by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 3 Paragraph # 2 Study # 4 Lincolnton, NC February 13, 2005
11 Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
12 Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
1901 ASV Translation:
11 Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.
12 Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.
There is only one textual variation in verses 11-12. It consists of a difference in the spelling of the word translated "sober/temperate". In respect to "meaning" it is irrelevant.
I. The First Issue: What is the Significance of "wives/women"?
A. The translators of the KJV opted to take the reference to signify the wives of "deacons".
B. The translators of the ASV opted to be a bit more literal and side-step the "interpretation" given by the KJV.
C. The question is whether Paul is disqualifying a man whose wife is ungodly, or whether he is acknowledging the fact of "women who are deaconnesses".
1. How do we answer this question?
a. In Romans 16:1, Paul clearly identifies a woman as a "servant" of the church and uses the term "deacon". Thus, there is substantial reason for seeing women in that realm of service.
b. The issue is whether Romans 16 has sufficient status to "import" it into Paul's letters to Timothy.
c. The bottom line is, as it always is, the context of Paul's letter to Timothy.
2. One of the issues of "context" is literary design. This is the way an author put his words together to reveal the way his mind was working and how the thoughts were flowing.
a. It is clear that Paul has "male" servants of the church in mind in 3:12.
b. What is not as clear is whether that "mind" covers all of 3:8-13.
c. The structure of his words includes these facts...
1) He uses "hoseatos" ("likewise/even so") in 1:8 and 11.
2) He follows "hoseatos" in both verses with "semnos" ("grave").
3) In 3:8, "grave" is followed by "not doubletongued" and in 3:11 it is followed by "not slanderers" -- distinctly different words, but both having to do with the use of the tongue.
4) In 3:8, "not doubletongued" is followed by "not given to much wine" and in 3:11, "not slanderers" is followed by "sober" -- again, a distinctly different word, but a related concept.
5) After this fairly obvious parallelism, Paul skips, in 3:11, to the very general "faithful in all things" which echoes 3:9's "holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience".
6) In 3:12 Paul deliberately goes back to "deacons" as "husbands"... indicating that he has "men" in mind as "deacons".
a) In 3:12 he uses the same word "gune" (ambiguously translated "wives/women" in our English versions in 3:11, but clearly "wives" in 3:12) as is in 3:11. This signals the fact that Paul has two things in mind...male deacons and female-related issues. If we understand 3:12 in the "male's" responsibility to be "one-woman focused" (a "one-woman-man") as the rather automatic consequence of Paul's thinking about how a deacon's role is going to be affected by his "wife" as well as his behavior toward his "wife", we have a relatively strong indication that Paul was not dealing with "female deacons" in 3:11, but with how the "wives" of deacons are going to impact their ability to "serve".
b) The issue is how the thoughts were flowing through the apostle's mind and how his words reveal that flow. If Paul saw the "organization of church function" in a big picture way so that he felt a need to clarify the character issues involved in male and female "deacons", we have one train of thought. If, however, he saw the big picture as it relates to men who are going to be chosen to serve as "servants of the church", his comments about "women" would all be subsumed under the issue of how a man's marriage is going to affect whether he should be permitted to serve in this capacity.
c) How do we tell? If we take 3:8 and 3:12 (as they both use the actual word "deacon") to indicate Paul's train of thought, it is probable that he was not thinking of "female deacons" but only of how a man's relationship to a wife was going to affect his ability to serve the church. Thus, the "women" of 3:11 are wives of men whose qualifications are being established in 3:8-13.
II. The Second Issue is the Characteristics of These Wives.
A. They closely parallel those of their husbands in 3:8-9.
B. They are qualities that have a significant impact on whether a person can serve the church without creating undue problems in the church...honesty, careful speech, temperance, and general faithfulness.
III. The Third Issue is the Corollary Qualities a Man Must Have in His Family.
A. Even if a man's wife is all that she should be, he may not be loyal to her. To be an un-problematical "servant", he must be.
B. But, even if he is "loyal" to her, there is the matter of whether he has the maturity of wisdom to be the leader of his home so that it does not become the disabling undercurrent that robs him of being a legitimate "servant".
1. This is the theme that is introduced by 3:11.
a. The question is this: what is it about a "deacon's" service to the church that requires such a high standard of character?
b. The answer seems to be of two parts...
1) Apparently, God has no use for any kind of "labor" that isn't properly motivated. It is, therefore, an observation that proper motivation will not exist in a man of low character.
2) Also, though "men" will allow people of "low" character to serve them, it is unseemly to accept "service" that is undercut by false motivation. First, it is not "service" but manipulation; and, second, it is a travesty of hypocrisy.
2. This is the theme that automatically follows the insistence of 3:10 that a man be "examined" -- there is no greater "court of examination" than a man's home.