Gender Passages in the NT: Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued -- By: Andreas J. Köstenberger

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: Gender Passages in the NT: Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued
Author: Andreas J. Köstenberger


Gender Passages in the NT:
Hermeneutical Fallacies Critiqued

Andreas J. Köstenberger

The pre-fall bliss man and woman enjoyed in the Garden has given way to much confusion regarding man’s and woman’s place in God’s world, in Christ’s church, and in relation to one another. North American culture, with its emphasis on equality and the advances of feminism in this century, has pressed hard upon the church to conform its teachings to new societal standards. As is customary in American public life, special interest groups have been formed representing different sides of the “gender issue” in an effort to influence the various segments within American evangelicalism toward their respective viewpoints.1

The last few decades have witnessed an increasing awareness of the importance of hermeneutical procedure in interpreting the gender passages in the NT. Grant Osborne contended in 1977 that “the determining factor in the discussion [of gender passages in the NT] is hermeneutical.”2 Already in 1958, Krister Stendahl had investigated The Bible and the Role of Women—A Case Study in Hermeneutics.3 Robert Johnston in 1978 and again in 1986 attributed the differences in approach regarding the role of women in the church taken by evangelicals to “different hermeneutics,” calling the study of women’s roles a “test case” of evangelical interpretation.4

If Johnston is correct, evangelical hermeneutics seem to have failed the test, since the existing exegetical conclusions on the NT gender texts vary widely. What is perhaps even more disturbing is the apparent lack of consensus regarding a proper methodology.5

The authors referred to above provide some constructive suggestions regarding hermeneutical procedure in dealing with gender issues.6

However, at times their suggestions are too superficial or otherwise unhelpful. For example, Johnston distinguishes between “obscure” and “plain” passages on gender issues.7 He cites as an example “the difficult text” in 1 Tim 2 which, according to Johnston, “needs to be read in the light of…Gal 3:28.”8 But surely this categorization is inadmissibly subjective.You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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