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I'm not really keeping up with this too much but what is the relationship of:

Deacon -> servant -> elder?

I know Paul refers to Phoebe as a 'diakonos' typically translated deacon but I know it also means servant, so I doubt it's very clear as to the specific usage in Paul & Romans 16:1.


Couldn't we say the same thing? "if the doctrine concerning woman's exclusion in circles beyond your own to become elders and bishops is of human origin, it will fail; if it is of God, and you fight it, you will be fighting against God."

Why do find arguments from created order to be irrelevant when Second Temple interpreters find them to be theological trump cards? Is Paul's claim that faith came before the law, and therefore has priority, also irrelevant? What about Jesus' claim to the Pharisees concerning divorce?



Deacons and elders eventually became parallel tracks but the two terms do not co-occur in the New Testament; rather, we find deacons and bishops in tandem. See in particular 1 Timothy 3. It seems clear from that passage that bishops ranked above deacons; the former had a teaching focus, the latter, an administrative focus.


You can turn Gamaliel's advice around if you want, but I think my reuse of it is a closer analogy. G was laying down a maxim with regard to a novelty, the Christian movement. The move to allow women to be ordained elders is also a novelty. I hope this clarifies.

The creation order is not a compelling argument for the reasons I stated. Look at 1 Cor 11 and you will note that Paul relativizes the selfsame argument. One has to assume, based on the flow of Paul's argument, that the appeal to creation order is not resolutive. But if you prefer Josephus to Paul, that's your choice.

The pertinence of your other questions is far from clear. You are welcome to elaborate.


Sorry, John. I've been working on a thesis that deals with what I call priority arguments in the Second Temple period, and as you know, you tend to think everyone knows what you're talking about when you've been immersed in an issue for so long.

The argument from created order is part of a larger argument that sees something instituted prior to something else as authoritative and trumping what is viewed as later accommodation to a lesser ideal. So I would actually argue that, for Paul, 1 Cor 11 is resolutive. We would not see it that way because our culture has different views concerning physical appearance and holiness (i.e., we tend to see God as unconcerned about physical appearance based upon texts such as 1 Sam 7). Whether one considers Paul's old Pharisaism to be spilling over into the text is another matter; but he uses a priority text again when it comes to faith and law in Gal. Jesus uses it in the divorce argument, creation versus Mosaic accommodation in the Deuteronomic law code. We use it all of the time in terms of the Bible or a particular constitution or establishing document. The author of Jubilees, of course, is an example of this on a much larger scale. So even if one sees the NT as the beginning of a progressive liberation that is not yet fully realized, even by the authors themselves, I think it is still important to take the priority argument for what it is: Paul intends to override any argument made from later cultural ideal by interpreting the order in which the humans were made as a divine expression of His desired ideal in terms of that relationship.


BTW, I'm a silent reader of your blog. I've enjoyed it for the past couple years now, and am glad that you're blogging more now than in the past.


Now I follow you better, Hodge. And thanks for the conversation. You can be sure many are listening in.

What I meant in reference to 1 Cor 11 is that Paul undermines his own argument from priority in verses 11-12. How do you handle that?


Thanks John,

vv. 11-12 are pretty choppy, as I'm sure you know. So this is a part of my thesis that is quite speculative and subject to much correction if needed. I appreciate any thoughts you can give, since I can chuck the following argument if needed.

A lot of translations supply words like "independent from" or "originate from" etc. It literally reads:

"However, in the Lord, neither woman apart from man, nor man apart from woman. For as the woman from the man, so also the man through the woman; and all things from God."

So the key element seems to be in what way man and woman are choris and ek concerning each other, and both ek in terms of God.

Now, I don't think the translations are problematic, since one could say that Paul is arguing for a higher view of women here, even if a subordinate role is to be designated to them because of the created order; but I do think that the subject matter is not necessarily one of origin, but distinction. In other words, there is no male without female because the male is identified in contrast to female and vice versa. So I think Paul may be arguing that gender distinctions, and therefore head coverings versus no head coverings, are needed to keep these distinctions in place. God is, of course, distinct from everyone and all things (both male and female) are in distinction from Him. So I might translate it this way:

However, in the Lord, "woman" is not distinguished apart from "man," nor is "man" distinguished apart from "woman." For as the woman gains distinction from the man, so also the man is distinguished through the woman; and all things are distinct from God.

I admit that this is idiosyncratic and there are factors within the text, such as the appeal to creation in the first place, that give credence to the translation of "originate from" and so forth; but I think it makes more sense in this context to see Paul as discussing gender distinctions and why they are important to maintain. In the end, however, as stated before, even if the translations are to win the argument on that one, I don't think Paul's argument is undermined by his lifting of women to a respectful status as those who give birth to men (since this is not a priority argument--i.e., God did not create or establish an order of gender through childbirth, since the man was already created). So I would still see it as an argument that tells men to respect women as mothers from whom they were born, even if they exist in a subordinate role.


I should also clarify that I think what gives credence to my view is the fact that Adam is not born of Eve, i.e., the man is not born of the woman; so we are no longer talking about the original couple here. Hence, in what way would woman be taken out of man? It's possible that Paul is extending his interpretation of Gen 2 to Gen 4ff., but if it does not refer to the original man anymore, then it should not be taken as a statement of the woman's equality with the original man, since he is no longer in view. So there are problems for the traditional understanding of this text.


I think it's high time that Paul's arguments are examined afresh. I see you doing that, Hodge, and it is an excellent endeavor.

My own sense is that you will find analogues, not only to Paul's argument from priority, but to his other arguments, those of vv. 11-12 and v. 16 for example. 11:11-12 seems to be a reboot of the argument made in 7:3-4, but if so, the argument cuts the other way with respect to the argument from priority. Regardless, where else in Second Temple literature is the argument for mutuality (on your hypothesis, distinction) made in these terms? If Paul is the only one who does this (I doubt it), that would make the argument his specific contribution to the debate.

Beyond that, I would note the anti-climactic structure of Paul's argument. I don't think you can ignore this. That is, he sets forth his most compelling arguments first, then qualifies them, and finally, makes an appeal from custom (a weaker argument). Maybe I am missing something, but this is unusual for Paul. What does the structure of his argument say about the argument itself?


Thanks John,

Very good points to ponder. I think Paul does contribute something to the argument, but I'm not sure how much, as it seems to already exist (as you already guessed).

E. Pseudo-Phocylides ll. 210-12:
"If a child is a boy do not let locks grow on (his) head.
Do not braid (his) crown nor the cross knots at the top of (his) head.
Long hair is not fit for boys, but for voluptuous women.
Guard the youthful prime of life of a comely boy,
because many rage for intercourse with a man." (210-14)

Philo discusses the man who arranges his hair like a woman (as well as putting on perfume/make-up as an androgynon, who has disgraced himself, society, and nature (H. Philo 1. De Specialibus Legibus 3.37-42). In Vit.Cont. 59-63, he repeats this about the effeminate man who he views as androgynos, the distinctions having been destroyed by changes in external appearance.
He calls the woman who does this a gynandros (De Sacrificiis Abelis et Caini 100, Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres sit 274, De Virtutibus 20-21).
He states:
“The true man should maintain his masculinity, particularly in his clothes, which as he always wears them by day and night ought to have nothing to suggest unmanliness. In the same way he trained the woman to decency of adornment and forbade her to assume the dress of a man, with the further object of guarding against this blending of man and woman (hos androgynos houtos kai gynandrous phulaxamenos).” In other words, to guard against a loss of gender distinction.
Of course, these arguments are geared toward pederasty, but the point is being made that pederasty is wrong because of its destruction of gender distinction rather than vice versa.

You’re right to point out that it is unusual for Paul to argue this way, but it does seem that is what he is doing. He gives the stronger argument from created order at first and then ends with the weaker lex naturalis of the Stoics that is based upon, not the created order as it is known from Scripture, but as it is observed. Of course, his arguments that usually build are often much larger than this one. It’s a rather short argument as it is; but it does seem that the additional argument of lex naturalis is similar to one of Paul’s digressions. In this case, however, he doesn’t seem to get back to a climactic point, perhaps, because he has already made it at the get go. Then he ends with the custom argument, which as you have noted, is the weakest of them, unless he is declaring church practice as based upon apostolic teaching, and therefore, authoritative in some way (as he most likely is). But I'll be thinking more on the structural issue, as it's an important point to consider.

My understanding of the text in terms of the traditional view (i.e., respect for women as mothers, but not as those in authority) would have some support from fragments of the Damascus Document found in Cave 4, where those who disrespected the Mothers were punished for their disrespect, but not as harshly as those who rebelled against the Fathers, simply because the Mothers did not have authority and the Fathers did.

Thanks again, John.

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