Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Women Teaching - a Titus 2 Limitation to Patriarchy?

We previously considered the case of the daughters of Zelophehad and the limit on the patriarchy seen there (link to discussion).  Some people seem ready to appeal to Titus 2 to invest women with teaching authority in the church - perhaps not in the pulpit, but in the Sunday Schools, Bible Studies, or the like.  But what does Titus 2 actually say?  Does it invest women with a measure of teaching authority?

Titus 2 states:
But speak thou the things which become sound doctrine: that
  1. the aged men be
    1. sober,
    2. grave,
    3. temperate,
    4. sound in faith,
    5. in charity,
    6. in patience.
  2. The aged women likewise, that they be
    1. in behaviour as becometh holiness,
    2. not false accusers,
    3. not given to much wine,
    4. teachers of good things; that they may teach
  3. the young women
    1. to be sober,
    2. to love their husbands,
    3. to love their children,
    4. to be discreet,
    5. chaste,
    6. keepers at home,
    7. good,
    8. obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
  4. Young men likewise exhort to be
    1. sober minded.
    2. In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works:
    3. in doctrine shewing uncorruptness,
    4. gravity,
    5. sincerity,
    6. sound speech,
    7. that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.
  5. Exhort servants
    1. to be obedient unto their own masters, and
    2. to please them well in all things;
    3. not answering again;
    4. not purloining, but
    5. shewing all good fidelity; that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.
As you can see, Titus 2 is talking about how people should act - the way they should lead their lives. It's addressing all the major categories of the church: old men, old women, young women, young men, and slaves.  The penultimate paragraph sums it up - we are supposed to live holy lives.

But what about the "teaching" function for old women (in section 2d above).  The King James expresses it as "... teachers of good things; that they may teach ... sober" where the literal Greek states "καλοδιδασκάλους, ἵνα σωφρονίζωσιν" (remarkable how three Greek words require nine English words).

One thing to keep in mind is this use of the unique compound word "καλοδιδασκάλους" which is formed from the word "καλός" (good) and the word "διδάσκαλος" (teacher).  In other words, the KJV has accurately rendered it as "teachers of good things."  The other verb, "σωφρονίζωσιν" is related to the adjective variously translated "sober," "temperate," "discrete," (vs. 5, section 3d, "σώφρονας") and so forth.  We might consider "sobering the young women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children, ... " as a way of trying to express this idea more closely in English.

But regardless of the precise translation, the emphasis of the text is not on providing doctrinal instruction, but rather on providing a behavioral outcome.  Moreover, in context the primary way by which we would expect to see this instruction is by setting an example.

Perhaps there is room for older women to use a classroom or other formal type mechanism for training the younger women, but that is not mandated or required by the text.  Moreover, as far as the scope of that training goes, the scope is training them in godly behavior, especially in how to love their husbands, love their children, and be discrete, chaste, keepers at home, good, and obedient to their husbands.

It's not the purpose of this post to explore each of those aspects of behavior.  Nevertheless, since the topic of this post relates to the patriarchy, it should be noted that it is the duty of the older women to promote the patriarchy.  They are not merely supposed to teach the young women to love their husbands and children, but also to be obedient to their husbands, with the particular incentive that this be done "that the word of God be not blasphemed."

In short, this passage does show that wives are not to receive all their instruction in everything from men, thereby providing a limit on patriarchy.  Nevertheless, that boundary on patriarchy relates to older women teaching younger women godly behavior, particularly love of and obedience to their husbands.


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