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.)

8 Responses to “Flying Red Pens”
  1. Agent B says:

    Yeah. I was always frustrated at Paul’s writings too. And of churches pick-n-choose tactics on his writings.

    For crying out loud. I mean, Paul is the guy that more or less suggested CELIBACY.

    Like I was going to follow THAT advice…

  2. Sue says:

    Men and women in partnership…what a peaceful idea.

    Wishing you lots more red pens flying through the air as Christ rejoices in your pursuit of Him and His truths about partnership, relationships, communicating with listening ears longing for God’s wisdom and tender love to break through wicked ways of inequality.

  3. Jenelle says:

    Agent B,
    I used to try really hard not to hate Paul. But seriously, the reading I’ve been doing of late has definitely redeemed him in my eyes. Have you read any of Wright? The dude is going to be as much of a legend as C.S. Lewis.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  4. Agent B says:

    I have not read Wright, yet.

    Everyone has suggested him. Thanks for the link.

  5. lisa says:

    do you not love the way sue writes? yes! now there’s a mom who should blog!

    ok, back to topic… i am sad to have left pasadena just before the lovely deb hirsch arrives in the hood. i so need some more lunches with her to pick her brain about some things like this.

    so you pick her brain and then tell me all about it.

  6. Jenelle says:

    Yes! We need Deb Hirsch! And…the blogosphere needs Deb Hirsch! I’m going to write her right now and tell her so.

    And the b.sphere needs Sue blogging as well. I’ll tell her, too!

  7. Sydney says:

    Hi Jenelle!!

    I haven’t commented on here in awhile, but I still love reading your blog.

    There’s another verse that people use when saying women shouldn’t lead in the church – the verse about how women shouldn’t talk in church. But that one just needs to be taken in context.
    Back then, women and men were segregated in church and women were not educated, so they’d try to ask their husbands questions during the service. Which resulted in them having to shout across the room to them. Basically, when Paul said women shouldn’t speak in the service, he meant they shouldn’t shout across the church and disrupt the service.
    When I learned that, I, too, was able to love Saint Paul a little more. =)

  8. Jenelle says:

    Sydney! I think I accidentally misplaced your email address and don’t know how to find you again! Please email me again so we can get lunch.

    You’re right. When we read verses out of the historical context, it’s a dangerous thing…

    I’m glad you’ve been able to make peace with ol’ Paul, too.

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