or even “most,” harmful results are inevitable.

One poignant example is from 1 Timothy 2:8–15. In the text below, underlining represents one common view of what is normative; the resulting non-normative material is italicized for contrast.

I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. (1 Tim. 2:8–15 NRSV)

Surely, the Apostle Paul would cringe at such disjointed and disruptive treatment of his otherwise unified text. This is not how letters are written, and it is not how letters should be read. Instead, the question of what is normative and what is cultural demands a both/and answer. All biblical texts are normative, and all biblical texts address a specific culture. Paul himself prompts this conclusion in his address to the Corinthians: “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” (1 Cor. 1:2 NRSV). Paul writes to a specific group for specific reasons, and from these specifics arise both what he says and how he says it. Paul is aware, however, that his words have secondary application for “all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Modern Christians, of course, are among “all those in every place.” We must not forget that we are not part of the primary audience or, what is more likely forgotten, that the distance between us and the original audience is vast. This danger can be seen, for example, in the following quotation:

Our mandate is to figure out which statements from the Bible in their “on the page” wording you and I should continue to follow in our contemporary setting. In order to do this we must determine whether we should apply a particular biblical statement in the exact form articulated on the page or whether we should apply only some expression of its underlying principle(s).20

In fact, we should apply no text strictly in its “on the page wording,” and we should seek the “underlying principle” of all biblical texts. To deny this conclusion is to deny the vast cultural gap between the text and the modern reader. We must avoid this state of denial, for we cannot escape our role as interpreters.

Consider a text with normative status no one would challenge: “You shall not kill” (Exod. 20:13, Deut. 5:17). Because of the simplicity and importance of this command, one would presumably favor applying its “on the page wording” rather than its “underlying principle.” In fact, however, even such a straightforward text cries out for interpretation before application. The initial interpretive steps are so basic they are accomplished with little or no thought: The text is English rather than Hebrew, it speaks of the killing of humans not animals, and the future tense has an imperative force.21 More pressing challenges, however, arise almost as immediately. Such realities as abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, self-defense, suicide, and war call on the reader to become an interpreter who carefully seeks the text’s “underlying principle.”

Returning to the example of 1 Timothy 2, we note the braids, gold, pearls, and expensive clothes in verse 9 should not be considered non-normative. Rather, they are components of an inspired text which contribute to a normative underlying principle; that principle may concern modesty, religious syncretism, or both.22 Furthermore, the learning, teaching, and authority in verses 11–13 are components of an inspired text which contribute to a normative underlying principle; that principle concerns being equipped to teach.

Some interpreters, of course, do indeed consider texts which limit women to be normative in their “on the page wording.” One important step toward doing so is to demonstrate that Paul himself considered his words directly applicable not only to the women of Corinth (in the case of 1 Cor. 14) and Ephesus (in the case of 1 Tim. 2), but to all women in his era. If Paul intended such broad ancient application, the argument goes, it is appropriate to take the next step and apply his words directly to women of other generations as well.

Two key texts for accomplishing such a move are from 1 Corinthians.23 Both texts have been used to teach that Paul himself applies his restrictions on women throughout his ministry, not only among the Corinthian recipients. Accurate translation of these passages, however, disallows such an interpretation.

The first text used to demonstrate Paul’s universal limiting of women is 1 Corinthians 11:16, which with its context comprises a curious and difficult passage about praying and prophesying, headship and head coverings. In short, men should pray and prophesy with their heads uncovered; women should do the same but with heads covered. Verse 16 offers the concluding comment, “If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God” (1 Cor. 11:16 NIV). The apparent meaning of the NIV is that Paul’s words about headship and head coverings represent universal practice and should therefore be heeded all the more. This interpretation depends on translating the adjective toioutos as “other” in the phrase “we have no other practice.” Few translations, however, read “other” here; most English translations instead read “such.” (Unfortunately, TNIV has maintained the NIV’s use of “other.”) Furthermore, NIV translates only one of the other fifty-six occurrences of toioutos as “other,”24 and no Greek-English lexicon offers “other” as a suitable translation of toioutos.25

The difference between “such” and “other” is easily overlooked. The two words, however, can function in opposite ways. Two examples, both from Paul’s letters, will demonstrate the difference. In both examples, changing “such” to “other” would radically alter the meaning of the passage.

Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Rom. 1:32 NIV, italics added)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22–23 NIV, italics added)

But how could Paul promote a practice and then insist there is “no such practice”? In 1 Corinthians 11:16, the practice in question is not the whole of the preceding passage; the practice is specified in the very same verse—contentiousness! Paul knows not everyone will agree with his instructions. In the face of inevitable disagreement, he warns against contentious disagreement—a valuable lesson for similar situations today. It seems the KJV had it right: “But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God.” Paul is not claiming that “the churches of God” unanimously limit women; rather, they unanimously shun contentiousness.

A second text used to demonstrate Paul’s universal limiting of women occurs later in the same letter. New Testament manuscripts, of course, have neither punctuation nor paragraphs, and we should not view such features as inspired. The translation of a passage should reveal the structure of a passage, especially when that structure contributes to meaning and understanding. The issue at hand appears in 1 Corinthians 14:33–34a: “33For God is not a God of disorder but of peace. As in all the congregations of the saints, 34women should remain silent in the churches” (NIV). A close look at this one translation reveals two interpretations. The verse division (inserted in the mid-sixteenth century) suggests one interpretation: God’s orderly and peaceful character is evident in all congregations. The NIV punctuation suggests a different interpretation: women’s silence is evident in all congregations.

Which is correct? English translations are divided. Among those presenting “as in all the congregations of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33b)  as a conclusion to what precedes it (“God is not a God of disorder”) are Tyndale, Geneva, Bishops’, LB, NASB, NKJV, and TNIV. In addition to the NIV, translations presenting the phrase as an introduction to what follows (“women should remain silent”) include ASV, NAB, RSV, NJB, NRSV, and ESV.

One argument against understanding the phrase as an introduction to what follows is the resulting awkward redundancy. NIV and other translations mitigate this awkwardness by using two words to translate two occurrences of ekklēsiais: “As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches.” A more conclusive argument is based in common sense and allows Scripture to interpret Scripture. Simply stated, we know women were not silent in all the congregations. Indeed, we know this from Paul himself! Let us not, therefore, present Paul as saying something hypocritical. Again, the KJV has the correct sense: “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” Paul does not appeal to “all the churches of the saints” as the locus of women’s silence. Rather, these congregations witness to God’s peaceful character.

These two texts, which Paul wrote to the Christians of Corinth, therefore, do not change the principle being argued in this article: All biblical texts contribute to underlying principles, and it is these principles that are normative. The fact that Paul’s writings are occasional letters does not oblige us to dissect them into normative and culturally bound material.


Interpretation depends in part on questions posed to the text. Many such questions are important and should be asked of all biblical texts, including those about women. We should, for example, ask literary and rhetorical questions. We should ask questions that may reveal the situation of the author and original readers. We should ask how the broad voice of Scripture guides our interpretation. We should ask what principles inform our lives today.

Not all questions, however, are helpful. When pondering Paul’s writing, we must remember the occasional nature of his letters. Minimizing the importance of genre has resulted in asking certain questions of Paul’s words about women. One such inquiry probes the Bible for women whose titles or actions justify certain roles for modern women. A second asks when Paul’s words are normative for all Christians at all times and when they are culturally bound. Both questions rest on faulty assumptions and have yielded unfortunate results in the interpretive process.


  1. Silena Moore Holman, “Women’s Scriptural Status Again,” Gospel Advocate 30 (21 November 1888),
  2. To be more precise, both authors give both orders. Acts places Priscilla first in 18:18, 26, and Aquila first in 18:2 (where the names are not simply paired). Paul names Prisca first in Rom. 16:3 and 2 Tim. 4:19, and Aquila first in 1 Cor. 16:19. Well aware of modern scholars’ emphasis on the pseudonymity of the Pastoral Letters, I nevertheless accept Paul’s authorship. Though authorship is not the theme of this article, interested readers may consult E. Earle Ellis, The Making of the New Testament Documents, Biblical Interpretation Series 39 (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 320–29, 418–22; Luke T. Johnson, The First and Second Letters to Timothy, Anchor Bible 35A (New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 2001), 55–90; and E. Randolph Richards, Paul and First-Century Letter Writing: Secretaries, Composition, and Collection (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2004).
  3. Jeffrey T. Riddle, “Are the Daughters of Philip Among the Prophets of Acts?” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 11, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 22–23,
  4. Leslie B. Flynn, My Daughter a Preacher!?! (Nanuet, N.Y.: Flynn, 1996), 54.
  5. See, for example, 1 Cor. 5:9, Col. 4:16, and 2 Thess. 3:17.
  6. That Junia was indeed a woman has been demonstrated. The most complete treatment is by Eldon J. Epp, Junia: The First Woman Apostle (Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg Fortress, 2005).
  7. Material about Phoebe is adapted from the author’s “What Can We Say About Phoebe?” forthcoming in Priscilla Papers.
  8. Brendan Byrne, Romans, Sacra pagina 6 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 1996), 447; Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1996), 914; Peter Richardson, “From Apostles to Virgins: Romans 16 and the Roles of Women in the Early Church,” Toronto Journal of Theology 2 (1986): 239. For extensive treatment of women deacons, see Ute E. Eisen, Women Officeholders in Early Christianity: Epigraphical and Literary Studies (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical, 2000), 158–98; Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek, eds., Ordained Women in the Early Church: A Documentary History (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005); John N. M. Wijngaards, Women Deacons in the Early Church: Historical Texts and Contemporary Debates (New York, N.Y.: Crossroad, 2002).
  9. See, for example, Jack Cottrell, Romans, 2 vols., College Press NIV Commentary (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1998), 2:462, n. 28.
  10. See, for example, Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament 6 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1998), 787.
  11. F. W. Danker, W. Bauer, W. F. Arndt, and F. W. Gingrich, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press, 1999 [hereafter BDAG]), s.v.; H. G. Liddell, R. Scott, and H. S. Jones, A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th ed. (Oxford: University Press, 1996 [hereafter LSJ]), s.v.; J. P. Louw and E. A Nida, eds., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York, N.Y.: United Bible Societies, 1989 [hereafter L&N]), 35.20, 53.67; A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman, 1934), 252; Herbert W. Smyth, Greek Grammar, rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), sec. 198. For a list of such words, see Warren C. Trenchard, Complete Vocabulary Guide to the Greek New Testament, rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1998), 296–97.
  12. F. Blass, A. Debrunner, and R. W. Funk, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, Ill.: University Press, 1961), sec. 135.2; Robertson, Grammar, 412; Smyth, Grammar, sec. 197.a.
  13. The Septuagint, or LXX, is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures used in the first century.
  14. Acts 11:30; 14:23; 15:2, 4, 6, 22, 23; 16:4; 20:17; 21:18; 1 Tim. 5:17, 19; and Titus 1:5 use presbyteros (“elder”); cf. Jas. 5:14. Acts 20:28, Phil. 1:1, 1 Tim. 3:2, and Titus 1:7 use episkopos (“overseer”). Eph. 4:11 uses poimēn (“shepherd”). For abstract occurrences, see 1 Tim. 3:2, 5:19, and Titus 1:7. Outside Paul and Acts, 1 Pet. 5:1, 2 John 1, and 3 John 1 mention individual elders; only 1 Pet. 5:1 names an individual elder.
  15. Krister Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics, Facet Books, Biblical Series 15, trans. Emilie T. Sander (Philadelphia, Pa.: Fortress, 1966), 20.
  16. William J. Webb, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 2001), 16.
  17. S. Scott Bartchy, “Power, Submission, and Sexual Identity Among the Early Christians,” in Essays on New Testament Christianity: A Festschrift in Honor of Dean E. Walker, ed. C. Robert Wetzel (Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard, 1978), 57. This early article proved a wellspring for Bartchy’s further work on gender issues in early Christianity, from which many, including myself, have benefited considerably. See “Human Sexuality and Our Identity,” Mission Journal 17, no. 5 (November 1983): 10–14; “Jesus, Power, and Gender Roles,” Theological Student Fellowship Bulletin 17, no. 3 (1984): 2–4; “Issues of Power and a Theology of the Family: Part 1” Mission Journal 21, no. 1 (July/August 1987): 3–15, 32; Part 2, 21, no. 2 (September 1987): 3–11; Part 3, 21, no. 3 (October 1987): 9–11, 8 (sic); “Undermining Ancient Patriarchy: The Apostle Paul’s Vision of a Society of Siblings,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 29 (1999): 68–78; “Who Should Be Called Father? Paul of Tarsus between the Jesus Tradition and Patria Potestas,” Biblical Theology Bulletin 33 (2003): 135–47; Call No Man Father!”—How Paul Followed Jesus in Challenging Patriarchy (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, forthcoming).
  18. Bartchy, “Power, Submission, and Sexual Identity,” 57.
  19. R. T. France, Women in the Church’s Ministry: A Test-Case for Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1997), 27.
  20. Webb, Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals, 13. Having quoted Webb twice, I should be clear that I highly value his book as a whole and specifically his “redemptive-movement hermeneutic” (see esp. ch. 2). His ideas have helped form my own, and I promote his work in my own teaching.
  21. Both Greek and English use the future tense in Exod. 20:13 (LXX 20:15) and Deut. 5:17 (LXX 5:18); Hebrew, which has no future tense, uses the qal imperfect.
  22. For an expression of the modesty principle, see Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1992), 105–07. Concerning the syncretism principle, see Frank Ritchel Ames and J. David Miller, “Prayer and Syncretism in 1 Timothy,” Restoration Quarterly 52, no. 2 (2010): 65–80.
  23. Portions of this article dealing with 1 Cor. 11:16 and 14:33–34 are adapted from the author’s article, “Translating Paul’s Words About Women,” Stone-Campbell Journal 12:1 (Spring 2009): 61–70.
  24. See Eph. 5:27, where NIV has “without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish.” Compare NRSV, “without a spot or wrinkle or anything of the kind.”
  25. G. Abbott-Smith, A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1921); BDAG; LSJ; L&N; J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1930, repr. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1997); B. M. Newman, Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament (Stuttgart: German Bible Society, 1993); J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, corrected ed. (New York, N.Y.: Harper & Brothers, 1889); C. D. Yonge, An English-Greek Lexicon (London: Longman, Brown, Green & Longmans, 1849).