Saturday, June 21, 2008

Response to the Open Letter

In 1998 Dr. Grudem wrote an Open Letter to Egalitarians. Mike Seaver of Role Calling has copied it onto his blog. I have asked if Mike would consider my response to this letter. Here is a copy of the original letter with responses by Linda Belleville and Dr. Grudem's rebuttal.

I would also like to make an attempt to put the answer to three of the points in this letter in a fairly simple form, and have people respond to this.

1 Kephale [head]

Dr. Grudem writes,

Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the “head’’ of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons.

One occurrence of kephale that Dr. Grudem often cites is,
    The King of Egypt is called "head" of the nation in Philo, Moses 2.30, "As the head is the ruling place in the living body, so Ptolemy became among kings."
The full citation for this is,
    the whole family of the Ptolemies was exceedingly eminent and conspicuous above all other royal families, and among the Ptolemies, Philadelphus was the most illustrious; for all the rest put together scarcely did as many glorious and praiseworthy actions as this one king did by himself, being, as it were, the leader of the herd, and in a manner the head of all the kings. Moses 2:30
Philadelphus is described as the head of all the kings, because he is the most illustrious. The kings, of whom Philadelphus was the "head," are the other kings in the family of the Ptolemies. This reference includes Ptolemy 1 Soter, who was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the father of Philadelphus.

Philadephus was, for two years, a co-regent with his father, but he was not the authority over his father. This passage also refers to the descendants of Philadelphus, who were kings and queens after him. The king of Egypt was not the "head of the nation" as Dr. Grudem cites, nor was he the authority over the kings that he was head of.

We can rightly say that,
    Person A, Philadelphus, was called the "head" of person B, Ptolemy Soter, and Philadelphus was not in a position of authority over his father, Ptolemy Soter.
2. Hupotasso - [to submit, yield]

Dr. Grudem writes,

Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for “be subject to’’ (hypotassō, passive) is used to refer to one person in relation to another and does not include the idea of one-directional submission to the other person’s authority?

Here are two clear examples,

1 Clement 38.1:
    “So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject (ὑποτασσέσθω) to his neighbor, to the degree determined by his spiritual gift,”
2 Macc 13.23,
    ”[King Antiochus Eupator] got word that Philip, who had been left in charge of the government, had revolted in Antioch; he was dismayed, called in the Jews, yielded (ὑπετάγη) and swore to observe all their rights, settled with them and offered sacrifice, honored the sanctuary and showed generosity to the holy place.”
In the first case, Christians are to be subject to their neighbour, and in the second, the king is subject to his subjects.

We can rightly say that (hypotassō, passive) is used to refer to a Christian in relation to his or her neighbour and it does not include the idea of one-directional submission to that other person’s authority.

3. Authenteo - 1 Timothy 2:12 "to have authority" or "to dominate"

Dr. Grudem writes,

Our problem is this: we have never seen any clear example in ancient Greek literature where authenteō must mean “domineer’’ or “misuse authority." Whenever we have seen this verb occur, it takes a neutral sense, “have authority’’ or “exercise authority,’’ with no negative connotation attaching to the word itself.

It was originally thought that there were two occurrences of authenteo preceding the epistle to Timothy. Here is the first one,
    Philodemus (1st cent. BCE): “Ought we not to consider that men who incur the enmity of those in authority (συν αυθεντουσιν) are villains, and hated by both gods and men”;
In fact, this is from a reconstructed fragment. The text cited is from a short summary of the reconstructed text. It is not a translation and there is no connection between the reconstructed phrase συν αυθεντ[ου]σιν and "those in authority." συν αυθεντ[ου]σιν occurs near the beginning of the fragment, and "those in authority" is at the end of the summary.

The only other occurrence of authenteo during this period is provided by Grudem as,
    BGU 1208 (27 BCE): “I exercised authority (Καμου αυθεντηκοτος) over him, and he consented to provide for Calatytis the Boatman on terms of full fare, within the hour.”
In fact, the translation "exercised authority over" is not the usual translation for authenteo in this citation. Other scholars suggest "prevail on" "compel" and "made him." In the footnote of Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, page 680, Dr. Grudem mentions that this letter refers to a "hostile" relationship, and the meaning "compel" seems appropriate. If it is a hostile relationship, then one presumes it has a negative connotation.

Here is a clearly negative use of the word authenteo from the 2nd/3rd century,
    Wherefore all shall walk after their own will. And the children will lay hands on their parents. The wife will give up her own husband to death, and the husband will bring his own wife to judgment like a criminal. Masters will lord it over their servants savagely, and servants will assume an unruly demeanour toward their masters. Hippolytus, On the End of the World 7.
Clearly authenteō has an negative connotation. It is the way a master rules a slave. Is this the proper exercise of authority in the church? In fact, these are the only occurrences of the word authenteo from the 1st century BCE to the 3rd century AD apart from its use in an astrology text.

We can rightly say that the word authenteo
has a negative connotation attaching to the word itself.


Sam said...

Hi Suzanne,

An informative and useful post. I'd often wanted something short and to the point like this when reading Grudem's letter.

One comment.

I can imagine that some might question the relevance of the evidence from Chrysostom given he writes c.400 AD.

Personally I have no idea what bearing this distance of time has on the Greek etc, but if someone was to raise an objection of that sort, how would you respond?

Peter Kirk said...

Clearly authenteō has an negative connotation. It is the way a master rules a slave.

Actually no, in the context. It is worse than that. It is not the normal way that a master rules a slave but a wrong, savage way of doing that. But is there actually a separate word "savagely" in the Greek? Baldwin's translation, cited in your next post, implies not.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have added more in my next post. Peter, "savagely" is another word in the Greek text. It appears that "to lord it over" or "to rule as a slave" is the proper meaning.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I have edited the post and used another quote instead of Chrysostom. Thanks.

Just A Berean said...

Are you going to respond to the next 3 questions in Grudems "open letter" ?

These are very good and I'm saving them.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I am working on something else at the moment, so I don't know when I will have time to blog about the other three.

Thanks for asking. It could be done so who knows. Check back.