Book Review: Women in the Church (Third Edition): An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15, editors Andreas J. Köstenberger & Thomas R. Schreiner

Women in the ChurchCrossay recently published the third edition (1995, 2005, 2016) of Women in the Church: An Interpretation & Application of 1 Timothy 2:9–15 by editors Andreas J. Köstenberger & Thomas R. Schreiner. This is not a collection of articles from differing positions; to the contrary, it intentionally and thoroughly espouses a complementarian position by all contributors. This volume focuses more on attempts to thwart the ever-increasing egalitarian position rather than provide sufficient and convincing arguments for its own. (I’ve read elsewhere that the second edition was better at arguing for rather than against, but I have not read that edition) I believe the volume as a whole “fails to convince,” as is often stated about opposing positions, often using probably, likely, and most likely in reference to its own arguments when denouncing other positions that do the same. An inherent problem in these varying hermeneutics is a lack of verifiable absolutes; the complementarian position here goes with “majority rules” and ignores exceptions when trying to understand the Greek texts, using history only when suitable for its needs while chastising opposing positions for doing the same.

There is much focus on single words & phrases in 1 Timothy 2:9–15 without properly addressing the whole of Scripture and its intended trajectory. Appealing to a “plain sense reading” of verse 13, it is assumed that there is an intended creation order of male authority and female submission (are we also to assume this order in the new heavens and new earth?), and therefore no reason to address the whole of Scripture. The final chapter is a roundtable Q&A in which the editors ask people for their thoughts on several issues, but only includes complementarians already in agreement on virtually anything of importance, meaning the entire “discussion” is unhelpful and pointless. Everyone skirts around what women should or should not wear, ignoring a “plain sense reading” of verse 9, while assuming any good Christian using rigorous biblical exegesis will agree with the “plain sense reading” of verse 13.

 

There are two points made in the text (paraphrased and summarized below) that really need more attention if they are to be at all convincing:

1) Ephesus was not unlike any other Greco-Roman city, and therefore Paul’s words (their “plain sense meaning”) must be for all people at all times. There is much effort made to demonstrate the lack of uniqueness in the culture of Ephesus, but it wasn’t enough to demonstrate how Paul’s text can under no circumstances be culturally based.

2) Paul did not use the exact words and phrasing in this passage as he did in another passage that referenced husbands and wives, so the Greek text here must mean men and women even if used to refer to husbands and wives elsewhere. This is almost a side note in the text that is quickly brushed to the side. Again, there needs to be much more effort and evidence for this argument to convince.

(I received a digital copy of the book without page numbers, so forgive the lack of specific locations for references above.)

 

All in all, this volume is the most thorough of any complementarian arguments I’ve read in a single source, but it fails to convince on a number of levels in the same manner spoken of other positions. One section fervently appeals to the reader by pulling in references to a number of female PhDs that agree with the authors all at once, as if to say, “See! Smart women agree with us!” It was a low point in the text. This may be useful to students and scholars as a resource of the traditional complementarian position if they need one in their library.

 

For those interested, I read and addressed the text from a position of neither traditional complementarianism nor pure egalitarianism. I find fault with both extremes on some level, and reviewed this book as one expecting a thoroughly convincing exegetical argument, which I did not find.

 

*I received a complimentary digital copy of the reviewed book from Crossway through the Blog Review Program in exchange for this honest review.

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