Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reflecting on the problems with Tim Foster's explanation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15

Tim Foster from Ridley College presented a paper at the recent CBE Conference which he admirably defended on the blogspehere over at Mark's blog.  (Mark, studying at Moore College, had flown down to Melbourne and blogged his way through the conference.  His blog offers a great round up of the conference.)  I thought I'd done blogging CBE related things for now, but Tim's argument and defense in the comments of Mark's blog piqued my interest.  I also appreciated the different approach, making firstly a case from Scripture before resorting to extra-biblical arguments. The fact that while I was studying at Ridley Tim lead a seminar about this passage further heightens my interest in this particular aspect of the debate.

Tim in his own words [h/t Mark]:

Evidence within the Pastoral Epistles suggests that the heresy afflicting the Ephesian church was embraced exclusively by women, and by all the women at Ephesus. ... The submission demanded in verse 11 is to the teaching of the church, while the authority on view in verse 12 carries the nuance of assertiveness or domination and is not concerned with gender-based hierarchy. Thus, the text does not provide a general injunction against women teaching or having authority, but addresses a particular situation whereby the Ephesian women embraced the heresy causing gender-based division.

Reflecting on the problems with Tim's methodology

Note that 1 Tim 2:8-15 is not obviously occasional and not obviously about heresy.  Tim therefore has to make a case from other evidence in the Epistle to prove that despite appearances to the contrary, this passage is really about a unique heresy and therefore occasional.  Firstly there are problems with the way Tim reads the evidence, to make his case work the majority of the verses have to show the heresy was unified and uniquely expressed in women, not men, being outspoken.  Secondly Tim overestimates the value of an elaborate reconstruction and assumes that this particular reconstruction is actually connected to those particular verses.  Thirdly and finally given those steps Tim needs to show that despite a lack of direct clues or markers, the Apostle actually intends the passage to be understood occasionally.  I'd be interested to read the final paper to see how Tim addresses these three problem areas in his methodology.