December 31, 2009

Classical Education

In Classical (Traditional) Secondary Education, Literature and History should be taught with the same procedures. Examine, analyze and discuss the text. In the grand scheme, learning material is far secondary to learning how to learn. Fiction and non-fiction are two different animals, but the mind of an author still hides behind what they have written, however impregnably. Such is ever the challenge. Thus, learning is education's only proper goal.

At what point in American History did we decide that reading and writing were skills for the "English" teacher and Social Studies could be an assortment of facts for remembering? As the public school system pushes for test based "standards", they've begun to require History teachers to "embed" reading and writing instruction into their curriculum. Typically, these "new" procedures are presented like a novelty and resisted as a pointless bother. Ah, public school teachers. And yet, I might become one again. (?)

What do my international friends think? Is it the same there, in public schooling? Or does the US have a lock on dumbing down standards for the sake of inclusion?

This is on my mind today because I've met some folks who've found a practical way to combine the ideals of inclusion and classical education in a small private school environment. And it's got me to thinking...

December 30, 2009

Quotes of the Year

On Chronology:

The historian's first task is to get the sequence of events right. The more important issues, like explaining the events and explaining their significance, must wait until the chronology has been established. - Jona Lendering

Chronology in history is what perspective is in painting, without it there would be a confusion of images which would rather perplex than edify. - Thomas Lewin

On Jesus and History:

A Jewish Jesus is a halakic Jesus. - John P. Meier

There's only one reason to die on a cross. Because it pleases the Father. - Rocky Branch

On Writing:

Strictly speaking, every sentence in a story nine centuries old should include the word perhaps... but that would be boring - David Howarth

Hemingway wrote more than eight hundred pages of "The Sea Book" and rewrote them more than a hundred times [but] he decided to publish just the epilogue about the old fisherman, which he called The Old Man and the Sea. - Garrison Keillor

December 28, 2009

Following Jesus

Some will say this is semantics, but I don't think anyone can follow the so-called Christ of Faith. You can believe what you want, but he's much more than what's in your mind. I'm sorry, but that insipid "He's in my heart" claim is so often a shell-game for pure superstition. It tends to be convenient superstition, in most cases, too.

Likewise, I'm pretty sure no one can follow the so-called Jesus of History. You can admire his teachings, repeat them and attempt to follow them, but he's much more than what he taught about. I'm sorry, but claiming to follow his teachings is so often a flimsy excuse for godless ethical posturing. Being kind just makes good social-business sense.

The only Jesus is Jesus and the only way anyone can realistically FOLLOW the Lord Jesus Christ is to do so in spirit. I'm only sort-of sorry if you don't like that because it's scary and unmanageable. So is God. Following beliefs or teachings just isn't the same thing as following Him.

Both 'liberal' and 'conservative' Christians find it easier to live according to principles. It's much harder to deal with the living God Himself in one's inner life. I'm not saying I'm servant first class, and thank you Lord again for your mercy and blood. I'm saying let's not confuse Him for something other than Him. Admitting we have this problem can be step number one...

December 27, 2009

Myers-Briggs Typology

I'm glad this discussion has come up... and is gaining steam. Personality theory is only hooey when you've learned about it from those who don't really understand it. Properly utilized, Myers-Briggs type-ology does nothing more than help someone recognize their own tendences, preferences and patterns of behavior (social, attentional, decisional, presentational). Properly applied, it helps us all understand how and why persons with various dispositions tend to process the same input differently.

The title of David Keirsey's bestselling book is called Please Understand Me for a reason. I believe the subtitle of my original copy said "Understanding how others misunderstand you". Now who wouldn't be helped by that? You can pay hundreds of dollars for professional psychologists to give you a full battery of personality tests, and there probably are some professionals who misuse myers-briggs theory as a way to pigeon hole individuals, but Kiersey's book will give you the true scoop AND explain the best possible motive for learning typology: It is NOT okay to go through life trying to make everyone else just like yourself.

In the four broad categories - NT, NF, SJ, SP - there are strong tendencies that help explain major aspects of people's lives, like careers. Most high school teachers are SJ's. Most college professors are NT's. I'll bet anyone money that more than 50% of bibliobloggers will come up as NT's. I tag every biblioblogger who reads this to learn their type (if they don't know it already) and post something about it. Typological testing subdivides each of the four major types into four others, but the truth is that's only the starting point. What causes someone to be social or antisocial? What do they apprehend quickly? What have they found to be reliable methods for making decisions? Which side of these processes do they more often display to the world?

By generalizing about ourselves, we begin to see connections between preference and disposition. By generalizing about others, we begin to see how futile it is to try changing someone else's core dispositions. (*** That doesn't mean you can't change someone's life for the better; it just means you might have to come at them differently in order to be effective about it. ***) In the course of maturing, people tend to balance a bit across all major categories. In the course of studying personality types, people tend to learn that nobody deserves to be 'pigeon holed', but everyone can work towards understanding each other.

I'm an ENTP, but in group situations I tend to shift into INTP or ENTJ. I'm most at home playing second fiddle to a strong leader whose direction I respect. I can be a dictator, a recluse, a workhorse, or a cheerleader. What I cannot be is content when I don't see the point of activity. That's NT all the way, which isn't the easiest way (or the most flattering, necessarily). You may have to buy and read Kiersey to get what I just said, but I hope you'll get this much at least: Understanding those things about my self is the spark, not the purpose. Self-analysis isn't the goal. Recognizing patterns of interaction with others can be a heartbreaking challenge. Now, welcome to the rest of your life.

Knowing one's Type isn't an excuse to avoid change. It's a roadmap to embracing the challenge of interacting with others not-like-oneself. Tendencies can also expose weak areas. Thus, like so many things, personality study can be an opportunity for God. For a Christian, "knowing thyself" should bring one afresh into Romans 7. And then, hopefully, Romans 8.

People who resist personality study may be innocent cynics. They may also prefer to continue enjoying their current delusions. Most folks would rather keep thinking everyone else has the problem. Heh. Heh. Sigh.

December 26, 2009

I know it's a good vacation

...because I've got absolutely nothing to say!

Not that I'd expect this to last long. ;-)

December 25, 2009

Gifts of Xmas

Books and Book Gift Cards are still the best presents, but I'm finally old enough to appreciate getting clothes. I hope your trinkets and baubles brought smiles to some faces. They may not have fed the poor, but they helped keep the retailers' families from becoming poor. That counts for something.

Happy Xmas, everybody. Starting tomorrow, let's keep Christ in each day.

December 24, 2009

A decree went out in those days...

In 27 BC, four years after becoming sole ruler of the Roman oikoumene (inhabited world), Augustus Caesar expanded his slate of tax reforms to include registrations in all of the Empire's Provinces. Prior to that year, Rome only took a census in Italy. After that year, Augustus made sure his Governors could not over-fleece Rome's provincial flocks.

In 9 BC, Augustus Caesar unjustly demoted Herod the Great from "friend" to "subject". Herod's chief advisor Nicolas wasn't able to clear up the confusion for almost a year, during which time Augustus must have instigated the census recorded by Luke. The Emperor's ex-brother-in-law, Gaius Sentius Saturninus, may be the one who decided on the odd "each to his own city" requirement.

As Governor of Syria until 6 BC, Saturninus may or may not have received assistance from one Quirinius (who in any event did not take a Judean census as Governor until 6 AD). Whether Luke was wrong, or whether Luke's meaning is obscure, Quirinius does not actually factor into the birth of Christ so far as we know.

The logistics were ridiculous but thorough. Above all, they would have been time consuming. Rome could not staff every city in Herod's Kingdom at once, and the cities could not simultaneously have hosted both soldiers and homecoming visitors while also under-staffed locally. It could not have been "fruit-basket turnover" all at once. Somehow, Saturninus had to advance-publish a staggered schedule of times and locations for each city to be registered. If they got behind schedule, the Governor would have had to republish a new schedule, kingdom-wide. Therefore, it's more likely Saturninus drew up a schedule with plenty of breathing room. Or reverted to one.

At any rate, this could not have been a quick census. It probably took most of 8 and 7 BC to accomplish. Once begun, it continued, even though Herod was reconciled with Augustus in late 8 BC.

By the time Syria's cohorts had moved down as far as Bethlehem, Joseph and Mary were living in Bethlehem. The scandal back in Nazareth made it easier to relocate, which must be why Mary went along. (Presumably, women were not required to be present at these registrations. By the way, property was not registered in Judea until 6 AD, at which time it famously sparked talk of rebellion.)

We know Mary was pregnant on the road to Bethlehem. The young couple must have moved in with Joseph's kinfolk (extended-family home living was very common) and yet they did not have enough space for the new mother to take her own room in the house. During her time of uncleanness, after childbirth, Mary and Jesus would have to stay with the household livestock. Whether that meant a stable, cave, lean-to or outbuilding, the son of God was placed in a feed-trough.

Bethlehem's registration took place shortly before or sometime after the Lord's birth. The census itself continued on, probably in a southward direction. We can say for sure it was over before summer of 6 BC, when Saturninus returned to Italy.

If Jesus was born anywhere between April of 7 BC and March of 6 BC, then he was twelve years old in March of AD 7. That was the first spring Joseph allowed Jesus to go to Jerusalem for Passover, because it was also the first spring Herod's son Archelaus was banished from Palestine.

The first conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter took place in late May, 7 BC. The Magi may have arrived after the third conjunction, that December. If Jesus was 6-8 months old when they arrived, it could explain why Herod thought he might be toddling already. The Frankincense and Gold paid for a sojourn to Egypt. And then Herod died. We have already mentioned Archelaus.

One last detail: if Jesus was born in April or May of that year, he would have touched the start of his 40th year just before ascending to heaven, in the middle of May, in AD 33. That may or may not be significant, but whether God required his second Adam to be tested for forty years, God did send His parents to Bethlehem, because of a very unique set of circumstances, which included a census.

The (probable) real story is more complex than the fairy tale.

It is no less inspiring to me.

December 23, 2009

Did Luke err on Quirinius? Does it matter?

Mark Goodacre has an excellent podcast today on the year Jesus was born. Naturally, he gravitates towards Quirinius as he builds to a conclusion. His conclusion is that Luke probably just made a mistake, and "we should commend him for doing a pretty good job".

Mary Smallwood once made a similar comment* and said it well:
Is not the simplest explanation that quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus? ['the great Homer sometimes nods'] Knowing that the Nativity coincided with a census taken in Judaea on instructions from Rome, Luke erroneously attached the name of the Roman official responsible for the later, much more notorious, census, to the earlier one, with which Quirinius had had no connection; and having thus created two censuses conducted under the same man's auspices, he distinguished the earlier, obviously, as [prwth]. Tertullian then confirmed his date, while tacitly correcting the name.
Now let me be very clear: I agree with Mark and Mary about one thing, at least. The simplest explanation actually is to conclude that Luke just goofed. (It may not be the right explanation, but it is the simplest.) It could be as Smallwood says, or it could be what Mark says. Should we really expect Luke to get it all perfectly?

Regular readers know where I stand. If Luke' 2:2 is somehow accurate, we have to admit it doesn't mean what it seems to mean. So what does it mean? That's one question. My usual concern is to point out that I'd rather focus on a different question: When was Jesus born? And that's what I appreciate about Goodacre's podcast.

Smallwood had more to say about Tertullian and Saturninus, which I greatly appreciate, putting Jesus' birth in the later portion of his Governorship, which was 9-6 BC. Oddly, Goodacre gives no reason for his estimation of Jesus' birth year "to roundabout 4 BC, perhaps a little earlier, 5, 6 at the most. Something like that." To be fair, of course, it was just a podcast. ;-)

So, did Luke just make a mistake about Quirinius? As believers, we'll keep hoping he didn't. However, as I keep pointing out, that only matters if we're trying to defend scripture. Everything has a time and a place, and when we're trying to reconstruct events, Quirinius just doesn't matter. Every viable apologetic on Luke 2:2 still puts Jesus' birth before Herod's death. That makes Quirinius moot.

*The Jews under Roman Rule, Appendix E (1976)

Top Post of 2009

It wasn't the most popular, but I believe the most important post I blogged this year was this one, about the pre-construction phase of Herod's Temple. If you missed it, give it another read. If you read it, and you still don't get why this is a big deal, that's okay. I'm making it my number one academic goal in 2010 to explain this point more effectively.

If I'm right, what this means is that every weighty opinion on John 2:20 (on how it affects our chronology of Jesus' public ministry, that is) needs to be thrown out. In other words, we are back to square one on dating the bulk of events in the Gospels. Explaining why that's a good thing will be goal number two.

I need good advice on how to write an article, or maybe a skilled collaborator. I need to present this somewhere and then publish. Any advice from those with such experience will be deeply appreciated. This one's far more important than little old me, and it needs to be done right.

Let me know if you're willing and able to help.

Otherwise, as always, stay tuned...

December 22, 2009

Ten Books of my 2009

This is my 374th post for the year 2009. Celucien Joseph says that makes me prolific. Lou also tagged me to list my top ten books for 2009. Poor Lou. He really wants to believe that I read at least half as much as I write. (!) Well, let's see...

I had very few reservations about how much I enjoyed Allison's The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus. John P Meier's A Marginal Jew, Volume IV: Law and Love was wonderful from beginning to end, except for much of the middle. I tweeted about that dichotomy a bit, back when I was tweeting.

Reading Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels and then his Jesus and the Gospels was profoundly headache-inducing, but a conversation with Craig at SBL has me thinking Chronological ignorance may actually trump Theological preference as the main reason why Christian Scholars keep Jesus on the outer fringe of History. Because of that, these may be the most influential and important books I read all year long.

Richard Bacukham's Testimony of the Beloved Disciple had a chapter on Historiography in John's Gospel that was 97.8% wonderful. I'll always remember the day Nick recommended it. Thanks partly to that, I've recently started through Volumes 1 and 2 of the SBL's John, Jesus and History compilations. I'm counting them here because that's a big step for me. For all of us, really. I'm so glad liberal scholars are now willing to critique the fourth Gospel just as harshly as they've been critiquing the first three in recent centuries. ;-)

I'll list the last three without comment: Roger Beckwith's Calendar and Chronology, Thomas Lewin's Fasti Sacri (reprinted from 1865!), and the IVP's Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels.

Of course I picked through dozens of other new titles this year, but these were the top ten academic Biblical Studies books that influenced my thinking this year. I also spent more time in the Gospels this year than ever in my life, probably. I also did more of that study in Greek than ever before, thanks partly to the new USB Greek New Testament, A Reader's Edition which I saw several bloggers raving about early in 2009.

Oh, what to read next year? I don't know, but I'm sure to blog about it and Lou's sure to read it.

After all, I'm one of his top 15 most prolific. :-)

December 21, 2009

Ancient Jewish House found in Nazareth

The Israel Antiquities Authority is saying it dates to Jesus' time. At a minimum, this confirms the village is at least that old. Of that there should have been little doubt anyway, even without the New Testament.

Nazareth's valley may be a lousy place for a fortified city, but it's a perfect location for a small village (hidden from three sides on semi-high ground with good, sloping run off; midway between Sepphoris and the Lake; close to good farmland and other resources; probably at least one natural spring). I'd have loved to hear them say it was a hundred years older. As I suggested in August, a longstanding community would be more likely to have established a large collection of Hebrew scrolls and to have built a 'proper' Synagogue building. A younger village more likely would have met each Sabbath in somebody's house and may or may not have had scrolls.

As it is, the site could yield more clues to help reconstruct what Jesus' town was like and how many people lived there. Whatever we learn, it's a wonderful discovery. Read all about it: (IAA press release; AP article).

Everybody gets a hug and a tee shirt

That's the unofficial motto of every Junior High School in North America. It's also one symptom of a much deeper trend. A sister symptom is: all dogs people go to heaven.

Scott McKnight defines five types of Universalism. Like most in the traditional Christian faith, I think I'm in agreement with types 1 and 2. I do NOT believe in 3 or 4. I have no way of knowing about 5, and neither do you. But if #5 were/is/may be true, what the heck good is it? ("It's okay to reject Jesus, folks. You'll have another chance to accept Him after you get to Hell.")

I mention this as a perfect example of why Theology really bugs me. Some people spend lifetimes fighting over, preaching on, and convincing themselves about things that might happen. Some people just want a kinder gentler Gospel that they think might sell better. But all we can really do in the here and now is attempt to find God together, share Him with each other, and find out what happens when WE get closer to HIM.

I don't care one stinking bit about "heaven" and neither should you. Finding God and Church now is more than enough trouble for one lifetime.

Let the Eternal bury (or raise) the Eternal.

1 Tim 2 - Index and Summary

My recent series suggested that Paul's statement, I do not allow woman (singular) to teach or direct man (singular), might be directed against one-on-one discipleship situations. Seven posts of considerations on 1st Timothy 2:12-15 were followed by two reconstructing the context of Paul's years before and afterwards.
Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, & #7
A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2 and Colossians/Ephesians
A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2, Ephesus and Junia
The one that got all the attention was post #2, but the Chronological Reconstruction on Junia is what sparked my thinking in the first place. If I'm deeply honored that Peter Kirk and Joel Hoffman were impressed with my ability to "think outside the box", but all I really did was think outside the Epistle.

The context of a sentence is not a paragraph. It's not even an entire book. The context of a sentence is the lives and the stories of the person who wrote it, the people to whom it was addressed, and those about whom it was written. The limits of what we know about them does not diminish our need to know all about them. That's the job.

Whatever it takes to uncover the truth is about 1 Tim 2, we need more than mere exegesis of text. We need historical reconstruction. We may or may not have enough data to arrive at one perfectly clear explanation for why Paul wrote what he did, but we need to think more about who was in Ephesus, what had been going on, when the Epistle was written, and where each principal player was at any given point in the Story.

Grammar is vital, but context is King. I'm the first to admit that Peter, Joel and many others can run rings around me in Greek translation. Ideally, historians and exegetes ought to compliment one other. Until that's more common, I'll continue to beat on this drum: As any good journalist can tell you, you normally have to answer the first four W's in order to have any chance at the fifth.

Tell me what people say, but it really means nothing, unless I also know what they did.

More Gender and Number - 1 Tim 5:8

Ooh, lookie. More ambiguity:
If anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (1 Tim 5:8, NASB)
Suzanne McCarthy brought to our attention that there is no masculine pronoun in the Greek, even though many translations say "he". Next, Suzanne translated Erasmus' Latin version using the singular "they". Somehow, Erasmus thought it should have said "she". Third, Suzanne cited John Calvin, who generalizes the "anyone" as a "they" - meaning two parents. Finally (for now), she gives us a selection of quotes about 'Biblical Manhood' that generalize alternately towards "men" and "a man".

In her last comment (so far) below TC Robinson's response, Suzanne says
The passage is a bit hard to untangle, between the plurals and singulars and who is to do what, like the rest of Timothy. Very frustrating sometimes.
Fascinating. Good thing we can trust folks like Suzanne to stay on top of this one... but has anyone attempted a systematic analysis of singulars and plurals throughout 1st Timothy? I know it's beyond me, but in the wake of my recent thoughts, I'm very curious...

December 20, 2009

Angels are really smart

God's highest glory on Earth is when Peace comes inside of a people who please Him.

That's not my translation of Luke 2:14, but something really close to that might just be what the angels meant when they sang it. For some recent discussions on translating Luke 2:14, go here In my humble opinion, all of humanity has always been invited to find God, engage Him, and seek to please Him. Only one Man was ever successfully able to do so, but He has invited us to share in His success. So, therefore, the night the angels sang near Bethlehem was the night when the seed of that promise broke through.

God longs to see people contain His Life and live at peace together.

December 19, 2009

Nazareth "46"


Father, my refuge and strength, you are present with me always. This loneliness is not too much trouble because I have You. I'm not afraid of what changes might come. Even if the mountains fall down on this valley, or the seas rose to drown us here, even if this whole town trembles at violent things that might come... You are the River whose constant flow makes me happy. Your kingdom is coming. As you are in me, you will be in the midst of your Kingdom. She will not be moved. She will finally Love you. You will help her when that morning dawns.

The gentiles may cause an uproar and the Kings of the earth will do battle, but when You raise Your voice, the whole Earth will melt. You've been here with me, Lord of Hosts, and you will be with them. You've been my stronghold, God of Jacob, and you will be for them. How I long to see that work of Yours - what you will leave desolate, what you will cease, what you will break and burn. Wars will not end, but oh that all Your children would quit striving and know that you are God. You are to be exalted among all nations. You are to be exalted across this land.

Almighty Father, how I love and live for you. Stay here with me until all Jacob is Your stronghold.


December 18, 2009

Let's Quarantine all the Defective People

I'm a big Pixar fan. Their storytelling is so tight, it turns coal into diamonds. Seriously, as digital film makers they have complete control over every second of every frame and every bit of every image. That means every detail in a Pixar film serves the film's purpose somehow. Figure out how, and you find new depths in the film's message.

Knowing this, I was surprised at how much time Wall-E gave to the defective robots in quarantine. It just didn't seem to fit the overall message, until I realized - to a robot, all humans are defective. Just like robots, the Buy-N-Large corporation that managed Earth built a life-ship designed to quarantine human error. But by doing that, they effectively quarantined humanity.

Hollywood artists are naturally anti-business and anti-authority, but we all need to find balance between sustaining life and actually living it. Just as importantly, we all have to decide whether to protect young pioneers from the perils of attempting to seize life... or whether to encourage them.

Overall, the movie Wall-E was about a defective robot, enamored with wonderful things, who acted like a human. His defective behavior was dangerous to himself and those around him, but it was also inspiring. Obviously our non-cartoon world isn't always so safe or rewarding, but we do see times when protocols written for survival actually destroy sources of life-renewing energy. Eventually, the status quo serves only itself. The question is, at what point does Life need to be about more than comfortable safety?

One of the more subtle messages of Wall-E is that humanity and defective behavior simply come as a package deal. Large systems can't quarantine everybody, and the more little defects they save us from the more we fall prey to the big defects of the system itself.

So which is worse? That depends. Who decides?

If we leave things up to the Buy N Large corporation, they'll decide what we can handle and what we cannot. If we prefer comfort and safety instead of adventure and experience, that might be okay. But then again... what if one reason God made human beings was to let us exercise?

What if the process really is more important than the end product? What if we wind up quarantining defective people, because they gummed up our plans, and yet that prevents them from bringing us wonderful and unexpected new sources of Life? We might wind up with a world where everyone keeps letting experts decide what's best for all of us.

In the movie, the Captain makes that decision for everyone on board his ship. "I don't want to survive, I want to live!" Happy ending ensues: everyone loves the results, hardship included. In your world, dear reader, the challenge will have more teeth. Still, the reward may be worth it. Do you want to survive? Or do you want to live?

And yet - that's not the big question. The big question isn't - can you trade in an easy life for the difficulties of pioneering experience? The big question is - can you deal with the inevitable failures of yourself and those who go with you?

Big Box Businesses (including the kind with white steeples) tend to cover up the fact that we are all defective people. Do you want more out of Church Life? Get ready for problems.

Real Life and problems are simply a package deal. That seems to have been true even in Eden, and I'm starting to think God intended for us to be less than perfect.


December 17, 2009

A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2, Ephesus and Junia

Might the context of 1 Tim 2:12 be affected by when it was written? Consider...

The Letter we call 1st Timothy was most likely handed off in person, from Paul to Timothy, at Troas (Acts 20:6, at which point Paul must have said something like, "Kid, you got one week's head start. I'll call for the elders near Ephesus.") If so, that means the circumstances Paul wrote about had been causing Timothy problems since Paul left Ephesus (Acts 20:1, at least a year earlier than 20:6, given that Paul went to the Adriatic and back; Rom.15:19, Acts 20:2). It also means those problems probably took root and existed 'under the surface' while Paul was still at Ephesus.

One thing we know for sure about Paul's time in Ephesus is that he was there when Claudius died (Oct, 54 AD). Claudius had to die before Paul's comrades could move to Rome, before Paul could write them a letter (Rom.16). Therefore, it was during Paul's time in Ephesus that his associates from many cities (on whomever's initiative) began moving towards Rome. One of those many was Junia, a female apostle (Rom.16:7).

We don't know where Junia was from, but Jerusalem and Antioch are common suggestions. In either case, the cheapest, most convenient, friendliest road to Rome - hopping from church to church for hospitality's sake - ran through Ephesus. (There is no evidence of churches in North Anatolia by this time, at all.) Unless Junia was from Greece or Macedonia, she passed through Ephesus. She may even have lived there for a time, perhaps while Paul was teaching his disciples at the School of Tyranus.

I would argue all of that is fairly probable. As far as what follows? Well, that all depends.

Who were the would-be-teachers whom Paul wanted Timothy to rebuke? Were they all male? It seems at least two of them were (1.Tim.1:20), but the charge is unclear (1:3). Nevertheless, if the bad teachers were all men, and they were willing to oppose Paul and Timothy, just imagine what they would have thought about Priscilla and Junia. It is possible these insecure men used Priscilla and Junia as examples of why Paul and Timothy could not be followed. It is further possible that 1st Tim.2:12 was Paul's response to a rumor they started about such women.

Think about this: Jesus spent time alone with Peter. Barnabas traveled with Paul. Paul and Timothy had become as close as father and son. Since apostles were accustomed to taking on trainees, and since most apostles were men, Junia being the one known exception, it would have seemed clear that Junia must either (A) take on no disciples, or (B) take on a male disciple.

Paul's experience with Junia and Priscilla - both before he wrote 1st Timothy - is the strongest of all the evidence showing that he was progressive for his time. If his (probably male) opponents in Ephesus had been opposed to those developments, they would naturally have spent time thinking of all the ways Paul's policies might become dangerous. Had they wanted to employ it, the most damaging charge possible would be immorality.

They only needed to raise the question to cause controversy: "Would Paul allow Junia to disciple a man?"

If that concern was put out in Ephesus, it may be what Paul was responding to in 1st Timothy 2:12, when he said, "I do not allow a woman to teach or direct a man".

Judge for yourselves how likely this scenario might have been. But consider it well...

December 16, 2009

A Chronological Reconstruction: 1 Tim 2 and Colossians/Ephesians

IF the provenance of 1st Timothy really does belong in Acts 19-20, as I strongly believe, then Colossians and Ephesians were written a few years afterwards. It's possible, therefore, that Paul's inherent misogyny had begun to abate by the time of his Roman imprisonment.

At any rate, is it not fascinating to consider that "no male or female" might very well belong after that infamous line from 1st Timothy? And despite the injunction on wives to submit (in Colossians) Paul comes down much harder on men this time (especially in Ephesians).

Here's my final suspicion: somebody in Rome read Colossians 3:18 & 19 as Paul was finishing the letter - maybe it was Priscilla, who was in Rome at that time! - whoever it was, they responded to Paul's remarks about men and women. A conversation convinced Paul (among other things) that he might do especially well to expand on his statements to men. Thus, before sending Tychicus onward to Colosse, Paul wrote the second letter (to Laodicea & Hieropolis, revising the end of his letter to mention this also. This second letter, of course, is the one we usually call "Ephesians".

Regardless of how this stuff tends to get preached, I'd argue with anyone that Eph.5:25-32a - strictly interpreted - ought to come across much rougher on men than Eph.5:22-24 & 32b comes down on women. At least, I've never met a man on this Earth who's ever laid down his life for a woman the same way Christ did for the church.

How, then, can men demand that women must follow Paul's injunction to submit? Any man who does so is a giant hypocrite. For myself, I'll just say that if I ever succeed for even one day at truly loving my wife as well as Paul asked me to, then maybe on that day I might have some room to challenge her about Paul's advice to women. Maybe. However, until that day comes, I consider myself to have no right to read or repeat those verses that are supposedly said to be about "submission".

I say "supposedly" not because I doubt, but because why should I care what those verses are about? Seriously. Aren't I'm a man? As a man, why should I read instructions that were only written to women? I don't expect I'd be able to understand them the way women would. Besides, frankly, it's none of my business.

I'm a man. Those "submit" verses weren't written to me, so I shouldn't read them. ;-)

Whatever else is true, putting 1st Timothy before Paul's Roman prison letters shows a man whose succinctly expressed double standard is softening somewhat, just less than five years later. Maybe meeting Philip's four daughters helped a bit. Maybe it was one more bout with the controlling nature of Jerusalem that convinced Paul to be less prohibitive.

I don't think Paul changed his opinion on not letting one woman disciple one man. I don't see Paul contradicting himself or saying anything "contrary to fact" anywhere along the way. I do think that some of Paul's own subtle misogyny (which exudes from 1 Tim 2 just by osmosis) had begun to change somewhat. In 1st Tim, he expressed Eve's fault but left Adam's crime unspoken. In Ephesians, he gives men the much heavier burden. (No one can live up to that!) One might even sympathize for poor Tychicus who had to go read that in at least three or four churches of Asia! What on Earth did they think? Ah, well. We all need to be challenged. ;-)

The fact is, in the Body of Christ, we all learn from each other. That "which every joint supplies" is intensively gender-inclusive. Therefore, I know this about the first century church. Priscilla and Junia may not ever have taught Paul one-on-one, but he learned from them. Over time, it sure seems, Paul did learn from his sisters in Christ.

Go therefore, men, and do likewise.

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 7

In closing this series, I'm going to say a brief word from John's Revelation. Like Paul in 1st Timothy, the exile on Patmos has noted a weakness of Adam & Eve's Garden. At the end of John's vision, he saw Eden's River and Tree of Life. At the end of all things, unlike at the beginning, the place of God on Earth is secure. It has walls.

Obviously, walls are defensive. Evidently, the serpent will not get into the New Jerusalem. But there's more. These walls themselves are very special. The foundation stones are the apostles of the church. The gates of the walls are the twelve tribes of Israel. That leaves one part of the wall unaccounted for. The stones in-between each pair of gates, the regular stones, are most likely, I presume, the saints of the churches of God.

The saints are not mentioned elsewhere. The interior of the city was one giant gold street, like a courtyard. There are no houses mentioned. Likewise, there is no Temple, but the entire city is full of the Lord's presence. Like a bride, she envelops Him, and he remains within her. She (we) is (are) all around Him. Heaven is open above us. The Earth rises up beneath us. But nothing beyond us will interfere ever again with the one, who is Life, who is finally within us.

In the beginning, according to Genesis, Adam & Eve never ingested the fruit of Life. The snake tempted the woman, and the man joined her in sin. The enemy got past two pitiful mortals, who had not yet partaken of God's Life.

In the end, according to Revelation, God's Garden is full of Him who is Life. Therefore the stones - Living Stones? - will be full of Life. The enemy will never get past such a multitude of Christ-ones, so they stand as a Wall.

In Genesis 2, God told the first man and women to multiply. In Revelation 21, they seem to have done so. None of this is an argument for what Paul must have meant in 1st Timothy, but if John's Revelation also contains truth, then we may at least mention that - even in Paradise, even in His constant presence - God's people will always continue to find greater safety in numbers.

This illustration unfortunately concludes everything I have to say about 1st Timothy. Yes, I left points unaddressed. No, this is hardly a slam dunk argument. It stands as common sense that no man or woman should mentor an individual of the opposite sex in an intimate context. However, I contend that really might be all Paul is saying in 1 Tim 2:12.

Paul's illustration from vv.13-15 takes the faults of the first intimate couple and expands their situation into plurality. Whether one or all women are being "saved" and "preserved", in verse 15, that probably speaks much less - to a first century mind - about performing a specific task, than it does about propagating one's clan to strengthen the odds of survival. More deeply, in keeping with the context of everything else Paul ever wrote, this salvation through plurality may also have more to do with fostering a large, healthy Christian Community.

Eve still reproduces metaphorically. The Church, also feminine, reproduces spiritually. The human couple in Genesis gets replaced by a divine couple in Revelation, and - men - we are all part of that woman!


For my final word now, I'll pull back just a bit. In the future, I merely suggest that those who never tire of investigating Paul's remarks about gender in 1st Timothy 2, should also spend some serious thought on the issue of number as well. We have evidence of a numeric shift that may also mirror a deep spiritual shift in Paul's language. Whether or not I've unlocked this puzzle for good, there's a lot here to consider.

The End (for now)

Tomorrow and Friday, come back for some considerations about 1st Timothy within the larger context of Paul's writings, based on one plausible Pauline Chronology.

December 15, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 6

So, if the passage from 2:8-14 is entirely focused on modesty and prudence, and Paul's only opposed to one-on-one discipleship as far as women teaching is concerned, what's up with "she will be saved by childbirth"? I'm not sure, but I'm going to try building on the question I asked at the end of post #2: "Is Paul partly suggesting the tragedy of a one-on-one problem can find salvation through multiplication?"

One problem in the Garden of Eden was that the snake caught the duo before they had multiplied. Worse yet, the snake probably caught Eve alone. (Adam does not appear from Gen.3:1-5a.) Like Solomon said that many counselors contain wisdom, Paul said the church is held together from that which every joint supplies (Eph.4). Paul, of course, also knew that the snake caught Eve alone, and that her disobedience spread to Adam. This illustrates that a one-on-one situation is not only dangerous because of male/female intimacy issues. A one-on-one partnership is also dangerous because there is less safety for a duo, on many levels, than there is with a larger community.

From that perspective, we should realize that part of childbearing is multiplying, and that a key advantage of growing in number is being able to pluralize corporate functioning.

Now then, I don't know how Paul understood v.15, or if he really meant to imply that the churches' behavior might be somehow "saving" or "preserving" our great grandmother Eve. I'm certainly not speculating on Eve's eternal destiny one way or the other. I will, however, suggest that Paul must have noticed how God (in the Old Testament) kept on calling the nation of Israel "Jacob" for hundreds of years. I can also attest my children's grandparents have seen many ancestors in their sweet little faces. In some sense, we may all "preserve" Eve in some respect, and perhaps all the more so when we live up to what God planned for Eve (and for Adam) to do.

Verse 15 may or may not be that deep. But the grammar seems clear. The implied "she" is singular and so the implied "they" should logically refer EITHER to Adam & Eve as a couple OR to the fruits of their childbearing, their descendants. I find the second to be more likely because of the future tense verb.

I won't speculate further on Paul's bizarre theological tangent, except to emphasize once again that - whatever else is going on here - the progression of thought shows that Eve's singular fall is somehow, at least partly redeemed by the multiplication of her own company. Beyond that , Eve's seed (via Abraham, according to Paul in Galatians) eventually produced Christ, in whom the whole Body is held together, and in whom we fulfill God's original purpose for Adam & Eve, on Earth.

Perhaps Paul is only saying that Eve took care of the multiplying, and now we (in Christ) have to finish the rest. Whatever he means, the theological implications still appear to be some kind of tangent. The shift from singular back into plural marks a turning point for Paul's thoughts in the letter.

My own bottom line: Whether or not my attempts to explain this shift are all valid, we must note that it corresponds with the natural pluralization of childbirth. As I said in post #2, that observation could very well change the whole view of who "she" and "they" might be.

There are still questions, of course, but the potential significance demands further attention.

To be concluded...

December 14, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 5

If Paul's prohibition in 1 Tim 2:12 is only against one-on-one female/male mentoring, then what do we do with the following problems?


Objection #1: What about "she must be silent"? That's not a small problem. Forgive me, but I'm going to put this one off for the moment. What's below is far more than enough for today.


Objection #2: Why didn't Paul flip the script? Why didn't he also point out that a man should also not disciple a woman? We don't know. Maybe "certain men" in Ephesus had shared concerns about women like Priscilla and Junia (see below). Maybe it was simply a double-standard. So... does that mean Paul's saying a man can teach and direct a woman? I'd say no, not necessarily. Again, if we wanted to be literalists, we shouldn't invent sentences that aren't there.

On this objection, I reiterate - we don't know why Paul didn't balance his statement, but we can't invert the lack of a balance into an opposite, positive injunction favoring male domination. No matter how much traditional exegetes have inferred it, it's just not there. In the end, the lack of a script-flip may only be a cultural double standard that leaves certain things unstated as subtext (on which, see post #3 again).


Objection #3: If vv.12-15a is all individual, was Paul talking primarily about husbands and wives? I don't think so. Firstly, everything else that's domestic in this letter to Timothy is also corporately focused (ie: being unmarried should not produce shame in the community; the number of ones spouses only matters if one desires to become an elder; feeding widows is a job for the church; etc). In other words, it's precisely because these points are so peculiarly one-on-one that they're most likely not meant to focus on domestic couples.

Secondly, the domestic view of this passage ignores the reality of single people. Aside from those widows, at least, Paul and Timothy were also unmarried. In other words, declaring that v.12 must refer to a married couple rules out widows and Timothy. We simply can't declare for certain that such people are meant to be excluded from Paul's injunction.

Thirdly, the verb for teach ('didaskw') has a better than even chance of referring to some type of formal education or ecclesiastical training, both of which are teaching programs the average housewife in Ephesus would not likely attempt to perform. This third point on objection 2 deserves a quick sidebar. Education in general seems to have been something of a charged issue in Ephesus.


Acts and Paul's letters give us very good reasons to think that the church in Ephesus had been especially focused on teaching and discipling. Let's review some examples.

(Ex.A) The men and women of Ephesus had witnessed Paul teaching disciples in the school of Tyranus for two years. Even if Paul's most consistent pupils were only a handful of "junior apostles" in training, those two years still built a history among this particular church. We have no record of so much active discipleship in Paul's other churches.

(Ex.B) There's a larger concern in the letter to Timothy about who is or isn't authorized to teach others in the church. In fact, we get the distinct impression that "certain men" (who saw themselves as teachers) had been challenging Timothy's authority as Paul's proxy apostle.

(Ex.C) Priscilla explained the way of God to Apollos (with Aquilla's assistance), and such vocal initiative was probably characteristic for Priscilla, but at the time of 1st Timothy (we should be virtually certain) Priscilla was living in Rome.

(Ex.D) Many teachers, teaching apostles and apostles-in-training had lived in or visited Ephesus since the church's birth (Paul, Timothy, Apollos & Erastus, for certain; probably Titus; probably Peter & Silas, on their way from Corinth to Bithynia; less likely Barnabas; very likely all the men named in Acts 20:4; perhaps also Junia - on her way to Rome, if not as a resident for some time). Uncertainties acknowledged, Ephesus still seems likely to have had a significant amount of experience both observing and interacting with apostles and apostles-in-training.

Without further data, we can't outline any distinct patterns. We can, however, note that there were a variety of teaching arrangements in Ephesus' experience.

We have Paul teaching the church, Paul teaching disciples, Paul discipling apostles-to-be (Timothy & Erastus, at the absolute least), and Priscilla & Aquilla teaching Apollos. We have individuals teaching, individuals learning, and collections of individuals jockeying to obtain teaching positions.

At first glance, we do not seem to have examples of one-on-one discipling, at all. (!) After all, Paul himself made a point to say many things to Timothy "in the presence of others". However, it's probably Paul and Timothy must have spent some time alone, on occasion. For another example, we must expect Barnabas was still mentoring Paul to some degree as the two made their way up the Via Sebaste in Galatia. Since Paul had known Timothy longer than anyone else in Ephesus, it would be only natural if Timothy spent much time at Paul's home while they both lived in Ephesus. Given that, the church must have inherently recognized a one-on-one mentoring situation.

What we do not have, anywhere in Paul's writings, is explicit evidence of domestic teaching within a marriage or family. At the very least, 1.Cor.14:34-35 remains unclear. [It's hard to see how the infamous passage could be about speaking in "church" because there is no "Law" in Judaism which forbids women from speaking. The only other "ecclesia" which forbade women from speaking was the civic assembly, and while it is difficult to imagine why that would even be an issue - much less why Paul would address it so briefly within the context of 1.Cor 14 - it is even more impossible to invent a Law not already in the Pentateuch. But if this is not the case, then what other "Law" could Paul be referring to? .]


All things considered, the one-on-one language in 1.Tim.2:12 is - unfortunately - unique. As with the odd passage in 1.Cor, we can only speculate as to what circumstances moved Paul to make this odd statement in the first place. My own hunch is that someone started a rumor that Priscilla or Junia might take on a male disciple, like Paul did Timothy. A new friend just informed me of her theory that a particular wife was causing particular trouble. Either or neither of those may be correct. We just don't know.

What we do know is that teaching, discipling, and apostolic authority were ongoing issues that affected the church in Ephesus in significant ways, over time. In the end, we have one reference that may or may not refer to husbands teaching wives at home, but we have the precedent of apostolic mentoring as a possible impetus for consiering one-on-one situations.

This ends my thoughts on point 3. Those are all the reasons why I find it much less likely that 1 Tim 2:12 would be aimed against husbands and wives.


Objection #4: What's up with "saved by childbirth"? The last major problem I see is verse 15. We discussed v.15 in post #2, I floated some questions that bear further investigation, in the light of posts 3-5.

Unfortunately, this post is way too long already. Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on v.15.

December 13, 2009

The Christmas Story: Luke vs. Matthew?

If we did not have Luke's Gospel, christian tradition would probably hold that both Mary & Joseph were from Bethlehem. In such a parallel universe, the most careful skeptic would rightly suggest doubts about that tradition. In other words, it may be true that someone reading only Matthew's Gospel could well assume the young couple was first betrothed at Bethlehem, but the most careful readers would note that Matthew says no such thing. The first Gospel's first chapter is completely silent as to location.

It is Luke's Gospel that says Mary & Joseph went from Nazareth to Bethlehem because of a census. If we trust Luke, it is perfectly reasonable to reconcile Luke and Matthew's accounts of the period before Jesus' birth. This, from a historian's standpoint, is not a difficult problem. But Luke goes on to speak as if Mary & Joseph went back to Nazareth while Jesus was still a relative newborn. (Lk.2:39 - "When they had completed all that was according to the Law of the Lord, they returned... to Nazareth".) Now, this is the problem.

Does Luke's statement contradict Matthew's story about the massacre and flight to Egypt? James McGrath, Doug Chaplin, and others suggest that it does. Apologists, naturally, suggest that Luke's language is stretchy, that "when" ('ws') gives us enough wiggle room to squeeze in the rest of the story. Who's right? Who knows. I'll gladly stand with the apologists, but I don't care to defend them right now. This post has a different agenda.

Let's entertain skepticism for a few moments. If we take Luke and Matthew as contradictions, how much really has to be wrong? As I showed above, the hometown question is not a real problem. The difficult part comes after Jesus is born. Luke 2:39 seems to deny Matthew's entire second chapter. Any critical analyst now faces a choice. Should we doubt Luke or Matthew?

If we treated both writers with equal skepticism, it would seem more economical to doubt one verse of Luke instead of a whole chapter in Matthew. I know all the reasons why skeptical critics prefer doubting Matthew against Luke. I just think those critics aren't being skeptical enough. In theory, a true skeptic should suspend judgment on God, miracles, angels, dreams, and miraculous stars that stand still over houses. In theory, a true skeptic should point out that OT parallels (dreams, exodus) prove artfulness, but not outright fabrication. A true skeptic doubts their own criticism as much as they doubt the text itself.

Truly, Luke 2:39 does appear to preclude the events of Matthew 2:1-23. Therefore, if a skeptic choses to trust Matthew - for argument's sake - there are two options. Logically, it must be that Luke 2:39 is either incorrect or at least somewhat misleading. Those who wish to defend Luke on this point have got two separate battles to fight. Those who wish to reconstruct events only have this one hurdle to get over.

Skeptics can go on doubting Matthew and/or Luke while believers go on defending them, but I see no logical reason why all cannot agree on the following statement.

The events reported in Mt.2, if factual, must belong to the time spanned by Lk.2:39.

Update: You may also wish to read this later post - Mary Should Have Stayed Home.

December 12, 2009

Churches need Coaches

I carry a metaphor in my head that an apostle any christian worker who builds up a new church is a lot like the coach of a sports team. Don't misunderstand. Church Life and Sports is the weak part of the metaphor. Coaching and developing gifted persons to move together as a collection of individuals - that's the key point.

Yesterday, College Football Coach Brian Kelly just got announced as the new boss of Touchdown Jesus, Inc. He's also the NCAA FBS Coach of the year. At his Notre Dame introduction, he said this:
"It’s not just about getting bigger, stronger, faster," he said. "It’s getting your players to trust, to be accountable on a daily basis, it’s about developing them as young men. … To get people to do things that they would not normally do on their own."
Amen. Good Coach. I'd say he provides a strong contrast to most preachers. Here's what I mean.

How many church leaders develop the talent, and how many just focus on doing their job but complain because others don't do much themselves? Right. Biblically speaking, the worker's main duty is to get the whole church to do their 'jobs' as well. So I say, if some pew sitters like to think that their monthly tithing checks give them the right to be served all year long - then, christian workers, just stop cashing those particular checks! Keep taking money from everyone else, if they keep giving it. But don't accept money from those who expect their gifts to prevent you from doing your job. Please, remember. You don't work for them. And they don't give to you. Right? (Right?)

You've got the idea. Now let's make this practical. HOW does one Coach? The same way one parents. Exhaustively. Tirelessly. Constantly. Incrementally.

A Kindergarten teacher once told me the average child requires 1,000 hours of exposure to print materials before they can read their first word. Father Flanagan learned at Boys Town that teens raised in poverty had never been taught how to make eye contact, introduce themselves, or follow simple instructions. It doesn't get much more basic than that. Good parents, well-off ones at least, consistently demand and tirelessly reinforce the behaviors they know are in their children's best interests. Poor parents, without resources or know-how, muddle through and the kids simply learn what they learn, which ain't much.

We all need to be taught, if we're going to learn. We all need to be trained, to develop and master new skills. In a church, that's as true as in any place else. The little things need to be coached. So church leaders, if your people have done little more than attend and listen for most of their lives, you might need to get started with multiple repetitions of very simple tasks. Then expand as you can. If you're gentle, positive, slow and deliberate, they might not resist overly much. If they do, they're certainly free not to come. They might not like what you're doing, but you'll try to explain that it's for their own good. It is certainly NOT to their benefit to be served and to avoid exercise! So don't let that continue!

If they act like children about it, punish them. How? Refuse to keep taking their money. (That'll show 'em!) But whatever happens, keep straight. Do your job. Coach. Develop the talent.

The Hope of all the Earth is Christ working through His Whole Body. Not just one mouth and a whole bunch of ears. So keep preaching. But Coach. And Pray. Above all else, pray. But start doing what few ever try. For the sake of God's Hope, for the sake of Christ's Glory, for the sake of Him gaining a functional corporate expression of Himself on Earth... Preachers... (or anyone else)... PLEASE...

Coach the Body of Christ!

December 11, 2009

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 4

The ancient world was more than a little biased towards men, so it only makes sense that Paul and the churches were still growing through those attitudes as they grew more deeply into Christ. In 1 Tim 2:13-14, there's no question that Paul seems to give Adam pride of place and appears to blame Eve for their fall. But the mere words of these verses should not convince us that Paul thinks Adam was blameless. Quite to the contrary. We already know better.

There can be no question that Paul knew the whole Genesis story and his brevity on it suggests he expected Timothy (and the Jewish Christians of Ephesus) to know the story as well. What Paul left out doesn't change what everyone knew. Adam fell also. Therefore, we've got to read between the lines a little bit. What did Paul assume to be understood, about Adam's fall?

To build on my suggestion from the previous post: I suspect that, in Paul's mind, whatever he was trying to say about Adam & Eve must have had something to do with how the intimacy between the first man and woman caused HIM to join HER in disobedience. In other words, I suspect Paul's implied subtext runs something like this: In such a situation, once the woman happens to wind up in transgression, the man will be sure to join her in it.

Isn't that still a double-standard? Absolutely, but consider both sides. Paul leaves the cause of Adam's failure unstated, except that by couching that implicit detail within the more culturally acceptable phrasing - ostensibly putting the emphasis on Eve's failure - Paul's phrasing allowed the ancient male egos of his audience to fill in the blanks for themselves.

We may now ask more specifically - why did Timothy (and the men of Ephesus) think Adam fell? Specifically, I suggest - the most likely understanding of Adam's behavior would have been his intense biological drive to maintain their level of intimacy, which must have caused him to eat. In this case, Adam's eating pleased her. And no man ever hated his own flesh. All this, I suspect, was implicit for the men of Ephesus - perhaps even more so for the women.

If the danger of Adam & Eve was his need for her, and if Paul told this story to illustrate his point that "a woman" should not teach "a man", this may add some weight to my central argument. Yes, the grammar is odd, but at least one language expert has refrained from ruling it out absolutely. The context, therefore, could be even more vital. This (hypo)thesis must be considered at length.

Having said what I needed to say about vv.13-14, please consider afresh my suggestion. Once again, it is this. Paul's prohibition in v.12 may be aimed merely against one-on-one female/male mentoring.

In part 5, which I will hereby delay until Monday, I'll respond at length to some very valid objections.

December 10, 2009

Honebeaded Tismakes

When I was 17, I couldn't believe my Dad thought he was always right. When I was 21 (yes, ahead of the curve) it amazed me to realize that my Dad pretty much was always right. But it wasn't until I turned 33 that I grasped the whole truth in this case. My Dad only speaks up when he already knows that he's right.

As should be obvious to most readers, I don't have that same virtue. I mention this today because a blogging friend of mine got called out on a "bonehead mistake". If you don't know who I mean, you don't need to. If you saw the conversation, you know why I can't defend what he said. Friends don't need defending, anyway. But the right to make mistakes? That, often, does.

Sometimes guarding one's words is a pure power play. Sometimes misperceptions get instilled early about topics that just don't come up very often. Sometimes a person can be very good at certain aspects of something and get dismissed because a free tongue reveals ignorance about a related (though not insignificant) area.

In case you're not clear, that last paragraph was all about me. Jesus' disciples were belittled because of their Galilean accents. I'm sure one reason I don't make certain blogrolls is because my lack of acculturation comes out in dozens of ways I don't even notice. A fellow amateur at ETS laughed at my pronunciations, but at least he corrected them!

I still think I'm doing what I can to make some kind of progress (and hopefully, eventually, some contribution). Still, I wish I'd get called out more often.

The most painful lessons are often much more than valuable. They're often surprising, because they're past due.

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 3

At the end of post two, we were trying to hone in on the transition from singular to plural in the language of 1 Tim 2:15. While those questions continue to simmer, let's back up a bit. As it so happens, Paul left unstated a big part of the Genesis story.

Before Eve birthed all her children, and thus indirectly birthed all of our ancestors, Eve's transgression first reproduced itself into Adam. According to Genesis, she gave him the fruit (of knowledge, fwiw) and he ate. Adam took it and ate. Period. So, according to Genesis, Eve was deceived by the serpent. Adam just did what Eve wanted. Now, let's stop and ask what might be a new question about this familiar story.

Whose failure is worse, there?

To the point, Eve fell because she was tricked. Adam fell because... well, we don't really know why. Without inventing details, it's probably safest to consider that Adam fell mainly because of their intimacy. Eve gave him the fruit. He ate. And why should he not have? According to an old joke, Eve did all three things a wife can do to please her husband. She came naked. She brought food. She didn't block the TV. (Laugh, y'all. My mom once told that joke to my wife! I don't care who you are, that's funny right there!)

In all seriousness, one of the most misogynistic things about the ancient world is that women often got blamed for men's lust. 'Don't dress that way, girls. You know we can't control ourselves.' As often as this still goes on it's simply unacceptable male domination, and shameful to blame women for what is only our struggle. On the other hand, it's also natural and obvious that a healthy degree of modesty can be helpfully prudent for everyone's sake.

Of course, I bring this up partly to note that such themes were on Paul's mind earlier in the passage at hand (v.9-10).

In the real world, immodesty is relative, but abusive overreactions to any particular breach of standards are inexcusable. Whatever strikes the right balance in addressing practical issues of modesty, it's equally true to say one-on-one situations require a similar degree of wisdom and prudence. I don't care how liberated we get, nobody in any culture or age should mentor an individual of the opposite sex in an intimate context! It just shouldn't be done.

In all this, we're trying to find the connections between real life, Genesis, and whatever Paul said. A key point, I'm suggesting, may be that Adam's fall was essentially brought about by extreme intimacy. Therefore, even though Paul doesn't seem to spread blame very evenly in his rhetoric, the point may be implicit. After all (as with debates over modesty) it is common for double standards to be couched in blaming language, isn't it? But however unacknowledged in polite company, the true facts are usually common knowledge. In this case, it seems likely that such a subtext might have been especially obvious to men and women of a patriarchal culture.

Paul's likely implication: The fact that Eve's deception led Adam astray was the failure of Adam, and the partial result of intense one-on-one intimacy. Update: I've been challenged to rephrase this without using "lead/led". I didn't mean anything hierarchical by it anyway, so here goes.

Paul's likely implication: The fact that Eve's disobedience spread to Adam was the failure of Adam, and the partial result of intense one-on-one intimacy.

To be continued...

December 9, 2009

The McCauley Omnicom

The following is an off-topic public service announcement:

I think it was the fall semester of 1992. The comic book series Legion of Super Heroes relaunched with a new #1. Set 1,005 years in the future, the last page of every issue was a text article, with content expanding on Legion continuity. Each full page article was typeset within a graphic device, drawn by Keith Giffen. The device was labeled McCauley Omnicom.

That was my freshman year in college, the last year I was a full fledged comic book geek! Yeah. Forgive me. The point is, this storytelling device was also a futuristic tech device. It was basically like a cross between an i-phone and a Kindle, and it basically explains why I still don't really want an i-phone OR a Kindle. Or the upcoming Apple Tablet (which starts production in March, they said today).

In all seriousness, I'm holding out for a McCauley Omnicom. All y'all gots is still Beta. ;-)

UPDATE: Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt just blogged about the SI Tablet and made some predictions about the end of book publishing as we know it.

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 2

It might be a coincidence, or it might be significant. Did Paul intend to imply that all women are more prone to deception than men? Or is it possible Paul's words here are chiefly focused against one-on-one mixed gender discipleship and the dangers that come during such intimacy?

We noted last time that 1 Tim 2:12-14 is entirely singular. The first plural comes in 2:15. Explaining that change seems to be a pivot point in this problem, so we should analyze the transition sentences. When, where and why does Paul shift from singular back into plural?

Backing up one half verse, to 14b, Paul says: "The woman, having been deceived, in transgression became." More literally, "into transgression was born." When used of persons the verb here can also mean born. Almost poetically, Paul says that the world's first mother, herself formed and not born, was now "born". With the very next phrase, Paul says "she" (Eve?) will be saved (or 'preserved') through child-bearing. I pause to note the whole thought seems closer to child-rearing. "They" (Eve's children?) must grow up to display proper behavior.

Thus, v.15a begins with a singular reference, "she will be saved", and lurches abruptly into a plural, "if they continue". Seriously, what is going on here? This abrupt shift also seems to confuse translators. One option, apparently, has been to take Paul's entire Genesis illustration as a metaphor. But here's what we know for sure.

Paul says "Eve" in v.13, "woman" in v.14 and finally "she" in v.15 [number and gender of the subject implied by the verb and its context]. But what "she" does Paul mean? Oddly, the NASB, NIV, TNIV (!) & NLT all render that singular as a plural: "women will be saved" (NASB says 'preserved'; TNIV & NLT footnotes, "Greek she".) As it turns out, the ESV (!) more accurately renders "she will be saved". Admirably, the ESV also leaves that "she" vague. (The conservative translators are the ones who resisted interpretation at this point. Isn't that fascinating?)

A lot could hang on this hinge. Is Paul's "she" meant as a generalization of all women, or was Paul suggesting that Eve herself would yet be redeemed, in some sense, by her children? It feels like a stretch, but we have to consider it.

If Paul meant that "Eve will be saved" then Eve's children should include all of humanity. That could very well take the responsibility of v.15b off the shoulders of each individual mother's nuclear family and transfer it onto the church. Consider that for a moment.

Furthermore, if this "if they" refers to all of Eve's descendants, then the grammar becomes perfectly clear. In this case, "she" is no metaphorical plural. In this case, the plural only comes in after 'childbirth'. That, itself, may be fitting.

Is Paul partly suggesting the tragedy of a one-on-one problem can find salvation through multiplication?

It's worth more consideration, at least...

December 8, 2009

Solstice Time is Here

Roger Pearse has some really smart friends!!!

I think I just learned why the Romans' winter solstice actually was always on the 25th, and I think I finally figured out why that doesn't contradict what we think we know now - even though our Gregorian Calendar always puts the solstice on the 23rd.

If you care (and you probably shouldn't) follow this link for the story. I think.

Gender and Number in 1 Tim 2 - Part 1

If anyone wants us to be perfectly literal about 1 Tim 2:12, we should note, at least as a beginning, that Paul is primarily speaking against one-on-one mentoring, female to male. "I do not allow a woman to teach or to direct a man." Everything in this statement is entirely singular. In other words, according to the strictest possible interpretation of 1 Tim 2:12, Paul could have approved of Priscilla teaching Apollos, because the prudent woman had her husband assist as she explained the way of God to a transient single male. (There's a sister with wisdom, eh?)

Ah, but the context! Verses 13 & 14 are clearly negative toward women, aren't they? Again, strictly speaking, they're negative toward one woman. Eve. So - at the very least - before we debate how broadly Paul expected Timothy to apply these statements, it's worth noting that vv. 13 & 14 keeps everything singular in number. In explaining his strict directive against one-on-one female-to-male discipleship, Paul reviews the case of the very first such case.

Whatever else Paul is saying, Eve & Adam were a particular one-on-one partnership, in which he followed her right into sin. In other words, Paul's illustration retains the singular intimacy of his prohibition. This may not be a coincidence. The male/female intimacy of a one-on-one discipling relationship may be all Paul is really afraid of.

Could it really be just that simple? Let's try to dig a bit harder.

December 7, 2009

Seminarians on History and the Gospels

Dan Wallace's recent post at Parchment & Pen (still growing, with upwards of 500 comments) has now generated at least one YouTube response, which led me to some other videos related to Dallas Theological Seminary, which led me to this video featuring Dr. Dwight Pentecost, of the DTS "Biblical Exposition" Department. At the 2:20 mark, the professor says:
The Gospels were not viewed as History, but rather as means of teaching truths to believers. While the Gospel [writer]s are often referred to as the evangelists, they were written primarily to provide a foundation for the faith of those who had already believed.
The professor goes on to contrast the needs of those early believers against the need of winning unbelievers to the faith. Is it me, or does this not imply that the only reason to get into "History" would be for the sake of soul-winning and apologetics?

As it so happens, certain DTS persons in Dan's comment thread suggested the BE department may be part of what gives the NT Department's graduates a bad name around Universities. Purportedly, the BE department doesn't "engage with the world of critical scholarship" (or something like that) - at least, not like the NT and OT departments do. From what I can tell, that seems to be very true. But I'm curious. In what ways are they similar?

IMHO, Dr. Pentecost's false dichotomy was presented with bald-faced, almost stunning clarity. The question is, do the scholars in DTS' NT department engage with the critical literature for the sake of pursuing truth and knowledge, or do they engage for the purpose of soul-winning and (partly defensive) apologetics? I've complained about Darrell Bock's approach before, stating that as far as I can tell, it's 'Do just enough work to defend, then go back to what preaches.' Blaugh. Blech. Excuse me again, Dr. Bock and company, but I keep waiting to be proven wrong.

I ain't got no problem with engagement. Or evangelism. Or even with preaching, necessarily.

I'm simply frustrated (an emotion Dan Wallace can surely relate to) that so many of Christendom's experts seem content to leave History in the hands of the World.

PS: Yes, I've read the book "Words and Works of Jesus Christ", by Dr. Pentecost. I have no comment on that at this time.

Owa Tafoo Lameye

Say it out loud quickly. This weekend I drafted a nine post series on 1st Timothy 2:12-15. Now say it again. Owa Tafoo Lameye. Unless... maybe I can show all my personal cards before I get into the business. Be gentle with me. Here goes...

On paper, I'm probably somewhere between a 'comp' and an 'egal'. I'm not really sure. I was raised with traditional ideas of husbandry and responsibility, but in real life, I'm a pragmatic egalitarian. To me, it's real simple - both in church and in marriage. If a sister in Christ wants to and can do something that helps in the body, or in the family, we absolutely should want her to do it, especially if she does it well! (I feel the same way about brothers. We shouldn't generalize. We should specialize. Most of all, we should all get our exercise!)

Our Texas house church ('03-'06) was mostly (at the time, unfortunately) passive males letting women do all the work, but our Georgia house church ('96-'03) had a strong sisterhood whose veto power and leadership efforts made their regular and substantial contributions absolutely vital to the spiritual lifeblood of the church. (The Georgia brothers were no slouches. The Texas guys may be a bit better now, from what I hear.) In any place, personally, I would just as soon cut myself off from half of Christ as expect half the church to not function. Again, it's real simple. In theory, I just couldn't be anti-clergy and also be anti-equality. In practice, I was thrilled with the positive benefits. (Not that anyone's perfect. Of course.)

I didn't have the privilege of growing up with biological sisters, but then I was blessed with the wonderful grace to encounter the Lord's feminine side in Atlanta. The only time we brothers in that church ever heard the word "submit" was when our founder said (if you get what he meant) that he'd never read those verses, himself. After all, he was a man. Since those verses were written to women, he figured they weren't written to him. Therefore, it wasn't his place to explain them, whatever they meant!

I thought that was simply brilliant, and honest, and true.

Some man might quickly say it's irresponsible to avoid forming an opinion on those verses of scripture. No. Not if we trust our sisters in Christ, and not if we trust Christ in our sisters. Whatever application of those verses may or may not be appropriate, that ought to be purely between Christian women and their Lord. I say again, we men have enough of a burden attempting to live up to Paul's injunctions on us. Read Ephesians again, O man. Do you still disagree? Well, Mister Splinter, meet Mister Log.

Personally, I figure I've got no right to fuss at women who don't "submit" until I can live up to Paul's exhortation that husbands love their wives as much as Christ loved the church. Those who know me can testify this has not happened yet.

Since I've not yet fully laid down my life --- not to mention because of the fact that my wife has already been so incredibly, exceedingly merciful in caring for me, despite all my failures and flaws, and because she's been wonderful in more ways than I could ever have asked for --- and thus for far more than merely principled reasons, I can't even begin to judge my wife or any other female believer on whether or not she "submits" properly. Whatever that means.

And that's all I've got to say about that!

Now, then. Having said that.

If you'd like to see me explore some unique thoughts about what Paul might have been thinking in 1st Timothy chapter 2, come on back tomorrow. At that time, my interests will aim just about where they usually do: Christ (in the church). Story. Historical Context. Mathematics.

"What, Math?" you inquire. "Yes, Math." I say hopefully. The seven-day, seven-part series will be called "Gender and Number in 1st Timothy 2". Two more posts after that will explore things again through the lens of my own Pauline Chronology.

That makes nine posts in all. (Drafted, of course. I'm sure to re-edit and tweak, so feel free to comment daily.) I certainly won't swear that any of my ideas on this passage are rock solid, or that my arguments will build anything like total proof, but I do think these posts are worthwhile enough to seek feedback about. Isn't that why we blog?

Stick around. Set me straight. Should be fun.

Owa Tafoo Lameye. ;-)
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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."

-- Isaac Newton