Hermeneutics, 1 Tim. 2:12,and AUQENTEIN

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Sun Aug 13 10:55:42 EDT 2000

At 6:25 AM -0500 8/13/00, Harold R. Holmyard III wrote:
(citing Ward Powers)
>>The New RSV translation informs the reader in its footnotes to 1 Timothy
>>2:11-12 that the Greek can be translated alternatively as "I permit no wife
>>to teach or have authority over her husband". For reasons of context in 1
>>Timothy 2 and the 1 Peter 3 parallel, this is far and away the preferred
>It is a possible reading of the verse, but the traditional understanding of
>a church setting is far more likely. Paul does not have the authority to
>forbid a wife to teach her husband. But that is what Paul would be
>forbidding in 1 Tim 2:12 according to the above view. There are many other
>contextual indicators opposed to the above translation.
>				Yours,
>				Harold Holmyard

Since this passage of 1 Timothy has been a recurrent focus of B-Greek
discussion over the years and the same stances toward its "proper"
interpretation have (more or less) been the same ones, I'd like to repeat a
portion of a comment that I wrote on one of the more recent recurrences of
the discussion, and then append a comment on why we avoid discussion of
hermeneutics on B-Greek.

Date: Tue, 19 Oct 1999 07:27:41 -0500
To: Biblical Greek <b-greek at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
From: "Carl W. Conrad" <cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu>
Subject: Re: 1 Timothy 2:12

I'm not really going to try to have much more input on this matter, chiefly
because I've already stated as clearly as I can my own views about how the
text ought to be construed. But I'd like to make an observation and
personal comment which I do not think it appropriate to discuss on the list

My observation is that the text of the Bible turns out, sooner or later, to
be an embarrassment for most of us (I won't say all, but I have seen this
happen to persons of conservative as well as to persons of liberal
theological tendencies). By "an embarrassment" I mean that we encounter,
sooner or later, a passage that says something that strikes as wrong or
shocking or inconsistent with what we think "the real teaching" of the
Bible about one or another topic is. ... For me this chapter of 1 Timothy
is such a passage, and I confess that I find it difficult to square the
passage we've been discussing in this thread with Galatians 3:28 and with
my own reading of Genesis 1-3. I frankly don't see how anyone who thinks
the Bible teaches gender-egalitarianism can be comfortable with chapter 2
of 1 Timothy. I've confessed my own discomfort in previous posts on this

What disturbs me more than the passage itself, however, is what seems to me
to be a temptation that I imagine we all feel when confronting such a
passage: "It can't mean what it seems to say, so it must mean something
different." If it's not this passage  then it may be some other: after
looking for a simple solution such as an overlooked variant in the
manuscript solution, we consider more desperate alternatives such as the
possibility of interpolation of the passage into a context where it doesn't
belong, or we seek to reinterpret the grammar and vocabulary to mean
something other than what they pretty clearly seem to indicate.

And yet, as I wrote just a few weeks ago, "Nevertheless, however much
interpretation may depend upon what the reader brings with him/her to the
Greek text being interpreted, the process of interpretation can hardly be
arbitrary. While we may all be inclined to favor one legitimate alternative
way of understanding a text over another legitimate alternative on the
basis of our personal belief, I think (I certainly HOPE) that we all want,
so far as we are able, to avoid EIS-egesis: we want to read a meaning that
we honestly think is there in the text for us to see, not to force upon the
text a meaning that we think would be convenient to find there. So, yes:
our theological assumptions do have a bearing on how we look at the
alternative meanings that grammatical analysis discloses to us--and
occasionally they may even incline us to construe the syntax in a way that
seems suspect to others, but I really don't believe any of us honestly
wants to be deluded about what the text really means. ... "

At 10:57 AM -0700 8/12/00, clayton stirling bartholomew wrote:
>I have been reading a book which sheds some light on the background of some
>of our disagreements on b-greek. We cannot discuss this topic on b-greek but
>perhaps I can get away with mentioning the book.
>Bartholomew, Craig  Reading Ecclesiastes. Old Testament Exegesis and
>Hermeneutical Theory, Analetca Biblica #139  Roma, Pontificio Istituto
>Biblico 1998
>This book draws a clear map of the hermeneutical landscape. The author is
>very lucid and he reduces the material under discussion to a manageable form
>without trivializing it. This book is for advanced students. It assumes a
>level of general knowledge which will perhaps be somewhat daunting to first
>year seminarians.
>The SBL review which is not as lucid as the book itself can be found here:
> [omission]
>The book is listed in Eisenbrauns Scholars Source catalog.

I've read only the SBL review for which Clay has cited the URL, but it has
made me want to read the book. Even the review reinforces my view that
people who seriously contemplate the Biblical text as scripture need to
become conscious of and perhaps periodically to review the hermeneutical
presuppositions which they bring to bear upon their understanding of the
Biblical text. One major question to be asked is how we go about resolving
the problems that arise when we find that some particular text makes us
uncomfortable because it seems to be at odds with one or more other
Biblical texts: do we try to force upon the text in question a meaning that
is questionable? do we attempt to discover some principles whereby we
discern greater authority in some Biblical texts than in others, thereby
discovering or attaining a "canon of the canon" such as Martin Luther did
when he declared the book of James "a right strawy epistle"? Or do we
simply pray for help in understanding a text that we honestly confess we do
not understand? And I certainly don't imagine that exhausts the
alternatives when we come upon such a disquieting passage in the Biblical

I do NOT want to initiate a discussion of these issues on B-Greek; It
behooves us rather to keep our discussions focused strictly upon the Greek
text itself and how we may legitimately understand a particular Greek text.
We cannot do more than that precisely because we come to the text with
different hermeneutical presuppositions, some honestly believing that the
Biblical text is inerrant and wholly consistent with itself, others holding
different beliefs regarding the unity and coherence of the Biblical corpus.
We steer clear of hermeneutical discussion as we steer clear of theological
discussion because these are areas wherein list-members are to a greater or
lesser degree at odds with each other. The only point I want to underscore
is that we need to be aware that different list-members are bringing
different hermeneutics to bear upon particular texts, whether the text is
that of 1 Timothy or that of some other Biblical passage. It is not our
business here to attempt to demonstrate the superiority of any one
hermeneutical doctrine over another--that leads ultimately to flame wars
and has been the decisive factor in the dissolution of more than one
internest discussion group. Let's agree to disagree about hermeneutical
principles and respect those who hold with hermeneutical principles that
are not our own. I would hope that we can more readily agree upon the
legitimate range of possible meanings of particular Greek texts than we can
ever reach a consensus on the totality of "what Scripture teaches."


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu OR cwconrad at ioa.com
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/
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