A Brief Look at Patronage as Background for the New Testament

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The present study is an inquiry into the interconnected reciprocal nature of patronage in the Greco-Roman imperial social setting, as one background component from the New Testament world. One would be wrong to think that such a social dynamic’s presence was minimal. In actuality, patronage and its vocabulary not only appears specifically in the New Testament (Luke 22:25; Acts 10:38; Rom 16:2; Philm 17-20, Phil 4:14-20, etc), but the social reciprocal dynamics in which its value and cultural powers are also assumed (shame, honor, unity, gratitude, fellowship, etc.). The reader who knows what to look for will see it in numerous contexts shaping the life of the body.[1] Unfortunately, the many elements vital to the matrix of patronage can only be pointed to. Yet, as Bruce J. Malina observes, it was “the most significant form of social interaction in the limited-good world of the first century is an informal principle of reciprocity, a sort of implicit, non-legal contractual obligation, unenforceable by any authority apart from one’s sense of honor and shame.”[2] The challenge in this paper is to briefly and accurately describe it.

In seeking to understand the New Testament accurately, scholars propose various exegetical principles and contextualizing models to accomplish this task.[3] The process here requires an approach which appreciates the cultural background of the New Testament to contextualize its vocabulary. This, Albert A. Bell reminds, is the “crucial part of understanding any written text.”[4] Greco-Roman words have a socially conditioned context that the modern reader may not readily identify. “Without a comprehension of the sociological dynamics of that world, our understanding… is terribly superficial at best and woefully mistaken at worst.”[5] The most crucial need for the reader of the New Testament, then, is to be able to bridge the cultural and time gap between the original (native) context and the reader’s contemporary context. This linguistic and cultural divide can be managed. In advancing a cultural-anthropological reading model, Jerome H. Neyrey argues that one can avoid ethnocentric and anachronistic readings of Paul (and the New Testament) by appreciating the difference between reading him as member of the same culture (an emic reading), and by reading him informed by the analytical and descriptive works of specialists and ethnographers (an etic reading).[6] As one gets closer to this “emic reading,” the modern reader comes closer to better appreciate the symbolic universe of Paul’s and Jesus’ culture.[7] The goal here is to gain a realistic perception from “native informants” which can illustrate and contextualize patronage as a Greco-Roman phenomenon.[8]

The presentation to follow will demonstrate how significant the social form of patronage was in the daily life of the Greco-Roman world, it will outline the vocabulary of patronage in Latin and Greek primary sources, it will sharpen this outline to differentiate between political and social patronage, and then offer a realistic scenarios that can illuminate reading the New Testament in its social and cultural world.

Daily Significance of Patronage

In modern analogy, patronage was like an ancient informal “welfare system.” Social services, like the modern model of the United States, would have been quite foreign. Instead, patronage was a cultural phenomenon in which there was a reciprocal relationship between the upper class and the lower class. It benefited lower classes with protection and patronage by means of reasonable support (legal, financial, medical, marital, etc.) for public support, the running of errands, odd jobs, escorting through streets, and providing social honor in exchange (a return). In exchange for the daily allowance (sportula), the client was at the patron’s call. Thus, it was a form of social investment between patron-client; interestingly, even slaves of wealthy households were known to have clients who hoped the slave could use their influence upon their master.[9] Greco-Roman and Christian scholarship is unequivocal about the daily and social significance of the patron-client network of relationships.[10]

Martial, in his colorful Epigrams, clocks what city life was like in the urbs (4.8.1-4): “The first and second hours wear out clients greeting their patrons.” The imagery evokes the crushing nature of the daily dependence of clients upon their patronus. A step further, Juvenal shows how important this allowance of money was for the everyday professional and collegia with his sarcastic words in the Satires (1.95-126):

For no deity is held in such reverence amongst us as Wealth; though as yet, O baneful money, thou hast no temple of thine own; not yet have we reared altars to Money in like manner as we worship Peace and Honour, Victory and Virtue, or that Concord that clatters when we salute her nest.[11]

This fits the common view that the patron-client phenomena were important to the daily life of every social stratum of the Greco-Roman world. To this point, Jérôme Carcopinodescribes that whether employed or unemployed, freedman or the parasite do-nothing, aristocrats or lower plebeians, clients “were no sooner out of bed than they were in the grip of the duties inseparable from being a ‘client.’ […] there was no man in Rome who did not feel himself bound to someone more powerful above him by the same obligations of respect, or, to use the technical term, the same obsequium.”[12] This honor-bound relationship allowed those in various professions and collegia to survive by means of this small daily “dole as their main source of revenue.”

Patronage in Latin and Greek Sources

Extant Greek and Latin sources (literary and epigraphic) speak of patronage, benefaction, and euergetism (good-doing) from political and social perspectives. Ideas such protection, assistance, help, advocacy, and philanthropy appear. Consider the following samples. It seems that patronage was initially borne out of political power and civic duty, but that distinction apparently broke down over time into a social network between the upper and lower classes in the Greco-Roman world among the rich, the poor, the freedman and freedwoman.[13]

The Roman historian Livy stretches back about four centuries to the early Roman Republic and recounts the story of Cincinnatus, the famed aristocratic plebeian consul, turn poor plebeian farmer, turn dictator, turn savior of Roman (History of Rome 3.26-29). According to Livy, his actions as dictator were reciprocated with honor and status. Livy frames (stylizes?) the response of the army as recognizing “the benefit [beneficii] they had received at his hands,” honored him with a golden crown, and “saluted him as their protector [patronum salutaverit]” (History of Rome 3.29.3). They had become his “clients,” and Cincinnatus would use this social bond to his advantage to “clear” the charges against his son Caeso who was on the run for charges of murder. The protector of Rome, then, returned his powers of dictator and returned to the rustic farm life. Later, when Augustus consolidates his power, Tacitus recounts his use of “gratuities” (donis) among the military and the poor (Annals 1.2). Michael Grant[14] interprets this as Augustus letting “it be understood that the old institution of patrons and clients had been recast, so that henceforward all the people were his own, personal clients, including the poorest citizens.” Thus, as principis Augustus and the emperors after him would portray (politically?) to the citizens of Rome and its subjects a bond of reciprocal loyalty.

Greek sources also illuminate various aspects of patronage. In the fifth century BCE, Sophocles frames the tragic Oedipus as gratefully exchanging protection from Thebes and “help [prostátisi] of the dread goddesses” who reigns in their districts, with obtaining “a great savior [sōtēr’] for this city, and troubles for my enemies” in him (Oedipus at Colunus 455-460). The Apocrypha[15] likewise points to the political upheavals in the Maccabean storyline connected to concepts of patronage. In 2 Maccabees, Simon slanders Onias, who is designated “a plotter against the government the man who was the benefactor [tòn euergétēn] of the city, the protector [tòn kēdemóna] of his compatriots, and a zealot for the laws” (4:2).[16]

In 3 Maccabees 3:13-29, “King Ptolemy Philopater” declares to his “generals and soldiers” that despite his goodwill (philanthrōpía), a desire to do good (eū poiēsaí), and to honor (timēsai) in the Jewish temple (3:15-17), the Jews “manifest ill-will toward us” and are “the only people among all nations who hold their heads high in defiance of kings and their own benefactors [euergétais], and are unwilling to regard any action as sincere” (3:19). The accommodative and benevolent king (philanthrópōs 3:20) declares that such rebellious Jews should be arrested, bound, and deported and that any who harbor them should be severely punished (3:25-29). Eventually, Philopator descends upon the Jews but is subdued by two angels. The king breaks down to pity and tears, and blames and threatens his “friends” (toís phílois):  “You are committing treason and surpassing tyrants in cruelty; and even me, your benefactor [euergétēn]” (6:24).

Political and Social Patronage in Rome

In the Greco-Roman world of the first century CE, there appears to be evidence distinguishing between political and social patronage. This can be confusing since sources often use terms like benefactor, euergetes, and patron in the process of discussion. The masculine form of the Greek prostát– (see verbal use above for “help”) is somewhat problematic. It is often considered synonymous with the Latin patronus. Interestingly, the New Testament the feminine form προστάτις is used in Romans 16:2 and translated as patron and benefactor (ESV; NIV, NRSV, HCSB). Erlend D. MacGillivray[17] takes exception to the view that these two forms are completely synonymous. The masculine appears in both Attic Greek and in the Roman Empire and carries both legal and a variety of leadership benefaction roles, but not the feminine form. MacGillivray argues that applying the masculine meaning upon prostátis is exegetically problematic for this reason. Benefaction is in view, but one must distinguish between political patronage from some interpersonal social networking.

MacGillivray argues that understanding prostátis depends, then, upon understanding the fluid nature of ancient Mediterranean reciprocal dynamics, recognizing the patron-client model is far too limiting and misleading. There is a difference between the narrow and nuanced meaning of classical patronage and the broad euergetistic/altruistic benefaction. While epigraphical gratitude evidence shows that prostátis and prostátes imply civic prestige, the nature of the evidence is, however, often weak to force synonymity. Part of the problem stems from the near normative templates in honorary Greco-Roman epigraphs that do not always neatly distinguish between the various kinds of patronage. Thus, the presence of these terms do not prove exclusively a classical patronage/patronus; consequently, MacGillivray’s work argues that prostátis and prostátes are not demonstrably synonymous.

R. A. Kearsley[18] extends this trajectory and explores several first century CE gratitude (honorarium) inscriptions shedding light on the first-century distinction between political and social patronage. These aristocratic women are named, Iunia Theodora and Claudia Metrodora, and are celebrated as female benefactors/patrons who operated in mid-first century CE Asia Minor. The cities of Lycia (Myra, Patara, Tel-messos) recount the influence of Theodora. Theodora apparently had multiple-citizenships, she freely shared her wealth, applied influenced for political and commercial purposes, and is described consistently in benefactor terms (sōphronōs, philolúkios) in Lycia. Such amounts to Theodora functioning as a social benefactor. On the other hand, Metrodora of Chiot Island likewise held multiple-citizenships, did hold political office as magistrate (stephanephoros), which required benefaction toward the people although she surpassed such requirements. She functioned in banquets, directed imperial games, gymnasiarch, public bathhouse donation, basileia in Ionia, and was praised for her public virtue. She was a benefactor as part of holding office.

Realistic Patronage Scenarios for Reading the New Testament

The above illustrations provide insight into the deep and ancient tradition of patronage and how such played out in various settings. There are two passages where patronage vocabulary is explicitly found in the New Testament.

First, in Luke, the political aspect of patronage is evident in Jesus’ counter-intuitive teaching on greatness. Jesus corrects the “greatness debate” among the disciples by saying,

“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors [euergétai]. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (22:25-26).

Frederick W. Danker observes, euergétai “served as a title for rulers in Syria and Egypt… In many cases the title would conceal tyranny under extravagant expenditure” (cf. Greek Esther 16:2-3, 13-14).[19] One might argue that Jesus is taking for granted a political euergétai known to abuse such roles, and parts from the fundamental principle of the patron-client relationship: “a service performed or a favor done shall not be transformed into status and honor.”[20] Jesus’ leadership principle, then, is that one serves detached from the demands of reciprocity and the honor and status it brings (cf. Acts 10:38).[21]

Second, in Romans 16:1-2 patronage appears to have a social component. Paul commends Phoebe to the church as “a servant of the church at Cenchreae” and as one who should be helped —reciprocally— “for she has been a patron [prostátis] of many and of myself as well.” Caroline F. Whelan[22] relates this passage to the context of Roman reciprocal social conventions within associations (collegia). Whelan maintains that women not only had the Roman legal standing to operate their wealth independently of guardians, they also functioned as civic patrons for collegia. Secondly, comparable “recommendation” letters reveal two types of reciprocal relationships. There is the superior-inferior recommendation rhetoric, and two, the social-equals recommendation rhetoric; each reflecting in some sense the inherent nature of reciprocity in Rome’s social structure, the matrix of which fuses together the economic and social. Romans 16:1-2, then, points to one of these realistic scenarios. Whelan argues that the patronage between social equals (amica, friends) is probably in view. Phoebe needs Paul’s influence among those addressed in Romans 16 (thus the recommendation), but as “equals” such rhetoric is not for his own social benefit. Instead, it is a gesture of gratitude for her own social activity as a social patron (euergetistic) to the collegia of the church in Cenchrea.


Robert Wilken asserts: “We have a distorted view of the history of early Christianity… The historian of Christianity has given the impression that the rest of the canvas is simply background for the closeup —relegating the general history of the times to an introductory chapter of vague generalities.”[23] Hopefully, this paper provides a closer, native (emic) reading. The smaller the cultural and linguistic gap is, the more accurate the reading. May this paper accomplish its task, to gain realistic perceptions from primary sources which can illustrate and contextualize patronage as an important Greco-Roman imperial phenomenon.


  1. David A. deSilva, “Honor and Shame,” “Patronage,” DNTB 518-22, 766-71; Donald Walker, “Benefactor,” DNTB 157-59; Halvor Moxnes, “Patron-Client Relations and the New Community in Luke-Acts,” in The Social World of Luke-Acts, ed. J. H. Neyrey (1991; repr., Peabody: Hendrickson, 1993), 241-68; Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 66-69.
  2. Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World (Louisville: John Knox, 1981), 80.
  3. Ralph P. Martin, “Approaches to New Testament Exegesis,” in New Testament Interpretation, ed. I. Howard Marshall (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 220-51.
  4. Albert A. Bell, Jr., Exploring the New Testament World (Nashville: Nelson, 1998), 2.
  5. M. Robert Mulholland, Jr., “Sociological Criticism,” in Interpreting the New Testament, eds. David A. Black and David S. Dockery (Nashville: B&H, 2001), 171.
  6. Jerome H. Neyrey, Paul, In Other Words (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1990), 13.
  7. Neyrey, Paul, 14-17. Neyrey’s distinctions and concerns have value, but he makes a hardline dichotomy between Paul as one who receives supra-cultural insight (i.e., from God) and Paul as a fully incarnated product of his times (18). This distinction ignores Paul’s stated role from God. This is one of Mulholland’s four critiques of this model, it tends to be human-centered, often grounded in dynamic models foreign to the Roman world, imposes the model on the evidence, and lends itself to sociological reductionism (“Sociological Criticism,” 178-80).
  8. David A. deSilva, The Hope of Glory: Honor Discourse and New Testament Interpretation (Collegeville: Liturgical, 1999). The “native informants” are “our best instructors” (xi).
  9. Bell, Exploring the New Testament World, 191-92.
  10. Ferguson, Backgrounds, 67; Florence DuPont, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, trans. C. Woodall (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993); Micahel Grant, A Social History of Greece and Rome (New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1992).
  11. Juvenal, Satire 1.95-126, http://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/halsall/ancient/juv-sat1eng.asp.
  12. Jérôme Carcopino, Daily Life in Ancient Rome, ed. Henry T. Rowell, trans. E. O. Lorimer (1940; repr., New Haven: Yale University, 1968), 171.
  13. Grant, Social History of Greece and Rome, 30, 54, 70-76, 114-119.
  14. Grant, Social History of Greece and Rome, 75-76.
  15. See also the verbal, and substantival, usages in Wisdom 3:5, 11:5, 13, 16:2, 19:13-14; 2 Macc 8:6; 4 Macc 8:6; Greek Esther 16:2-3 = 8:12c (tōn euergetoúntōn), 13 = 8:12n (euergétēn). Of these sources, Mordecai is framed as sōtēra and euergétēn (cf. God in LXX Psa 12:6, 56:3, 114:7).
  16. Quotations for the Old Testament Apocrypha are taken from New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible (Nashville: Nelson, 1989). The Greek text is from Septuaginta (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996).
  17. Erlend D. MacGillivray, “Romans 16:2, prostátis/prostátes, and the Application of Reciprocal Relationships to New Testament Texts,” NovT 53 (2011): 183-99.
  18. R. A. Kearsley, “Women in Public Life in the Roman East: Iunia Theodora, Claudia Metrodora and Phoebe, Benefactress of Paul,” TynB 50.2 (1999): 189-211.
  19. Frederick W. Danker, Jesus and the New Age According to St. Luke (St. Louis: Clayton Publishing, 1979), 222.
  20. Moxnes, “Patron-Client Relations,” 261.
  21. Halvor Moxnes, The Economy of the Kingdom (1988; repr., Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2004), 158.
  22. Caroline F. Whelan, “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church,” JSNT 49 (1993): 67-85.
  23. Robert L. Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them (New Haven: Yale University, 1984), xiv.


Bell, Albert A., Jr. Exploring the New Testament World: An Illustrated Guide to the World of Jesus and the First Christians. Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1998.

Carcopino, Jérôme. Daily Life in Ancient Rome: The People and the City at the Height of the Empire. Edited by Henry T. Rowell. Translated by E. O. Lorimer. 1940. Repr., New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1968.

Danker, Frederick W. Jesus and the New Age According to St. Luke: A Commentary on the Third Gospel. 1972. Repr., St. Louis, MO: Clayton Publishing, 1979.

deSilva, David A. “Honor and Shame.” DNTB. 518-22.

deSilva, David A. The Hope of Glory: Honor Discourse and New Testament Interpretation. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1999.

deSilva, David A. “Patronage” DNTB. 766-71.

DuPont, Florence. Daily Life in Ancient Rome. Translated by Christopher Woodall. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

Ferguson, Everett. Backgrounds of Early Christianity. 3rd edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003.

Grant, Michael. A Social History of Greece and Rome. New York, NY: Scribner’s Sons, 1992.

Kearsley, R. A. “Women in Public Life in the Roman East: Iunia Theodora, Claudia Metrodora and Phoebe, Benefactress of Paul.” TynB 50.2 (1999): 189-211.

MacGillivray, Erlend D. “Romans 16:2, prostátis/prostátes, and the Application of Reciprocal Relationships to New Testament Texts.” NovT 53 (2011): 183-99.

Malina, Bruce J. The New Testament World: Insight from Cultural Anthropology. Atlanta, GA: Knox, 1981.

Moxnes, Halvor. The Economy of the Kingdom: Social Conflict and Economic Relations in Luke’s Gospel. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 1988. Repr., Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004.

——-. “Patron-Client Relations and the New Community in Luke-Acts.” Pages 241-68 in The Social World of Luke-Acts: Models for Interpretation. Edited by Jerome H. Neyrey. 1991. Repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993.

Mulholland, M. Robert, Jr. “Sociological Criticism.” Pages 170-86 in Interpreting the New Testament: Essays on Methods and Issues. Edited by David Alan Black and David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: B&H, 2001.

Neyrey, Jerome H. Paul, In Other Words: A Cultural Reading of His Letters. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1990.

Walker, Donald D. “Benefactor.” DNTB. 157-59.

Whelan, Caroline F. “Amica Pauli: The Role of Phoebe in the Early Church.” JSNT 49 (1993): 67-85.

Wilken, Robert L. The Christians as the Romans Saw Them. New Haven, CT: Yale University, 1984.


The Value of Godly Women to the Church

Define value. Dictionary definitions notwithstanding, John Keats (1795-1821) begins his poem, “Endymion,” with the words, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Keats speaks to the power that people —their character and actions— have in retrospect. “That, whether there be shine or gloom o’ercast, They always must be with us, or we die.” The Scriptures show, however, what is “a joy forever”; in a word: godliness. Paul writes, “for bodily exercise is profitable for a little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim 4:8). [All Scripture references are from the American Standard Version unless otherwise noted.]

Nothing is more valuable and potent in this world than “godly seed” (i.e., offspring; Mal 2:15). Humanity, after all, was made to bear the image of God on the earth (Gen 1:26-31): “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” While there is tremendous learning to be gained from understanding the binary nature of humanity (“male and female”), we wish to pursue a study on the value of godly women to the cause of God as it is manifested in the NT church in the past and today.

Godliness is a Matter of Character

Godliness is reflected in the content of a person’s character and conduct. The church is an amazing place full of potential when it reflects the character of its godly women. There is no greater influence in the Lord’s church than godly women. For example, David once said, “know that Jehovah hath set apart for himself [she] that is godly: Jehovah will hear when I call unto [her]. Stand in awe, and sin not: Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still” (Psa 4:3-4).[1] The Hebrew word (hāsîd) for “godly” (holy) one implies a “kindness” that extends grace toward others because they have at one point received grace.[2] The word is used with great regularity in the Psalms. Godliness is seen, then, as a matter of character, of piety.

Godliness is fundamental to Christian conduct (2 Pet 1:6-7, 10-11). Paul writes that Christian women are to profess godliness through good works (2:9-10): “that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works.” The Greek word (theosébeia) for “godliness” speaks to a reverence for God manifested in a set a beliefs and practices.[2] Christian women are to ground their value in their character and record for a reverence for God (1 Tim 4:7-8; 6:11; 2 Tim 3:12; Tit 1:1, 2:12; eusébeia).[3]

Godly women of such character are of inestimable worth to the church. They leave an indelible mark upon everyone they touch. When they show divine kindness to their neighbor, when they extend grace to others because they have experienced it as well, and when godly women focus on the content of their character and faithfulness to God, then the world will understand the value of godly women to the cause of Christ. Any home, company, and church knows the powerful influence of such godly women for they cast a beautiful shadow of faith and devotion, of service and evangelism, of determination and selflessness. This value is seen in the end of Proverbs 31 (10-31), “a woman that feareth Jehovah, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; And let her works praise her in the gates” (30-31).

Examples of Godly Women in New Testament

Let us consider a few examples of the value women have to the church. Women disciples have always been a part of Jesus’ ministry (Matt 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 10:38-42; John 4:1-26). Luke’s Gospel Account provides a note on some of the financial supporters and companions of Jesus as he and the twelve went throughout cities and villages “preaching and bringing the good tidings of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:1-3). Among these many women were named three in particular: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna. They served Jesus and the twelve from their own possessions and property (“their substance”). After being healed from infirmities and evil spirits, they served as continuous financial supporters of Jesus presumably to bring the same “good tidings” into the lives of others.

The Gospel Accounts reveal that the women disciples of Jesus were the first to witness and share the resurrection event of Jesus with the disciples. Matthew recounts the encounter of Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary who came to Jesus sepulcher, and were greeted by the angel who had rolled back the stone of the tomb (28:1-10). Mark adds that the “other” Mary is the mother of James, and that a third woman was them them – Salome (16:1-8). Luke adds that there was a second angelic man, and several other women including Joanna that were greeted with, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (24:1-12). John’s Gospel shows Mary Magdalene confused over the empty tomb, comforted by Jesus himself, and told to say that Jesus would ascend to the Father (20:1-18). At a time when the prevailing cultural theory was that a woman’s testimony was inferior to a man’s, the earliest witnesses to the empty tomb of Jesus are the women disciples of Jesus.

Luke continues to demonstrate the value and influence of women in the early church. The Acts of the Apostles demonstrates at every turn the value of godly women to the church. Women (including Mary, Jesus’ mother) were among the disciples in the upper room as they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus (1:14), and Peter declares the prophetic words of Joel (2:28ff) that “your daughters shall prophesy… and on my handmaidens… will I pour forth of my Spirit” (2:17-18). Paul himself would abide with Philip the evangelist who “had four virgin daughters, who prophesied” (21:8-9; 1 Cor 11:5).

Luke, by the Spirit, give ample attention to a disciple named Tabitha who “was full of good works and alms deeds” who had fallen ill and died (9:36-37). Peter would be summoned by the church to be with them during this time. Her good works and influence were demonstrated by those who grieved at her death because “all the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments” she made “while she was with them” (9:39). Caring for others —particularly widows— has always been an important demonstration of pure religion before God (Jas 1:27). Paul would instruct on the importance of the church and women of faith to care of widows (1 Tim 5:1-17; Acts 6:1-7).

As the Hebrew writer says (11:32), “for the time will fail me” to continue tell of Christian women who were patrons, fellow workers for the truth, founding members of congregations and “house church” hostesses (Acts 16:11-15). They corrected false teachers (Acts 18:24-28). They raise up godly men to be evangelists (2 Tim 1:3-8, 3:12-17). They loved their husbands and children and demonstrated administrative skill in their homes (1 Tim 5:14; 1 Pet 3:1-6). Finally, Romans 16:1-16 demonstrates that many sisters served in the Lord as servants of God, evangelistic collaborators, teachers and financiers. Christian women ministered the gospel to the first-century world without hindrance.

Godly Women in the Church Today

The Lord-God envisioned an invaluable and elevated place for women in the world. These divine truths hold true today despite the ongoing debate over social gender expectation of men and women. Godly women have tremendous value to the church today, because their roles are still as invaluable as ever. Godly women continue to manage their homes, whether they are a full time stay-at-home wife/mother, work from home, or go to the office. They embrace their domestic role in the home as wife and mother (1 Tim 2:15).

Single women, however, bring a singleness of zeal to the church. Paul says they are “careful for the things of the Lord” (1 Cor 7:34). The breadth of their valuable influence is tremendous. They lead ladies’ Bible classes and workshops, are congregational Bible class teachers, write books and blogs, and contribute to academia. They mentor other disciples.

Our sisters minister to the widows and widowers in senior/assisted living homes, and they comfort the sick in hospitals —some even being/training to be hospital chaplains. Some with a medical background participate in medical-evangelistic campaigns. Others enter the world of missions, focusing their energies on evangelistic pursuits. Many have been brought to Christ due to the teaching efforts of godly women who teach overseas through Bible teaching correspondence courses.

Concluding Thoughts

May the church always embrace the ministries women have in the kingdom of God. This being said I am struck with the climate which often arises in the necessary discussion concerning the ministry of women in the church. I often feel the discussion is filled with much angst and the second guessing of motives when it comes to the reconsideration of my beloved’s sisters’ role in the world. Unfortunately, I think some roadblocks also lie in gender expectations which are culturally driven (“perceived” roles) rather than biblically driven (“biblical” roles). Nevertheless, this brief essay is about extolling the influence of godly women to the church and I believe it has succeeded to reach our goal.


  1. I have replaced the masculine for the feminine in brackets [] simply to express the point of this essay, which is to emphasize the godliness of women.
  2. William Wilson, Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies (repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.), 196; R. Laird Harris, “hsd,” Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, eds. R. Laird Harris, et al. (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1980), TWOT 1:305-07.
  3. theosébeia,” BDAG 452.
  4. eusébeia,” BDAG 412.

This is a reformatted and slightly expanded version of the article which originally published in The Glendale Gleaner (Newbern, TN: Glendale church of Christ).

The Widows church of Christ

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Reprinted from the December 2015 issue of Gospel Advocate Magazine.

20180131_133232When I was a younger preacher looking for opportunities to preach and teach, I helped a congregation which was, to my surprise, exclusively comprised of widows. The “Widows church of Christ” (as I shall call them) taught me a great deal about fidelity to God’s Word in the face of a temptation to do otherwise.

It had never crossed my mind that I would stumble upon an all woman congregation. My assumption that there would always be mix-gender congregations was completely shattered. I’m glad.

My first reaction, I must admit, was arrogant. “Poor brethren, you have no leaders.” I had forgotten that still they had the Lord, the Apostolic Word. They had different talents and skills to be used on behalf of the Lord (1 Cor 12; Rom 12). They still gathered in His name, communed at the table of the Lord, gave of their financial means, offered the fruit of their lips. They were still the blood-bought body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23; Col 1:18; Acts 20:28). They still had the responsibility to bring the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15-16; Matt 28:18-20).

I Asked a Question

I asked a sister why they invited male preachers to teach and preach when they could minister the word to themselves. After all, Scripture shows that Christian women prophesied and prayed in New Testament times (1 Cor 11:5; Acts 22:8-9), taught the Word of God accurately (Acts 18:26), and brought people to salvation (2 Tim 1:5; 3:14-15). Christian women also served one another in many diverse ways (1 Tim 5:2; Tit 2:3-5; Acts 9:36-43).

Too, Christian women were patrons, fellow workers for the truth, and “house church” hostesses (Rom 16:1-16), demonstrating that there is not a ministry our sisters cannot participate in (Acts 8). There are many sisters in the Lord mentioned throughout the New Testament as servants of God, evangelistic collaborators, and financiers. To say it in another way, Christian women can minister the gospel to the world without hindrance.

She responded, “Because the men are to lead prayers and preach God’s Word in the assembly.” She further explained, “We do have our own Bible study together as sisters during the week, but on Sundays we plan for visitors. We respect God’s plan for the worship assembly.”

This was a reference to 1 Tim 2:8-15, and the Apostle Paul’s instructions for prayers and teaching in the public assembly. In fact, the phrase, “in every place” (en panti topō 2:8) is a New Testament shorthand for “in every place of assembly.” In the assembly, Paul emphasizes “the preservation of male and female distinctions” by providing a “distinctive sphere” for Christian men and women to operate within.

In this setting, Christian “males” (Grk. andras) are to lead prayers on behalf of the body of Christ (2:8), provided they have a lifestyle consistent with godliness. Christian women are to “likewise” demonstrate godliness when assembled for prayer (2:9-10). Paul, then, adds the command that in the assembly Christian women “must learn in silence in full submission” (2:11). This does not suggest that she should check her brain in at the pew, nor is this a term that requires absolute silence. It simply explains her participation in the assembly as peaceful (2:2).

Paul goes on to explain, however, that a sister’s participation in the assembly is limited (2:12). He affirms, “I do not permit a woman” (1) “to teach” nor (2) “to have authority over a man.” Instead, she is “to be in silence” as an active learner (2:11). This instruction is explained (2:13 “for”) to be connected to the order of creation and the order of the fall along with its consequences (Gen 2-3), and a reminder of her demanding ministry towards her own godliness, her family and household (12-15).

Expanding the Role of Women

Although there is considerable literature centered on expanding the role of Christians sisters in the assembly beyond the above biblical dimensions, it was refreshing to see a group of sisters in Christ concerned with God’s guidelines for the worship assembly – even though they could have worshipped God among themselves.

It was a few years earlier that I had received a letter from a congregation where their elders unanimously offered “a position statement on the expanded role of women” in the congregation where they had oversight. They acknowledged that the “congregation’s thinking on this subject has been evolving for the past several years.” The letter outlines several roles where their sisters had evolved including teaching and co-teaching co-ed adult Bible classes, and Scripture reading in Sunday morning worship.

They further expressed their “intention to, in the near future, begin using women to serve the communion emblems, preside at the communion table and lead public prayers during the regular worship services.” They had not, at that moment, any intention to have “women as elders” and “women as pulpit ministers.”

One of the arguments used to sidestep the words of the Apostle Paul is that the text reads, “I do not permit”; hence, this verse does not represent “God’s law.” Far from it. The argument goes, that since he is “addressing a specific time and place with his statement” then Paul has no concern for providing “a law for all time.”

The question then becomes if the injunction by the Apostle is only valid when addressing the situation Paul is speaking to, and has no permanent place as God’s law for the church, then what about the other logical appendages to his argument? Is quietness a situational matter? Are the issues of holiness, modesty, self-control, learning in quietness merely situational and hence not of any permanent value because Paul writes, “I desire” (2:8) and “I do not permit” (2:12)? Or is it only the prohibitions which are situational (“I do not permit”)? If so, the positive statements in this text demand our sister’s presence in the assembly to be embraced with godliness, modesty and learning in quietness and submission. Or are these situational as well and therefore not God’s law?

The fact of the matter is that Paul ties this entire argument for the when the church assembles “in every place” to the events of creation, the order in which the first humans were made, and the admission of Eve being deceived. The weakness is not in Paul’s argumentation, nor in his use of “I.” The weakness lies with a hermeneutic which circumvents the natural reading of the passage.

Concluding Thoughts

My brief stint with the good sister at The Widows church of Christ was a powerful reminder that we can be faithful to God’s inspired texts regarding our gender roles in the assembly. My good sister showed me that faithfulness in the face of a difficult and complicated ministry was possible. Furthermore, they did not sell their building and go elsewhere; instead, they remained in the town, “because,” as she concluded, “the Lord’s body needs to be here.” God bless our sisters who are convicted to maintain their godly roles in the assembly and participate in so many amazing and unsung ministries.

Jovan Payes preaches for the Highland Church of Christ in Bakersfield, Calif.

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An Exegetical Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:11-15

college papers

There is a considerable body of research and literature available to discuss 1 Tim 2:11-15 which is one of the key New Testament passages discussing gender roles in worship and ministry of the church. This paper can only hope to provide introductory insight to the issues and difficulties of bringing the words of Paul from Greek into English so that the church can apply these apostolic words in the twenty-first century. In fact, Ann L. Bowman, a complementarian, summarizes the difficulties every exegete must face when sifting through the various grains of this passage.[1] In spite of these difficulties, a satisfactory translation of 1 Tim 2:11-15 can be rendered into English, the epistolary pericope can be analyzed syntactically, and the results from this analysis can be helpful in providing guideposts for application in the worship and ministry of the Lord’s body.

Textual Observations

The textual basis for this translation of 1 Tim 2:11-15 is the fifth revised edition of The Greek New Testament (UBS5), supplemented by the 28th revised edition Novum Testamentum Graece (NA28).[2] There are only two textual matters of interest, the first being a textual variant in 2:14 and other focuses upon whether “the faithful saying” (3:1a) concludes the paragraph at 2:15. A third issue is the way certain words can or should be translated, especially the hapax legomenon authentéō. In the first case, the NA28 critical apparatus shows a variant in 2:14. Instead of the eksapatētheîsa (“having been thoroughly deceived”) found in the main text, late manuscript evidence has apatētheîsa (“having been deceived”). Clearly, the manuscript evidence for eksapatētheîsa is earlier (4th to 6th centuries) and stronger (Aleph*, A, D*), than the late (7th-9th centuries) and weaker evidence for apatētheîsa (Aleph2, D1). The late reading most likely is a result of late editorial harmonization of the apatáō verbs in 2:14.

Second, the paragraph structure in UBS5 and NA28 are in agreement the “faithful saying” of 3:1a conclude the paragraph. introduce the “saying” regarding guardians (3:1b). A. T. Robertson, for example, affirms this “phrase points to the preceding words (not like 1:15) and should close the preceding paragraph.”[3] However, the “faithful saying” can be viewed as introducing the protasis, “if someone aspires…,” in the present simple conditional clause of 3:1b.[4] Third, certain constructions and verbals were significantly difficult to translate with precision. The prepositional phrase en hēsuchía in 2:11, 12 may be translated as the act of “silence,” or “quietness, gentleness” as a quality of behavior. The perfective compound aorist passive participle eksapatētheîsa “when she was fully deceived in transgression”[5] in balance with the force of historic use of the perfect active indicative gégonen is unsatisfactorily rendered into English as “was.”[6] Two more substantial problems for translation and interpretation are the verbs authentéō (2:12) and sōzō (2:15a).

A Translation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15

The tentative translation which follows is presented based on the analysis and considerations and interpretive decisions as explained later in this paper.

11 Let a woman learn in silence in full submission; 12 and I do not permit a woman to teach nor to have authority over a man, but to be in quietness. 13 For Adam was formed first, afterwards Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but as for the woman, she was when she was fully deceived in transgression; 15 but she shall be delivered by bearing children, if they continue in faith and love and consecration with sound judgment. (AT)

One of the concerns this translation intends to address is to express, as clear as possible, that the domestic realm is where submissive women find non-soteriological “deliverance.”

Context and Exegetical Analysis

It is important to observe that 1 Tim 2:11-15 is a part of larger context specifically dealing with the connection of Christian women and the assembly of the church.[7] This topic begins in 2:9, although an argument can be made that the theme begins in 2:8 since it establishes the location where Paul’s instructions are to take place with the phrase en pantì tópō (“in every place”). This locative expression appears to be a shorthand for “in every place of assembly.”[8] It is in this context that the third movement of desired conduct “in every assembly” of the church is argued (2:8, 9-10, 11-15). First, godly Christian men are to lead prayer in the place of assembly (2:8). Second, Christian women are to profess godliness through good works (2:9-10). Thirdly, as an extension of 2:9-10, Christian women are instructed to exhibit submissiveness in the assembly by being learners, not instructors (2:11-15).

The overall structure of 1 Tim 2:11-15 may be subdivided into two groups marked by Paul’s imperatival command, manthanétō (11-12), followed by the explanatory gàr (13-15) which directs his reader(s) to the rationale for this command. Each group is bound structurally with the postpositive , marking their internal connection and transitions. This then provides a structural framework toward from: 11  12, gàr 13 kaì 14  15. This does not remove the complexity of the passage as a whole, but the grouping does allow the exegete to focus on the syntax of these two movements.

In the first group, for example, the subject of the present active imperative manthanétō could have been supplied from 2:9-10 (gunaîkas, gunaiksin), but the word order of 2:11 begins with an anarthrous nominative gunē.[9] Its repetition along with the verb can be viewed as an important “topic marker or shifter” (295);[10] hence, the command “let a woman learn” shifts toward a new topic from 2:9-10.[11] Paul places “a requirement” upon the “woman” in the assembly[12] which he expects to be followed in “an ongoing process.”[13] The manner of learning in the assembly is defined by the two dative prepositional phrases (en hēsuchía and en pásē hupotagē). The meaning for hēsuchía pivots between “silence” and “quietness, rest,”[14] but uses of the prepositional phrase en hēsuchía in non-biblical Greek (Philo and Ignatius)[15] meaning “in silence” provides some insight here and in verse 12.[16] The manner (action or circumstance) under consideration, then, is probably “in silence.” Likewise, the silence is en pásē hupotagē (instrumental of manner), “in full submission” anticipates further nuance in verse 12.

1 Tim 2:12 nuances the prohibition with a list of three complementary infinitives[17] and the gnomic present active indicative[18] verb epitrépō. The postpositive  marks this connection and transition. Furthermore, if S. E. Porter is right, placing the infinitival didáskein first in its clause marks it as the “most important element” in its clause.[19] The prohibition’s main concern then is didáskein gunaikì (“to teach by a woman”) and its counterpart authenteîn andrós (“to have authority over a man”). Paul specifically prohibits (ouk) theses activities within the assembly. Despite some difficulty in ascertaining the precise contextual meaning of authenteîn (taken here as “to have authority over”),[20] oudè joins these two infinitives to “explains what sort, or what manner, of teaching is prohibited to women.”[21] The contrastive alla is brought in to provide a strong contrast to the prohibition by setting up the “permission” eînai en hēsuchía (“to be in quietness”). The implied helper verb epitrépō reinforces, as an exhortation, the positive command in 2:11 to “learn in silence in full submission.” This second use of the instrumental of manner en hēsuchía gives strength to the view that verses 11-12 solidifies submission and quietness as the hallmarks of Christian women receiving instruction in the assembly.[22]

The second group of verses (2:13-15) is marked by an explanatory gàr providing insight into the prohibition of 2:11-12. The explanation in 2:13 does not stem from any noticeable wordplay within the context; instead, a logical appeal is made to biblical texts outside of 1 Tim. The argument and explanation is derived from Genesis 2-3 in the LXX, and it serves as the foundation for the boundaries of Christian women in the church assembly.[23] The aorist passive indicative verb eplásethē is constative in force and views the formation (the creation) of Adam and Eve as completed.[24] The emphasis is laid upon the order of creation marked by the use of the adjectival use of prôtos, which suggest “first of several” in order to provide clarity to the substantive it modifies.[25] Thus, the prôtos and adverbial eîta have the chronological force of, “Adam, the first one, was formed, next Eve was.”[26]

Paul extends his thought with kaì, adding a “second fact” to his argument.[27] He begins the clause with a subject and its predicate (2:14). The first clause takes Adam and the aorist passive constative ouk ēpatēthē  (“Adam was not deceived”);[28] in the second clause, calls “attention to the singularity” of the woman being “deceived in transgression”;[29] hence, the translation, “but as for the woman, she was [deceived].”[30] The perfect active indicative verb (gégonen) takes on the historic emphasis calling dramatic attention to the act of “being” deceived. In addition, the compound anarthrous nominative aorist passive participle eksapatētheîsa is perhaps perfective[31] in that ek intensifies the verb (“fully deceived”). Following hē gunē argues for it to be read adjectivally, and places the adjectival participle in the predicate position; asserting, that it is “the woman who was fully deceived.” It is this large subject which is modified by the dative of reference en parabásei “with reference to transgression.” The subject and its modifiers are viewed historically (gégonen), and echoes Eve’s confession, “The woman [hē gunē ] said, ‘the serpent deceived [ēpátēsén] me” (Gen 3:13).[32] “Paul bases his arguments,” observes egalitarian T. C. Geer, “on the creation stories in Genesis.”[33]

As in verse 12, the  in 2:15 marks the sustained continuity from 2:13-14 which serve as the logical basis for Paul’s command in 2:11 and prohibition in 2:12. 1 Timothy 2:15 concludes the argument with an inverted third class conditional statement.[34] While there are several important “exegetical cruxes” in 2:15,[35] this is the overarching grammatical crux since it is the verse’s organizing principle. First, conditional sentences are comprised of two clauses, the “if” clause (protasis) and the “then” clause (apodosis). In general, the first clause contains the contingency under consideration; meanwhile, the second clause is a statement (the portrayal) about what will happen, or not happen, should the contingent action occur. There may be, however, other relationships at work besides a cause and effect one, and context must inform the exegete.[36] Second, contrary to a usual “if-then” structure, the apodosis is introduced first followed by the protasis (“then-if”). This can be done since the apodosis is “grammatically independent,” but it is still “semantically dependent” upon the protasis for understanding its fulfillment (Matt 4:9; Heb 6:3).[37]

1 Timothy 2:15, then, begins with the fulfillment clause sōthēsetai (apodosis), and concludes with the condition clause eàn meínōsin (protasis). The first clause, then, portrays the future expectation (portrayal) of “being saved” by means (ablative) of “bearing children” (dià tēs teknogonías). Arranging the apodosis first connects the future active indicative third person verb sōthēsetai to the nominative feminine singular hē gunē “the woman will be saved” (2:14).[38] The verb sōthēsetai is future passive indicative (“will be saved”) and serves to “grammaticalize,” as Porter observes, “a projection or expectation, not an assertion, about reality.”[39] The question, here, concerns the portrayed future meaning of sōzō, a verb which has a wide lexical range.[40] In what way will she be saved? The context must provide the answer.[41] Its use in 2:15, however, is connected to the transgression (parabásei) of Eve (2:14), so the natural “Christian” sense of salvation is certainly possible as component of lives which profess godliness (5:14, teknogoneîn).[42] This expectation, however, only has a probability of occurring “when the conditions stated in the protasis are met.”[43]

The second clause (2:15b) marks the protasis of the third class condition, eàn with the aorist active subjunctive. The protasis, eàn meínōsin (“if they continue”), points to the woman’s salvation (2:15a) rather than the subjects of the third person plural verb here (2:15b).[44] Knight sees this “as a fact assumed to be true”;[45] hence, the sense, may very well be, “it is assumed to be true that if they continue.” The nearest antecedent to meínōsin (“if they continue”) is perhaps implied by teknogonías (2:15a), which is children.[46] Alternatively, however, “woman” is the subject of the entire pericope[47] and this is most likely the implied semantic subject for meínōsin. Consequently, the verb refers to Christian women who “continue in faith and love and consecration with sound judgment.” This is the condition of the protasis. If Christian women continue a life of godliness and faith, then they will be saved by means of their reception of their domestic role.

Ralph Gilmore once observed, “it is easier to show what the biblical principles involved are than to apply them in specific instances.”[48] The implications of this evaluation of the syntax of 1 Tim 2:11-15 are not easily summarized, but a few suggested guideposts can be suggested. The passage does divide into two main lines of thought (11-12 and 13-15).

The occasional nature of the problem, however, does not undermine the truth which it teaches. The guidelines may have emerged from a need to address heresy; however, heresy is corrected by truth. In 1 Tim 2:4, Paul made it clear that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth.” This instruction then is to provide the truth regarding the contours of gender responsibilities in the assembly and outside of the assembly. This instruction can be difficult to digest, but that is a modern problem of application. It perhaps reflects a contemporary bias rather than an internal problem of the text itself. Moreover, Paul introduces the foundation for the command and prohibitions of 2:11-12 in the next verses (2:13-15).

First, 2:11-12 represents the second main injunction upon women in the assembly (2:8). It is first introduced as a command and then nuanced by two prohibitions, and finally balanced by an exhortation towards “quietness.” Despite some difficulty in the proper meaning of en hēsuchia, the fact that the phrase brackets the internal works of Paul’s command, prohibition, and exhortation, would suggest that the content defines how Paul used the phrase. In other words, having a focus on receiving biblical instruction (learn), while refraining from giving instruction in the assembly (not to teach) and having (therefore using) authority over a man, serve as explaining en hēsuchia . An attitude of gentleness which manifests itself in silence and full submission. This does perhaps imply that there was a serious breach in the Pauline protocol for women in the assembly which required instruction.

Second, 2:13-15 is a clear explanation that the command and prohibitions are logically connected to the creation narrative of Adam and Eve, and the narrative of the serpents deception of Eve and the willful participation to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2-3). Despite the literary mountain of literature designed to reconstruct the religious and philosophical world of Ephesus which may or may not provide insight into the internal problems of heresy in 1 Tim, the appeal to Gen 2-3 demonstrates that these “scriptures are not tied to culture. They are tied to creation.”[49] This is a significant commitment to the words of Paul. If the argument stems from Gen, then matters such as the order of creation, headship, Eve as a complement to Adam, Eve’s role in the fall by being deceived, Adam’s role in the fall void of deception, and the Divine punishments upon Adam, Eve, and the serpent are all integral parts of the theological foundation for 2:11-12.

Christian men and Christian women are to understand their identity and roles in this world from Scripture. Three particular issues are brought up to shape Paul’s readers understanding of gender roles in the assembly and when not assembled. First, Adam was formed first. When Adam was formed, it was not good that man should be alone so God “constructed” Eve out of his rib. Eve as a complement to Adam demonstrates a joint purpose and companionship; however, the fact remains Adam was formed first. There is an inherent position of responsibility and privilege for the first born males of a family in the Old Testament. This implies a standing expectation or responsibility on the part of men; however, this does not diminish women nor provide a reason to abdicate any responsibility or authority she may have.

Second, Eve was deceived and transgressed God’s command. When Paul quotes and alludes from Gen 3, he provides a window into Eve’s plight. Why did the serpent focus upon Eve? Speculations abound. The fact is she was full deceived in transgression. Gen 3 piers into Eve’s mind, “the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise” (Gen 3:6 ESV). What is interesting is the LXX arranges the verb in the aorist active indicative “he deceived/enticed me”; however, in 1 Tim 2 Paul places the verbs in the aorist passive “he was formed/she was deceived.” Eve alone concedes to being deceived (Gen 3:16). In all of this, it must be remembered that regardless of the order of creation, regardless of the deception, regardless of the transgression, the woman as a profound role in the framework of God saving the world through Jesus.

Third, the limitations which exist when the church is assembled is not a reflection on her salvation. The true measure of the salvation which she longs to have is found in “child bearing/bearing children,” the unique capacity and role to be, like Eve, the mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). In fact, the “renaming” of Eve in LXX into Zoe following the Hebrew text, demonstrate that even outside of Eden, in the shadow of the garden there was still a profound role Eve played. The mirror image, or type and antitype, is seen in the profound role of continuing on in a manner consistent with faith, love, and sanctification with sound judgment. The implications from this study no doubt raises many questions to our “modern” ears.


Bruce Morton summarizes well our understanding of the text in the face of negative reactions. He writes,

In a time filled with male and female ability and confidence, the teaching swims against a strong current. But the apostle is not saying that women should avoid teaching the Word. Instead, he is announcing the purposes and roles within church assemblies.[50]

1 Timothy 2:11-15 is as profound as it is complicated, but if one focuses on the flow of the syntax the exegete can eliminate some biases, whether they be complementarian or egalitarian. Personally, I have no vested interest in either point of view; what matters is how the syntax and the internal logic of the passage develops. The most difficult problem I see in applying 1 Tim 2:11-15 is that “the assembly” of first-century churches was vastly different than contemporary assemblies. This factor alone causes some the majority of the problems with concepts such as “having authority” and being “in silence/quietness.” In the end, churches and leaders always need to reassess their practices by what the text says, and here the boundaries of women participating in the assembly are based on creation and its principles not upon culture.


  1. Ann L. Bowman points to the difficulty of “unusual vocabulary … awkward grammar … references to the Old Testament … significant theological issues … and a flow of thought that is not so clear as it may seem at first glance.” See “Women in Ministry: An Exegetical Study of 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” BSac 149.594 (April-June 1992): 193.
  2. Barbara Aland, et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, 5th rev. ed. (Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014); Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th rev. ed., eds. Barbara Aland, et al. (Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012).
  3. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (1931; repr. Nashville, TN: Broadman, n.d.), 4:572.
  4. Gordon D. Fee, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1988. repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2000), 79. Herbert W. Smyth, A Greek Grammar for Colleges (New York, NY: American Book Company, 1920), par. 2297. Walter Lock, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1924), 35.
  5. James A. Brooks and Carlton L. Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek (Langham, MD: University Press of America, 1979), 146.
  6. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 578-79.
  7. See George W. Knight, III, The Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2013), 130-49.
  8. Everett Ferguson, “Tópos in 1 Timothy 2:8,” ResQ 33.2 (1991): 65-73. Ferguson disputes the entry in “topos,” BAGD, as “everywhere that Christian people or Christians live” (822). To this Ferguson affirms, “This is inadequate, for a stronger statement may be made to the effect that among Jews ‘place’ acquired in some contexts a technical reference to the ‘place of worship’” (66). The force of Ferguson’s contribution did not affect, unfortunately, the entry of the third edition (“topos,” BDAG 1011).
  9. Stanley E. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 2d ed. (1992; repr., Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 2005). Porter describes this word order structure as “Subject-predicate” which is a very basic pattern, but it does point to gune as the expressed subject (294-95). It is grammatically legitimate for manthaneto to find its subject in 2:9 (gunaikas), so the repetition (the “expressed subject”) is important as a “form of topic marker or shifter” (295).
  10. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 295.
  11. As a caveat, this is not a prohibition, which “forbids an action,” for it lacks the customary structural mē. This also dispels any notion to view the phrase as a suggestion or an option. See Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 486-87.
  12. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 486.
  13. Robertson and Hersey remind that “all imperatives are future in idea” which underscores the anticipation of obedience. See, Archibald T. Robertson and W. Hersey Davis, A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament, 10th ed. (New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1933; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1979), 165. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 485. Chamberlain reminds that “the present imperative may have any of the characteristic ideas of linear action.” William D. Chamberlain, An Exegetical Grammar of the Greek New Testament (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1941; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981), 86.
  14. hēsuchia,” BDAG 440.
  15. Philo, On Dreams 2.263, and Ignatius Eph 19.1; see “hēsuchia,” BDAG 440.
  16. Jack P. Lewis, “Quietness or Silence?” Gospel Advocate 130.7 (July 1988): 11-12. Lewis writes, “That silence from sound is an undisputed meaning of hēsuchia, plus the parallels to the prepositional phrase en hēsuchia, which we have cited, creates the presupposition that that is the proper meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11, 12. I would be glad to see a linguistic demonstration to the contrary” (12).
  17. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 598-99. Wallace cites epitrepo as a “helper verb” which requires an infinite to supplement and complete its meaning.
  18. Brooks and Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek, 86-87. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 525. Wallace argues extensively as to why epitrepo should be taken as a gnomic present over descriptive (progressive) present. Three points in particular were persuasive. There are no temporal indicators, the present tense is used with a generic object (gunaiki), and the exhortation is tied to creation.
  19. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 296.
  20. Barclay M. Newman, “authenteo,” A Concise Greek-English Dictionary to the New Testament, rev. ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2010), 29; The meaning of this New Testament hapax is the subject of considerable study and debate and beyond the scope of this paper. In BDAG it falls under the basic category “to assume a stance of independent authority” such as “to give orders to, dictate to” (150); however, semantically, L&N have “to control in a domineering manner” (37.21). For opposing views, see Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger, 1 Suffer not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1992; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001), 87-98; Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005).
  21. Kroeger and Kroeger, Suffer not a Woman, 83-84.
  22. Some see a chiastic structure in 11-12 with en hēsuchia marking this group as a unit. (A) gunē en hēsuchia manthaneto en pasē hupotagē· (B) didaskein de gunaiki ouk epitrepo (B’) oude authentein andros, (A’) all’ einai en hēsuchia (Bowmann, “Women in Ministry,” 202-03).
  23. This citation to the Greek Genesis record reveals that there are corresponding verbs and nouns demonstrating an intentional recapitulation of the events in Eden in order to provide the rationale for the gender roles played out “in every place of assembly” (2:8-15).
  24. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 557-58.
  25. protos,” BDAG 725. George Benedict Winer, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament, 7th ed. enl. and impr. ed., ed. Joseph H. Thayer, trans. Gottlieb Lünemann (Andover: Draper, 1886), 464.
  26. Whereas Paul uses aorist passive indicative third person singular form, eplasthē, the LXX employs aorist active indicative third person singular, eplasen, four times in Gen 2 each time as a reference to God’s formation of Adam (7, 8, 15, 19). Moreover, a different word is used to describe the construction of Eve in Gen 2:19: okodomesen kurios ho theos ten pleuran … eis gunaika.
  27. R. C. H. Lenski writes, “kai adds the second fact to the first. This is not done because a second is needed; yet Paul lets two witnesses speak.” The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians, to the Thessalonians, to Timothy, to Titus, and to Philemon (Lutheran Book Concern, 1937; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2001), 567.
  28. Albrecht Oepke, “apatáō, eksapatáō, apátē,” TDNT 1:384-85. Oepke demonstrates briefly that the LXX use of the verb is seen commonly “to deceive” or “entice,” but only provides one tentative example of eksapatáō in the second century A.D. by Jewish translator Theodotion (Sus 56). The Old Greek version uses apatáō. In this passage, either verb attempts to offer a distortion (to entice, deceive).
  29. de,” BDAG 212.
  30. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 578-79.
  31. Bruce M. Metzger, Lexical Aids for Students of New Testament Greek, 3rd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Theological Book Agency, 1969; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 79, 82. Knight does not place too much emphasis on the compound verb, but keeps this point open (The Pastoral Epistles, 144).
  32. eîpen hē gunē Ho óphis ēpátēsén me (Gen 3:13 LXX).
  33. Thomas C. Geer, Jr., “Admonitions to Women in 1 Tim. 2:8-15,” in vol. 1 of Essays on Women in Earliest Christianity. ed. Carroll D. Osburn (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993; repr., Joplin, MO: College Press, 1995), 295. Geer is right that the order of creation does not point to male “superiority” and that it is a reminder of complement Eve is to Adam, but he ignores that the Old Testament does give a voice to “the first born” as a pecking order for authority, responsibility, and privileges (Bowman, “Women in Ministry,” 204-05).
  34. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 696-97. Dana and Mantey observe, that the contingency implies a certain level of “uncertainty,” yet it carries a tone of being “hopeful but hesitant.” Harvey E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (1927; repr., New York, NY: Macmillan, 1957), 290.
  35. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 144-49.
  36. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 682-87. Wallace points out that some conditional relationships may have a semantic force such as “evidence-inference” or even “equivalence” (687).
  37. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 684. Wallace goes on to say that the protasis is “grammatically dependent, but semantically independent.” The apodosis can form a complete thought, but the protasis inherently cannot.
  38. Making this connection does not resolve the difficulty of coming to a conclusion as to the meaning of sōthēsetai.
  39. Porter, Idioms of the Greek New Testament, 262.
  40. Newman, “sōzō,” A Concise Greek-English Dictionary to the New Testament. Newman has the following glosses: “save (of Christian salvation); save, rescue, deliver; keep safe, preserve; cure, make well” (179).
  41. In 1 Tim the use of the verb (1:15, 2:4, 4:16) shows connection to eternal life (1:15-16), arrive at gospel truth (2:4), and the result of remaining in the teaching (4:16).
  42. Werner Foerster, “sōzō, sōtēria,” TDNT 7:995. Foerster, observes, such a view “cannot be ruled out at” grammatically. Bowman surveys six possible interpretations and argues that an “interpretation that satisfies the grammatical and lexical problems and that also fit the larger context is … women will enter into eschatological salvation, with its accompanying rewards, through faithfulness to their proper role, exemplified in motherhood and in godly living generally” (“Women in Ministry,” 208).
  43. Brooks and Winbery, Syntax of New Testament Greek, 183.
  44. Carl Spain, The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus (Austin, TX: Sweet Co., 1970), 52.
  45. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 148.
  46. Spain, The Letters of Paul to Timothy and Titus, 52.
  47. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 148. Knight makes an excellent point, “The concept of ‘remaining’ or ‘continuing’ would also seem to tie the subject of this verb to the subject of the previous clause (gunēγ); one does not talk about ‘continuing’ with a new subject but with a continuation of the previous subject.”
  48. Robert Randolph, et al., Gender and Ministry: The Role of the Women in the Work and Worship of the Church (Huntsville, AL: Publishing Designs, 1990), 77.
  49. Randolph, Gender and Ministry, 57.
  50. Bruce Morton, Deceiving Winds: Christians Navigating the Storm of Mysticism, Leadership Struggles and Sensational Worship (Nashville, TN: 21st Century Christian, 2009), 135.

Who is to Care for the Widows? (1 Tim 5:16)

college papers

If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows. (ESV)

If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows. (NKJV)

The opening words of 1 Timothy 5:16 is plagued with four variant readings. At the outset, this paper will follow the order of the fifth revised edition of The Greek New Testament (UBS5)[1] textual apparatus in arranging the variant readings. The first reading is in that which is in the main body of the UBS5 Greek text, “a woman that believes” (pistē), the second variant reading is “a man that believes” (pistos), the third variant reading is the longer “man or woman that believes” (pistos e pistē), and the fourth variant reading is the accusative plural “women that believe” (pistas).

The variants throw into question as to who are the believers to care for their widows. Is it Christian women or men (variants 1-2)? Is it either or (variant 3), or is it a general call to care (variant 4)? The following processes will be followed: (1) evaluate the external and internal evidence, then (2) observe its affect on modern translations, and then (3) apply the most probable reading to approach an understanding for the reading in 1 Timothy 5:16.

Evaluating the Evidence

External Evidence

The weight of the external evidence of the four variant readings are early, but they are not of the same strength. In particular, the second (pistos) and fourth (pistas) variant readings are void of extant Greek manuscripts. The second reading is represented by the Ethiopic tradition from the sixth century, half of Ambrose (397), Augustine (430), and a Latin translation of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cilicia. The meager witnesses for the fourth reading are exclusively translational itg (ninth) and vgmss (fourth and fifth).

The third longer reading (pistos e piste) is represented with witnesses which begin in the fourth and fifth centuries. The reading appears early in patristic witnesses such as John Chrysostom (407), Ambrosiaster (post 384), and also Ambrose; moreover, it has witness in Old Latin translations from the third and sixth centuries (itb, d). The earliest extant Greek manuscript witness, however, is the bilingual (Greek and Latin) sixth century uncial Codex Claromontanus (D 06).[2]

Despite the earlier witness of the longer variant reading against pistos and pistas, the uncials which support the first reading (pistē) are much earlier. These witnesses are from the fourth and fifth centuries and are traditionally more substantial in their textual value.[3] The fourth-century evidence has Aleph (Sinaiticus), along with fifth century codexes Alexandrinus (A) and palimpsests Ephraem (C 04), and uncial 048.[4] Patristic evidence has early witnesses as Athanasius (373) and mid-fifth century Pelagius. Translational evidence for the preferred reading is in the fourth century Sahidic Coptic text in Egypt (copsa). The early dates of the external evidence weighs in agreement with the UBS5 inclusion of the preferred reading.

Geographic Distribution

The geographical distribution is spread somewhat evenly among Eastern and Western text-type lines. The longer reading is distributed widely in the West more so than in the East. The inclusion of the longer reading is supported by Alexandrian Uncials, Western D, and Byzantium readings (K 018, L020). It is also distributed in the Greek Church (Chrysostom, and a majority of Lectionary readings) and Latin Fathers Ambrosiaster and Ambrose. Nevertheless, pistē has the widest breadth of distribution, impressively stretching from Greek Father Athanasius (373) in Alexandria, Egypt, in the East to the Latin Father Pelagius (418) in Britain in the far West in roughly the same time. The overlap of both readings in the translational evidence is also equally distributed and this is best typified by Latin Father Ambrose who is a witness to both readings; however, the longer reading is mainly supported by the Western witnesses. The geographical distribution of the second and third readings are both substantially Western.

Regarding text-type affinities and other aspects of these particular variants, the first and third variants share text-types and there are some external evidences which need to be considered. First, the first and third readings both share Alexandrian and Western text types, with the longer reading, have late witnesses from the Byzantium text-type. The second and fourth readings have no text-type witnesses. Second, in the evaluation of the external evidence of the four readings, it is clear that the second and fourth reading have connections to early witnesses but are relegated to translational evidence in Old Latin and the Vulgate.

Moreover, even the patristic witnesses for the second reading are Latin such as Ambrose and Augustine, and even the witness from Greek Father Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cilicia, is only found in a Latin translation. This suggests that unless better evidence emerges, the second and fourth readings should continue to be viewed as inferior readings which are probably translational in origin.[5]

One piece of the manuscript evidence which has not been considered is that the textual apparatus also lists a considerable amount of minuscule evidence for the longer reading both from Western and Eastern text-types; however, the earliest minuscule witnesses are from the tenth century (1175, 1739, 1912), eleventh century (104, 256, 424, 459, 1962), and later. This evidence is consistent with the late witnesses from the ninth century in Byzantium uncials K and L, and the Alexandrian 044 from a similar period. The abundance of these manuscripts which are geographically dispersed very well may prove to be sufficient evidence for its primacy as the text reading; however, the majority of late manuscripts are not weightier than the strong early Alexandrian texts which support the preferred text of the UBS5.

There are strong lines of evidence for dismissing the second and fourth readings because the external evidence is purely translational and patristic. The first and the third readings have competitive manuscript witness and have comparative geographic distribution, which slightly leans toward the third reading; nevertheless, the quality of the early uncial witnesses, translational evidence, and a distribution between patristic fathers from Alexandria to Britain in the same window of time, favors the preferred reading of “woman that believes” (pistē).

Internal Probabilities

Next, it is important to evaluate the internal evidence of the four variants readings and determine which reading has the best transcriptional probability for being the correct reading.[6] Currently, the editorial committee of the UBS5 places a {B} rating for the short reading piste which “indicates that the text is almost certain.”[7] Among the variants there are three short readings (piste, pistos, pistas) and one longer reading (pistos e pistē).

The shortest reading (pistē) with the most external support is a difficult reading, for it makes Christian woman solely responsible for the care of widows,[8] as opposed to a more general statement which calls all believers to care for the widows of the Christian community. It would certainly be more likely to have been broadened, especially in light of a few broad tis statements in 1 Timothy 5 (4, 8, 15).

Among the shorter readings, the second (pistos) and fourth (pistas) readings appear as linguistic changes intended to understand the care for widows as a broad Christian responsibility (“if any believer” and “if anyone has widows who are believers”). It would be likely for a scribe, or translator, to broaden the responsibility to “anyone” or to “a believer” than to limit it to the more difficult shorter reading, “a woman who believes” (i.e. a Christian sister). The latter best explains the former two readings.

The shorter reading and in the longer third reading (pistos e pistē). The longer reading makes the care of widows a gender inclusive responsibility in the church (“any man or woman who believes”). Regarding longer variant readings, the conventional textual critical wisdom prefers a longer reading so long as the change is unintentional;[9] from a practical point of view, a copyist would “more likely” omit words than to add words. Metzger concedes that “it is possible” that, if the longer reading

Metzger concedes that “it is possible” that, if the longer reading be original, a copyist may have accidentally omitted pistos e;[10] however, the longer reading has late attestation and may be best explained as a conflation of the variants (pistos and pistas) attempting to broaden the responsibility to care for widows in 1 Timothy 5:16 to both male and female believers (cf. 4, 8). This would effectively diminish the leading role of believing women that Paul had in mind.[11] However, the more difficult reading is piste and is better attested; in fact, it requires an explanation as to why Christian sisters are called to care for their widows. The first reading, then, is better attested, shorter, and more difficult; and in terms of probability is a natural impetus to explain the other variants.

How English Translations Stack

The direction most modern translations go is to follow the strength of the textual basis for piste, “a woman who believes” over the longer reading in 1 Timothy 5:16.

Major English New Testaments which take the longer variant reading, however, are the AV/KJV tradition (1611, 1979), Moffatt (1922), NEB (1961); moreover, less familiar versions such as The Living Oracles/Sacred Writings (1828) and McCord’s Everlasting Gospel/FHV5 (2005) also include the longer reading.

Since the time of the American Standard tradition (1901, 1971, 1995), the following major translation have accepted the shorter reading: the Revised Standard tradition (1952, 1990), JB tradition (1966, 1985), the NAB tradition (1970, 1986, 2011), TEV (1976), the NIV tradition (1984, 2002, 2011), ETR (1987), REB (1989), NCV (1991), CEV (1995), NET (1996-2006), HCSB (1999), and ESV (2001). The less known Plain English Bible (2003), The Voice Bible (2012), and the Jehovah Witness’ NWTR (2013) also have the shorter and better-attested reading.

The wholesale selection of the shorter reading by the vast majority of modern English translations provides a supportive scholastic culture to the present evaluation of the external and internal evidence in favor of pistē.

Applying “Believing Woman”

Finally, it is critical to find application of the present conclusion that the shorter variant has the strongest probability to be the text of 1 Timothy 5:16 and understand Paul’s instruction to Timothy regarding the care of widows in the church. The verse is situated in the final words of the pericope concerning directives for the care of widows and the expectations of young widows (1 Tim 5:3-16).[12] 

There is a strong distinction made between the church (5:8b, 9, 16) and Christian families with widows (5:4, 8a), and a distinction made between vulnerable widows to which the church has a responsibility to (5:5-7, 9-10) and young widows who should remarry and establish a proper family life (5:11-15). The last verse (5:16) apparently weaves these four counterpoint groups into a praxis for ministry towards widows which brings the Christian family to the forefront of such benevolent ministry; moreover, every Christian sister (widowed or not) is placed at the focal point to care for any widows they are related to (“she has”).

The counterpoint in this text is that such family ministry in Christian homes, carried out by a “woman who believes,” allows the church to care the widows who are truly vulnerable (5:3, 5a, 16b). Bruce Winter observes:

Christian women were being called upon to relieve the church of the extra mouths to feed who were their widowed relatives. There is no censure in v. 16, but a call to shoulder responsibility for kinship relationships so that the church can adequately support widows who are without relatives.[13]

Indeed, this Pauline injunction demonstrates a corrective in the Ephesian church culture where Timothy evangelized. Apparently, the church had been “burdened” and “exhausted” (bareō/omai) financially for sure;[14] but also, perhaps the capacity to serve had reached its limit and so the church was significantly fettered.

Nevertheless, Paul is clear there are widows whom the church, as a community, must help (the true widow), but there are widows whom must be cared for by their Christian families. In the latter point, Paul argues out the principle at stake: “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim 5:8). Paul then calls upon Christian women specifically to meet this ministry need.

In the ideal realm, Christian families are responsible for their own widowed grandmother as a demonstration of godly repayment (5:4). Christians males (5:8) are responsible for this service (presumably husband of the family), but the transition to women believers (remarried women, wives) is significant since they are described as the ones who “run” and “control” their household (5:14).[15]

Part of the power of connecting “wife” and household authority is that it “implies the new and improved position which was secured to women by the Gospel.”[16] Furthermore, this requires a full range of administrative responsibility.[17] The practical application, then, appears to ask of the “believing woman” her full range of resources and ability to care for “her widow.” As such, if “a woman took good care of her household [including her widow], the enemy would not be able to say anything against them.”[18]

This understanding would encourage a multi-generational inclusive model of family responsibilities as part of a Christian worldview. There are, however, many methods of care for the older members of the family. Still, as Walter Liefeld[19] observes, a few considerations should be made to evaluate the need of a widow:

  1. Determine the actual needs of the widow. Do not presume to know their needs or abilities. It is critical to appreciate their abilities – known or latent. Moreover, consider that not all needs are physical (financial, home); some needs are emotional, spiritual, intellectual.
  2. Revisit and reaffirm family ties and responsibilities. For family cultures which tend to live far from each other, it is vital to reconnect and reestablish family ties. Distance is not an excuse. Communication, visitation, and creating space for one’s widow to find their new or expanded niche.
  3. One must take into account a widow’s responsibility. Truly, a widow must learn to grieve in a healthy manner. Paul encouraged the younger widows to reestablish a family and marry. He further recognized a widow’s need to manage and maintain her relationship with God. Ultimately, she must find her role in ministry to others.
  4. The church has a role in supporting a family to care for their widow. (a) Consider enlisting a member to qualify for hospice care in order to be a bridge between the congregation and the grieving widow. (b) Develop an awareness of the stages of bereavement to better help to bring comfort and encouragement. (c) Develop a team that is knowledgeable of basic financial instruments and entitlement programs one might be amenable to. This would help bring awareness of issues. (d) There should be a visitation program which the elders, deacons and preachers, and members should participate in to check in on various needs. (e) While a congregation should not act as a private investigator’s office, a congregation should not act blindly towards senior abuse.

These are but a few items to consider in the quest toward New Testament discipleship concerning the care of widows.

Concluding Thoughts

While this paper was specifically focused upon the injunction by Paul to “any woman of faith” and her responsibility to care for “her” widow, it is critical to remember that this is one side of the coin for the care of widows in the church. It is true that the church should not be so burdened that it cannot function to carry out its mission; however, the community of the church has a responsibility toward its widows who are widows indeed.

The conclusion drawn here is that the shorter, well-attested variant reading piste best explains the other variants. Furthermore, it better weaves within the counterpoints in the discussion which finds closure in verse 16. It provides insight into the service which Christian women rendered on behalf of their faith, as an extension of their Christian family, and as an asset to the church and its ministry to its own widows. To add the fourth reading (pistos e pistē) provides an additional counterpoint which detracts from the focus upon the “younger widows” (5:11).

Instead of carousing (5:11-13) they are to remarry and minister to their own widows whoever they may be (14-15). Knight legitimately proposes the possibility that this ministry to widows is an extension of the Christian sister’s husband and her household;[19] therefore, it seems reasonable to conclude that when she ministers to her widows, she ministers to her family’s widow.

The focus on “a woman who believes” is a powerful reminder of the importance Christians sister have in the church’s ministry and in their Christian homes. As in the early church, so today the need for “women of faith” to minister still exists within the church and their families.

The Voice Bible rendering reflects this emphasis:

Tell any woman of faith: if you have a widow in your family, help her so the church is unencumbered and is free to extend aid to the widows who are truly in need of its help.[20]


  1. (UBS5) Barbara Aland, et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, 5th rev. ed. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014).
  2. Frederick G. Kenyon, The Text of the Greek Bible: A Students Handbook, Rev. ed. (London: Duckworth, 1949), 96.
  3. (NA28) Eberhard Nestle and Erwin Nestle, Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th rev. ed., eds. Barbara Aland, et al. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012), 63*. There exist no papyrus testimony which supports any of the variant readings in 1 Timothy 5:16.
  4. The fourth-century Codex Vaticanus (B) is silent on the variant readings due to the fact that it lacks the letters to Timothy. See Neil R. Lightfoot, How We Got the Bible, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2003), 38.
  5. Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2d ed. (1994; repr., Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2001), 574-75.
  6. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 12*-14*; J. Harold Greenlee, Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism, Rev. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999), 111-14.
  7. Metzger, Textual Commentary, 14*.
  8. Donald Guthrie, The Pastoral Epistles: An Introduction and Commentary (1957; repr., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978), 104.
  9. Greenlee, New Testament Textual Criticism, 112.
  10. Since the extant evidence for these two variants is translational it is possible that the variants emerged in that process (Metzger, Textual Commentary, 575), or in the process of oral transmission since pistos and pistas may be pronounced the same (Greenlee, New Testament Textual Criticism, 57).
  11. Walter L. Liefeld, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Kindle ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999), loc. 9699. Liefeld writes, this “would not be the first time that an ancient copyist changed the text to give preference to the male” (fn 21).
  12. Bruce W. Winter, “Providentia for the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3-16.” TynBul 39 (1988): 83-99.
  13. George W. Knight, III, The Pastoral Epistles (1992.; repr., Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2013), 222. Winter, “Providentia for the Widows of 1 Timothy 5:3-16,” 94.
  14. Gottlob Schrenk, “baros, barus, bareō,” TDNT 1: 561.
  15. Karl Heinrich Rengstorf, “despotes, oikodespotēs, oikodespoteō,” TDNT 2: 49.
  16. Walter Lock, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, ICC (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1924), 61.
  17. Linda Belleville, “Commentary on 1 Timothy,” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, ed. Philip W. Comfort (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2009), CBC 17: 95.
  18. Belleville, CBC 17: 101.
  19. Liefeld, 1 & 2 Timothy, 186-88 (loc. 3722-65).
  20. Knight, The Pastoral Epistles, 229.
  21. The Voice Bible: Step into the Story of Scripture (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 2012).

Lessons from a “Sinful” Woman


On one occasion in the ministry of our Lord, Jesus accepted a dinner invitation from a Pharisee named Simon (Luke 7:40); interestingly, a woman with a reputation for being a “sinner” had heard of Jesus’ arrival and interrupts the dinner by cleaning his feet with her tears and hair, and anointing them with oil (Luke 7:36-38).

Simon recoils at the woman’s act, and has an internal monologue which essentially questions the validity of the Lord’s ministry: “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner” (Luke 7:39 ESV).

As in other occasions, Jesus answers this unspoken criticism (Luke 7:40; cf. Matt 9:4, Mark 2:8). The Lord responds with a “parable of two debtors” (Luke 7:41-43), which has as its main thrust the point that “our sense of forgiveness will evidence itself in love and service.”[1]

There are points in the narrative which suggest that the woman and the Lord had known each other previously. The woman’s act of service and love (Luke 7:44-46) is a demonstration of her gratitude. This gratitude is based upon the fact that her sins “are forgiven” (Luke 7:47-48).

In the first instance, Jesus speaking to Simon the Pharisee states that this woman’s sins “stand forgiven” (v. 47). The phrase is one word in the original and is in the perfect passive indicative form. The verb reflects that her sins were forgiven at some point previous to their encounter at Simon’s house, and remain to be so. This would explain her great demonstration, of which Simon was critical.

In the second instance, Jesus turns to the woman and speaks the exact same phrase (v. 48). This time, the Lord encourages her – your sins remain to be forgiven. The woman “stands saved” (Grk. sesoken) because of her faith in the Lord; consequently, the Savior could send her into a life of “peace” (v. 50). The Lord emphasizes the abiding results of her forgiveness received prior to this dinner.

Moreover, Jesus concedes the point that the woman’s life had been ravaged by sin: “her sins, which are many” (v. 47). This strikes at one of Simon’s criticisms raised by the woman’s action, and Jesus demonstrates his full knowledge of the situation. He knew “what sort of woman” she was. Now, she is different; now, she is saved and forgiven, commissioned to live a new life embraced by the peace of God (Rom 5:1).

If Service is the Symptom… Stay Sick

It ought to go without saying that this encounter with our Lord is one that should pull at our heart, for we share, as Christians, the same plight as this woman. Knowing the debt of forgiveness we owe to our God, knowing that the Lord went behind enemy lines to rescue us from a calamity worse than death, we too should be of similar passions to show our love through service.

The idea of service is not an abstract notion that we subscribe to, service is an expression of love. It is a symptom of our love for God. Consequently, if service is a “symptom,” then love and gratitude generated by salvation is the “infection.” And in this analogy, we would rather be sick than cured.

The Christian, therefore, should never be complacent in their service to God. Packed pews look nice, but if that is all we offer to God, we have failed. Service, as demonstrated by this woman, sacrifices time, resources, energy, and offers it to her Lord. Can we do any less?

When there are cards to mail, people to visit, broken hearts to help mend, and souls to invite to our Father’s promises in the Gospel, it should be done by our hands – not by the hands of another. The most natural explanation for this behavior is our gratitude and love for our Lord.

Lessons to be Learned

Besides the principle emphasis from this passage that forgiveness leads to a sense of gratitude which showcases itself in acts of love and service, there are a few other lessons which may be observed.

(1) This passage highlights the divinity of Jesus, bearing witness that He has the right to forgive sin.

Jesus’ claims to divine authority are well documented in the New Testament, and even was a basis for the plots against his life (John 5:17-18; 7:1).

In Luke, Jesus declared that the woman’s sins stand forgiven (7:47-48), and this offended the group of Pharisees among the dinner party. They reasoned, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” (v. 49). They understood Jesus’ claims were not idealistic (mere wishful thinking), but were literal claims to divine authority (cf. Luke 5:17-26).

(2) A person’s new life may be overshadowed, for a time, by their past moral failures.

We know virtually nothing about this woman only that she is labeled as “a woman of the city” (v. 37) and “a sinner” (vv. 37, 39). This is not just a note from Luke, the narrator, but this was the Simon’s understanding of who this mysterious woman was.

Nevertheless, critics will come and go, but the peace of God lasts forever (v. 50). The unrelenting critics who so often affirm, “you’ll do it again”, will be silenced and shamed by service to God (1 Pet 3:13-17; 2:11-12).  We do not serve to prove others wrong, we serve to love God. The motivation behind our service must be fueled by our gratitude; as it is written:

Now which of them will love him more? Simon [the Pharisee] answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” (Luke 7:42b-43)

 (3) A life troubled by the ravages of a sinful life can become a life of peace devoted to godly service to God.

The change of life brought about by a new way of thinking in light of God’s forgiveness has the overwhelming power to transform a person (Acts 2:38; Rom 12:1-2). Experiencing the grace of God, understanding that we who were once dead are now made alive in Christ brings tremendous peace, for our Lord never leaves us (Heb 13:5-6; 1 John 1:7).

Indeed, Paul writes, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). This new birth (John 3:4-5) brings with it the  “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension” (Phil 4:7); moreover, this peace guards our hearts and minds. In this new life, in true appreciation of the grace of God we are qualified not only to experience a heavenly reward (Col 1:12) but are also sanctified for service (Eph 2:10; 1 Cor 6:19-20).

There is no person that God cannot use in holy service, especially his children whom he has “delivered… from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved son” (Col 1:13).

Concluding Thoughts

I remember seeing an article entitled, “Sluggish Slumbering Saints”, and the essence of the piece was to wake up Christians and call them to their responsibilities as servants of God to serve their Lord (Rom 6:16-18). Indeed, perhaps one of the more critical questions we must ask is this: if the lack of service is the symptom, then what is the infection? The sad answer is: lack of love and ingratitude for all of God’s demonstrations of love.

This spiritual malignancy will only go into remission once we see afresh the great debt we owe our Lord. Should it be that a renewal of this kind is needed in the Christian’s life, then we are to seek Him in repentance and faith knowing that He will receive us and reward us (Heb 11:6; Acts 8:22).

You can be a servant like this wonderful woman, who despite her sin-filled past has been immortalized in the pages of God’s book for posterity so that all may see their own story of salvation and love, and be moved to faithfully serve Him from whom all blessings flow.


  1. Wayne Jackson, The Parables in Profile: Exegetical Outlines of the Parables of Christ, rev. ed. (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications, 1998), 70.

Genesis 2: When Boy Met Girl for the First Time

One of the most fundamental principles articulated in the Bible is that God created the universe and that within this grand cosmos, a focal point was given to a small globe predominately covered in water – the planet earth. It is upon this planet that God organized the elements for human habitation over a period of six days (Exod 20:7). During the sixth day, the uncaused Creator made humanity (Gen 1:26-27)[1]

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness […] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:26a-27)

When God created humanity, the Scriptures show that he also created the first marriage, and consequently the first family. The narrative of this origin is the foundation for a godly marriage. The current study is a brief look into some of the vital lessons found in the creation of the human family – and first marriage.

The Historical Setting

In Genesis 2, the sixth day of creation is elaborated upon (2:4-25). There is a common literary device in the book of Genesis that perhaps is obscured by the English translation to which we call brief attention. It usually is styled the Toledoth formula, and is often translated as “these are the generations,” “this is the family history,” “this is the account,” or some other formulation (Gen 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:19, 36:1, 9, 37:2).

Attention is given to this literary device for two reasons – though several other thoughts could be developed. First, it is one of the clearest features in Genesis that displays to biblical students the “structure intended” by the author.[2] Second, this series of episodes throughout the book both provides a strong sense of unity and harmony within its narrative, and indicates a “historical impulse” to be understood while reading Genesis.[3]

These narratives are not mere “fairy-tales” given for ancient religious and philosophical contemplation. Instead, the biblical material is styled in such a way to make it obvious “the author intended it to be read as a work of history that recounts what has taken place in the far-distant past.”[4]

Therefore, in Genesis 2:4, when it reads, “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth […],” we are beginning a historical – albeit theological – pilgrimage that starts with the historical creation of our forefathers made in the “image of God” (1:27).

Humanity – The Pinnacle of Creation

Heaven’s joy in creating humanity is perhaps seen quite clearly when we compare how God assessed the situation when humans come into the picture. In general, God saw His creation as “good” – “And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). The Hebrew word for “good” in Genesis 1 (Heb. tob) has many applications in the Old Testament, employed by different authors as many times as 741 times.

In the Creation Account, “good” anticipates the theme of the fall of Adam and Eve,[5] but at the same time demonstrates that the Creation as God intended was an ideal place for the well-being of its inhabitants.[6] Consequently, at the close of the sixth day, after the creation of humanity God surveyed his handiwork, and saw that “it was very good.”

Perhaps our Creator observed that all the pieces to his creation were now in place, and so now the planet was a very good place to live – God’s ideal world realized. Though not in contradistinction, perhaps we are reading a phrase of great emotion and tenderness, as the only creation made in the Imago Dei (“image of God”) now walks the earth. Furthermore, humanity is entrusted with sovereignty over the animals and with the planets overall care (Gen 1:26); humanity is thus the crown of creation.

The sweet psalmist of Israel (2 Sam 23:1) sets forth a beautiful hymn of praise to God for His creative acts, but most importantly, for his emphasis upon the human family. A segment of the 8th Psalm is as follows:

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet. (Psa 8:3-6)

No doubt as King of Israel, David had pondered over the Creation Account several times (Psa 19). Perhaps he became more intimately involved in its study since it was his duty as King to be a Scribe of the Law as well (Deut 17:18-20).

God Created the Family

Returning to Genesis 2:4, we see a narrative serving much as a prism fragmenting a beam of light into many unique colors of spiritual insight. We may focus upon many of them as we have done above, but here attention is drawn to one in particular. When God created humanity, he also created the fundamental building block of human society – God created the family.

God employed His sovereignty and created a human community on the sixth day made up of one male and one female. Genesis 1:27 abbreviates the day, but 2:4-25 reiterates and expands upon the sixth day, a common feature in Old Testament narration to focus upon a critical moment that pushes the story forward.[7] We find Adam created from earthen materials, and fashioned into a “living soul” with the “breathe of life” given to him (2:7); however, he was alone, and that was not good for the well-being of the creation (2:18).

One of the aspects of being made in the image of God is that humans are by-in-large social beings. God is a trinity; in other words, God is a community of love made of the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2, etc.). Should it be all that surprising that the Imago Dei is likewise a social being? Hardly, and God saw the loneliness and incompleteness Adam felt and addresses the matter.

In what appears to be an animal parade of potential companions organized by God, Adam still finds no animal that would be a “a helper fit for him” (2:18-20). In other words, “a helper corresponding to him,”[8] suggesting Adam’s deep need to have another person just like him to help fulfill his responsibilities of governing the creation. A companion was needed to work side-by-side, another person like Adam to continue the human family, another person to create a community of love made in the image of God.

Consequently, when no animal met those criteria, the Lord caused a great sleep to fall upon Adam. When Adam awoke, God had created a new being that corresponded to him; someone who would help him in this new world. God presented this person to Adam and he named her Woman (Heb. ‘issah), which is the logical result since she was taken out of man (Heb. ‘is 2.22-23).

Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., makes a very important point here worthy to be reflected upon:

Unlike the animals – indeed, unlike the man himself – she did not come up from the ground below but out from human flesh, putting her alone at the man’s level.[9]

This was indeed a public proclamation of her status as his only true companion in the garden.[10]

Boy Meets Girl for the First Time

It is amazing to fathom how God collaborated with Adam to find a solution to his solitude. God orchestrated the events that led to the creation of Eve, and Adam knew exactly what he saw: “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen 2:23). We might respectfully paraphrase Adam as saying, “Finally, a person made just like me!” The event was quite literally that of a match made by Heaven.

Together, they were to share the dominion over the planet (1:26), and dwell in an environment objectively unaware of the evil uses of the sexual appetite – hence “they were naked and not ashamed.”[11]

After Adam’s great announcement of finding his companion, the bedrock biblical principle of marriage is declared in terms of a logical consequence derived from the events of day six leading to the creation of womankind. Moses addresses his post-fall contemporaries, and places a prescriptive emphasis upon this pre-fall narrative: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (2:24).[12]

There have been departures from God’s intent for marriage since the polygamy practiced by Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon (etc.), or whether it is the tolerated relaxation of the original marriage code in Genesis 2:24 allowed under the Mosaic system due to the “hardness of heart” (Matt 19:8).

Jesus appealing back to this Genesis narrative affirms that “from the beginning [of time] it was not so” (Matt 19:8).[13] The marriage can only be severed on the basis of adultery, and while many pollute this teaching, the Lord is quite clear on the subject (Matt 5:32).[14]

The “One Flesh” Aspect

Jesus addressed a much-needed foundational marriage issue, one that our contemporary culture is in dire need of emphasizing: divorce and remarriage is not for any cause.

When God created male and female, and gave them the garden for their home, reproduction as an aspect of life, and delegated the authority to them for the governance of the world and its other inhabitants, He joined Adam and Eve into one flesh (2:24; 1:26-28). Their example is designed to serve all subsequent generations on earth as the templar for the permanent nature of marriage (and its goals).

As we conclude this piece focused upon the first encounter between boy and girl – rather man and woman (Heb. ‘is and ‘issah respectively), it is vital to give some attention to the concept of one flesh. In doing so, there are three pivotal principles articulated by Ortlund based upon Genesis 2:24.[15]

  1. Viewed negatively, marriage severs the strongest of human bonds – parental; and as such, “elevates the marital union above all other personal loyalties, under God.”
  2. Viewed positively, marriage is the context where the male “devotes his primary loyalty to his wife” emotionally, sexually, and socially.
  3. Likewise, “the new life [as one flesh] created by a marriage fuses a man and wife together into one, fully shared human experience, prompting mutual care, tenderness and love.”

These are beautiful principles that would enrich any marriage.


The teaching from Genesis 2:24 is set forth before the Mosaic and Christian covenant, and this means that its teaching applies to the entirety of the human race.[16] God did not allow the creation week to end without the creation of humanity, and subsequently the family.

It was not consistent with the well-being of the creation for Adam to be alone, and God created the perfect companion to help him navigate through the world of Eden. This was the first marriage, and God designed marriage to be a permanent relationship of a “fully shared human experience” – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Human interference in the marriage is strongly warned against by Jesus (Matt 19:6, 9).

All we can do is ponder over these principles, find avenues in our lives to enact them, and allow the idealistic Edenic garden to be planted, cultivated, and blossomed in our marriages. As it is written in the Scriptures:

Awake, O north wind, and come O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow. Let my beloved come to his garden, and eat its choicest fruits. I came to my garden, my sister, my bride, I gathered my myrrh with my spice, I ate my honeycomb with my honey, I drank my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love! (Song 4:16-5:1)


  1. All Scripture references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
  2. Raymond B. Dillard and Tremper Longman, III, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 48.
  3. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 48-49.
  4. Dillard and Longman, An Introduction to the Old Testament, 49.
  5. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, trans. Mark E. Biddle. (1997; repr., Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004), 2:491-92.
  6. William E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville, TN: Nelson, 1984), 1:100.
  7. Robert Alter, The Art of Biblical Narrative (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1981), 50-51.
  8. Clyde M. Woods, Genesis-Exodus (Henderson, TN: Woods, 1972), 9.
  9. Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., Whoredom: God’s Unfaithful Wife in Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 19.
  10. Ortlund, Whoredom, 19.
  11. Woods, Genesis-Exodus, 9.
  12. Ortlund, Whoredom, 20-21.
  13. Wayne Jackson, The Teaching of Jesus Christ on Divorce and Remarriage: A Critical Study of Matthew 19:9, revised ed. (Stockton, CA: Christian Courier Publications, 2002), 2-8.
  14. Jack P. Lewis, The Gospel According to Matthew (1976; repr., Abilene, TX: Abilene Christian University Press, 1984), 2:67. Some, however, attempt to use 1 Corinthians 7:15 as support for divorce for the cause of desertion, claiming Paul was applying the teaching of Jesus to a new situation. While the teaching of Jesus was certainly being applied to a new situation, there is no reason to assert that desertion in 1 Corinthians 7:15 serves as an additional allowance for divorce and remarriage. We recommend Wayne Jackson article, “What Is the Meaning of ‘Not under Bondage’ (1 Cor. 7:15)?” (ChristianCourier.com), in response to this viewpoint.
  15. Ortlund, Whoredom, 21-23.
  16. Cf. Jackson, The Teaching of Jesus Christ on Divorce and Remarriage, 5-6.

Suggested Reading

  1. Wayne Jackson, “What is Adultery?,” ChristianCourier.com (Accessed: 30 Mar. 2001).