Over at Reformation21, Rev. Rick Phillips evaluates the egalitarian argument by Dr. John Jefferson Davis on 1 Tim. 2:12, who attempts (unsuccessfully) to argue for women leadership in the church.
In August 2008, Professor John Jefferson Davis of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary posted a serial paper on the proper exegesis of 1 Timothy 2:12, titled, "1 Timothy 2:12, the Ordination of Women, and Pauline Use of Creation Narratives." His paper argues that the Greek word authentein, traditionally rendered as "to exercise authority," is better translated as "to usurp authority" or "to dominate". Furthermore, he argues that Paul's appeal to the creation narrative in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 should not be taken as establishing a universal, transcultural principle with regard to women in church leadership. Rather, Davis argues, Paul's commands are church-specific, intending only to deal with local problems in Timothy's immediate pastoral setting. Davis then extrapolates from the example of Deborah's leadership in Judges 4 and 5, citing it as a positive biblical example of divinely-approved female leadership that sets a precedent for the same today. By accepting his revision of 1 Timothy 2:12, regarded as a crux of the complementarian position, Dr. Davis concludes that "the way would be clear to recognize the calling of such gifted women and set them apart for leadership in the church."
Dr. Davis' paper deserves a response from the complementarian camp for two reasons. The first is that we should all be willing to consider biblical appeals and take seriously the exegetical arguments of other positions. Second, given today's context in which many Christians would readily escape from the cultural scorn heaped upon those who uphold traditional Christian views of male headship, any biblical argument is likely to serve as a pretext for revising our beliefs and practice. For this reason we should be especially careful in our exegetical arguments. In assessing the contribution of Dr. Davis's paper with this in mind, I would like to pose four questions.