Dialog on Women


Correspondence on 7/13/05

You write: I myself find Ben Witherington’s (a supporter of women in ministry and a professor at Asbury seminary) position more credible.  These I Corinthians verses are not interpolations and  Witherington holds that  certain married  Corinthian women were asking inappropriate questions and that worship was being disrupted. Furthermore, "these [Corinthian] women assumed that Christian prophets or prophetesses functioned much like the oracle at Delphi, who only prophesied in response to questions, including questions about purely personal matters. Paul argues that Christian prophecy is different: Prophets and prophetesses speak in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, without any human priming the pump. Paul then limits such questions to another location, namely home. He may imply that the husband or man who was to be asked was either a prophet or at least able to answer such questions at a more appropriate time."


Me: I am not dogmatic about 1 Cor. 14:34-35 being an interpolation.  I just think this is the most likely conclusion given the evidence.  While there is slim external textual evidence for this, there is some (the displacement of the verses in the so called Western tradition).  All evangelical churches and even most fundamentalist churches accept the methods of textual science, including the Wesleyan Church, which affirms inerrancy "in the original manuscripts."  I'm sure you know all this.  I would agree with you that it is highly problematic to go around suggesting that verses are interpolations when there is absolutely no textual evidence.


If the verses are original--and I certainly accept this as a possibility--then I would agree with Witherington that the problem is worship disruption by women asking questions in the middle of prophecy.  On the other hand, I personally believe that Witherington has a tendency to put forward specific reconstructions that go way beyond anything we could substantiate given the evidence we have.  They are possible, but often go way beyond anything we could really conclude with certainty.  He seems very idiosyncratic on so many of his ideas.  



You: The 1 Tim 2:12-15 passage seems to be better explained by Black and McClung in their 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon commentary as pages 56-66. They see that this passage is not a universal principle but one that is particular for a particular circumstance (or even today if one looks for orderly worship by both male and female followers of Christ). I myself have had both male and female clergy in the churches where we have been members.


Me: Do I disagree with this somewhere?  I of course believe the passage would apply to a situation or society with the identical circumstances as 1 Timothy.  I just don't think such a place exists any more.