Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Philip Towner on 1 Tim 2:11-15

I'm currently reading through Philip Towner, The Letters of Timothy and Titus (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006) and here is a summary of what Towner has to say on 1 Tim 2:11-15.

Towner does not advocate the restriction of women from ministerial offices nor does he regard the text as a post-Pauline creation by a follower of Paul who did not share his teacher’s egalitarian view of women. He situates himself between “feminist” and “hierarchicalist” interpretations. His approach has the following characteristics and conclusions, first, Towner is highly dependent on Bruce Winter’s study about the “new Roman women” who asserted their independence with great flare even to the point of making their sexual status ambiguous by their dress and apparel. Given that Christian worship in the atrium of a Graeco-Roman house in Ephesus was a “public” space, Paul does not want the well-to-do Christian women to bring Christians into disrepute by exhibiting this new liberated femininity in public worship. Second, Towner also maintains that the heresy circulating in Ephesus does influence Paul’s restriction here, but he carefully notes the study of S.M. Baugh that has debunked the often repeated scenario that the women were influenced by the hyper-feminist Artemis cult in Ephesus, and Towner adds that there is no definite evidence that the women were even teaching the heresy. Nonetheless, Towner thinks that Paul’s need to provide instructions about marriage (2 Tim 4:3), his statement about the value of childbearing (2 Tim 2:15), the misreading of OT stories (2 Tim 1:4; 2:13-15; 4:1-5), coupled with the attraction of some wealthy women and young widows to the “new women” paradigm does connect the women to the Ephesian heresy. Thus: “Paul prohibits a group of wealthy women from teaching men. The factors leading to his prohibition are: (1) public presentation – outer adornment and apparel and arrogant demeanour give their teaching a shameful and disrespectful coloration; (2) association with false teaching – they may actually have been conveying or supporting heretical teaching” (200). Third, Towner is convinced that elsewhere women did play a public role in Paul’s churches and he detects an equality principle within the Pauline gospel (e.g. Gal 3:28). Fourth, regarding the two complementary infinitives of v. 12 (“to teach” and “to exercise/assume authority over”) he concurs with Andreas Köstenberger’s syntactical and grammatical analysis of the passage but disagrees with him that “to teach” has a positive force since the wider context suggests that the content of the women’s teaching contains heresy or the teaching itself is motivated to assert their dominance over men – in both cases “to teach” has negative connotations. Fifth, concerning the “saved through child-birth” remark in v. 15, Towner thinks that Paul “urges these Christian wives to re-engage fully in the respectable role of the mother, in rejection of heretical and secular trends, through which she may ‘work out her salvation’” (235).


Bryan L said...

I think Towner shows convincingly what the situations were in Ephesus that caused Paul to write the prohibition for women that he did.

But honestly I feel for many/most patriarchalist his arguments will pretty much fall on deaf ears. For them the main issue isn’t what cultural or historical situations lead to Paul writing the prohibition. For them it come down to them seeing Paul supporting his prohibition against women by appealing to the order of creation, which they see as universal and forever binding on the church. No matter what argument I’ve seen, no matter how good, always falls back to this issue for them.

The only argument that Towner makes that patriarchalist would feel the need to pay attention to and respond to is whether both teaching and authority are negative instead of positive. If they are both shown to be negative then whether they’re forever binding or not makes no difference since it’s not limiting women from teaching and having authority in a positive way.

The debate over this passage will come down to either that issue or whether an egalitarian can prove that Paul wasn’t making an argument from the order of creation that’s forever binding, but instead just appealing to the story of Adam and Eve because of it’s similarities with the situation in Ephesus and using it as an analogy or illustration. If that’s the case then his prohibition (whether positive or negative) would only be bound to the historical context, which caused him to write it.

Until egalitarians can demonstrate satisfactorily either of these 2 to the patriarchalist, then this conversation will never go much further than it already has and will instead keep going around in circles.
Anyway, that’s how I see it. Thanks for summarizing his arguments for us.

Bryan L

Michael Kruse said...

Thanks for this post. More helpful scholarship to add to the discussion.

Nate Mihelis said...

Up to this point Mounce's commentary on the Pastorals in WBC was the most thorough volume that I've seen. My wife was just mocking my lack of commentaries in this area last night, what's your take on Towner? I was planning on picking up Mounce, is Towner worth adding to the shopping list?

Michael F. Bird said...

Towner is a good addition and also a good compliment to Mounce who give a different take on 1 Tim. 2.11-15. Well worth getting. Incidentally, both believe in Pauline authenticity.

Brian Park said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian Park said...

Hi Mike,

What do you think of Towner's commentary compared to Marshall's ICC volume (of which I believe Towner was an important contributor)? I am aware that Marshall doesn't think Paul was the author of the PE. Aside from the authorship issue, is Towner's still worth getting if one already has Marshall's?

Brian Park

Michael F. Bird said...

It depends. If you are a PE specialist then yes get it; does Towner differ on some exegetical details from Marshall here and there yes, but there are far more similiarities than differences between them. If you preaching, teaching on researching the PE then its a must-get, otherwise, put it on the wish-list if you already have Marshall.