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Published Date: November 26, 2008

Published Date: November 26, 2008

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It’s Greek to Me!

The blog was long, but intriguing.  The author had written on the place of women in the church.  He spent an inordinate amount of time unpacking a lot of preliminary thoughts, but as a woman with a stake in this battle, I hung in patiently.  He got to the part about “hesuchia,” the word used in 1Timothy 2:11-12, where it says, “a woman should learn in quietness (hesuchia) and full submission (hupotage, or obedience)”…“she must be silent (again hesuchia).”

 This Greek word was not meant to imply utter silence, the author insisted.  The meaning of the word more accurately is “peaceable, tranquil, with restraint, quietly.”  One can look at other places where the word is used, for instance, when Paul wants to speak to the unruly crowd on the barracks’ steps in Jerusalem and they settle down (hesuchia) when he uses Aramaic (Acts 22:2), or in 2 Thessalonians 3:12, when Paul commands the idle to “settle down [hesuchia] and earn the bread they eat.”

 As I read the blog and absorbed the author’s interpretation of this word that has shut the mouths of so many women, I felt hope rise.  “Come on, now…preach it!” I was thinking, quite possibly in danger of losing my hesuchia.  I was hoping his final conclusion would be that proscriptions against women speaking in church were founded on shaky definitions. 

 But no, he worked his way back to a “nevertheless.”  Even though, absolute silence was not being called for, he said, still women were to be under the leadership of men and not to come over “the tops of the heads of men.”  He pointed to 1Timothy 2:12 which reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent” to conclude that women are not equal and must not teach or have authority over men ever despite everything he had said up to that point.

 Now the Greek for “have authority over” is interesting too.  Authenteo doesn’t appear to be a simple “have authority over.”  Instead, it seems to be pointing to dictatorial authority.   It seems to mean being autocratic, an absolute master, to exercise dominion over someone or others.  I wonder if Paul’s concern was not about simple and respectful leadership from women, but rather about dominating, bullying, usurping, taking over, etc.  As has often been asked, what generated Paul’s concern, proper gender roles in the church, or fear that the Christian women were degenerating into pagan behavior?

 Might 1Timothy 2:11-12 be interpreted this way:  “A woman should learn in a respectful, peaceful way, as reflects obedience to God.  She must not teach or exercise authority in ways that belittle/compete with men.  She must show restraint.”

 Paul goes on to speak of Adam being formed first and of woman being deceived and becoming a sinner.  Was that stated to say that man is superior to an “easily fooled woman,” or was it included to remind women who were being tempted to “try and run the show,” that they, too, sin and ought to be humble? 

 And finally, v. 15, “women will be saved through childbearing – if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with propriety.”  Does this mean, as some have interpreted it, that motherhood should be at the center of a woman’s focus and will be the means of saving her (she’ll be saved as she recognizes her place), or rather that, if she continues with a quiet, peaceable spirit (faith, love, holiness with propriety), she will pass safely through the experience that often costs women their lives (still can today) – giving birth?

 Oh, the questions we’ll have for Paul some day.

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