Flying Red Pens
Tonight, red pens were a-flying in my room. We are studying 1 Timothy in my Fuller class. Oh, the legendary first letter to Timothy! The book that has caused many a woman to have imaginary boxing-matches with St. Paul over his apparent misogyny!
Well, N.T. Wright is helping me see Paul in a whole new light. I’m not so mad at him anymore. But, we’ll save that talk for another post.
I must say, I find it awfully inconsistent that the folk who stand firmly on Timothy’s famous directives against female leadership (“a woman should not teach a man”) do not also stand on the other directives in the same passage. (That all men should pray with hands lifted up in the air, for example!)
As I read 1 Timothy 3:11 and Romans 16:1 in a few different translations tonight, I ended up throwing my red pen and shouting aloud in frustration.
Why? Because both of these verses show the likelihood of there being female leaders (“deaconesses”) in the early church, and yet, the majority of English translations fail to fairly reflect this possibility. Some bury it in footnotes, and others–like my current favorite, the New King James–do not give any indication at all of this probability in the Greek.
Meet Phoebe, in Romans 16:1:
I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea. (NKJV)
I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon [a] of the church in Cenchreae.
Footnotes: Or servant (TNIV)
The vast majority of English translations side with Phoebe as a (vague-sounding) “servant,” though the Greek is diakonia, offering the probability that Phoebe was a deacon. The nice new TNIV shows this clearly, while others do not. Check your Bibles, kids!
I’ve finally begun to wrap my mind around some of the texts that have centuries long been used in the church as arguments against women in pastoral leadership. More than ever, as I learn of the context of 1 Timothy, I am persuaded that this letter was written to address issues that were specific to a set time and place. And I am persuaded, from the design of Genesis, and the whole of Scripture that it is God’s intention for men and women to work in partnership.
I must say, it feels good to throw pens when frustrated.
(Photo by: Mr. Wright.)