Book Reviews

“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North, Part 2, in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

“1 Corinthians 14:33B-38, 1 Timothy 2:11-14, and the Ordination of Women” by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North Part 2

1 Timothy 2:11-15

It is interesting to note that in this subheading (in the first edition, anyway), the verses noted are different from those in the chapter title, though the authors don’t actually address verse 15 in their verse-by-verse analysis.

Kriewaldt and North begin by noting the context of the letter- “to Timothy in Ephesus, the economic, political, and religious center of Asia Minor. In that region, the social position of women was well developed. There were numerous female doctors there. In politics, women were thoroughly involved in leadership. Female philosophers were known to teach…” (50). Moreover, they state that “In Paul’s day the Greek and Roman world was awash with priestesses” (ibid). With this context in mind, the authors here argue that Paul is going against the cultural norms of the surrounding environment. They also note that “False teaching had invaded the church in Ephesus…” and “sowed dissension…” According to them, “One of its features led women to discard traditional roles…” (51). They allege that part of the problem was that women “were endeavoring to teach the apostolic word…” (51-52), which is taken to be a bad thing (“false teaching”). Women, they argue, were to learn in full submission, which they take to mean “submit to Christ’s Word and those who teach it. Paul is not saying that all women are to be submissive to all males” (52).

1 Timothy 2:12 is taken to mean that a woman ought not teach or exercise authority over a man. Kriewaldt and North argue that Paul’s saying “I do not permit” cannot suggest a personal opinion because the letter “bristles with apostolic authority” which “suggests that apostolic authority underlies and pervades this whole section…” (52). Specifically, however, women are “not permitted to teach the apostolic doctrine or engage in apostolic ministry of the Word in the worship assembly” (ibid). Verse 13 is taken to mean that “God’s will” is “revealed through the priority of Adam’s Creation… Adam was created first. ‘First’ is not merely first in time, but carries with it a position of leadership, authority, and responsibility (1 Cor. 12:28…)” (53). In response to those who say that making this argument means animals are are masters, the authors dismiss it by saying “That is really scraping the barrel!” (ibid). Verse 14, they argue, shows that the man “who was meant to be the leader and head, fell down on the job… He deliberately and knowingly chose to listen to the woman and thereby sinned by following her teaching” (54).

There are several issues with Kriewaldt and North’s analysis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15. First, and most obviously, though the section heading says they take it to go through verse 15, as almost every commentator does that I have read, they fail to so much as remark on verse 15. Yet verse 15 may be a pivotal verse in the understanding of the whole passage, though it is generally acknowledged as an extraordinarily difficult passage to interpret. What does it mean to say that the woman is saved through [the?] childbirth? Is it a reference to Christ? Is it a note that women do indeed have some kind of power? Is it a bringing women back into equality with men by noting no man exists without a woman? We don’t know Kriewaldt and North’s own opinion because they excluded the verse from their comments and utterly ignored what seem to be the closing remarks of Paul in the section they are trying to interpret properly.

The cultural context is quite interesting because Kriewaldt and North emphasize false teaching over the cultural context. That is, they use the context briefly to frame it as Paul going against the context, but don’t tie context and false teaching together. When we do tie them together, it seems to be sensible to think that perhaps women were teaching in the churches (a cultural norm in the area) but were the ones teaching falsely. Thus, Paul’s teaching for women to be silenced would be directed at this false teaching, which Kriewaldt and North explicitly mention as a major issue in the church in Ephesus (51). Thus, Paul’s silencing of women ought to be understood as localized, but normative. Localized, because it applies to the Ephesian church in the specific case of women spreading false teaching. Normative, because it allows a rule where an entire group of people may be silenced in order to stop false teaching. If, for example, a number of elderly people had imbibed false teaching and continued to spread it, it may be appropriate to call for their silence such that the false teaching does not continue to spread.

Another issue in just the first few pages is why Kriewaldt and North take women “endeavoring to teach the apostolic word” as a bad thing. After all, would they not agree that if it is true women are to be silenced from public teaching, they ought to teach that very apostolic teaching to others? Is it not a strange situation in which anyone is considered a false teacher for wishing to teach the apostolic word? Yet that is exactly what Kriewaldt and North charge women with in the Ephesian Church! The false teaching isn’t actually a teaching on their view; rather, the false teaching is related simply to which chromosomes those people doing the teaching have! This nonsensical reduction of false teaching to actually teaching the apostolic word as a woman shows, frankly, the lengths to which some are willing to go to silence women. The preconception that women ought not teach is what is dominating the interpretation here, not the text itself. Think about it abstractly: is it really false teaching for anyone to teach the apostolic word? Really, truly? But Kriewaldt and North come back later and once again insist women are not to “teach the apostolic doctrine.” I find this doubling down astonishing. Imagine actually using the Bible to insist that about 50% of all humans on the planet may not actually teach that which the apostles do, or that they ought not even endeavor to teach the apostolic word. Incredible.

Kriewaldt and North also seem to contradict Henry Hamann in the same volume, who himself argues that women should not hold political office or other positions of authority over men. Yet in this chapter, Kriewaldt and North suggest submission is not to all men everywhere, just in the specific instance of teaching apostolic word (strange as that is). Thus, despite the fact that this book tries to present what is seen as the unified teaching of the Bible and church, its authors can’t even agree on how much women ought to be submissive.

It is odd for Kriewaldt and North to take other verses in the same letter to mean that the entire section must be explicitly apostolic teaching that persist for all time. Do they use the same reasoning in 1 Timothy 5:23 and insist no one drinks water but rather imbibes wine for stomach illness? That goes a bit against what my doctor has advised, but the authors of our chapter insist that the entire section takes on the authority of eternal commands because Paul’s claim of apostolic authority is scattered throughout the letter. But, as we’ve noted with other authors in this same book, it becomes clear Kriewaldt and North don’t actually mean that. Rather, they mean it when it suits their own theological perspectives.

I am so pleased that Kriewaldt and North take 1 Corinthians 12:28 as a clear example of a list of authority. As I’ve noted before, if they do acknowledge this, they’ve already conceded women hold more authority than pastors, which clearly undermines their entire argument. As every other author has done at some point so far in the book, Kriewaldt and North fail to actually counter the arguments of their theological opponents. When it is noted that Paul’s appeal actually is to the temporal order of the creation of male and female, they dismiss the clear point that animals were created before people as an argument that “scrapes the bottom of the barrel!” Truly? If so, it ought to be simple enough to refute. But they don’t engage it, apparently hoping their readers will quickly dismiss arguments that show the absurdity of their position simply because they do so. Their disdain for women is once again shown by the lurid language of the first man stumbling and falling down on the job and indeed sinning simply by listening to his wife! This position has absolutely nothing redemptive to offer women and it contradicts itself.

Kriewaldt and North fail completely to show that the passages they address exclude women from the ministry. Their selective editing of the text to exclude passages that may be difficult to fit with their reading is just one issue. Far more problematic are their simplistic dismissal of opponents’ arguments without engagement, the self-contradiction inherent in their views, the failure to actually address the totality of the culture to which the letters were addressed, inconsistent literalism, their poisoning of the well, lack of knowledge or engagement with textual critical issues, and many more serious difficulties demonstrate that the complementarian perspective does not adequately address these texts. This is particularly important, because these two passages are the most powerful ones typically mustered by complementarians.


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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35– Those wondering about egalitarian interpretations of this same passage can check out this post for brief looks at some of the major interpretations of the passage from an Egalitarian viewpoint.



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About J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick is a Lutheran, feminist, Christ-follower. A Science Fiction snob, Bonhoeffer fan, Paleontology fanboy and RPG nerd.

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