Upside Down Hermeneutics

To say that 1 Timothy 2:12 is “difficult” but a concluding instruction regarding Phoebe in Romans 16 is “crystal clear” and then to use the latter to control the former is to turn the interpretation of texts on its head.

©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.


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  1. Could someone paraphrase this post for me? I think I’m getting the gist but ask your help.

    • Some Christians will use Phoebe as an example of a woman deacon within the church and therefore conclude women can serve in church office. Whereas the text in 1 Timothy is pretty direct and clear that that not permissible. To interpret both texts with one another, one would have to conclude that Phoebe was not an officer of the church, or at the very least did not hold any position of authority within the church.

  2. This is intriguing. Did anyone say this in print or online? I’m interested in seeing the source.

  3. That is essentially what happens with any crux interpretum. Where one passage becomes a touchstone through which all other passages are interpreted. Galatians 3:28 is related to this and it is also often used to overrule passages like 1 Tim 2:12

    • Just realized, I also think it is equally wrong to use Galatians 3:28 to set aside 1 Tim. 2:12 as well.

  4. William Hendriksen, (after a long and through explanation of Romans 16:1): “The lesson is clear. Two extremes should be avoided: (a) that of ordaining women to an ecclesiastical office when there is no warrant for doing so in Scripture; and (b) that of ignoring the very important and valuable services devout and alert women are able to render to the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

  5. 1 Timothy 2:12 is “difficult” in the sense that some don’t like what it says and negotiate the text.

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