William Webb’s Appendix B: The Traditional Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:14

Complementarians typically appeal to church history to buttress their view that Christians have always believed that women were “equal in being, but different” in role. This is suspicious considering what people men have taught about women, particularly from 1 Timothy 2:14. William Webb’s book Slaves, Women and Homosexuals has the following quotes in an appendix demonstrating that in reality the Christians believed women were inferior in their being, and therefore inferior in their role.

Didymus the Blind (313-398): “Being strong [i.e. stronger that the woman who was weak under Satan’s deception], the man is more able than the woman to fight and defend himself against the trickery of the adversary, he would not (and will not) let himself be drawn into seduction like Eve.”

John Chrysostom (347-407): “For thus they will show submission by their silence. For the sex is naturally somewhat talkative: and for this reason he restrains them on all sides… “The woman [Eve] taught once, and ruined all. On this account therefore he saith, let her not teach. But what is it to other women, that she suffered this? It certainly concerns them; for the sex is weak and fickle, and he is speaking of the sex collectively.”

Augustine (354-430): “And [Satan] first tried his deceit upon the woman, making his assault up on the weaker part of that human alliance, that he might gradually gain the whole, and not supposing that the man would readily give ear to him, or be deceived, but that he might yield to the error of the woman…. For not without significance did the apostle say, ‘And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.'”

Epiphanius (365-403): “The female sex is easily mistaken, fallible, and poor in intelligence. It is apparent that through women the devil has vomited this forth. As previously the teaching associated with Quintilla, Maximilla, and Priscilla was utterly ridiculous, so also is this one…. Come now, servants of God, let us put on a manly mind and disperse the mania of these women. The whole of this deception is female; the disease comes from Eve who was long ago deceived.”

Humbert de Romans (1194-1277): “In connection with the preacher’s person, we should notice that he must be of male sex. ‘I do not permit a woman to teach’ (1 Tim. 2:12). There are four reasons for this: first lack of understanding, because a man is more likely to have understanding than a woman.

Bonaventure (1217-1274): “The devil, envious of man, assumed the form of a serpent and addressed the woman…. By this temptation, sought to bring about the fall of the weaker woman, so that through her he might then overthrow the stronger sex….But it was by the devil’s own cunning that he approached the woman first. It is easier to overcome the weak. A clever enemy always attacks a stronghold at its weakest point.”

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274): “The human group would have lacked the benefit of order had some of its members not been governed by others who were wiser. Such is the subjection in which woman is by nature subordinate to man, because the power of rational discernment is by nature stronger in man…. St. Paul says ‘that women should keep silence in the Churches,’ and ‘I permit no woman to teach or have authority over men.’ [1 Tim. 2:12] But this especially touches on the grace of speech. Accordingly that grace [speaking publicly to the whole church] does not pertain to women… because generally speaking women are not perfected in wisdom so as to be fit to be entrusted with public teaching.

Erasmus (1466-1536): “Eve was deceived first when, believing the serpent and beguiled by the enticement of the fruit, she disregarded God’s command. The man could not have been taken in either by the serpent’s promises or by the allure of the fruit; only love for his wife drew him into a ruinous compliance.

Martin Luther (1514-1572): “Paul thus proved that by divine and human right Adam is the master of the woman. That is, it was not Adam who went astray. Therefore, there was greater wisdom in Adam that in the woman. Where this occurs, there is the greater authority…. He [Adam] persevered in his dominion over the serpent, which did not attack him but rather attacked the weaker vessel… just as he does today.”

John Knox(1514-1572): And first, where I affirm the empire of a woman to be a thing repugnant to nature, I mean not only that God, by the order of his creation, has spoiled woman of authority and dominion, but also that man has seen, proved, and pronounced just causes why it should be…. For who can deny but it is repugnant to nature, that the blind shall be appointed to lead and conduct such as do see? That the weak, the sick, and impotent persons shall nourish and keep the whole and strong? And finally, that the foolish, mad, and frenetic shall govern the discreet, and give counsel to such as be sober of mind? And such be all women, compared unto man in bearing of authority…. I except such as God, by singular privilege, and for certain causes known only to himself, has exempted from the common rank of women, and do speak of women as nature and experience do this day declare them. Nature, I say, does paint them forth to be weak, frail, impatient, feeble, and foolish; and experience has declared them to be inconstant, variable, cruel, lacking the spirit of counsel and regiment. And these notable faults have men in all ages espied in that kind, for the which not only they have removed women from rule and authority, but also some have thought that men subject to the counsel or empire of their wives were unworthy of public office.


Omelianchuk v. Cowan

Steven Cowan and I go toe to toe in the latest edition of Philosophia Christi over whether complementarianism is incoherent.

In a recent article Cowan defended the claim that female subordination and male authority are merely functional differences. Drawing upon insights from Natural Law, I argue that complementarianism typically speaks of these functions as proper functions of male and female designs, thus making men and women metaphysically unequal in being. Furthermore, I maintain that the function serving as a means to an end is less valuable than the function having authority to direct the end. Hence, Cowan fails to defeat the objection that the claim that women are equal to men in being, but subordinate in role, is incoherent.

In reply, Cowan says that my case misses the point of certain aspects of his argument, that it begs the main question, and that it depends upon an unclear notion of metaphysical inferiority.

A Correction to “The Logic of Equality”

My inexperience with working with publishers shows. When I opened the fall issue of Priscilla Papers I was happy to see my piece “The Logic of Equality” published. I was not happy to see that I had submitted an incorrected draft to the editor. I had a number of different versions I was working with, and it seems I missed the opportunity in the final review to catch the error.

The sixth reason I give for rejecting the complementarian idea of the Trinity reads like this in the journal:

Sixth, subordination that extends into eternity cannot be merely functional, but must also be ontological. God’s authority is a quality that inheres with the attribute of his lordship. Authority, applied to God, means he has the right to govern all things as well as the ability to control all things. If we choose to use the term “authority” as a quality of God’s lordship, we must apply it to both Father and Son, for both share in the divine attribute of lordship. With this principle in mind, it follows that if the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, then the Father has a divine attribute that the Son does not have. And since eternity is an intrinsic quality of God’s existence, it logically follows that what the Son is eternally, he is in being. If the Son is eternally subordinate in function, then he is eternally subordinate in being

It should read like this:

Sixth, subordination that extends into eternity cannot be merely functional if it is based on something that is ontological. God’s authority is a quality that inheres with the attribute of his lordship. Authority, applied to God, means he has the right to govern all things, as well as the ability to control all things. If we choose to use the term “authority” as a quality of God’s lordship we must apply it to both Father and Son, for both share in the divine attribute of lordship. Yet this principle conflicts with eternal subordination’s insistence that the Son’s “sonship” subordinates him to a status lower than the Father. If this is the case, it stands to reason that the Father has a divine attribute that the Son does not have, namely that of authority. And since authority is an intrinsic quality of God’s existence it logically follows that what the Son lacks in deity subordinates him not only in function but also in being. If the Son is eternally subordinate in function by virtue of what he is, then he is eternally subordinate in being.

The difference is significant, because it does not follow that if the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, then the Father has a divine attribute that the Son does not have. Eternal subordination can be conceived as something like a contract: from all eternity the persons of the trinitarian community mutually agreed to arrange themselves hierarchically (perhaps for the purposes of redemption?). In this scheme, it remains conceivable that a possible world may have been ordained where the Father subordinated to the Son. However, if such a world is not possible then it does follow, for eternal subordination is then determined by the Son’s “sonship.” The problem here is that it makes an essence out of the Son’s personhood (“sonship”) that is altogether different from the Father’s essence.

Either way, the point about God’s attribute of authority is at the center of the “sixth reason” and that is what is lacking in complementarian views of the Trinity. If we take the contractual view, the Son empties himself of the attribute in a way that mimics the kenosis view of the incarnation. I’m not sure any complementarian theologian would embrace that. In seeking to avoid this, we could take the “submission is fitting to sonship” view, but as I have tried to show, this falls into ontological subordination.

Lesson learned: reread your submissions to publishers again and again even if you have read the darn thing a hundred times! I await the fair criticism of my unfortunate non sequitur.

The Logic of Equality

I added another page to the blog entitled The Logic of Equality, an unpublished paper where I try to address some objections to the “A” And “Not-A” article, particularly those that appeal to eternal subordination within the Trinity. Check it out.

An Unfettered Response to Jeremy Pierce

A while back Jeremy Pierce over at the Parableman blog posted a critique of Rebecca Merrill Groothuis’ argument, though it is apparent he did not read the relevant chapter in Discovering Biblical Equality. Below are my responses in red.

Continue reading

Response to CBMW’s Annotated Bibliography

CBMW made an annotated bibliography of gender-related articles of 2006 and included some commentary on my The “Difference” Between “A and Not-A”: An Analyses of Alleged “Word-Tricks” and Obfuscations. Their comments are reproduced below and my responses are in [red].

Omelianchuk, Adam. “The ‘Difference’ Between ‘A and Not-A’: An Analysis of Alleged ‘Word Tricks’ and Obfuscations.” Priscilla Papers 20, no. 1 (2006): 9-12.

Omelianchuk examines “Egalitarian Claim 10:6” in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Multnomah, 2004) by Wayne Grudem. Omelianchuk first defines and examines key terms used in the gender role debate (i.e., authority, leadership, submission, etc.) by using reference books such as a dictionary and thesaurus. He then critiques the “hierarchicalist” position and concludes that they, not egalitarians, use word tricks and obfuscate language to conceal the incoherence of their view. However, Omelianchuk’s fundamental error is the assertion that differences in function necessarily implies inferiority in being, which is a common mistake to make when words and concepts are defined by resources other than the Bible [The “fundamental error” in this review is that it fails to understand that my use of the dictionary and thesaurus was to clarify words that complementarians use in their descriptions of how they think gender hierarchy is compatible with gender equality. I did not use them as substitutes for Scripture as this review misleading implies. I started with Wayne Grudem’s assertions and analyzed the logic of his position. There is nothing wrong with using reference books in clarifying how words are being used in a debate about what the Bible supposedly teaches ]. His logic fails because he, like other egalitarians, cannot grasp the simultaneous biblical concepts of equality in personhood and difference in function [This begs the question. The very point of my article was to show how complementarians construe these ideas is contradictory, and therefore cannot be grasped in the same way a colorless blue car cannot be grasped. Criticizing me for failing to grasp it trivially says that I am wrong because I don’t believe their position is right] He also fails to see that male headship is not harsh headship. As God is the head of Christ and Christ is the head of man (1 Cor 11:3), so men are to lovingly and sacrificially lead like Christ, who did not come “to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) [This is irrelevant. Whether harsh or humble, men are deemed authoritative over women because they are men. The issue of whether they are good or bad at being authoritative is another matter ]. Lastly, he fails to see that male leadership is not due to women being “unfit” to lead. Rather, it is God’s wise design for his creation which points to greater realities, namely, Christ’s leadership of the church and the Triune God himself, who as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are equal in essence yet different in function [If women are designed by God to be in subjection then how are they not unfit to lead? Such greater realities don’t mimic this crucial point in that the Son is uncreated and there is nothing in him or in the Father that requires him to be subordinate, nor is the church equal with Christ in being ].

The “Difference” Between “A and Not-A”: An Analyses of Alleged “Word-Tricks” and Obfuscations

My article The “Difference” Between “A and Not-A”: An Analyses of Alleged “Word-Tricks” and Obfuscations is now available online. See the Winter 2006 edition of Priscilla Papers for the published edition.