Gender Issues


One of the distinguishing marks of the new atheists is that they not only think religion is false, but that it is dangerous and immoral too.  Even God himself is not above their judgment.  They regularly chide the God of the Bible as being a moral monster!  They accuse Him of being pro-genocide, anti-women, pro-rape, pro-slavery, etc.  Rather than the paradigm of moral goodness, God is an evil despot that is to be shunned.  You know it’s a bad day when even God is evil!

Is what they say true?  Is God – particularly as He is portrayed in the OT – morally evil?  Many Christians are sympathetic to this charge because they themselves struggle to understand God’s actions and commands, particularly as revealed in the OT.  Thankfully there have been some well-written responses to the problem of “theistic evil” written in recent years to dispel this negative portrait of God.  

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NASB (New American Standard Bible)

 

 

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 3:9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)

 

 

NET Bible

 

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain, 3:9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless. 3:11 Likewise also their wives must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)


 

 

Notice the difference in the two translations (the bold-faced words in particular)? The underlying Greek word behind these two different renderings is gunaikas. The word can be translated as “women” or “wives” depending on the context. There is considerable scholarly debate over which choice is the proper translation in this particular context. Most translations translate it as does the NET Bible: wives. Some, however, translate it as “women.” Many translations note that it could be translated either way.


 

Why does this matter? It is important to the doctrine of ecclesiology. If gunaikas refers to “women” in general this is positive proof that the office of deacon can be held by women as well as men. If “wives” is the correct translation, however, it is not.


 

New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger argues that the proper translation is “women” and thus Paul is referring to women deaconesses. You can read his arguments here.

 


The NET Bible offers the following footnote that summarizes some of the same arguments presented by Kostenberger et al, but argues for the superiority of translating gunaikas as “wives”:


Or “also deaconesses.” The Greek word here is γυνακας (gunaikas) which literally means “women” or “wives.” It is possible that this refers to women who serve as deacons, “deaconesses.” The evidence is as follows: (1) The immediate context refers to deacons; (2) the author mentions nothing about wives in his section on elder qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-7); (3) it would seem strange to have requirements placed on deacons’ wives without corresponding requirements placed on elders’ wives; and (4) elsewhere in the NT, there seems to be room for seeing women in this role (cf. Rom 16:1 and the comments there).

 

The translation “wives” – referring to the wives of the deacons – is probably to be preferred, though, for the following reasons: (1) It would be strange for the author to discuss women deacons right in the middle of the qualifications for male deacons; more naturally they would be addressed by themselves. (2) The author seems to indicate clearly in the next verse that women are not deacons: “Deacons must be husbands of one wife.” (3) Most of the qualifications given for deacons elsewhere do not appear here. Either the author has truncated the requirements for women deacons, or he is not actually referring to women deacons; the latter seems to be the more natural understanding. (4) The principle given in 1 Tim 2:12 appears to be an overarching principle for church life which seems implicitly to limit the role of deacon to men. Nevertheless, a decision in this matter is difficult, and our conclusions must be regarded as tentative.

 


While this is only an introduction to the debate, I think these two sources present some of the most compelling arguments in behalf of each view. You be the judge as to which is correct.

NASB (New American Standard Bible)

Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 3:9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 3:11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)

NET Bible

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not two-faced, not given to excessive drinking, not greedy for gain, 3:9 holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 3:10 And these also must be tested first and then let them serve as deacons if they are found blameless. 3:11 Likewise also their wives must be dignified, not slanderous, temperate, faithful in every respect. 3:12 Deacons must be husbands of one wife and good managers of their children and their own households. 3:13 For those who have served well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 3:8-13)


Notice the difference in the two translations (the bold-faced words in particular)? The underlying Greek word behind these two different renderings is gunaikas. The word can be translated as “women” or “wives” depending on the context. There is considerable scholarly debate over which choice is the proper translation in this particular context. Most translations translate it as does the NET Bible: wives. Some, however, translate it as “women.” Many translations note that it could be translated either way.

Why does this matter? It is important to the doctrine of ecclesiology. If gunaikas refers to “women” in general this is positive proof that the office of deacon can be held by women as well as men. If “wives” is the correct translation, however, it is not.

New Testament scholar Andreas Kostenberger argues that the proper translation is “women” and thus Paul is referring to women deaconesses. You can read his arguments here.

The NET Bible offers the following footnote that summarizes some of the same arguments presented by Kostenberger et al, but argues for the superiority of translating gunaikas as “wives”:

Or “also deaconesses.” The Greek word here is γυνακας (gunaikas) which literally means “women” or “wives.” It is possible that this refers to women who serve as deacons, “deaconesses.” The evidence is as follows: (1) The immediate context refers to deacons; (2) the author mentions nothing about wives in his section on elder qualifications (1 Tim 3:1-7); (3) it would seem strange to have requirements placed on deacons’ wives without corresponding requirements placed on elders’ wives; and (4) elsewhere in the NT, there seems to be room for seeing women in this role (cf. Rom 16:1 and the comments there).

The translation “wives” – referring to the wives of the deacons – is probably to be preferred, though, for the following reasons: (1) It would be strange for the author to discuss women deacons right in the middle of the qualifications for male deacons; more naturally they would be addressed by themselves. (2) The author seems to indicate clearly in the next verse that women are not deacons: “Deacons must be husbands of one wife.” (3) Most of the qualifications given for deacons elsewhere do not appear here. Either the author has truncated the requirements for women deacons, or he is not actually referring to women deacons; the latter seems to be the more natural understanding. (4) The principle given in 1 Tim 2:12 appears to be an overarching principle for church life which seems implicitly to limit the role of deacon to men. Nevertheless, a decision in this matter is difficult, and our conclusions must be regarded as tentative.

While this is only an introduction to the debate, I think these two sources present some of the most compelling arguments in behalf of each view. You be the judge as to which is correct.

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