Revisiting The Clarity Of Scripture In 1 Timothy 2:12 -- By: Jamin Hübner

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:1 (Mar 2016)
Article: Revisiting The Clarity Of Scripture In 1 Timothy 2:12
Author: Jamin Hübner

Revisiting The Clarity Of Scripture
In 1 Timothy 2:12

Jamin Hübner*

* Jamin Hübner is director of institutional effectiveness and chair of Christian studies at John Witherspoon College, 4021 Range Road, Rapid City, SD 57702.

Abstract: In the evangelical debate regarding women in ministry, both 1 Timothy 2:12 and the clarity of scripture have played a critical role. While few theologians and biblical scholars have brought the “perspicuity of scripture” directly to bear on the text, this article systematically evaluates how the verse is handled in light of the traditional hermeneutical principle of interpreting obscure passages in light of the more clear. The article concludes that 1 Timothy 2:12 is inconsistently interpreted by complementarians as a clear passage—potentially out of an effort to legitimize the ban on women pastors.

Key Words: 1 Timothy 2:12, clarity, perspicuity, egalitarianism, complementarianism, feminist, hermeneutics, bibliology

I. Introduction

First Timothy 2:12 has played a defining role in the Christian debate about the role of women in ministry, especially in American evangelicalism. The text appears to forbid some kind of behavior involving women teaching men. For that reason, exegetical studies about this verse have been numerous and exhaustive.1

But there is an important aspect of the debate that continues to be overlooked, and it relates to a broader principle of theological interpretation and hermeneutics. The principle is typically related to “the clarity of Scripture” (or “perspicuity of Scripture”) and can be summarized in the words of one Reformed confession:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all … when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.2

As it will be demonstrated, this principle is common in the history of Christianity and tends to be accepted by both “complementarians” and “egalitarians.”3

The question is whether both groups equally apply the principle, especially when it comes to key texts surrounding women in ministry.

As it will b...

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