JOINT PRESENTATIONS BY BARRY AND HELEN (PENNY) SETTERFIELD, AND THE MATTER OF WOMEN TEACHING IN 1 TIMOTHY 2:12
It is usual for my wife, Helen (Penny), to co-present with me the research that we have both been involved in. This includes presentations of Genesis 1-11. My wife was a teacher for many years, including in the areas of biology and the life-sciences, while my fields were astronomy, geology and physics. Not only do we make a good team, but my wife also has the ability to take some of the more difficult concepts and explain them simply and effectively. In addition, because of some physical limitations that I have, it is necessary for her in some lectures to do parts of the lecture that I normally would present. There was one instance at a Bible College overseas, where I had been ill, that she had to complete the remaining half of a lecture for me, and do several subsequent ones on my behalf at that venue. She presented in such an effective manner that the audience applauded.
It is against this background that we were recently asked to give a series of five presentations of our research work in the context of Genesis 1 - 11. We had discussed the details of the presentation, including the fact that we work as a team together, with the Pastor, and had been given permission to go ahead. The presentations were in a Conference Room at a hotel resort, and, although a church group was specifically involved, anyone was welcome, and, indeed, some had come from outside to hear the series. After our third presentation, we were informed by the assistant administrator of the church involved and his wife that it was unscriptural for my wife to be presenting with me. This was despite the fact that we were using the same notes, had the same information, and had presented this same material many times before, and were of the same mind as each other on this. In addition, it should be remembered that the pastor had given his permission for us to co-present.
I pointed out that, as her husband, I had delegated to my capable wife the right to present the relevant sections of this material, so she was acting on my authority, not under her own authority. In addition, she never spoke publicly without me being there, where I could have corrected anything she may have been mistaken about. This, I believe, is entirely scriptural. Instead, I was told that this approach did violence to 1 Timothy 2:12; that we ought to obey Scriptural commands even if they did not make sense; and it was requested that my wife desist forthwith. For the sake of those who had come from outside to hear us, we decided to continue and finish the series, since the final lecture had been planned to be presented entirely by me anyway. This only left one contentious lecture to negotiate. When we got home, I decided to look more closely at the text in 1 Timothy, and here is the result.
In the New King James Version, 1 Timothy 2:12 reads: "And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man ." In what follows, we have 9 good reasons why it was scripturally legitimate for my wife to be presenting with me at the Tahoe Conference.
POINT 1: Notice that Paul says "I do not permit". This may be his own personal stand, not necessarily God's. To see this, note that, in a similar way, he wrote in the passage 1 Corinthians 7:6 & 7 "But I speak this of permission, not of commandment. For I would that all men were even as I myself." There are those that maintain that all of Paul’s writings are to be obeyed. If that is so, why do those men not take Paul at his word instance also and, just as insistently, demand that all Christian men remain single? The reason why they don’t is that when he, Paul, is speaking and uses the word I, he is expressing his own opinion, not necessarily that of the Lord. However, note that when he means it is definitely a command of the Lord, he says so. We see this in 1 Corinthians 7:10 where Paul writes "And unto the married I command, yet not I but the Lord..." So in summary of this point it can be stated that the restriction which follows in this verse is Paul's own personal preference, not necessarily the Lord’s. Under these circumstances, my wife had every reason to present with me. However, there are some men who will always dispute that Paul is only expressing his personal opinion here because their interpretation placed on this text vitally depends on it, so we move on to Point 2.
POINT 2: Paul says "And I do not permit a woman to teach." Note the context of this which can be found in 1 Timothy 2:8 where Paul states that "I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands...and I also want women to dress modestly ... which is proper for women professing godliness." In other words it is EVERYWHERE not just in the church. So these are general commandments. No distinction is made about this in verse 12. So when Paul states that "I do not permit a woman to teach", that is NOT just in the Church, but EVERYWHERE. Nothing specific about a church gathering is mentioned here, so this understanding of the text is assured. Well, as we all know, this is problematical because we immediately recognize that this would preclude a woman from teaching at school or at home or anywhere else, because this suggestion of Paul (NOT a command from the Lord) is to apply "EVERYWHERE". So in order to avoid that complication, many claim that it can only be in the church that this restriction applies. But that is not what Paul says here. So what is the answer to this conundrum? We must let Bible interpret Bible, and so I come to Point 3.
POINT 3: The word "Teach" is the key to this awkward situation. It is the Greek word "Didasko" from which we get the word "Didactic" which is to teach in a pedagogic manner. In other words it is a domineering form of teaching requiring submission, which was the way that many Greeks and Romans taught. Paul says that this form of teaching is unacceptable in a Christian woman. It is therefore important to realize that when we "teach" today we usually mean "an exchange of ideas or information". This is a far cry from what the Greeks and Romans meant by the word. In other words, there is nothing to prevent a Christian woman instructing her children in the home or exchanging information in the classroom at school, in a gracious, Christ-like manner, because that is NOT "Didasko". On this basis, my wife was NOT acting in a manner described by "Didasko". This then allows women to present information in a way that is NOT "Didasko" at school, or home in fact EVERYWHERE, since this is the context. This would also include the Church. But that understanding is anathema to some men, so they move on to their defense, the phrase which is the topic of point 4.
POINT 4: Paul says that he will "not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man". It is important to note here that the word "over" is NOT in the original text. It literally reads "I do not permit a woman ...to have authority a man." The word "over" is an interpretation offered by the King James translators without justification, and, in part, has led to the current situation in the English speaking world. These translators must bear the responsibility for that. What the text is actually saying is that "I do not permit a woman to have the authority of a man" or alternatively "I do not permit a woman to have a man's authority". This is the plain straightforward reading of the Greek text. On the matter in question, my wife did not exercise a man's authority. She was acting in obedience to my directions, and so was acting UNDER my authority. She was NOT exercising a man's authority on her own behalf. In that sense she was acting within the Scriptural bounds, and should not have been criticized.
Furthermore, I have the power before God as her husband to give her the permission to speak on my behalf because she is then acting under orders, my orders as her husband. Since wives are told to be submissive to their husbands, she was indeed submissive and did exactly what I told her to. But this is not good enough for some men, so we move on to their usual defense which is covered in points 5 and 6.
POINT 5: The issue that needs be made plain here is the use of the word "authority". In this same passage in 1Timothy 2:2 we are told to “pray for kings and all that are in authority.” This word “authority” is the Greek word “huperoche” which literally means “superiority in rank or character.” The other commonly used word for authority in the New Testament is the Greek “exousia” which means “privilege, force, mastery, potentate.” Neither of these words are used in 1 Timothy 2:12, yet the word that is used has been translated as “authority” in English. Indeed, the Greek word which IS used in verse 12, is a word which is only used on this one occasion in the whole of the Greek New Testament. This indicates that our English translation of this word as “authority” is a very poor translation of what Paul actually meant. However, since my wife was not showing superiority in rank or character, nor was she behaving as a potentate with mastery or force over people, she was NOT exercising this “authority” over them in the usual sense of Greek usage. She could do nothing to prevent people walking in or out. She did not demand attention nor did she insist that her presentation was the only way of looking at the matter in question. Indeed, she emphasized several times that this was only our thinking and others may have a different perspective. Therefore, since this is the popular meaning of the word “authority” as many men see it, she was not at fault Biblically even on these grounds. But that was NOT the Greek word used in the text under discussion.
POINT 6: Well, what IS the word used in 1 Timothy 2:12 that is translated as “authority”? It is the Greek word "Authenteo". This is a compound word which literally means "to act for oneself" or figuratively has the meaning to "dominate". These can be checked in Strong’s Concordance. My wife neither acted for herself nor dominated. She acted at my behest, and I called the shots. She did not dominate either me or the presentations, as I did the majority of the speaking. She did not act for herself or inject ideas I did not agree with. Indeed, we both discussed what should go into the presentations, and I finalized each set of lecture notes. My wife was acting under strict guidelines. Therefore she was definitely not exercising "Authenteo" over me or the audience. As a consequence, she certainly did not exercise “authority” in the sense usually applied to the two other Greek words or to this one.
POINT 7: A literal reading of the text might therefore be "I, Paul, do not permit a woman to present in a domineering way which requires submission to her, or to act for herself or dominate a man." On this basis my wife is clear of all charges against her. She did not dominate, require submission, or act for herself. All was done at my behest. She thus did nothing wrong or contrary to a straightforward reading of Scripture. Nevertheless, there remain some final comments.
POINT 8: What also disturbs me, personally, is the form of legalism that has penetrated some churches, or at least the individuals who run those churches. This legalism requires them to affirm that there is no other valid interpretation of passages such as the one they are insisting upon in any particular case. It was this sort of legalism that Christ sought to counteract in His own day. This legalism does not display God's character, and, since we are to reflect Christ’s character to the world and to each other, this legalism is denying Christ “His inheritance in the saints” [Ephesians 1:18]. Christ cannot reflect His image through them [2 Corinthians 3:18]. Therefore, if there is another legitimate interpretation open, which allows the graciousness of Christ to shine forth, it should be used in place of a legalistic one. It can be seen from Point 7 that there is a very valid, literal, reading of Scripture which allows this graciousness to be expressed. This version is to be preferred over the version which gratuitously adds in the word “over” which gives a wrong impression of what the Greek text actually meant.
POINT 9: There are three final comments that may be necessary. First, the foregoing comments are not meant to be an open invitation for women to Pastor a Church: that is a point of separate discussion, and other Biblical verses are involved. All that is being done here is to demonstrate the Scriptural legitimacy of my wife and me giving a joint presentation of our research work to build up the body of Christ so that we all may be able to “give a reason for the hope that is within us.” Second, it seems logical that facts remain facts no matter who presents them. Therefore, particularly in the field of science, which is what we present in support of Genesis, there should be no problem with the gender of the person presenting. Third, it should also be noted that there have been countless times when Helen and I have presented at churches of all denominations, as well as at Bible Schools and Bible Colleges without restriction. Often people have come up to us afterwards and said that we had just given them a practical demonstration of how a godly husband and wife should be one in all they do. The legalists would evidently deny God the privilege of using us for His glory in that way. I suggest they reconsider, and think carefully over the literal reading in Point 7.
Barry Setterfield, 21st October, 2006.