I have posted this comment in response to some reflections on John Richardson’s blog. I am hoping we might have a further exchange of views based on a more detailed critique from John. You can find extracts from the booklet at these posts: Gen 1, 2 and 3, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 18, Romans 16, 1 Cor 11, 1 Cor 14, Eph 5 and 1 Tim 2 and a summary of conclusions here.
John, thanks for reading my Grove text—I look forward to hearing a longer critique of it. But I wonder if I can pick up a couple of points from the comments so far.
Firstly, I think it is interesting that you pick up Ephesians 5 as representing ‘the crux of the debate’ in relation to the question of ministry and women. I would simply want to ask ‘Why?’ The text is really clear that
- the submission of women to their husbands is but one example of the submission of all believers to each other
- that this in itself it but one aspect of ‘being filled with the Spirit’ and
- that it is about women submitting (quite emphatically) to their own husbands.
Most contemporary translations are lamentable in missing all three points by introducing incorrect paragraphing (and it would be interesting to reflect why this is); your translation is better, but still omits to translate the emphatic ‘idioi‘ ‘their own.’
Second, you comment (I think rather dismissively? unless I have misread) that ‘context is king’. Well of course it is; it is an element of introductory hermeneutics in the evangelical tradition that a text without a context is a pretext.
Third, on the question of ‘obey’ and ‘submit’ you draw on Peter’s citation of the OT to argue that in Paul the two words are synonymous. I have heard this suggestion before, and I think this is very poor reading. When you read Paul in Greek, three things scream out: that ‘submission’ of wives to husbands come in the context of all submitting to one another (and the same goes for attitudes to leadership); that in the ‘household codes’ Paul is consistent in not asking wives to ‘obey’ their husbands; and that this is in really striking contrast to parallel contemporary household codes which are in many other ways strikingly parallel.
Fourth, I think it is remarkable that you juxtapose Acts 18 with 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14—as if they were equally clear texts. Acts 18 unambiguously asserts that Priscilla has an apostolic, church-founding teaching ministry. 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14 are fraught with exegetical difficulties, which is why I gave disproportionate coverage to them in my booklet. But to put these texts together as if there was a simple tension between them is misleading.
Fifthly, I don’t think I can be characterised as an ‘egalitarian’, if by that you mean someone coming to the text aiming to defend a position. My aim in my Grove booklet was to read the texts fairly and responsibly, and I do think this has been lacking in large parts of this discussion (and not on one side only). But the chief burden for scrupulousness in this regard must lie with those who are claiming to be shaped by Scripture as their authority in all matters of life and faith.