“Biblical Hermeneutics: Basic Principles and Questions of Gender” (Ch 20) by Roger Nicole and “Hermeneutics and the Gender Debate” (Ch 21) by Gordon D. Fee -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 10:1 (Spring 2005)
Article: “Biblical Hermeneutics: Basic Principles and Questions of Gender” (Ch 20) by Roger Nicole and “Hermeneutics and the Gender Debate” (Ch 21) by Gordon D. Fee
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger


“Biblical Hermeneutics:
Basic Principles and Questions of Gender” (Ch 20)
by Roger Nicole and “Hermeneutics and the Gender Debate”
(Ch 21) by Gordon D. Fee

Andreas J. Köstenberger

Professor of New Testament and Greek
Director of Ph.D. and T.M. Studies
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Introduction

Since its inception in the 1970s, North American egalitarianism has developed a distinct hermeneutic of its own with regard to its interpretation of gender-related passages in Scripture. It is not the purpose of the present article to address this subject comprehensively.1 Rather, the scope of this brief essay is limited to providing a response to the hermeneutical chapters by Roger Nicole and Gordon Fee in the book Discovering Biblical Equality.2

Biblical Hermeneutics: Basic Principles and Questions of Gender

In his 8½-page long chapter entitled “Biblical Hermeneutics: Basic Principles and Questions of Gender” Roger Nicole sets out to “show how following valid hermeneutical principles will aid in the proper understanding of the passages relevant to the gender discussion” (355). At the very outset, Nicole affirms the divine authorship of Scripture and the primacy of authorial intent. In the remainder of his short piece, Nicole puts forth six foundational hermeneutical principles for evangelical interpretation.

These are

  1. literal or figurative meaning;
  2. prescriptive or descriptive texts;
  3. individual, collective and universal references;
  4. peripheral versus central doctrines;
  5. fragmentary versus canonical interpretations; and
  6. the situation of those being addressed or represented.

In principle, these distinctions are unobjectionable, and Nicole is to be commended for setting them forth as common ground for discussion. Nicole’s application of these principles, however, is not quite as unobjectionable. For example, Nicole writes that “Paul’s descriptive analogy between Adam’s priority in creation and Eve’s priority in sin in 1 Timothy 2:13–14—even though it is used to support the ad hoc prescription in 1 Timothy 2:12—seems to fall far short of being theologically prescriptive or determinative” (357). In a related footnote, he asserts that the “primary point of the analogy is that the woman, who was created second, was first to yield to the deception of Satan” and adm...

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