Essay on Women’s Roles

Critique
The reconsideration of the role of women in the church has received great attention in the past decades, primarily under the influence of feminist philosophy. Kostenberger in his analysis strives to arrive at an understanding of scriptural evidence that could provide grounds for resolving the debate between the traditional, complementarian understanding of male-female roles in the church and the new egalitarian perspective.

Although recognizing at the onset the relative use of arguing on exegetical grounds with those that hold a different set of hermeneutical assumptions and exclude certain exegetical outcomes (p.235), the author nevertheless proceeds to explore biblical texts viewing them both from the viewpoint of perennial importance to the church and background. Thus, considering 1 Timothy 2:9-15 that he labels as “the crux of the matter”, Kostenberger methodically rejects assumptions made in interpreting the passage by other authors: that Paul could have referred only to ‘emancipated’ Ephesian women, that he was referring to heretical female teachers instead of all, or that women in those times lacked adequate education (p. 237). While all these comments seem pertinent and the substantiating evidence convincing, the author could have strengthened the argument by bringing in opponents’ work and refuting their arguments and evidence. Similarly, the discussion of distinction between informative norm and the injunction on p. 243 would most require greater substantiation of what constitutes each time of norm and their distinctive characteristics.

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At the same time, the analysis of the exegetics of the chosen passage, 1 Timothy 2:9-15, seems interesting and revealing, especially if the reader accepts the author’s assumption that the passage is “ more constructive and programming rather than narrowly constrained by the correction of a current heresy” (p. 247). The adequate application of the hermeneutical principle of the preeminence of the “natural reading of the text lends credibility to the author’s conclusions that Paul in this passage indeed meant to restrict the role of women in the church.

Personal Conclusion
The most adequate statement of my position would be to say that I, like many people, have not yet arrived at a clear understanding of the biblical perspective on the role of women in the church. To me, the Scriptures present a series of passages on women’s roles, not all of which agree with each other in spirit. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in depth explored by Kostenberger is one of the most anti-woman passages in the Bible that sharply delineates restrictions on female participation in church activities.

At the same time, in Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus”, KJV) seems to emphasize the equality of women and men before God. This seems to contrast with the explicit restrictions imposed by Paul on women in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

Another passage that even more clearly supports the egalitarian view is Philippians 4:3 (“And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel”, KJV). How exactly women have ‘laboured’ with Paul remains unclear and is certainly subject to hermeneutical interpretation, but it remains clear that they have made a significant contribution to the church, different from the submissive manner assigned to them in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. To explore the meaning of this passage, one would need to examine perhaps the background of the text and find out what women were doing in those times to help men spread their faith.

Overall, I believe that analyzing scriptural texts in order to establish the injunctions for women is a difficult undertaking due to the need to reconcile differences and arrive at a unified understanding that can be applied in church policies. I agree with Kostenberger therefore that a thorough researcher should free oneself from the ready-made assumptions and conclusions, but believe that a true understanding of women’s role can only emerge from analysis of all relevant passages.

References
Kostenberger. Chapter Twelve. The Crux of the Matter: Paul’s Pastoral Pronouncements Regarding Women’s Roles in 1 Timothy 2:9-15. pp. 233-260.

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