Clarity on the Gender Debate

Recently, there has been a lot of changes in terms of the framing of the debate on gender and the church. This forces me to really clarify where I stand so as to make very clear what I support and what I don’t support.

Neil Shenvi recently wrote an article in which he makes a great observation:

To begin with, careful readers will realize how broadly some of the key terms in these discussions are being defined (or redefined). For example, in Du Mez’s and Barr’s books, Christian “patriarchy” does not narrowly refer to some specific conceptualization of gender roles that assumes men should rule over women. Instead, it refers to any conceptualization of gender roles that is not fully egalitarian. Rousas Rushdoony, who “disapproved of women’s suffrage and of women speaking in public,” is listed as a supporter of the patriarchy.[1] But so are the Promise Keepers, who promoted “servant leadership [through] obligation, sacrifice, and service,” alongside the signatories of the Danvers Statement, the Gospel Coalition, Together for the Gospel, and the entire Southern Baptist Convention. Barr is even more explicit, criticizing Russell Moore for teaching that “women should not submit to men in general . . . but wives should submit to their husbands.” Barr insists that his framework still places “power in the hands of men and [takes] power away from women” and therefore constitutes oppressive Christian patriarchy.

This is a fair criticism. So, let me be clear about the kinds of things that I believe either have no Biblical support or things that can only be supported by scripture if you grossly abuse the Biblical text. These are the things I openly oppose in modern Patriarchalist and Broad Complementarian circles:

The idea that marriage is normative. There are ways you can take this phrase to make it Biblical (marriage is normative to societies), but the individualizing of it has *zero* Biblical support.

The idea that male headship goes back to creation *alone* when Paul mentions other things that it goes back to like marriage, the church office, public worship, and the fall as well.

Related to this: the idea that all women should submit to all men

Also related to this: the idea that women can never teach men even in a capacity unrelated to the church office, such as at a seminary or in a capacity unrelated to public worship or the church office.

The idea that the courtship model is the model Christians must follow to get to marriage, and that “dating” is inherently sinful.

The idea that delaying marriage into one’s thirties and forties and beyond is sinful.

The idea that contraception is sinful or that deliberately choosing to not have children is sinful.

The idea that marriage will solve problems with sexual immorality as sexual immorality is a problem of the heart and not of one’s marital status.

The idea that headship is a matter of giving orders to which the woman must obey rather than the precise opposite of that, which is leading by giving of yourself in the way Christ gave of himself on the cross.

The idea that marriage and singleness are not equal estates. While marriage was certainly better before the fall, given the way sin has corrupted marriage, the Bible teaches that, just as it is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18), it isn’t good for him to be married either because of how sin has corrupted the marriage relationship (Genesis 3:16).

The idea that women must be housewives, and cannot have careers outside the home.

The idea that women cannot vote because it would “divide the household.”

The idea that you can just call people who disagree with you “feminists” such that you get the stupidity of calling Carl Trueman a feminist. Indeed, these folks use the word “feminist” in the way leftists use the word “white supremacist” or “racist.” Basically, you are a “feminist” if you disagree with their conclusions just as you are a “White Supremacist” if you disagree with the left’s conclusions. The way they use the term “feminist” is purely political, and dishonest.

The idea that “courage“ and “cowardice” must be used to enshrine aggression as the ultimate ethical good and standard of what it means to be a man. Doing something even though you know it might hurt can also be labeled “stupidity” and “foolishness” as well as “courage.” The label “courage” means nothing if I can also call it “foolishness” and “stupidity.” Aggression should *never* be the standard of right and wrong in a given scenario!

Related to this, the idea that the default disposition of manhood is aggression and not gentleness and kindness as scripture clearly teaches (1 Timothy 6:11). Scripture says we are to pursue gentleness and kindness, but never says we are to pursue aggression. In fact, the book of Proverbs clobbers such impetuosity. That’s not to say aggression is always *wrong* or that we must always play with kiddie gloves. Psychological peace as an idol is no better than aggression as an idol. It *is* to say that aggression isn’t *the norm,* and must be exercised with wisdom and in certain narrow contexts (eg, fighting sin). Indeed, this value of aggression makes Patriarchy and Broad Complementarianism as anti-intellectual as wokeism. (At least they aren’t grabbing hold of a philosophy that has murdered millions, however. I’ll give them that!”

The crisis in manhood today is not one of the “feminizing” of men, but it is one of values and a lack of wisdom. Far more dangerous to manhood right now is a retreat from Biblical values because of a lack of wisdom than the fact that you have guys who like the color pink or are shy.

The idea that husbands can sanctify wives or that marriage, in and of itself, can sanctify individuals. God and God alone can sanctify by the power of his Holy Spirit. While he can certainly *use* marriage to do that, he is not *obligated* to do so. The certainty that one of God’s elect will be like Christ one day is rooted in Christ’s death on the cross on their behalf and is *irrelevant* to whether they end up getting married.

Christ is the Lord of history, not man. Yes, God works through means, but just because man does something that God *could* use to turn a society around doesn’t mean He *will* use it. *That* is up to Him. Thinking that everyone getting married young and having lots of children is going to change society is sinful and idolatrous because it puts man on the throne of history and not Christ. Marxism thinks it can change history simply by pushing dialectics and engaging in revolutions. We are as idolatrous as Marxists are when we believe that mere man can move history by everyone getting married young and having lots of children. *Christ* is the Lord of history, and *He* will decide if society is saved, *not* us! Yes, there is nothing wrong with getting married young and nothing wrong with having lots of children. And there is nothing wrong in thinking that God can use the faithfulness of parents who serve Him in that way to change a society. But thinking that it is some formula to change society that is inevitably going to succeed is *sinful* idolatry.

The idea of wife spanking (yes, it *does* exist).

The idea of family integrated churches.

The idea of natural theology and that the Aristotelian, Platonic, and Stoic foundation of these ideas in church history, given their unbiblical nature, is capable of establishing their veracity.

The idea of the The Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son . This is an idea that is *very* weak exegetically and theologically disastrous, leading to a denial of the oneness of God’s being and an implicit form of monothelitism. Logically, it leads to Arianism. It is a position that is, at best, heterodox.

The idea of Confederate idealism. This is the idea, based in Postmillenialism, that the Southern Confederacy was the ideal form of Christianity, and, had the South won the Civil War, it would have ushered in the Postmillenial golden age of the church.

Related to the previous, the idea of framing of the Biblical teaching on headship by Southern Confederate ideas. Indeed, many things in Patriarchy/Broad Complementarianism can be explained by recognizing that the Confederacy is where the development of these teachings comes to full bloom: from the common sense realism in their hermeneutics to even their views of headship. Indeed, their attitude that a feminist must be wrong because they are opening their mouth came from the Confederate Idealist opposition to feminism in groups like The United Daughters of the Confederacy. Indeed, you can see their ideas in the blogs and podcasts of female supporters of Patriarchalism/Broad Complementarianism today. Indeed, outside of the south here in the US, there isn’t much support for it. And yet, in Eastern Europe and Asia, for example, fathers are still considered the heads of their homes and the idea of female pastors is not very popular outside of a few westernized practitioners of Christianity.

The idea of kinism.

Finally, I oppose what I have called “exegetical pragmatism,” that is, any ignoring of linguistic facts and misuse of scripture all in the name of fighting enemies of Christianity like feminism or in solving problems of cultural degeneration. Such not only presumes the scriptures as they were given to us are insufficient to solve those problems, but it assumes the meaning of the text changes over time depending upon which controversy we are dealing with. Yes, infertility may be a problem. The feminizing of society may be a problem. But you create further problems when you twist and abuse the scriptures in order to draw out purely pragmatic solutions, especially after you have been corrected with linguistic facts.


Not all of these errors are equally bad. Some are worse than others. They are just ideas that, I would say, have no Biblical support, or, alternatively, you can only get these ideas by breaking all principles of linguistic meaning and torturing the text beyond recognition, and I think they need to be done away with, while still recognizing that there are problems of cultural degeneration that need to be solved by handling the Biblical text *carefully.* And, of course, I still oppose female pastors and preachers, and I still believe men are to be the heads of their families. Plus, some of these differences go back to the fact that I am not a formalist in my view of language, but have been heavily influenced by the discipline of pragmatics and the cognitive school of linguistics. Form is *important* yea *essential* to language. You can’t communicate without words and sentences. But it isn’t the *foundation* of language. Things like cognition and thought *give rise* to forms, and are thus logically prior to the forms on the page.

That being said, it has recently come to my attention that, not only are people using stories of abuse to oppose this stuff, but they are now running off to things like Critical Theory and limited inerrancy. I must come out in *open* opposition to this. First of all, Critical Theory has its origins in the Frankfort Socialists. These are Marxists who merged the thought of Freud and Marx, focusing on communism as it relates to literature and culture. Folks, this is *dangerous.* Communism has murdered *millions* and left the rest starving to death. In Romania, even after the fall and execution of Ceaușescu, there were still children begging for food on the streets of Bucharest. I have seen stories of teenage girls who sold themselves into pornography just so they could have money to eat. You may say, “But that was Stalinism!” Aside from the obvious parallels between what happened during the rise of communism in Romania to what is happening today in the US, the history of the Frankfort school doesn’t fair much better. Look at the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the mass murders of Mao Zedong for an example of how this works itself out. Go look at the slavery in Tibet to this day, the recent disappearance of the tennis player Peng Shuai after accusing a former Vice Premier of sexual assault, or the journalist who filmed about the Wuhan lab and was thrown in prison, and whose brother says is now very weak and may not make it through winter. Yes, anyone who knows the history of Stoic, Aristotelian, and Platonic thought knows they have a history of political abuse, especially in the Roman Empire, and I am not surprised to hear stories of abuse coming out of Patriarchalist/Broad Complementarian circles (although, not everyone who holds those views abuses their wife or congregation). But communism *dwarfs* *all* of these systems both is size and in scope. Communism is an *inherently* repressive system. If you oppose the abuse among Patriarchalists/Broad Complementarians but don’t oppose Critical Theory, you are a hypocrite. Period. Black Lives Matter, for example, has called themselves “trained Marxists,” and has openly called for a communist revolution in Chicago after the Rittenhouse verdict. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised if there is some connection between the Chinese Communist Party and Black Lives Matter. The mass murder and destruction of communism is *way* worse than any abuse these patriarchalists and their ilk have *ever* engaged in!

Even more disturbing in the light of the embracing of Critical Theory is the embracing of “limited inerrancy.” This is the idea that the Bible is inerrant in regards to spiritual matters, but it may have (and often did) make errors in regard to history. The problem is, in a functional sense, whatever realm you deny scripture the right to speak inerrantly in, you deny the Lordship of Christ in. Is it any surprise that people who are willing to question the inerrancy of scripture in regards to history and historical fact have grabbed hold of a Marxist interpretation of history which is the zeitgeist of modern academia? Hardly. Once Christ can no longer be Lord of history, man must be accepted as Lord of history, including his barbaric Marxist ideas.

But, they will say, if you hold this view of scripture, you get the stupidity of “American Christianity.” Michael Bird writes:

As proof of the synthetic rather than scriptural roots of American Complementarianism, consider this, why do American complementarians believe in more restrictions on women’s ministry than Catholic and Orthodox churches? Why do some complementarians believe women shouldn’t vote, go to college, be police officers, run for public office, or speak to a mixed gendered audience? Why did American Complementarians oppose the Equal Rights Act? Why were the same American Complementarians excoriating Bill Clinton yet defending Donald Trump? Is this the fruits of biblical exegesis? Now the complementarian will say, “Because the Bible says so!” Except, maybe it doesn’t, and maybe what drives American complementarian is partly Scripture but Scripture as interpreted in light of a social context, a particular history, networks of power and patronage, political connections, and discrete local cultures. What if your theology is merely Scripture used to justify your own cultural position and merely substantiates your own prejudices? That is what du Mez and Barr are pointing out and doing it damn well!

And yet, the hypocrisy of the whole thing is that, when I look at someone like Bird. I get the culture and society of the German enlightenment! I get Critical Theory! Ironically the very culture of the academy in Biblical scholarship today! Again, this is blatant hypocrisy. In fact, I have found that Biblical scholarship tends to be more susceptible to this that the average pastors or Christians in the pew, because most Biblical scholars are simply blind to their presuppositions. Are Patriarchalist/Broad Complementarians blind to their presuppositions? Yup. But to broaden it out to politics is simply showing that there is something deeper going on here. Something that distinguishes my attack on Patriarchy/Broad Complementarianism from Bird’s.

You see, it seems like these people believe that it is the entire *system* of American Evangelicalism that is to blame, including its values which causes them to vote overwhelmingly Republican. And yet, most people I know vote Republican because they happen to think that the murder of babies in the womb, the promotion of homosexuality, men in women’s bathrooms, and the promotion of leftist, downright communist ideology which has murdered and starved millions to death is just a tad bit more evil than Trump’s mean Tweets or dirty talk about women. Okay, a lot more evil. Yes, promoting ideology of mass murder is more evil than dirty talk about women. No, all sin is *not* equal. God gave the death penalty for certain sins in the Old Testament and gave lesser penalties for others. And Christians *have* to vote in a way which is *most* consistent with their values in such a situation where neither side is great, and that is why Trump was their choice. I don’t blame them. Trump was an okay President, and Biden has been the worst President we have ever had, and he isn’t even a year into his term! So, yes, I *refuse* to give up these values. Indeed, I think many of those who likewise oppose this Patriarchy/Broad Complementarianism have naively been sucked in by individuals who have in mind nothing more than the subversion of these values within the Christian church through the denial of inerrancy and the injection of left wing ideology. In other words, they are doing the very thing they are accusing us of doing! Never mind that you can see a family resemblance between our values and the values of every Christian civilization before us, but the values of the Democratic Party are *inherently* unchristian. I am finding, for example, that I have a lot in common with the Christians of Hungary and Romania. That’s odd considering my views are supposed to be merely American. But I have next to *nothing* in common which Christians who support the policies of the Democratic Party. This I *refuse* to give up just to refute the nonsense I laid out in the list I gave above, because it amounts to an abandoning of the faith. Indeed, this is where Shenvi is right to notice a broadening from just the silly teachings I mentioned above. It may, sadly, be that this broadening is trying to connect orthodox Christian values with much of the stupidity people have come up with in the name of upholding “male headship.” Yes, I *completely* oppose that!

I like to think of it this way. If you have a rat infestation, you usually call an exterminator. You don’t burn down the house, even though that would likewise get rid of the rats. In the same way, if you have an infection, you go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. You don’t take cyanide. Yes, that will kill the infection…but it will kill your body too! So, when we talk about deconstruction, are we deconstructing the rat infestation or the house? Are we deconstructing the disease or the body of the person who has the disease? That is something that I never hear discussed. All I hear is talk of abuse and how they have discovered that there are unbiblical teachings they have imbibed. Okay, but what is the list of things you want to deconstruct? I’ve been open the things I think are exegetical nonsense above. What do you think is nonsense? Is it the full inerrancy of scripture? Is it the entire concept of hierarchy in any form? Because that amounts to burning down the house and taking cyanide. We simply can’t do it and be faithful to the scriptures. I say this as someone who cringes at the utterly immoral behavior of many in the Patriarchy/broad Complementarian camp, as well as someone who opposes the exegetical silliness I listed above: be careful to not let your anger and hurt at the behavior of idiots who hold these views cause you to associate that with Biblical values that are Divine truth. If you do that, you can end up going after things that are basic to the faith, and leaving the faith altogether. Let’s stand firm upon the *whole* of the inerrant and completely infallible God-breathed scriptures, abandon dangerous and pagan ideas like Critical Theory, and hammer the things I mention above Biblically and exegetically. Only then will we be able to remove the rat infestation and infection that has infiltrated the church!

Random Thoughts on the Exegetical World

There are often some little things that I want to write, but they wouldn’t even come close to filling up an entire article. Hence, I am starting a new series called Random Thoughts on the Exegetical World. Each installment will have quick little thoughts on various topics. So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Broad Complementarianism’s Abuse of 1 Timothy 2:12 Revisited– A while back, I posted an article in which I critiqued Broad Complementarianism’s misuse of 1 Timothy 2:12. One of the issues raised in that article was whether “teaching” and exercising authority” is a hendiadys. The way in which it is often presented is by asking the question, “Is ‘teaching and exercising authority’ one thing or two different things?” They will then argue that the evidence shows that they are two different things, and hence, the text cannot mean “teaching in an authoritative way.” Oh sure, they will acknowledge that there is a relationship between teaching and exercising authority, but will go on to say that they are two different things, and hence not meant to be understood in the light of each other.

I got to thinking…what is the assumption behind that argument? For Broad Complementarianism to be refuted, it seems that two things have to be true. “Teaching” and “exercising authority” must be both related and meant to be understood together. But notice how they phrase the question to argue their case: “Is it one thing or two different things?” The assumption seems to be that the only relationship in which two things are both related and understood in the light of each other is identity (being one thing rather than two things). However, that is downright ridiculous. The mind is capable of processing *several* relationships other than identity in which the two things are related and must be understood in the light of one another. Cause and effect is a big one. Cause and effect must be understood and interpreted together. And yet, are causes effects? Are effects causes? Nope. Preconditions is another big one. Van Til argued that God is the precondition for the intelligibility of the world. Is God the world? Is the world God? Nope. And yet, they must be understood together if you hope to make sense out of the world.

But, of course, conceptual framing is another big one. To borrow from George Lakoff’s example, menu must be understood in relation to a restaurant. But are menus restaurants? Are restaurants menus? No. Indeed, the whole point of a frame is that you have *different* members that the mind conceives of as *going* together. That gets interesting with a word like “order.” If we speak of it alongside restaurants, waiters, and chefs, an “order” is meant to be “an order of food.” But what if I put the word “order” in the frame that also includes sergeants, captains, barracks, tanks, officers, military, and guns. Now, the word “order” must mean something like, “A command given by a superior.” Notice, however, that, in both of these frames, an order is different from the other members of the frame. Are orders menus? No, they are two different things. Are orders waiters? No, they are two different things. Are orders sergeants? No, they are two different things. Are orders barracks? No, they are two different things. Here, not only are each of these things distinct, but the meaning of a word like “order” depends upon how it is understood in relation to the other members of the frame. That shouldn’t happen given the simplistic argument of Broad Complementarianism.

Since many the elements of the frame of office of elder are there in 1 Timothy 2:12 [worship (v.8), the regulation of worship in terms of purity and modesty (v.9), teaching (vrs. 11-12), exercising authority (v12), and dealing with false teaching (v.14)], and Paul is giving instructions to Timothy who *is* and elder on how to run the worship of the church, it seems only natural to interpret “teaching” and “exercising authority” in the light of each other, but still recognize that they are two different things.

Order of Creation – on a related note, many Broad Complementarians take the phrase “order of creation” to mean the *numerical* order of creation. In other words, they take Paul’s statement of fact that “Adam was created first, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13) to mean that Paul is asserting that what is created first has authority over what is created after it. Thus, since Adam was created first, he has authority over Eve. I won’t pretend that this is a good argument. The plants were created before man. Does that mean the plants have authority over humans? The qualifications they have to add to make the argument work take you far afield from the text, and to be honest, given the way in which these folks accuse me of “rambling,” maybe they should heed the advice of the old cliche which says, “Those in glass houses should not throw bricks.”

But is there not a more rational understanding of verse 13 to be found right there in the text of Genesis. What if, instead of making assumptions based upon our preconceived understanding of how the church should work, we looked at Genesis 1 and 2 and actually saw how *it* presents the relationship between things that are created at different times? When we do, we find that things created at different times are of different *kinds.* Light and land are created at different times, and light is not land. Plants are created at a different time than the atmosphere, and plants are not the atmosphere. In the same way, men and women are different. Is that not *highly* relevant to Paul’s argument against women holding the church office? If men and women are different *kinds* of creations, it might mean that both can serve as an elder, but you can’t just assume that (for example: although there are similarities between birds and fish, no one thinks you can put fish in the air or birds in the sea). Paul then goes on to prove that these differences are relevant to the church office by citing Genesis 3 and the deception of Eve (which is probably related to dealing with false teachers). Hence it is a two part argument:

1 Timothy 2:13 – men and women are different

1 Timothy 2:14 – those differences are relevant to the job of the elder, because they affect the elder’s ability to deal with false teaching.

This means two things. First, the idea that Narrow Complementarianism is functional Egalitarianism is fully refuted. To assume those kinds of differences between men and women is a full repudiation of egalitarianism. But, politics aside, the other important point is that the clincher of Paul’s argument is verse 14, not verse 13. Paul sees the differences between men and women in verse 13 as related to what happened in the fall. Basically, he is saying that, given the differences between men and women, to ordain a woman as the elder in a church is to put her and the church in severe danger of Satanic deception. This, of course, has nothing to do with the idiotic idea that women are more gullible than men. Again, it relates back to the church office and dealing with false teaching in the context of the church office. It is the differences between men and women in *this* context that puts the church in danger of deception.

Wokeism is Deadly – A friend of mine from seminary who promotes the leftist myth of systemic racism posted this disturbing meme in which compares black people to crabs fighting to get out of a bowl, even to the point of pulling other crabs down. Then it says that these crabs don’t behave that way in a natural context, but they have been put in this unnatural “system” of a bowl. Then it goes on to say that we dare not blame the crabs for someone putting them in this system.

It was quite disturbing. The obvious question is, “What if those crabs decide to shoot up a white church?” So I reposted it on my timeline, and asked that very question to point out how creepy this whole line of reasoning is. My friend responded with the question, “Well, should the British have stopped the American Revolution?” I was stunned. Here is a friend of mine *from seminary* justifying violent revolution based on disparities by comparing it to the American Revolution. A side problem is obviously that the American revolution was not individuals engaging in violent revolution because they didn’t like disparities (something that is the norm), but a lower *magistrate* declaring war on a *higher* magistrate. But the *big* problem is the justification of violence from this movement. Just today, I saw a video of a group that supports Critical Race Theory calling for the death of all those that oppose. The other day, I saw a video of a teacher calling for the death of those that oppose CRT.

This is evil stuff. This notion of killing others because they belong to an allegedly exploitative group reminds me of the Kulaks in Ukraine who were murdered in cold blood by the Russian Communists simply because they made more money than everyone else due to the dependence of the Ukrainian people on their farming. Not only were the Kulaks sent to Siberia where they were murdered, but the Ukrainians had no idea how to work the land. As a result, millions of Ukrainians died of starvation due to famine. In this fascinating interview with Jordan Peterson, Yenomi Park talks about how her family was always on the brink of starvation because she was the ancestor of a land owner. How is that relevant? Being the ancestor of a land owner automatically put her in a low class, and hence, she gets almost no food.

You would think that once a system is shown to justify murder, it would be rejected. But, because of the victim card, they believe they are doing the *right thing* by murdering these people in white churches. When you believe your murder is morally justified because you are making the world a better place, you have quite literally sunk to the level of Hitler, as Hitler thought he was doing the world a favor by exterminating all the “inferior” races. But, that is what happens when value judgements are separated rationally from the way we think in math, science, or any other intellectual discipline. It is a natural bifurcation of the secular mind that I first learned of from Francis Schaeffer. But, in this case, it is a splitting of the field of knowledge that is deadly.

The Anti-Intellectualism of “Biblical” Manhood and Wokeism – The other day on Twitter I made the observation that it seems like Wokeism and Broad Complementarianism are cut from the same cloth. I had one of their proponents come after me thinking that I haven’t heard their rhetoric before, and all he really did is prove my point. And then, he simply ended the conversation by “You’re rambling, Adam.” I have had more than one intellectual do this. They think that I have never heard their argument before, and when I refute it, what I say is dismissed as “rambling.” Of course, they would all have a cow if people just dismissed Owen Strachan’s new book as “rambling” and refused to engage it. The reason they behave like this is that intellectuals think they have the power to define what is valid and what is not. They think they have the power to define what is “rational” and what is not, even to the point of dismissing and refusing to examine facts about language and linguistics.

I guess I should have realized this given the philosophy of Naive Realism that lies behind their hermeneutics, but Broad Complementarianism is an *anti*-intellectual position, just like wokeism. The concern isn’t for truth but for aggression. Just as the woke on college campuses use victimhood to dismiss facts, so the countercultural manhood advocates use aggression to dismiss facts. That is why the debate is often framed in terms of “hard” vs “soft” complementarianism. See, it is real easy to present snarky insults on Twitter in 280 characters. When you actually start engaging in linguistic analysis that requires more than two sentences, the aggression is taken away, and reason must be engaged. You have to do research and ask questions to both understand what an individual is saying and to apply it properly to the current situation. But the issue when it comes to Broad Complementarianism is a vision both of what manhood should look like and what polity should look like, and they make assumptions about the Biblical text based on this vision, and dismiss as “rambling,” “irrational,” and “thinking with your emotions” anything that doesn’t match their vision of reality. It just isn’t aggressive enough for them. Indeed, one can see the ghost of Søren Kierkegaard in this line of thinking. What is important isn’t truth but commitment. You need to take a blind leap of faith that these ideals of manhood and Broad Complementarianism are true, and be committed. The name of the game is to care about being aggressive for our ideals of manhood…and truth gets thrown down the rat hole.

Fear also plays a role. Just as the left wants to control your life by making you afraid of a virus, so these folks want to control your life by making you afraid of government tyranny. I mean, hey, they will tell you that society will collapse if “men don’t start being men.” Even this idea that Narrow Complementarianism is just functional Egalitarianism is, again, fear mongering. Never mind that these same intellectuals said the same thing about eternal functional subordination, arguing that a denial of EFS leads to the breakdown of the distinctions between men and women. And, of course, the idea that we should fear God, that He is in control, and that the fruit of the Holy Spirit is the *peace* that he gives even in times of danger is likewise thrown down the rathole. It has to be if you are going to get people accept your ideas about Broad Complementarianism without question.

Two other things exacerbate this problem, and that is the assumption that reason can be reduced down to logic, and the lack of understanding of the relationship between knowledge and decisions. Logic is important, but it is insufficient to describe how the world works. First of all, you need to premises to put into the logical forms. Propositions are usually represented by letters like A and B when you study logic, but what those propositions are is not stated. So how do we know a proposition is true so we can put it into the form? In addition, there isn’t any way to evaluate the truthfulness of the relationship between those propositions as expressed in the premises. All of these things require you to bring in methods outside of the laws of logic such as scripture and empirical observation.

It is a failure to make these kind of distinctions that leads to statements like “that painting has a headache” being called “illogical” by intellectuals, even though there is nothing illogical about it. To show that it isn’t illogical ask yourself the question: What is being affirmed and denied in that statement? Nothing. Indeed, we can think of possible worlds, such as what you find in a horror movie, in which a painting might take on the characteristics of a human and be able to speak and tell you that it has a headache. Now, is the statement “the painting has a headache” wrong? Yes. But it is wrong because it is a conceptual anomaly, not because it is illogical. You see, reality has several relationships that our minds must process that are beyond simple logical forms. Mathematical relationships of probability, the nature of an individual and what they are likely to do in a given situation, conceptual frames, and many others are simply not matters of the laws of logic. That is not to say that they are *illogical.* It is just to say that logic can’t fully capture them because they are matters of relationships like categorization that are not issues of both affirming and denying something. That is why saying something is a “category error” without going on to prove it from scripture or some other means is nothing more than begging the question. How things are arranged in categories and what relationships exist between the members of those categories is the heart of a worldview…including the worldview of scripture, and hence, such relationships must be *proven* not *assumed.*

If you combine a complete blindness to these realities with Naive Realism, then the relationships of your social vision are going to be taken as a given when you approach the text of scripture. Such relationships must simply be assumed rather than argued, and any opposition dismissed as “illogical.” That is why anyone who tries to show that those relationships are *not* what scripture is presented with be dismissed as presenting “illogical rambling.” But there is another problem. Knowledge of linguistic meaning has *exploded* since the days of James Barr and Moises Silva, and most theologians have barely had time to keep up. But it isn’t just linguistic knowledge that has exploded. It is knowledge of the history, archaeology, culture, and backgrounds of scripture that has exploded. That is why it takes hard work to come to the meaning of scripture, and most people would rather just make naive assumptions based upon their vision of manhood and womanhood because the mindset is that we have a culture to save, and the only way we will save the culture is if we fight aggressively, and this kind of intellectual rigor isn’t aggressive. This creates a disconnect between what Thomas Sowell calls “Knowledge and Decisions.” It is extremely problematic, especially given the power of intellectuals to influence public opinion. That is why this good old boys network of intellectuals on both the left and right needs to be destroyed, and the power they have needs to be given back into the hands of the local church governing of the basis of scripture which is where it belongs in the first place.

Now, you might be saying, “But wokeism does the same thing, all in the name of ending ‘systemic oppression.’” I agree. But that make wokeism and “Biblical” manhood *anti*-intellectual movements. A better question to ask is how this happened that both left and right in the church have become so anti-intellectual? Certainly politics put pressure on an already bad situation, but I think Francis Schaeffer is right that this concept of the New Super Spirituality has played a role. Schaeffer understands Super Spirituality to mean that experience is the essence of spirituality, and to be truly spiritual means being stupid. In other words, reason is the antithesis of spirituality, and experience is the essence of true spirituality. Sadly, that is the case even in obedience to God’s commandments where the mere *experience* of obedience to God’s commandments is more important than how those commandments *relate* to entire the ideology and value system of scripture. Another example I can point to is also the *experience* of being involved in a community and tradition like the “Reformed” community and tradition, without concern for continuing to reform our communities and traditions according to scripture. When political and social pressure push on this experience based religion, there is nothing to hold it together. Hence, an elite must be formed to control the experience, and decide which experiences are legitimate and which are not: who is being obedient and who is not. Who is really “Reformed” and who is not. Indeed, I distrust CBMW, G3, and their good old boys network *every bit* as much as I distrust Biden, Harris, and the leftist politicians in office right now, including those in the church who are doing their bidding by promoting the myth of “Systemic Racism.” Yes, I agree with the former *far more* than that latter. But the problem with both sides is exactly what Francis Schaeffer warned about: a religion based on experience must eventually give way to an elite of intellectuals who use that experience to control and manipulate. And it is *that* kind of behavior that must be opposed.

Mass Nouns, Count Nouns, and John 1:1c: A Cognitive and Pragmatic approach

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

Perhaps the most iconic saying in *all* of the apostle John’s simple, yet profound words about our Savior. Indeed, the gospel of John is a deeply Trinitarian book, saturated with the thought of the Council of Constantinople. And yet, with the resurgence of anti-Trinitarianism in the 19th century, the gospel of John [so rich in deep Trinitarian theology that liberals thought that it must have come from the late second century], has been mangled and tortured to try to fit into an anti-Trinitarian framework. Indeed, cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, have argued that this book actually *denies* the Trinity. While it sounds crazy and quite absurd to say that the gospel of John denies the Trinity, there are all kinds of arguments sprinkled all over the internet arguing this with all kinds of technical linguistic jargon. However, often it requires nothing more than a little digging beneath the surface to see that all of this technical talk is extremely ersatz, and the anti-Trinitarians haven’t taken the time to actually study Syntax, Semantics, Pragmatics, or related disiplines like Psycholinguistics, Cognitive Linguistics, or Neurolinguistics.

Such is the case with John 1:1c. If you are not familiar with the background of this discussion, When the New World Translation [the “translation” used by Jehovah’s Witnesses] was made, they had to get around the clear testimony to the Deity of Christ found *in the very first verse* of John’s gospel. They translated it as “the word was a god” arguing that θεος in this clause doesn’t have the article, and thus should be translated as indefinite [και θεος ην ο λογος]. That argument is pretty easily dismissed. In this kind of construction, the article is used to distinguish between the subject and the predicate nominative. That is, the article is used to mark the subject. Here is a funny video with two fictitious Irish peasants named Donnell and Connell explaining this to two Jehovah’s Witnesses:

[I think it is hilarious anyway! Especially Corey Booker as Spartacus, LOL!]

But that isn’t where the discussion ends. Before continuing, I should mention that one of the annoyances I have with New Testament scholars is that the field of New Testament Studies has been heavily influenced by formalist schools of linguistics. Of course, I have been heavily influenced by pragmatics as well as the cognitive school, and hence, I find most of this ridiculously pedantic. In New Testament scholarship, you will usually find scholars looking at millions of constructions only to find that there are six possible meanings for a construction, and the answer to what meaning should be applied to the text you are studying is the ambiguous “context.” That has caused never ending problems in regards to the issues we are about to discuss. But more on that later.

Most of the discussion of John 1:1c has centered on the fact that this is what is often called a Colwell construction after Ernest Cadman Colwell, the famous New Testament scholar at the University of Chicago in the early 20th century. His doctoral dissertation was on Aramaisms in John’s Gospel with parallels to Epictetus and the papyri. It was in response to Torrey that his famous paper A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament was written. It was was based on the construction PNa V[cop] Sub[def] (PNa=anartharous Predicate Nominative V[cop]=copulative verb Sub[def]=Subject with the definite article). Torrey argued that this construction reflected the Semitic influence, but Colwell disagreed arguing that it was part of more general New Testament usage. To quote Donald Hartley:

Colwell’s study began, according to his article, in response to Torrey who claimed that certain nouns, three of which were precopulative PNs, were anarthrous in John due to Semitic influence (1:49; 5:27; 9:5).7 So in part, Colwell wanted to dispel this notion in favor of a view that understood this phenomenon as part of NT usage rather than Semitic influence. It was the result of studying these passages that Colwell arrived at his rule(s) regarding the usual omission of the article in the pre-copulative PN construction.

He began with John 1:49 where both a post-copulative articular construction and a pre-copulative anarthrous construction were used with apparent semantic equivalence, i.e., with definiteness. Contextually the verse is the affirmation of Nathaniel to Jesus in response to the latter’s ability to supernaturally see him under a fig tree. Nathaniel exclaims, ραββι, συ ει ο υιος του θεου, συ βασιλευς ει του ισραηλ.(1:49b). Colwell asked himself, “What reason is there for this difference” [i.e., semantical, grammatical or syntactical between the two PN constructions in συ ει υιος του θεου and συ βασιλευς ει του ισραηλ? When the passage is scrutinized, it appears at once that the variable quantum is not definiteness but word-order.”8 Therefore, according to Colwell, “It seems probable that the article is used with ‘Son of God’ because it follows the verb, and it is not used with ‘King of Israel’ because it precedes the verb.”9 Confining himself to instances where the copula was expressed he states a rule: “A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb.”10

From this initial observation he then follows with several points of validation and ends with his classic statement of his rule, “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.”11 Thus by assuming semantic equivalence (definiteness), Colwell shifted the focus on structure as determinate of the syntactic and grammatical difference—i.e., why in a post-copulative construction it is articular, and why in a pre-copulative construct it is anarthrous. The grammatical shift regards articularity or lack thereof, while syntactic refers to pre or post copulative occurrence[1].

Again, as someone who has been heavily influenced by the cognitive school, my skin is crawling right now at the extreme formalism of this position. But, the point is quite simple. Thus, if the predicate nominative comes after the copulative verb, it is likely to have the article. If it comes before the verb, it is likely to lack the article. He gives the following statistics to support his conclusion:

I. Definite Predicate Nouns with Article . . . . . . . . . 244

  • A. After Verb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .229 = 94%
  • B. Before Verb. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 = 6%

II. Definite Predicate Nouns without the Article . . . . . .123

  • A. After Verb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .26 = 21%
  • B. Before Verb. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .97 = 79%

I. Definite Predicates after the Verb . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 255

  • A. With the Article . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .299 = 90%
  • B. Without the Article. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 = 10%

II. Definite Predicates before the Verb . . . . . . . . . . . . .112

  • A. With the Article . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 = 13%
  • B. Without the Article. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 = 87%[2]

His conclusion in relation to John 1:1c is:

A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a “qualitative” noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun in spite of the absence of the article. In the case of a predicate noun which follows the verb the reverse is true; the absence of the article in this position is a much more reliable indication that the noun is indefinite. Loosely speaking, this study may be said to have increased the definiteness of a predicate noun before the verb without the article, and to have decreased the definiteness of a predicate noun after the verb without the article[3].

There is so much wrong with this it is hard to know where to begin. First of all, why would you have two constructions: one with the article after the copula and one with the article before the copula? You could argue that the change in word order is due to maintaining topic or focus. Indeed, changes in word order, especially the use of the passive voice, are quite commonly used for maintaining focus upon a topic. However, this is usually accomplished with the topic being *introduced* by an *indefinite* noun, and being *continued* with *definite* nouns. How is that going to work if the changing of syntax to maintain focus must always involve indefinite nouns? Furthermore, he says that pre-verbal predicate nominatives can be translated as definite if the context so indicates. However, again, how does he know *when* the context so indicates? His only argument is to run off to John 20:28, but the problem is that the reader of John 1:1 will not get to that verse for quite some time. Is the meaning of John 1:1c a total mystery until the reader gets to chapter 20? These are the general criticisms I would make as someone who has been influenced by both cognitive and pragmatic approaches to linguistics.

But even in the field of New Testament scholarship itself, there have been serious criticisms of Colwell’s rule which I myself would agree with. Hartley notes two very serious ones[4]. The first one is, although he allows for the category of “qualitative” nouns, he somehow ignores that category in this investigation. Secondly, for some reason, he assumes that the meaning of a post verbal articular predicate nominative is the exact same as the meaning of an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative. But what is the basis of this assumption? In my mind, these are very serious errors, but they are the result of thinking that language begins with forms rather than beginning with meaning and cognition. Meaning comes *first* in language, and forms come after, and all forms must be understood in the light of meaning and not the other way around.

One other issue worth noting is the abuse of Colwell’s rule that you see in many counter-cult ministries. Now, thank God for counter-cult ministries! They have been used of God to lead many people out of Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cultic groups. But, they have often misunderstood Colwell’s rule as saying that anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are usually definite. But this is a mistake. Thus, if you see a pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominative, it must mean that it is likely to be definite. But that isn’t even the Colwell himself put the rule. Plus, one must consider other contextual factors, such as moving nouns to the beginning of a sentence to indicate a change in topic and other pragmatic features [and other rules of Koine Greek grammar]. Indeed Phillip Harner’s subsequent study demonstrated that the usual meaning of pre-verbal predicate nominatives is actually “qualitative[5].” Furthermore, saying that θεος is definite here basically makes “God” and “the word” interchangeable. Since the definite “God” in the context is clearly the Father [και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον in 1:1b], John would now be saying that the Father and the Son are interchangeable [which is rather odd since John contradicts this idea when he has Jesus praying *to* the Father!]. Hence, to limit your choices to definite or indefinite is to create a false dilemma between Arianism and Sabellianism[6]. Thus, it seems like the option of “qualitative” fits the best theologically, and is the most statistically likely.

So, what do New Testament scholars mean by a “qualitative” meaning? Well, it seems to me that they are meaning to say that there is a relationship of qualities between two nouns A and B where A shares all of the qualities of B. For example, one of the most often cited examples of a qualitative noun is in 1 John 4:8: Ο θεος αγαπη εστιν [God is love][7]. What they are saying is that all of the qualities of love are to be found in God[8]. Applying this to John 1:1c, it means that all of the qualities of God are to be found in the word. Wallace suggests that a good translation would be something like “The word was divine” emphasizing that their essence is identical[9].

However, Wallace himself is forced to admit that this construction can bear three meanings: definite, indefinite, and qualitative. And this, combined with the formalism if his approach to language, opens to up the door to a criticism based upon the assumption [that I would reject] that form is basic to language rather than forms being a product of human cognition. What Jehovah’s Witnesses have argued is that θεος is a count noun, and as such, must be either definite or indefinite. Andries Van Niekerk summarizes this argument:

A count noun is anything that can be counted, such as cats.  The opposite is called mass nouns, namely things that cannot be counted, such as courage.  Since gods can be counted, “god” (and THEOS) are count nouns.

The JW “position is that THEOS must always be a count noun.”  Hartley agrees: THEOS is a count noun because it can be both indefinite and plural, regardless of its context or understood “meaning.” 

The important point, for the discussion of the translation of 1:1c, is that “a countable noun always takes either the indefinite (a, an) or definite (the) article when it is singular,” for example “a cat” or “a category.”  Mass nouns, on the other hand, cannot be used with the articles.  One would not say ‘the courage’ or ‘a water’.  (Count and Noncount Nouns 1988, Purdue Online Writing Lab).

The reader will realize where the JW argument is heading, namely:

(1) If THEOS is a count noun, and if count nouns always always takes either the indefinite or definite article, then 1:1c cannot be translated “the Word was God.” 
(2) Since the LOGOS is “with” THE THEOS (1:1b), He cannot himself also be THE THEOS.  John 1:1c, therefore, cannot be translated “the god.”
(3) We need to distinguish between the HO THEOS of 1:1b and the anarthrous (without the article) THEOS of 1:1c.  John 1:1c must therefore read “the Word was a god.[10]”

The Jehovah’s Witness thinks this argument puts the orthodox Christian in a bind. If qualitative is ruled out by the fact that θεος is a count noun, then your only options are Arianism [the position of Jehovah’s Witnesses] or Sabellianism. In essence, it is “pick your heresy,” but, in this case, with the only option being to leave orthodox Christianity. In fact, this argument is often framed as “θεος is a noun, not an adjective.” Consider this exchange between James White and Greg Stafford:

Greg Stafford. Dr. White, where in the Bible can we find any articulation or use of the terms for God that suggest any of the terms meaning anything other than a definite or indefinite sense when applied to an individual? For example, in your book, “The Forgotten Trinity,” page 55, you discuss indefinite qualitative sense for theos in John 1:1 and you give translations for each. Where is it that we can find any use of theos or the terms for God in Scripture that suggest any other meaning than an indefinite or an indefinite sense when implied to an individual?

Dr. James White. Well, I think, obviously I believe John 1:1 does that because of the context which is provided and the context of the absolute monotheism of the writers of the New Testament so that certainly the Holy Spirit can address the reality that someone is divine or is deity as to their nature, otherwise we say that the language cannot express such a concept whatsoever. I think theotetos at Colossians 2:9 would likewise be descriptive in that way of that which makes God God in regards to Christ.

Greg Stafford. Well, theotetos certainly can do that but being an abstract noun, its nature is to do just that. Since we’re talking about a singular countdown in John 1:1, how is it that we can disassociate an indefinite or definite sense from a noun?

Dr. James White. Again, by the context in which it is found. Now I know that you don’t agree with the context and I’m not sure if what you were saying about theoteos was supposed to be taken as a question, I didn’t get a chance to answer that, but in John 1:1, I know we disagree on the context, you don’t believe that this has anything to do with an eternal relationship that exists between the Father and the Son, but I believe that it does. Ibelieve that the use of the imperfect of eimi there, the fact that this is a description of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and I also do not remove John 1:1 from the prologue. I believe that it needs to be interpreted in all 18 verses of the gospel of John, and when I look at verse 18, it bears out that very understanding of theos describing the logos at John 1:1c.

Greg Stafford. Is there any other example in Scripture you can point to that would show us that this term “theos” or any term from “theos” has a similar meaning or is this the only example you have?

Dr. James White. Well, the only example that I know of of a discussion of the relationship of the Father and the Son in eternity is John 1:1, Philippians 2, and there you have the phrase which I think you would…at least agreed in your “Three Dissertations” book that this was referring to an equality between the Father and Son, though we disagree on the nature of what that equality is. Probably Hebrews 1 would also be the same thing but the term “theos” is only used in John 1:1 in that way as far as this eternal relationship. I’m sorry, I’ll take that back, and John 17. Those would be the passages. But in each one of those, only John 1:1 is using the term in that way.

Greg Stafford. But again, I don’t understand how does the context change the grammar? We’re talking about a noun. It doesn’t use theotetos or other terms, it says the word was theos. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with ha theos, and the Word was theos.” So we’re dealing with a noun. How is it that this noun does not have a definite, that is, an identity, or indefinite, that is, a categorization, of the individual to whom it is applied?

Dr. James White. I don’t think that there is any question, again, and this is where I think we have demonstrated very clearly a fundamental foundational exegetical difference. I interpret John 1:1 in the context of the monotheistic Jew who wrote it and, hence, in the context in which he wrote it, the idea of these multiple ontological separate gods is not a part and parcel of what he believes, especially in light of the parallel to 1:1 and 1:18. Andso to, in essence, what you’re asking is cannot the language express this? And I say, yes, it can express it and does express it in light of John’s own explanation which he goes on to give us in verses 2 through 3 and all the way through the rest of the prologue. He doesn’t stop there. That word “theos” is not the end of the discussion in John 1:1. It goes on to 1:2, 1:3, ascribes creation to him, etc. etc.

Greg Stafford. Okay, but wouldn’t those all be appropriate to one who is identified as God definitely as well?Dr. James White. You mean as a god or as the….?Greg Stafford. No, the God.Dr. James White. I don’t understand your question.

Greg Stafford. Wouldn’t it be appropriate to have all of these things you referred to in the context apply to one who is the God, God identified definitely?

Dr. James White. You mean….well, the problem is John differentiates between the logos who became flesh and the theos that the logos reveals and, hence, John then explains to us this is the role of the incarnate Son Jesus Christ in revealing the Father. And so it’s properly applied to him, most certainly, but it’s done so in a way that differentiates him from the Father who is not the Father…

Greg Stafford. I understand that but would it be appropriate to…contextually you’re using all of this theology and monotheistic inference to explain the meaning of the term, why couldn’t that be appropriate for one who is identified definitely as God? Why do you, why can’t it be one who is definitely God? Why does it have to be qualitative?

Dr. James White. Well, I don’t know what you’re, what your point is. The point of being that John himself makes the differentiation between the two divine persons in the prologue.

Greg Stafford. That’s not my point, though. Let me redirect the attention of the question. The word is called “theos.” We have three grammatical categories, definite, indefinite, qualitative. You select qualitative. Why?

Dr. James White. Again, because of the entire context. When it says, we have just been told that the Word is eternal, we are then told that there is a relationship that exists between the Logos and theon, and so 1c is not going to then contradict 1b, and in light of the explanation of the passage in verses 2 and 3, verse 14 and verse 18, you say I’m using a lot of theology here, I think it’s John that’s using the theology here. I think that’s where the theology is coming from.

Greg Stafford. I don’t have a problem with the theology but when you’re using the theology to take a noun and change it from a noun to a descriptive phrase like theotetos. For example, you said the Word was with God, ton theon. Are all these contextual references and theology appropriate to ton theon as well?

Notice, how, in the Stafford’s final statement, he seems to be suggesting that there is a distinction between a noun and a descriptive phrase or an adjective. Also, note how Stafford’s question “How does the context change the grammar?” is also quite revealing. Again, I realize Stafford is debating Dr. White who has specifically mentioned books like Biblical Words and their Meanings by Moises Silva, so I know he has been heavily influenced by formalist approaches to language. But, as someone influenced by both the cognitive school and the discipline of pragmatics, I can only read those things and shake my head. The idea is that nouns and descriptions are mutually exclusive because nouns are things, and that mass noun and count noun are fixed categories that cannot be changed and must always have the exact same meaning in every context. Now that we have this background, let’s return to the helpful summary of this argument posted by Niekerk:

1) If THEOS is a count noun, and if count nouns always always takes either the indefinite or definite article, then 1:1c cannot be translated “the Word was God.” 
(2) Since the LOGOS is “with” THE THEOS (1:1b), He cannot himself also be THE THEOS.  John 1:1c, therefore, cannot be translated “the god.”
(3) We need to distinguish between the HO THEOS of 1:1b and the anarthrous (without the article) THEOS of 1:1c.  John 1:1c must therefore read “the Word was a god.”

But there appear to be other assumptions that are at play here. Let us also add:

1A) The cognitive school’s concept of fuzzy categories is totally wrong.

1a) Therefore, nouns and, say, adjectives are closed categories of grammar. Nouns are persons, places, things, or ideas, and adjectives describe things, and…

1b)mass nouns and count nouns are closed grammatical categories, and, if something is a count noun, it can never have the properties of a mass noun and vice versa.

1) If THEOS is a count noun, and if count nouns always always takes either the indefinite or definite article, then 1:1c cannot be translated “the Word was God.” 
(2) Since the LOGOS is “with” THE THEOS (1:1b), He cannot himself also be THE THEOS.  John 1:1c, therefore, cannot be translated “the god.”
(3) We need to distinguish between the HO THEOS of 1:1b and the anarthrous (without the article) THEOS of 1:1c.  John 1:1c must therefore read “the Word was a god.”

1A, 1a, and 1b seem to be the only way to make the rest of the argument work. If the cognitive school is right about the fuziness of categories, then the whole argument collapses, because the context can affect categories like nouns and adjectives and even mass nouns and count nouns. That is because the entire concept of mass and count are based on *cognitive* categories, and are *not* a matter of linguistic forms, at which point this hard separation between mass nouns and count nouns collapses, and the qualitative sense is clearly allowed in John 1:1c. It is 1A, 1a, 1b, and 1 that I wish to challenge.

Challenging 1A and 1a:

First, what do cognitive linguists mean when they speak of fuzzy categories? It is somewhat of a misnomer in that how you categorize things isn’t necessarily fuzzy. What is fuzzy is the *boundaries* of categories. The idea is that categorization isn’t a matter of necessary and sufficient conditions as Aristotle thought. Some members are considered extremely central to categories while others are considered more peripheral. Consider this example Evans uses to illustrate this point[12]:

All of these objects could be legitimately called a cup. And yet, some have handles, and some do not. Some, like e, could be called a cup, or you could even put soup in it and call it a bowl. The question is: where does the category of cup end and the category of bowl begin? And yet, there are examples, such as a and b, that are central to the category and the mind will immediately categorize as a cup. So, any member of a category can be a good example of a category or a bad example of a category, and even though two things might be a good example of a category, one might be a better example than the other. Consider the category “bird.” Most people consider birds to be a small animal with feathers, a beak, skinny legs, and claws that flies in the air. Now, is an ostrich a bird? Is a penguin a bird? You may have had to think about it a second, but you probably came up with the answer that it *is,* indeed, a bird. That is because, although the cardinal, the ostrich, and the penguin are all good examples of birds, the cardinal is a better example than the latter two because it matches an exemplar better. Thus, there is a kind of family resemblance if you will, but no necessary and sufficient conditions for categorization as Aristotle thought.

How is this relevant? Remember, in the cognitive school, meaning comes first and is specifically related to the operations of the mind. Therefore, given how the mind categorizes things, one must say that *linguistic* categories likewise exhibit this fuzziness at the boundaries. As Vyvyan Evans states:

However, fuzziness and family resemblance are not just features that apply to physical objects like cups; these features apply to linguistic categories like morphemes and words too. Moreover, category-structuring principles of this kind are not restricted to specific kinds of linguistic knowledge but apply across the board. In other words, linguistic categories – whether they relate to phonology, syntax, or morphology – all appear to exhibit these phenomena. Formal approaches to linguistics have tended towards the view that a particular category exhibits uniform behavior which characterizes the category. As we will see, however, linguistic categories, despite being related, often do not behave in a uniform way. Instead, they reveal themselves to have members that exhibit quite divergent behavior. In this sense, linguistic categories exhibit fuzziness and family resemblance[13].

One of the categories Evans specifically mentions as exhibiting this fuzziness and family resemblance is the category of parts of speech. He says:

However, when we examine the grammatical behavior of nouns and verbs, there is often significant variation in the nature of the grammatical ‘rules’ they observe. This suggests that the categories ‘noun’ and ‘verb’ are not homogenous, but instead that certain nouns are ‘nounier’ or ‘verbier’ – and hence more representative – than others. In this sense, parts of speech constitute fuzzy categories[14].

The examples he gives are the nominalization of verbs. For example, one can speak of someone “loving music,” but you can also speak of that person as a “lover of music.” However, while one can say someone knows a fact, it is awkward to speak of them as a knower of a fact. In the same way, some nouns can experience double raising while other nouns cannot[15]. This brings up a well known problem in the categorization of parts of speech. Is the word “window” a noun? Most people will says yes, and cite examples like “The window is open” here functioning as the subject of the sentence. However, why do you then have examples such as a “window sill” or a “window pane?” Here it appears to be an adjective. So which is it? Remember back to the example of the bowl and the cup. Was example e a bowl or a cup? Well, it depends. It could be a cup, but it is not a good example of a cup. In the same way, “window” can be an adjective, but it is not a good example of an adjective. However, not all nouns exhibit this phenomenon. Consider the word “lover” we mentioned above. Is there such a thing as a “lover song?” No, that doesn’t make any sense. Hence, it is likely that the word “lover” is much ‘nounier’ than the word “window,” although they both are clearly very good examples of nouns. One more important point needs to be made before we go on and apply this to the argument that our Jehovah’s Witness friends have brought up, I must stress that the reason for this lack of centrality of categories is that it allows speakers to be flexible in how they relate things. Thus, you can describe a sill or a pane as related to a window, and not just say that an object is sitting on the sill. Thus, using nouns as adjectives allows for flexibility of expression and description.

However, this fact about nouns contradicts 1A as well as 1a above. Stafford’s complaint about using a noun as a “descriptive phrase” can readily be seen to not appreciate words like “window” and its relation to other nouns like “lover.” But what about the noun “God?” Well, the atheism/theism debate gives us a perfect example of this with Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion or Steven C Meyer’s book The God Hypothesis. Hence, the idea that θεος is a noun and cannot be descriptive is simply a false assumption about the uniformity of the category of noun.

That should make our Jehovah’s Witness friends feel a little uncomfortable, because, what if mass nouns and count nouns exhibit the same characteristics? In other words, there is a sliding scale, and some words are more mass than count and others more count than mass? As it turns out, this is the case. It has to do with the way in which we perceive these things in the natural world. But, before I get to that, I have to clean up some of the definitions of mass and count nouns I have seen in the literature on John 1:1. Mass and count have to do with the categories of boundedness and internal structure. Boundedness refers to whether or not something has definite shape. If an item *does* have definite shape, then it is bounded [+b]. If it doesn’t have definite shape, then it is not bounded [-b]. Internal structure refers to whether something is in a series. So, for example, if I look on my table and I see multiple blueberries, I have a series of blueberries and the blueberries have internal structure [+i]. If I only see one blueberry, then I do not have a series of blueberries and the blueberry doesn’t have internal structure [-i]. The definition of the category of mass is that something is neither bounded nor does it have internal structure [-b][-i]. The definition of a count noun is a noun that is bounded [+b] but has no internal structure[-i][16]. That is not to say that a count noun can’t *gain* internal structure. It can do so when it is pluralized, in which case, it has both boundedness and internal structure[+b][+i]. Indeed, that seems to be the definition of a plural noun[17].

However, as can be readily seen, boundedness and internal structure are things that can either be perceived or not be perceived. The perception of each of these depends upon the way in which one is looking at something. Thus, these various combinations of boundedness and internal structure can be understood as what are called “image schemas.” And, given that you can look at something from multiple perspectives and perceive or not perceive certain features, it is entirely possible to describe something from different image schemas. George Lakoff gives the following illustration:

Imagine a herd of cows up close – close enough to [pick out the individual cows. Now, imagine yourself moving back until you can no longer pick out the individual cows. What you perceive is a mass. There is a point at which you cease making out individuals and start perceiving a mass[18].

This change of perspective between image schemas is called a “transformation.” What Lakoff has illustrated here is a special kind of transformation called “debounding.” Vyvyan Evans gives the following illustration involving the word “tomato:”

Count noun

a. I have a tomato.

b. I have tomato*

Mass Noun:

a. After my fall, there was tomato all over my face.

b. After my fall, there was a tomato all over my face[19].*

The something has happened here that shouldn’t happen according to the Jehovah’s Witness’ understanding of mass nouns and count nouns. If tomato is a count noun, then why does it function precisely like a mass noun in the second example? The answer is that it has undergone an image schema transformation, namely debounding. Now, instead of perceiving the tomato as a solid object sitting on the counter, you are perceiving it without any boundedness because it has been smashed on this poor individual’s face.

Indeed, the reverse is also possible. Take a word like mass noun like “water.” If you sit down at a restaurant, and they ask you what you and your party of three want to drink, you can say, “We’ll have three waters.” What has just happened? Well, the mass noun has gained internal structure because it has been put in containers [in this case, probably glasses] that gives it internal structure. But it has also gained boundedness as well. When you visit a person’s house, and they offer you a drink and tell you that they have soda, orange juice, and bottled water, it is perfectly fine to say, “I’ll have a water.” That is because the water has been given boundedness by the bottle. This is a transformation known as excerpting[20].

However, as you can imagine, there are certain mass nouns that cannot undergo these image schema transformations. For example, in our experience, we almost never see multiple jars of sand sitting together on a table with multiple glasses of water and are asked to chose whether we want a glass of water or a glass of sand. That is why sentences like “Give me three sands for my daughter” don’t make any sense. However, we do experience different *kinds* of sand quite frequently in pictures and in trips to the beach. Hence, it is entirely possible to speak of a sample of dirt and say that it contains “four sands.” These transformations, therefore, are based on experience, and, more precisely, how we experience things in reality.

Indeed, what this indicates to me is an interesting element of the psychology of anti-Trinitarianism. They don’t seem to want to speak of God in a debounded image schema. I think because, once you conceive of the nature of God in that way, it is easy to understand how Three Persons can share in that substance in that they just subsist. God must always be seen from a bounded sense, and that always in direct relation to the number of persons in God. If God is one person, there must also be one God. If God is two persons, it must mean there are two gods, and if God is three persons, it must mean there are three gods. The idea of a distinction between the substance of God in a debounded image schema and three subsistences in God is, therefore, ruled out presuppositionally. The objection may come that God isn’t a blob like tomato splattered all over someone’s face. There is *one* God! I agree. But, again, it is a matter of transformations. You can look at an individual watermelon, and see that there is one watermelon. But then you can move your face closer and closer to that watermelon until the bounds of that individual watermelon disappear from your sight, and all you see is unbounded watermelon in mass. There is one God, but that doesn’t mean we cannot talk about the substance of God and the relationship of the Three subsistences to that substance!

You might say, “That’s all well and good, but that doesn’t mean that is what is going on in John 1:1! What is your evidence that this is going on in John 1:1?” The answer may surprise you, given that I have been so influenced by the cognitive school of linguistics, but it is in the Colwell construction. Remember, the overwhelming number of Colwell constructions are qualitative. That should tell us something. The problem with the kind of radical formalism you find in much of New Testament scholarship is that it cannot account for exceptions. It has to look for “rules” that are universal. Indeed, as we have seen, the different ways in which the mind sees things make it almost impossible to come up with rules. Not saying that they don’t exist, but, if you are relying on rules to do exegesis, you will be sorely disappointed because they are *very* difficult to come by!

The answer to this impass lies in the discipline of linguistics called pragmatics. Pragmatics is the systematic study of meaning by virtue of, or dependent on, the use of language[21]. Now, it is well known that the cognitive school does not believe in a semantics/pragmatics distinction. That is true. However, that does not mean that they do not believe that language has a pragmatic aspect to it. There is such a thing as pragmatic meaning. It is just that it cannot be separated from semantics. I will not get into those issues here. Suffice it to say that the cognitive linguists are probably right due to problems such as Grice’s circle. However, that doesn’t mean that we throw our pragmatics textbooks out. It just means that we always have to keep semantics in mind when we study pragmatics, and that is why they are often studied together.

That raises an interesting question. What if the reasons for the exceptions to the qualitative meaning of a Colwell construction have to do with pragmatics? I think that is largely correct. The reason lies at the interface between syntax and pragmatics. What I am looking for here is not some hard and fast rule that is true all of the time, but the way in which the way we use our language interacts with syntactic constructions such as Colwell’s rule. The idea is that syntactic constructions are sensitive to these interactions, and are affected by these interactions in one way or another.

Specifically, I believe that the meaning of Colwell’s constructions involves the constraints on syntax due to Conversational Implicature. Conversational implicature was first proposed by the philosopher Paul Grice back in the 1970s. His main area of study was philosophy of language, and he tried to put together a theory of what he called non-natural meaning, which directly relates to his theory of conversational implicature. Take the following two conversational implicatures derived from this sentence (the “+>” means “conversationally implicates”):

The baby was hungry so he cried. The mother fed him.

+>The baby was hungry so he cried. The baby’s mother fed him.

+>The baby was hungry, so he cried, and because of that, the baby’s mother fed him.

As you can tell, no analysis of the forms of this sentence will ever give you the idea that it was the mother of the baby who cried that fed him. And, as you can equally tell, no analysis of the forms will tell you that it was because of the baby crying that the mother fed him. Grice would say that we derive this things from various things people assume when they communicate: in this case the maxims he says we follow that would be relevant to this example are the maxim of relevance [make sure that what you say is relevant to what has come before in the conversation] and the maxim of manner[avoid prolixity, and state what you have to say in as economic a way as possible][22].

The maxim that should have our attention is the maxim of manner. This maxim states:

Be perspicuous

i) Avoid obscurity of expression.

ii)Avoid Ambiguity

iii)Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity)

iv)Be orderly[23]

Specifically, I want to focus on iii. The requirement to be brief. This is why it is that you don’t have to say that it is the baby’s mother that fed the baby. Simply calling the child a baby and calling the person who fed the child the mother is enough to get the point across. Anything else just seems pedantic. However, you have to make sure you actually say enough to *get* your point across [what Grice called the principle of Quantity]. This creates a kind of upper bounding and lower bounding give and take that was picked up by Lawrence Horn. Horn argued that, in reality, we only follow two principles: a principle of [Q]uantity and a principle of [R]elation. Here is how he puts his two maxims:

a. The Q principle

  1. Make your contribution sufficient.
  2. Say as much as you can [given the R principle]

b.The R principle

  1. Make your contribution necessary.
  2. Say no more than you must (given the Q principle)

Another important development in Lawrence Horn’s revision of Grice is what is called the “Division of Pragmatic Labor:”

The use of a marked (relatively complex and/or prolix) expression when a corresponding unmarked (simpler, less ‘effortful’) alternate expression is available tends to be interpreted as conveying a marked message (one which the unmarked alternative would not convey)[24].

The final development, it seems to me based on this Division of Pragmatic Labor, came with Steven Levinson. Levinson noticed that Horn’s R principle is ambiguous. Does he mean that we are to say no more than we must in that we are to give no more information than we must? Or, does he mean that we are to say no more words than we must? Taking this latter interpretation of the R principle along with the Division of Pragmatic Labor, Levinson, building on the work of Grice and Horn, developed his M principle which, [as you may already be able to see], is where I am going in my analysis of Colwell’s rule. This principle states:

Speaker Maxim:

Indicate an abnormal, non-stereotypical situation by using marked expressions that contrast with those you would use to describe the corresponding normal, stereotypical situation.

Receipient Corollary:

What is said in an abnormal way indicates an abnormal situation, or marked messages indicate marked situations.


Where S has said P containing marked expression M, and there is an unmarked alternate expression U with the same denotation D which the speaker might have employed in the same sentence frame instead, then where U would have I-implicated the stereotypical or more specific subset d of D, the marked expression M will implicate the complement of d, namely d’ of D[25].

Given the philosophical jargon, an example might help at this point.

The timetable is reliable.

+>The timetable is reliable to degree n.

The timetable is not unreliable.

+>The timetable is reliable to degree less than n[26].

If we just say that the timetable is reliable, we mean that is reliable to some degree we consider reliable. If we use the double negative and say that it is not unreliable, that is an unusual way of saying it, and it means that while we don’t want to say that it is unreliable, we don’t want to say that it is reliable by our standards of reliability. The use of the more prolix double negative tells the speaker that we aren’t saying the timetable is unreliable, but we aren’t saying it raises to our concept of what it means to be reliable.

As you can probably tell, what I am going to argue is the following by the Levinsonian principle of Manner:

PNa V[cop] Sub[def] [a Colwell construction]

+>PNa is to be understood as qualitative

Now, you might be saying, that is a nice way of handling the Colwell construction, but as we have said, even though the majority of Colwell constructions have a qualitative meaning, there are three categories to chose from [qualitative, definite, and indefinite], so it is not universal. The solution to this impasse is that one of the features of conversational implicature is that it can be cancelled or defeated, but only under certain implicature constraints. For example, one of the things that constrains implicature is the immediate context. Implicatures will be cancelled if the resultant implicature is inconsistent with any semantic entaliments:

The timetable is not unreliable. Indeed, I think it is *very* reliable!

~+>The timetable is reliable to degree less than n.

Second, conversational implicature can be defeated by inconsistencies with our background assumptions. Imagine the following exchange:

Person 1: John thinks that atomic clock is unreliable! Lol!

Person 2: That clock is not unreliable.

~+>That clock is reliable to degree less than n

Here, the implicature is cancelled because of its inconsistency with our background knowledge that atomic clocks are the most accurate clocks known to man.

Thirdly, implicatures are cancelled when they run contrary to what the immediate linguistic context tells us. An example of that would be the following example of the maxim of Quantity. Ordinarily, a statement like “I’ve got eight euros” means that you *only* have eight euros and no more. However:

John: This CD is 8 euros, and I haven’t got any money on me.

Mary: Don’t worry, I’ve got 8 euros!

~+>Mary only has 8 euros[27].

Here, the context of *sufficient* funds needed to buy the CD is inconsistent with the conversational implicature which indicates the *extent* of funds.

So, when we look at the definite and indefinite uses of Colwell’s rule, do they follow the pattern of these exceptions. Clearly, they do. For example, take this definite example given by Dan Wallace followed by his own comments[28]:

Matthew 27:42

βασιλευς Ισραελ εστιν

He is the king of Israel.

It is plain that the PN cannot be anything but definite here, for there is only one king of Israel at a time[27].

In fact, Wallace has a footnote here with an interesting observation:

Still, it is to be observed that the PN has a genitive adjunct. What is most interesting about many of Colwell’s constructions is that those very PNs that are considered to be definite frequently have some feature (monadic noun, genitive modifier, proper name) that suggests definiteness independently of Colwell’s construction[29].

Notice, if we are right in saying that the qualitative meaning is a matter of the Levinsonian manner principle, then that is exactly what we should expect: namely, that the background assumptions would cancel out any notion of qualitativeness such as monadic nouns and proper names[30]. The point is that the qualitativeness only goes away when it is inconsistent with semantic entailments, context, and background assumptions about reality. Since definite qualitative and indefinite qualitative are ruled out by the context, and the simplistic, hard distinctions between mass and count nouns has been challenged, I see no reason to take θεος in John 1:1c as qualitative.

What it does show, though, is the danger of a linguistic methodology that considers form as basic to meaning. Again, I keep barking about this, but apparently I am a voice crying in the wilderness. When you consider form as the basic element of language, people can put whatever concepts they want behind those forms, especially given that the relationship between form and meaning is not one to one. I have quoted it before, but it bears repeating. This excellent illustration by Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner is a very good illustration as to why formalism in language is a bad idea:

These [formal] approaches could lead us to think that scientific knowledge is only a matter of finding deep hidden forms behind ostensible forms. On the other hand, common sense tells us that form is not substance: the blueprint is not the house, the recipe is not the dish, the computer simulation of weather does not rain on us. When Patroclos donned the armor of Achillies to battle the Trojans, what the Trojans first saw was the spectacular armor, and they naturally assumed it was Achillies, and were terrified, and so the armor by itself looked as if it was turning the battle. But it didn’t take long for the Trojans to discover that it was just Achillies’ armor, not Achillies himself, and then they had no pity. In our century, we often look at form the way the Trojans looked at the armor, and indeed, the armor is indispensable – without it, even Achillies would fail. The gods may put considerable effort into making superior armor for mortals, but they take the power of the warrior for granted. Clearly, the miracles accomplished by the armor depend on the warrior inside[31].

Why do you think it is that hard complementarians/patriarchalists are able to convince people of their interpretations that are decided merely on the basis of culturally based exegetical pragmatism? Why do you think it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are able to get away with this material about mass nouns and count nouns? It is because it is all based in form, and whether it is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society inducing fear of “Armageddon coming soon,” so you better be faithful to the “Faithful and Discreet slave,” or whether it is the Patriarchalists/hard complementarians keeping control of their followers by fear of government tyranny and societal collapse, it is this fear that allows them to put anything into the armor…whether it is really there or not. Folks, yes, verbal inspiration is important, but so is the God who wears that armor. If we don’t listen to *His* voice, our fears might be far worse than we could ever imagine. That is why my prayer is that we will seek the thought of *God* in the scriptures as he has communicated it to us, and view all the world, including our fears and problems, through *that* lens. But we first have to acknowledge that it is the God wearing the armor of scripture that is most essential to scripture. If we don’t come to scripture to encounter the mind of God, and instead, treat scripture as some kind of societal self-help book, we end up abusing it for our own purposes. Formal approaches to hermeneutics separate the mind of God who produced the text from the text itself, and that is a *very* dangerous move! It can be taken over by any kind of authoritarian group like a church that is out of control or a cult. I know that it is God who will protect the church from these dangers, but my prayer is that, by appealing to the church laity and the elders of local churches, we can make them aware of the problem. I realize this has not probably been the most enjoyable article you have ever read. But, my hope is, if you have followed the progression of thought found in this article to the end, you will have learned a valuable lesson about formal approaches to language, and the way they are abused by cults. That will at least make you aware of the way in which groups will try to lead you astray by their rhetoric and deceptive words.

[1]Hartley, Donald. Revisiting the Colwell Construction in Light of Mass/Count Nouns. Available at

[2]Hartley, Donald, ibid

[3]Hartley, Donald, ibid

[4]Hartley, Donald, ibid

[5]Hartley, Donald, ibid This will become important later when we discuss this construction in relation to conversational implicature.

[6]This will become important when we discuss the Jehovah’s Witness’ abuse of the concept of mass nouns and count nouns.

[7]Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, and Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament. Zondervan Publishing House. Grand Rapids, Michigan. 1996. p.264

[8]This raises an important question I will return to later on the relationship between nouns and adjectives. What I would propose is that qualitative nouns are an example of the difficulty in trying to argue for hard distinctions in categories between nouns and adjectives. It is evidence for what cognitive linguists call the “fuzziness” of the boundary between nouns and adjectives.

[9]Wallace, ibid p.269.

[10]Van Niekerk, Andries.Theos (God) is a Count Noun. Does that mean that John 1:1c must be translated “the Word was a god?” available at

[11]White, James R. Stafford, Greg. Is Jesus God or a god?. Alpha and Omega Ministries. Starting at 1:56:43. available at Transcript available at pgs.34-37

[12]Evans, Vyvyan. Cognitive Linguistics, an Introduction. Edinburgh University Press. Edinburgh, England. 2014. p.29.

[13]Evans, Vyvyan, ibid.

[14]Evans, Vyvyan, ibid p.31

[15]Evans, Vyvyan, ibid p.32-33

[16]Saeed, John I. Semantics. Third Edition. Wiley Blackwell. Malden, MA. 2009. pgs 283-284

[17]Saeed, John I. ibid, p. 284. Indeed, Saeed notices an interesting feature of plural nouns. They tend to behave like mass nouns in regards to the article. They can be definitized [“Bring me the sand” and “Bring me the bananas” both make sense], they can have words like “some” used of them [“I want some sand” and “I want some bananas” both make sense], and they can be used without the article [“We will have sand for the children to play in” and “We will have bananas for our snack this afternoon” both make sense], but they cannot be indefinitized [Neither “We will have a sand for the children to play in” nor “We will have a bananas for our snack this afternoon” make sense]. Again, I am saying this with my fingers crossed behind my back knowing that certain nouns are more mass than count and more count than mass. I have intentionally chosen “sand” here as an example because it is an *extremely* mass noun on the scale. What probably happens here is that the plural noun undergoes a process of debounding, which I will discuss below resulting in the structure [-b][+i]. What this demonstrates is that the common simplistic definition of a mass noun often given that it can have a definite article or no article at all, but cannot be indefinitized relates to the boundedness feature of the mass noun. The use of the indefinite article seems to assume the boundedness of a noun.

[18]Lakoff, George. Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things, What Categories Reveal about the Mind. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois. 1987. p.428 It is also possible to go the other way. Take an object such as an individual watermelon. Now, move your face closer and closer to it. Eventually, the bounds of the watermelon disappear from your vision, and what you see is mass.

[19]Evans, Vyvyan. ibid, p.187.

[20]Evans, Vyvyan. ibid. This probably means that the “inability” of mass nouns to be pluralized relates to the lack of internal structure. However, once it gains internal structure by excerpting, it can be pluralized.

[21]Huang, Yan. Pragmatics. Oxford Textbooks on Linguistics. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2007. p.283

[22]If the names of these maxims sound familiar, it is because they are the general functions of the mind that Immanuel Kant examined in his Critique of Pure Reason. While Grice wasn’t a Kantian [nor am I], I am also not an empiricist, and agree that the empirical world cannot give you all you need to know. I believe, contrary to Kant, that God created the world and that he made us in his image, and hence, we are able to know the various relationships that exist between things in the world. Thus, our mind naturally sees these relationships because God created all of us, including our minds, in his image.

[23]Huang, Yan. ibid, p.25

[24]Huang, Yan. ibid, p.40

[25]Huang, Yan. ibid, p.50

[26]Huang, Yan. ibid, p.51

[27]Huang, Yan. p.33

[28]Wallace, Daniel B. ibid, p. 263

[29]Wallace, Daniel B. ibid, n.21

[30]This would also explain how it is that nouns can sometimes be *both* definite and qualitative, or indefinite and qualitative as the construction implicates qualitativeness, and something from the context adds the definiteness. One might object that these are options for John 1:1c, but the problem with making θεος definite is that there has already been a distinction introduced between τον θεον and ο λογος by saying that the word was with God. The problem with taking it as indefinite is the montheistic context of the gospel of John, plus the Gospel of John presenting Jesus having traits unique to Yhwh himself. Indeed, in this very passage, Jesus is called the creator, and in verse 3, it is specifically said that “apart from him, nothing has come into being that has come into being.” If the Son came into being at a particular time, then something did, indeed come into being apart from the power of the Son. But that makes the Son the creator of all, and that makes him Yhwh because Yhwh is uniquely the creator of all things. So, if the context denies both the definite and the indefinite interpretation, then why do we insist upon reading either of those into this text?

[31]Fauconnier, Giles. Turner, Mark. The Way we Think, Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. Basic Books. New York, NY. 2003. pgs. 4-5

In Defense of Nuance

As many people know, I have been heavily influenced by the pragmatics revolution in linguistics in the 1970s as well as the cognitive school of linguistics. I don’t agree with everything in each of these schools, both because I am a Christian and also because some of the data from the cognitive neuroscience of language has overturned some of the ideas in each of these views of language. However, I have come to see that forms are not basic to language. What is basic is the thought that lies behind language. It is based in the way in which the mind organizes reality, interacts with others, and many other things.

Common Sense Realism

Needless to say, however, I don’t see this in the hermeneutics of much of evangelicalism today. Indeed, what has been so sad to me is seeing how the patriarchalists/hard complementarians have been so heavily influenced by Common Sense Realism. Given the fact that the development of this system of thought concludes after the Civil War in the attempt to idealize the Confederacy with the Lost Cause writings and groups like the United Daughters of the Confederacy. What many people are not aware of is how Common Sense Realism was defended by many people in the south both before and during the Civil War[1]. To understand Common Sense Realism, one must understand that classic empiricism believes that the external world provides sensations to the mind. They are then delivered to a representational element of the mind to which we have access. Common Sense Realism was much more radical in that it denied the representational element of the mind. In essence, our minds have direct access to reality.

To put it bluntly, that is a *very* naive position. In terms of our understanding of reality, our minds have to make sense out of what we are seeing. The rise of gestalt in cognitive psychology at the beginning of the 20th century started the dismantling of this position. To give just a few examples, look at the moving parts of this GIF:

Actually, there *are* no moving parts to look at, because nothing is moving. The reason for this illusion has to do with the way neurons processing color and motion interact. Here is another problem. Look at this picture, and see if you can figure out which monster is bigger: the monster in the front or the monster in the back:

Most people will say that the monster in the back is bigger. However, both monsters are *exactly* the same size. You can get a ruler out an measure if you don’t believe me. If you are starting to see problems with simply saying that you have direct access to reality, you are seeing the problem with Common Sense Realism.

However, these problems are not just limited to vision in human cognition. They also play a role in language processing as well. Let’s take the example of sine wave speech. Here is a recent viral example. Listen to the following audio, and see if you can hear the phrase “Green Needle:”

Now, listen to this audio, and listen for the word “Brainstorm.”

Now, what if I told you that the audio was the same in both of those examples? In fact, it is. I linked to the exact same audio excerpt on YouTube. In fact, whichever of the two you think about before you play this audio, whether “green needle” or “brainstorm” is exactly what you hear. And yet, the audio is *exactly* the same in both instances[2]. This is an example of what is called “Priming” in the psycholinguistics literature. What you hear is determined by the stimulus you receive beforehand, whether from your own thoughts or from someone actually saying the word immediately before the audio is played[3].

But priming also works in terms of meaning in language. Now, much like the “Brainstorm/Green Needle” example above, it has to be relevant to the meaning that a word, phrase, or sentence *could* have in the listener’s mind. So, for example, one time when I was teaching Sunday School class, I did a little experiment to illustrate these things. I asked for two volunteers. I asked them to decide who wanted to go first, and I sent the other person out into the hallway. I gave the first person a list similar to the one below. The directions were to read all of the words in the list, and to define the last word, and write the definition down:

CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Akron Beacon Journal, morning news, paper.

I then sent the first person out in the hallway, brought the second person in, and gave the second person the same task but with a different list similar to the following:

ink, ink jet, laser jet, 8 1/2 x 11, printer, sheet of paper, paper

I then brought the first person back into the room and told them both that they both had the same word to define. I asked them to read their definitions. I mean, they should have the same definitions because they both had the same word. However, their definitions were completely different – and could be easily traced back to the list they read beforehand.

Indeed, priming can even interfere with the retrieval of the meaning of a word or phrase. Consider the study of Devrah Klein and Gregory Murphy who set up an experiment in which two phrases were shown on a screen, and the instructions were to read both words, and once you understood the meaning of the second word, you hit a button. The critical issue in the experimentation was the time it took to recognize the meaning of the second phrase. Basically, it took longer for individuals to understand pairings like than it did for pairings like . The classic interpretation of this experiment is that, in a pairing like , the phrase “shredded paper” interferes with the mind’s ability to retrieve the meaning of “liberal paper[4].”

At this point, it should be obvious that Common Sense Realism has been shredded by cognitive psychology. What we perceive is often *not* what is real, and, indeed, what we perceive often depends upon stimuli that come before our perception of the meaning. However, does that mean that *everything* reduces down to relativism on the basis of our past history and experience?

The answer is no. Obviously, as we have said, the words and sentences must be able to be taken in more than one sense. But could one raise a further objection and say that, on *controversial* issues, we can’t ever come to any concrete conclusions? Again, the answer is no, and for a rather ironic reason: the concept of priming we discussed above. Priming is related to conceptual frames. The real error in all of this thinking is that brain’s knowledge of language is like what you find in a dictionary. The simple reality is that it is more like what you find in an encyclopedia. That is why it is difficult to shift from “shredded paper” to “liberal paper,” because you won’t find anything having to do with “shredded paper” in the encyclopedia entry on “liberal paper.” The reality is that the use of a word like “menu” opens up all the conceptual knowledge associated with a restaurant. It is awkward for a store to speak of a menu of all of the DVDs they carry. However, it makes much more sense to speak of a menu of food that you find in a restaurant. You expect to find words like “ordering your food” to be used with restaurant. Thus, one has to look at the nature of the *all* the encyclopedia entry in order to understand the meaning of a word like “menu” or even a phrase like “ordering your food.”

It is this clustering of words and concepts that is so important to exegesis, and why one must take great care when one does exegesis to ensure that you are constructing the encyclopedia entry properly, and not allowing current controversies in society or something you may have heard about a few hours earlier prime the way you understand the text. The *author* must prime the text, and *he* must be allowed to form the encyclopedia entry. If you don’t allow that, then you are not seeking to understand what the author said.


And yet, there are an entire group of people online basically saying that any attempt to construct the author’s understanding of reality in this way is “nuancing.” For example, take a look at this Tweet I saw a while back:

The sad thing is, often such a position is seen as having a high view of scripture. However, given the information that I just presented, one can easily see that it is not. It reeks of Common Sense Realism. What Summer calls “scripture” is really nothing more than her perception of what scripture means, and nothing more. However, given the information we have just presented, that perception could be simply due to current political controversies priming her to see scripture in that way. In fact, knowing how these patriarchalist/hard complementarians work, they tend present the cultural problems *before* they go to scripture making it highly likely that they are priming the listener to accept their interpretations of scripture. It would be like taking a word like “paper,” and saying it means something like “a sheet 8 1/2” x 11” that you put in a printer to print out documents,” and ignoring phrases like “The New York Times,” “The Wall Street Journal,” and other phrases that are setting up the frame we are talking about in the very same text we are talking about, or in other discussions about the same thing because you think that the sheet of paper interpretation will better fix our societal ills. Peter England is *right* here. You have to look at how scripture sets up the rest of the encyclopedia entry.

In reality, this isn’t serious scholarship. Whenever anyone uses the word “nuancing” in this way, it is a defense mechanism. They don’t want to deal with the reality that their understanding of scripture is easily challenged *by* an appeal to context or the rest of what scripture says. So that they can keep on believing what they believe, they say that any attempt to challenge this interpretation linguistically is “nuancing.” That is why linking submission to government in Romans 13 must be separated from submission to the exploitative Roman taxation system Paul speaks of in the very same text. That is why the texts that speak of children as a blessing must be separated from texts like Proverbs 25:16-17, 27-28 that speak of exercising liminality and moderation in regards to acquiring blessings, and not just acquiring things simply because they are blessing. It is why ανδριζομαι must be stripped of its military context in 1 Corinthians 16:13, and ideas of manhood read into the use of that word in a military frame without the slightest shred of evidence that such a meaning exists within a military frame.

And yet, it isn’t consistent. Imagine a Jehovah’s Witness quoting “The Father is greater than I” [John 14:28], and when the Christian tries to point out the context of the incarnation in this context and the rest of what scripture says of Christ’s incarnation as well as his deity, would it be right for the Jehovah’s Witness to say “That’s just ‘nuancing?'” What if they quote John 17:3 describing the Father as “The only true God,” and the Christian points out that the text says Jesus had glory with the Father before the world was only a few verses later in verse 5, would the Jehovah’s Witness be right to say this is “nuancing?” And yet, in both of these instances, we are doing exactly what Peter England suggests here: going to all scripture says about Christ, as well as what the context says, and allowing it to nuance what the individual verse says. So, why is it *not* nuancing when it *protects* what Summer believes, but it *is* nuancing when it *doesn’t* protect what Summer believes? Isn’t that a *bit* inconsistent?

But it is even more dangerous than that. Again, I must go back to the issue of priming. Why would an individual ignore who scripture sets up this encyclopedaic knowledge in Romans 13, Psalm 127/Proverbs 25:16-17. 27-28, or ανδριζομαι in 1 Corinthians 16:13? Two reasons: history and current controversies. Most of these ideas, as I have said, reek of the stoicism and utilitarianism of the Victorian era in the American south…especially after the war. But more than just being fed a philosophical system from tradition by many of these patriarchalist/hard complementarian teachers, people also have great fear. When I hear individuals pushing this ideology talking rhetoric about “safeism” in regards to Covid-19, and how you can’t use safety to overthrow people’s rights, I just want to ask them if it is okay to use safeism in regards to government tyranny to impose unbiblical teachings on individuals. You see, it is not just that ideas found in Confederate Idealism in regards to gender are promoted as Biblical truth. It is that fear is a major motivating factor…fear that, if we reject these ideas, we will have social and societal collapse and we will all end up under a totalitarian government [and, in fact, that may be inevitable already because we have rejected these ideas, so we might want to get to following them]. Again, it is well known that emotions like fear relate to attention. It causes you to focus on the current cultural problems and frame the text in that way, even though the text itself isn’t framing it as relevant to our current cultural problems.

Indeed, this also explains a problem I first heard about in graduate school. I had a friend who was a New Testament major. She had a professor that she really liked and would always talk about. When I was talking about these issues with her, I remember she relayed a quote from this professor that went something like this: “The main problem with evangelicals in their exegesis is that they confuse the idea that scripture was written *for* us with the idea that scripture was written *to* us.” I don’t know much else about this professor, but I agree with him. When we confuse those two things, we end up reading our cultural problems into the text, and it destroys our ability to properly understand it. Indeed, so much of what is seen as “obedience” today is nothing more than what I might call exegetical pragmatism. Exegetical pragmatism determines the correct meaning of the text by what is most pragmatic given our current cultural problems. The problem is, it is easy to do, and, given the concept of priming we have discussed above, can be done subconsciously.

Toward a Biblical View of Obedience

So, then, given how easy this is to do, how do we reconstruct the concept of obedience in a way that is faithful to the way the text itself frames things? I think the answer is to think beyond individual words to larger structures that relate back to things like, attention, foregrounding/backgrounding, continuation, and other ways in which the mind works. We could also speak about social contracts and what the authors of scripture assume about social relations. Every command of scripture is built upon connections to the ideology of scripture and to its way of seeing reality. Hence, before we talk about *any* commandment of scripture, we must have this relationship in mind so that we can properly frame the commandment itself. And all obedience must be done with that heart. In essence, what God has communicated to us in scripture is his own way of thinking. When we do this, we are simply thinking God’s thoughts after him. Indeed, this is why so much of evangelicalism has spent time *reacting* to culture rather than presenting the Biblical alternative *to* the way culture thinks. I remember growing up how I was told that it was sinful to eat in a church building because Paul said “Do you not have homes to eat in” [1 Corinthians 11:22]. I found out later that the real concern was that people came to church only for the meal, and never listened to the sermon. I was also taught that I should only use the King James Version of the Bible. I found out later this was because, during Bible reading and memorization, everyone had a different translation, and it was chaotic. I am not saying that the individuals who taught me those things weren’t Christians. Some of them were very strong Christians, and very honorable individuals. It is only to say that the obedience spoken of here clearly was manufactured in reaction to cultural problems. This is the kind of obedience that exegetical pragmatism produces, and it is ugly.

But I have also seen the kind of obedience that stems from a full understanding of the word of God and how it is linked together conceptually. And, ironically, it wasn’t from someone who is Reformed. It was from a Seventh Day Adventist. While I realize that Seventh Day Adventists have *certainly* engaged in their fair share of exegetical pragmatism, that isn’t the case with this girl. Her obedience, innocence, kindness, and gentleness just shine with a beauty that is unmistakable [not a beauty that is the product of sadistic admiration for cultic exegetical pragmatism]. I also found that her concept of obedience is extremely well thought through. It is Biblical and simple, but elegant and beautiful. Indeed, it is sad that a Seventh Day Adventist is killing us when it comes to obedience, but, indeed, this is a real weakness when it comes to Reformed thought. But, it is also a real weakness in evangelicalism as a whole. We are so easily distracted by cultural issues because we want to make a difference.

However, perhaps the biggest difference we can make is seeking to understand the scriptures as a system of thought in and of itself, and seeking to live that before others, being ready “to give a reason for the hope that is within us” [1 Peter 3:15]. Indeed, this text is interesting. We are all aware of the word απολογια which is where we get our word “apologetics” from. However, that is the context of the verb αιτεω “to request.” Apologetics should be done as a result of a *request* from unbelievers for a reason as to why we are so different. I love how the Cornilescu version translates this: Fiţi totdeauna gata să răspundeţi oricui vă cere socoteală de nădejdea care este în voi, dar cu blândeţe și teamă, “Being always ready to respond to anyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, but with gentleness and fear.” Respond and ask go together here as they do in the Greek. Notice also how the response is to be with gentleness too, not masculine macho toughness. Indeed, acting aggressive requires very little strength. It requires much *more* strength to be like Ben Carson, and still remain gentle even when someone is yelling in your face! It is also to be done in fear and reverence, not exploiting individuals by putting a camera in their face and then posting it on YouTube for all to see. Instead, people should see our difference, and naturally ask where that came from, and we give our answer with gentleness and respect…even if they don’t return the favor[5]. But all of this begins by living in terms of the scriptures and thinking God’s thoughts after him…not crying “nuance” when the thoughts don’t match up to what we think is for the good of society at the given moment. Apologetics should flow out of Godly living, and, sadly, I think the reason our apologetics is weak is because our understanding of the Christian life is weak. The existence of exegetical pragmatism in our own communities such as what you find in patriarchalist/hard complementarian teachings is a prime example of this weakness. My prayer is that we reject it, along with its self-serving rhetoric, and return back to the scriptures as the foundation of our life so people will ask a “reason for the hope that is within us.” Amen!

[1]Duncan, Ligon. Common Sense and American Presbyterianism: An Evaluation of the Impact of Scottish Common Sense Philosophy on 19th Century American Presbyterianism. MA Thesis. Covenant Theological Seminary. 1987. Available at:

Interestingly, Duncan sets out to prove that the strong belief in inerrancy at Princeton University during the time period of the Civil War wasn’t a result of Common Sense Realism. However, he does admit that Southern Presbyterianism was heavily infected with Common Sense Realism, with defenders of the philosophy such as R.L. Dabney. Given that this is the end of the development of this ideology of gender, it isn’t surprising that terms like “nuance,” used among these patriarchalist circles, reek of the ghosts of Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart.

[2]In reality, the audio is of the word “Brainstorm,” the Ben10 character.

[3]That is not to say that this will work for *every* example of speech. The reason “brainstorm” and “green needle” work in this example have to do with similarities in frequency between these two phrases.

[4]Klein, Devrah. Murphy, Gregory. The Representation of Polysemous Words. Journal of Memory and Language 45,259–282 (2001) Available at

[5]I must make clear here. I am not considering becoming a Seventh Day Adventist. But I admire them for the way they conduct themselves in a Godly fashion…both this girl as well as Ben Carson. The two of them are *very* honorable people.

“David Raped Bathsheba???????” That’s Just Goofy!!!!!!!!

Over the last several weeks I have seen several people *some even in my own denomination* trying to argue that David raped Bathsheba. Now, rape is very clearly wrong. Indeed, the maximum penalty the Torah gives for such an act is death. You don’t need the David and Bathsheba narrative to speak of rape to say that it is wrong. What is sad is that, while there is a scholarly literature arguing David raped Bathsheba, it is almost always argued on the basis of some sex and power wokeness nonsense. The scholarship is more akin to what you find in French deconstruction rather than serious Hebrew exegesis. That is where the real danger is, though. Sin is now redefined from Biblical parameters to modern woke culturally bound parameters.

Redefining Sin

The first issue is the redefining of rape. In this kind of thinking, which has its roots in feminism, rape is about power, not lust. They will often point to the example of elderly women being raped, and ask how it can be about lust in such an instance. But Steven Pinker tightly notes in his book The Blank Slate that, not only are these kind of rapes a *minority* of rapes, but, as grotesque as it sounds, there are examples of consensual sex involving elderly women. More than that, Pinker lists the most common motives for rape, and points out how they overlap with desires for sex, including:

-Its widespread nature in the animal kingdom

-Found in all human societies

-Rapists apply as much force as needed to get sex, and rarely inflict serious injury which would preclude conception

-Victims are usually in peak reproductive years, and even children who are raped are usually adolescents with a median age of 14

-Rapists likewise tend to be men who are at the height of sexual competitiveness.

-Though most rapes do not result in conception, many do[1]

And yet, even though this narrative fails the overall facts about rape, it still has given rise to laws in many places which make it impossible for a boss to have consensual sexual relations with their employees, for example. Even if the sexual relations are consensual, they aren’t because of power disparities. Again, not many people are aware of the ugly and simply false premises behind these laws. I certainly agree that such things need to be watched for the simple integrity of the business (ie, you don’t want the boss giving their employee a raise just because they are having sexual relations), but is it *rape?* Well, there are some places that have laws against it calling it “rape.” But is that enough for rhetoric like, “We have a word for sex within power structures today, and it’s called ‘rape?'” Well, that depends on who the “we” is. Lawmakers influenced by a feminist understanding of rape might call it “rape,” but there are also lawmakers who call opposition to homosexuality “bigotry,” “hate,” and “discrimination.” Laws simply cannot be equated with ethics. Otherwise, “unjust laws” becomes an oxymoron.

The reality is, much like sex between young and elderly, some sex within power structures is rape and some is not. Indeed, Galia Schneebaum in her article What is Wrong with Sex in Authority Relations? A Study in Law and Social Theory shows the arguments for coercion simply based on power simply do not work[2]. To be fair, she comes down affirming that sex within authority relations should be illegal, but she comes down on that side because she believes it has to do with abuse of power and, more specifically, the charisma of the office. As Biblical Christians, when has the charisma of the person we are doing something evil with ever been an excuse to claim you are the victim rather than the perpetrator of sin? In Deuteronomy 13, for example, if a dreamer *who may even be a family member* tries to *entice* you to follow other gods, you are not to go along with them (Deuteronomy 13:6). Indeed, even a prophet whose signs and wonders come true is not to be followed, as it is a test from Yhwh as to whether they will follow him or not (Deuteronomy 13:1-5). Indeed, since all sin is idolatry, when someone you are not married to tries to entice you into extramarital sex by their charisma, giving in is sinful. The simple fact of the matter is that scripture does not allow pressure from the charisma of another person as an excuse for sin. Hence, charisma and coercion are not seen as the same in scripture.

Indeed, that is part of the problem with this rhetoric. Scripture was never consulted, and now you have unbelieving feminist theories that, even in their strongest forms, are utterly and thoroughly unbiblical and antibiblical. I think it has been accepted uncritically simply because of the modern zeitgeist and compassion on victims of rape. If you don’t go back to scripture, this is what you get. However, what if we *do* go back to scripture, and look at what *it* has to say about rape?

Rape in penal law

The major passage in the law on rape is in the book of Deuteronomy:

Deuteronomy 22:23 “If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her,

Deuteronomy 22:24 then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

Deuteronomy 22:25 “But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die.

Deuteronomy 22:26 But you shall do nothing to the girl; there is no sin in the girl worthy of death, for just as a man rises against his neighbor and murders him, so is this case.

Deuteronomy 22:27 When he found her in the field, the engaged girl cried out, but there was no one to save her.

The first and most obvious thing that makes rape rape is the whole “crying out in the city.” When you bring this up, most people miss the point and take it literally as if the woman literally has to cry out, even if there is a hand over her face. That, of course, is nonsense. The obvious intent of the passage is that the woman must resist and try to get help. If she does not resist, then scripture assumes it is consensual. That is why it is paired with “forces her” in verse 25. Indeed, such “force” is common in passages about rape, for example Dinah (Genesis 34:2) and Tamar (2 Samuel 13:14). “Force,” paired with “crying out in the city” should make it obvious that we are talking about resistance. No resistance and attempt to get help, no rape. Indeed, the woman is seen as guilty of adultery in such an instance (Deuteronomy 22:24).

Now, obviously, that doesn’t mean that for *all* examples of a man violating a woman you must have resistance. Rape is singled out because of the importance in distinguishing rape from adultery and other forms of sexual relations outside of marriage which are forbidden by the moral and penal law of God. Indeed, the blurring of these distinctions is dangerous precisely because it allows for the blurring of the lines between these crimes. Look at how rape is defined on college campuses today where a simple accusation is enough to get a conviction. That is why it is extremely important to maintain the necessity not only of proper jurisprudence in terms of proof of accusations, but maintaining a distinction between rape and adultery in terms of force and resistance. Without it, any arbitrary standard can be used to define rape, including power, and that opens up a Pandora’s box for *any* sex to be called rape. Indeed, because of feminists arguing that society gives men power over women, one *could* argue that *all* sex is rape, even if consensual. That is why grabbing hold of this power structure concept of rape and abandoning the Biblical concept doesn’t *help* rape victims. It actually *hurts* them because it cheapens rape down to the mere psychology of power structures rather than the physical act of violence it is. That is what the Torah is trying to avoid.

The David and Bathsheba Narrative

With these things in mind, I would like to answer some of the goofy arguments I have seen trying to argue that David raped Bathsheba. The story is found in 2 Samuel 11-12. The first issue involves this text:

2 Samuel 11:1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 11:2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.

The argument is that Bathsheba couldn’t be engaged in wrongdoing here because we have discovered houses from the modern period, and it is clear that the roof is like a courtyard where it appears people commonly bathed. David’s house was high over the valley and so he would simply be looking down into the valley. The problem is that the Hebrews viewed public nudity as shameful given the fall. If your house were close enough to the king’s palace that anyone standing on the balcony could see you naked, that would be a perfect reason to *not* bathe on the roof. If you were several miles away, that would be one thing, but why would you do this that close to the roof of the king? If David can see her, it’s likely she can see David. It is also interesting that her husband is away while this is going on. While we can’t say for sure something was going on here, the archaeological finds simply do not settle the issue given the fact that the Hebrews viewed public nudity as shameful.

2 Samuel 11:3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

2 Samuel 11:4 David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

The critical argument here is over the word “took.” The idea is that the use of this word implies some kind of force or rape as it does elsewhere. Aside from the obvious contradiction with the idea that this is merely sex within power structures (which doesn’t require force to be rape), it also is a horrid abuse of scripture. I realize that my frame semantic views are coming in to play here, but the real question is *not* what this word means in other contexts. The question is what this word means *in this conceptual frame!* The issue is *not* just the word “take,” but how it is used in the same frame as “sent” or “went in” when an authority figure such as a king does it. For example, during the anointing of David to succeed Saul as king, you have this passage:

1 Samuel 16:11 And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are these all the children?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and behold, he is tending the sheep.” Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” David Anointed

1 Samuel 16:12 So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is he.”

Although the translation doesn’t do a good job of bringing this out, the word “bring” here in verse 11 is לקח, the very same word for “take” in 2 Samuel 11:4. But that is not the only similarity. The word for “send” is the same as is the word for “comes” and “brought” in both verses 11 and 12 (although it is a hiphil stem in verse 12. And notice it is David’s father Jesse, an authority figure over him, who is doing these things. This sounds more like a summons than violence of any kind.

2 Kings 11:4 Now in the seventh year Jehoiada sent and brought the captains of hundreds of the Carites and of the guard, and brought them to him in the house of the Lord. Then he made a covenant with them and put them under oath in the house of the Lord, and showed them the king’s son.

Again, we see more of the same. The priest Jehoiada “sent” and “brought” (same word for “take” in 2 Samuel 11:4) hundreds of Carites and of the guard and “brought them” (same word as “went in to him” only in the hiphil stem) to him. Again, this reads like a summons rather than any act of force.

Jeremiah 25:9 behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will send to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an everlasting desolation.

This example is interesting as this could not *possibly* be force. When Yhwh (an obvious authority figure) sends for Nebuchadnezzar, “takes” them, and “brings them in” against his people (again, the exact same words that you find in 2 Samuel 11:4), Nebuchadnezzar complies subconsciously, and isn’t actively forced to do anything. It is done by God’s decree *directing* Nebuchadnezzar’s will.

What is fascinating is that, when you have this use of “send” plus “take,” it seems to be the way in which Hebrew speaks of a summons, unless context forbids it (the “taking” is “taking as a wife” or the sending and taking is of an impersonal object, etc). For example:

Genesis 27:45 until your brother’s anger against you subsides and he forgets what you did to him. Then I will send and get you from there. Why should I be bereaved of you both in one day?”

Genesis 42:16 Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.”

This can be seen by comparing these texts to passages like this to Jeremiah 36:14 where only “send” is used:

Jeremiah 36:14 Then all the officials sent Jehudi the son of Nethaniah, the son of Shelemiah, the son of Cushi, to Baruch, saying, “Take in your hand the scroll from which you have read to the people and come.” So Baruch the son of Neriah took the scroll in his hand and went to them.

In this case, there is sending but no taking, and thus, there is no summons.

Thus, either the sending and taking or sending and taking by messengers simply is a way of summoning someone. You send for them, and when they come, you have taken them away. It is similar to the word “called” in the old murder mystery mansion stories where the detective says, “You many be wondering why I called you all here tonight.” To send and take someone is parallel to “called” in that sentence.

To put it bluntly, all that happens in 2 Samuel 11:4 is that Bathsheba receives a summons from David, and she goes to him, and they have sexual relations. And why wouldn’t she agree to go see the king? There is nothing in the text that gives any inkling that she has any idea as to why the king is summoning her. If you were to receive a summons from the President to appear at the White House, wouldn’t you go, especially if you have no idea what he wants? Of course. So, trying to turn a summons into force is, again, absurd.

Plus, notice how there is no resistance by Bathsheba. One thing leads to another. He summons her (“sends messengers and takes her”), she comes to him, and then they have sexual relations. It is bang, bang, bang. No resistance is put up at all, which is kind of important given the Biblical conception of rape we found in Deuteronomy 22. More than that, if we are arguing from silence, Bathsheba has all kinds of reasons to want to commit adultery with David. If she gets pregnant with David’s child (which, ironically, she does), her son could become king, and then she would be set for the future with her son as king. That is probably also why she agreed to become David’s wife so quickly after her husband’s death. Either way, this is adultery, pure and simple, and both are to blame following the law of Deuteronomy 22.

There is one more thing to consider:

2 Samuel 12:3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him.

2 Samuel 12:4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

What is argued here is that, since the preparing of this lamb entails violence, David must have engaged in a violent act against Bathsheba. Never mind that there are plenty of Hebrew words for “killed” and “slaughtered,” and none are used here. In fact, Nathan seems to specifically *avoid* mentioning the slaughter of the lamb. Never mind that lambs were killed and slaughtered all the time in ancient Israel. Never mind that, the way the story is told, the implication is that he should have prepared one of the lambs from his own crop. Is this text therefore justifying marital rape? There are so many problems with this line of thinking, I don’t know where to begin. Preparing and eating the lamb seems to be metaphorical for simple sexual relations, especially since the text seems to imply that it would have been okay for the man to prepare and eat one of his own lambs. The point, then, wouldn’t be violence, but it would be wife stealing. Indeed, Nathan confirms this interpretation when he directly accuses David:

2 Samuel 12:9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.

Indeed, wife stealing is one of the charges Nathan brings against David along with murder. However, what this points out is that the real victim in this text is *not* Bathsheba. She is an adulteress. The real victim is Uriah. The most popular way she is referred to in this passage is with reference to her husband with phrases such as “the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then, when Yhwh confronts David with what he has done through the prophet Nathan, He presents Uriah as the victim. So why don’t we go with that interpretation? I mean, Uriah was, by all accounts, a loyal follower of Yhwh, a good husband, and a loyal subject of the king unwilling to even go to his house while the king’s army was fighting. Yet, his wife betrayed him and his king betrayed him unto death, and it was only Yhwh left to avenge his blood. Indeed, one of the major themes of the historical books is how gentiles like Uriah are more faithful to Yhwh than the Hebrew people themselves, which would be entirely consistent with our interpretation.


I fear that reason I haven’t seen that interpretation taken in recent weeks is for much the same reason we didn’t believe the Duke lacrosse players were innocent of rape. Their accuser was a black woman with several intersectional points on them. Here, Bathsheba is a woman who isn’t in power, and that must automatically mean she is the victim. The Duke lacrosse case was interesting in that, the one America thought was the victim was really the victimizer and the those America thought were the victimizers were really the victims of brutal slander. That is *exactly* what is happening with this interpretation of the David and Bathsheba narrative. Bathsheba is the victimizer, not the victim. And, what’s worse is that the *real* victim, Uriah, is ignored. But God doesn’t ignore it. Indeed, vengeance is His, and he repays David and Bathsheba manifold for what they did to Uriah!

That is not to say rape is okay. You can stand against rape and abuse and still believe, as scripture teaches, that Bathsheba is an adulteress. The real issue is deeper than that. It goes to anthropology. Why do people rape others? The world’s answer is “power structures.” The Bible’s answer is “sin.” Power structures are not the problem. *Sin* is the problem. Once you say power structures are the problem, you have just brought into an unbiblical reason as to why people sin. Furthermore, you have adopted the fundamental presupposition of egalitarianism that power structures are the problem, when the real problem is the darkness of the human heart and how that causes them to use power structures. Indeed, what is Yhwh’s diagnosis of David’s problem through the prophet Nathan?:

2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.

Notice how the real problem is David’s sin…not the authority relations between David and Bathsheba. The fighting of abuse such as rape can *never* be authority relations and egalitarian presuppositions for the Christian. It must always be understood in terms of sin and rebellion against God. Had David thought about the name of Yhwh above all and not giving His enemies an occasion to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14), this would have never happened. But he didn’t, and, in the end, he ended up victimizing one of his most loyal subjects and stealing his wife. So, yes, we must fight abuse, but we must do so on the basis of the Biblical diagnosis of sin…not on the basis of authority relations.

Indeed, from what I have seen over the past couple of weeks, this merger of Biblical teaching and the egalitarian presupposition has produced all kinds of goofiness in the exegetical realm. From ignoring other cultural conceptions besides where people bathe, to isolating a word from the rest of its conceptual frame, to not understanding how to interpret parable. It is as nonsensical as anything I have seen from mindless patriarchalism. We *can* do better, and my hope is that we will. Indeed, we need to do better. I don’t know where this odd attempt to merge liberal scholarship on this passage and Christian thought together is coming from, but it is an issue precisely because we can only fight abuse on the basis of scripture, and once our ability to interpret scripture has been hijacked by the same kind of mindset that almost got several innocent Duke lacrosse players thrown in prison, we are no longer fighting against abuse, but are promoting an agenda I know all too well from liberal scholarship on this David and Jonathan narrative. My brothers, this is not good. It is goofy and needs to be abandoned before it ends up undercutting the authority of scripture.

[1]Pinker, Steven. The Blank Slate, The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Second Edition. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 2016. Pgs. 367-368

[2]Schneebaum, Galia. What is Wrong with Sex in Authority Relations? A Study in Law and Social Theory. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Volume 105 Issue 2. Spring 2015. Available at

On Voting and Mindless Patriarchalism

As readers of this blog know, I have been a critic of hard complimentarianism/ patriarchalism for many years. Ever since seminary, the head shaking nonsense I have seen coming from this movement has, to my own amazement, not caused my head to go flinging off my neck! Indeed, recently I was joking that, right now in the Reformed community, mindless wokeism and mindless patriarchalism are in a battle to see who can out stupid the other, and it is quite a battle to see who wins! That may sound mean, but the things I have seen coming from each of these movements over the past several months have been so childish and just plain silly that I just have to call a spade a spade. It is getting worse and worse, and my hope is that we are witnessing the collapse of these movements…but I am not holding my breath. However, I must say, I am beginning to see patterns in the kinds of hermeneutical errors I am seeing from this movement, and, although I would ordinarily never address something like this given the silliness of the argument I am about to address (and the fact that these folks can sometimes say things like this just to get attention), I believe it is a teachable moment. There is a method to their madness, albeit a very flawed and simplistic method that could just as easily lead to the insane asylum.

I was recently listening to an interview with Steven Pinker relating to his work on the psycholinguistics of irregular verbs. While I am not an atheist nor do I hold to Pinker’s computational views of the mind, I have appreciated Pinker’s insights into how language interacts with the mind, and this interview is no exception. They are discussing computational views of the mind in relation to the neural networks and deep learning models of the brain. Pinker explains it quite well in the interview, but neural networks is a topic in computer science that tries to mimic the way in which the brain is able to link neurons by synaptic plasticity to create links between certain concepts.

This is most clearly seen in memory. Let’s say you are studying Romanian vocabulary (as I am), and you come across a word like “pepene.” The goal of memory in vocabulary is to connect this form with its meaning: “watermelon.” I usually like to use flash cards putting “pepene” on one side and “watermelon” on the other. I then mix it in with the rest of my vocabulary cards. Once I can randomly go through my cards, see “pepene” appear, and can automatically associate it with “watermelon,” I have learned the meaning of the word. That is because the neurons connecting the form “pepene” and the concept of a watermelon are now linked together. Because of the importance of this process to learning and memory, neural networks approaches are often called “deep learning.”

What Pinker points out in this interview, however, is that irregular verbs pose a problem for this system. Irregular verbs are to be distinguished from regular verbs. So, for example, a regular verb in Romanian is “a studia” meaning “to study.” Here is the sentence “I study at the library:”

Eu studiez la biblioteca.

I. .study. at. library[def. article]

Now, here is “She studies at the library:”

Ea studiează la biblioteca.[def. article]

As you can see, the only difference between “I study” (studiez) and “she studies” (studiează) is whether you have the ending -ez or -ează added you the end of the verb. Indeed, other verb forms confirm this. “I work” is “lucrez” and “she works” is “lucrează.” “I imagine” is “imaginez” and “She imagines” is “imaginează,” and so on. Therefore, “a studia,” “a lucra,” and “a imagina” are considered regular verbs.

But the Romanian verb “a fi” (meaning “to be”) is irregular. You can immediately notice why if I post the exact same forms for it. If I want to say “I am tired” it would be:

Eu sunt obosit

I. am. tired

But, “She is tired” would be:

Ea este obosit

She. is. tired

Notice how, in this verb, there doesn’t seem to be any relationship at all between the forms “I am” (sunt) and “she is” (este). That is why “a fi” is considered an irregular verb, because no pattern exists in Romanian to get from “I am” to “She is.” Verbs can be irregular in regards to person, tense, and many other aspects. The point is that there are no rules to get from first person to third person, present tense to past tense, etc. Such verbs exist in English as well. English uses the -ed suffix to indicate past tense. So, “walk” becomes “walked,” “wash” becomes “washed,” and “mow” becomes “mowed.” But what is the past tense of the verb “to go?” It is “went.” What is the past tense of the verb “to stick?” It is “stuck.” Again, these are irregular verbs.

As Pinker argues, if all we have are a network of associations that end up producing these forms, then why do children end up making errors like “I goed to the store with my mom”? Furthermore, let’s say you give children a picture of a man mowing his lawn, and you say, “Billy, this man is glopeing his lawn. This happened yesterday. So, yesterday he _______ his lawn. Fill in the blank.” The child will inevitably say “gloped” even though “to glope” isn’t even an English verb. And furthermore, why do people who have memory problems struggle with irregular verbs if it is only a matter of associations? Pinker’s conclusion (which I agree with) is that networks and associations are important in language, but are insufficient to describe how language works. The key point here is that *both* forms *and* networks are necessary to understanding language.

That brings me back to the mindless patriarchalist nonsense someone posted on Facebook the other day. Here is a screenshot:

Yes, this is mindless patriarchalism that makes me roll my eyes every bit as hard as mindless wokeism. Jesus’ statement about a house divided not being able to stand is in the context of Satan casting out Satan. It is about one part of the kingdom seeking to *destroy* the other part of the kingdom. I don’t think a husband and a wife are going to destroy each other because one thought a Republican judge would be better and the other thought an independent judge would be better…especially if their policies are extremely similar (and they usually are since you will usually marry someone with similar values). If you are willing to destroy a marriage over something like that, then that is a character issue: being unwilling to love someone you disagree with. It the husband can’t do that, then maybe he should think about the possibility that he is not as manly as he thinks he is. Children are the ones who act like that. Don’t agree with me, and I’ll throw a temper tantrum until you do. Of course, that is not to say that there is no such thing as an unethical vote. If their are ethical issues in regards to your spouse’s voting, handle them as ethical issues.

I guess the author got quite a push back for this (in my mind, he should have just been laughed off and ignored), so he attempted to defend himself. I won’t pretend this is a good article. You say something ridiculous like that and then you try to defend it, you are just going to dig yourself a deeper hole. But it does give some insight into the hermeneutics of these people.

For example, take the abuse of the concept of headship in Ephesians 5 and elsewhere. The big problem is that concepts of status (headship and submission) and connection (husbands love your wives) are related. Every relationship can be framed in terms both of status and connection, the nature of the connection will frame the nature of the status and vice versa. This can often lead to men and women interpreting language differently because they focus on these different aspects of the relationship. Deborah Tannen has written an excellent book on this called You Just Don’t Understand, Men and Women in Conversation. In this book, she writes of a situation her husband and her saw differently:

At the time I began working on this book, we had jobs in different cities. People frequently expressed sympathy by making comments like “That must be rough,” and “How do you stand it?” I was inclined to accept their sympathy and say things like “We fly a lot.” Sometimes I would reinforce their concern: “The worst part is having to pack and unpack all the time.” But my husband reacted differently, often with irritation. He might respond by de-emphasizing the inconvenience: As academics, we had four-day weekends together, as well as long vacations throughout the year and four months in the summer. We even benefited from the intervening days of uninterrupted time for work. I once overheard him telling a dubious man that we were lucky, since studies have shown that married couples who live together spend less than half an hour a week talking to each other; he was implying that our situation had advantages. I didn’t object to the way my husband responded—everything he said was true—but I was surprised by it. I didn’t understand why he reacted as he did. He explained that he sensed condescension in some expressions of concern, as if the questioner were implying, “Yours is not a real marriage; your ill-chosen profession has resulted in an unfortunate arrangement. I pity you, and look down at you from the height of complacence, since my wife and I have avoided your misfortune.” It had not occurred to me that there might be an element of one-upmanship in these expressions of concern, though I could recognize it when it was pointed out. Even after I saw the point, though, I was inclined to regard my husband’s response as slightly odd, a personal quirk. He frequently seemed to see others as adversaries when I didn’t[1].

Tannen goes on to make the interesting observation that the same thing was seen in different ways by the man and the woman. The woman is interpreting it in the context of closeness vs distance and the man is interpreting it in the context of status and who is one up…if you will, which person is the “head” of the other. However, even more interesting is Tannen’s observation how an interpretation of language based on status and an interpretation of language based on connection can *both* be true. She gives the example of a child hurrying to leave, and the mother saying “Where’s your coat!?” Very clearly, this statement indicates both care on the part of the mother, but also that she *is* the mother, because she is looking out for the needs of her child, putting her in a position of higher status in relation to the child[2]. Clearly, both of those interpretations are correct.

Interestingly enough, in Ephesians 5, verses 22-24 speak in terms of status, using words like “head” and “submit,” and verses 25-30 speak in terms of connection with words like “love,” “nourish,” “cherish,” etc. What if this is two different (but correct) descriptions of the same relationship? For that to be the case, is their any way in which nourishing, cherishing, etc. can be understood as headship much like asking a child where their coat is can be both caring and something the child is to submit to? I would say that is most definitely the case. Let’s say there is someone who always pays for your lunch. You might interpret that as this person really caring for you, and you might interpret it as that person thinking that you can’t take care of yourself and buy your own lunch. And, indeed, it is entirely possible that both of these are true. Indeed, the controversy over the welfare state basically boils down to one side speaking of caring for the poor, and the other side speaking of concerns that it could bloat government power. As we have seen, care, love, and power can be seen to be simultaneously true. The big difference with our text in Ephesians 5 is that it is framed in terms of salvation (v23) and the cross (v.25ff). It is meant to be *self-sacrificial.* Thus, this is not just any old care for someone, like a parent might care for a child; this is to be *totally* selfless…a giving of oneself, rather than demanding your own way. That is headship. The husband is to love as Christ loved in a self-sacrificial way nourishing and cherishing his wife, and the wife is to submit to this care. As we have already said, seeing care as headship is very consistent with the way status and connection relate to one another. Indeed, in every context you have extended discussions of headship and submission in the New Testament, this concept of care comes up, especially in relation to the cross.

I would point out one further thing. One of the things Tannen is known for is pointing out that women tend to frame things in terms of connection while men tend to frame things in terms of status. Yet, Paul draws the *woman’s* attention to *status* and the *man’s* attention to *connection.* Interestingly, men are to focus on those aspects *they* don’t usually see, and women are to focus on those aspects of the relationship *they* don’t usually see. Sounds a whole lot like Paul saying that we are no seek not merely our own needs but the needs of others. It sounds a whole lot like Jesus’ teaching that we are to lay down our lives in love for one another. It fits nicely into the overall Christian ethic of self-sacrifice. Indeed, no one should be surprised that the concept of headship and submission would be reframed by the early church in terms of the cross and the sacrifice of Christ, given how central it is to the Christian faith.

What it doesn’t fit well into is the Greek philosophical ethic of Stoic philosophy upon which this mindless patriarchalism is built. Demanding your wife vote exactly as you do is not laying down yourself. It is selfish. Pure and simple. The only way that would *not* be the case is if your wife were voting in an unethical manner; in a manner that is clearly contrary to the word of God. But then it becomes an ethical demand based on Biblical ethics themselves…not your own personal desires as a husband. If all you have is your personal preferences to vote for this person or that person, this text absolutely militates your concept of headship. No one should vote for anyone because their husband said to do it. That is putting the husband in an idolatrous position he has no business being. The answer to the idolatry of the state is not the idolatry of the husband. You vote on the basis of Biblical ethical principles. In fact, if you do that, my best guess is that there will be strong unity as to who you vote for, especially given the way the political parties have polarized.

Now we really just need to clean up the plate. First, “one flesh” is in the context of leaving and cleaving. In the Hebrew of Genesis 2:24, דבק+ב (cleave to) is used in reference to covenantal responsibilities. Israel is told to “cleave to YHWH” with the exact same Hebrew phrase over and over again in the book of Deuteronomy. For example:

Deuteronomy 10:20 You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.

Deuteronomy 13:4 You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.

That phrase “cling to him” is the exact same formula דבק + ב that you find in Genesis 2:24. In fact, Deuteronomy 13:4 is in the context of a dreamer trying to get Israel to follow false gods. Because Israel’s covenant faithfulness is to YHWH, they must not listen to him.

But what does this oneness of covenant and covenant faithfulness have to do with votes being *exactly* the same? It doesn’t have *anything* to do with it! The unity is in terms of covenant faithfulness, not in terms of how the vote ballots turn out.

Then, of course, you have the citation of the King James Version and New King James Version of Titus 2:5 against all other translations. The Greek word is υποτασσω, which means “to be subject” not “to obey.” He cites the KJV because it goes with this patriarchal notion that submission = obedience, even though, as we have seen, submission is always framed in terms of self sacrifice, giving, nourishing, cherishing, etc. It is *these* things the wife is to submit to. That is the relevance of Christ being the Savior of the church (v.23) to the wife’s submission.

This paper is not even consistent with itself. For example, patriarchalists *themselves* do not take that interpretation of Ephesians 5:24! They would say that a wife should not submit to commands that are unbiblical such as to steal, murder, rape, etc. But (parodying the author) it says “all things” doesn’t it?! I think all things would include theft, murder, and rape. But the context is, again, about Christ’s care for his church in salvation, and it is in all *these* things that a husband is to submit. Again, such an interpretation is not only contrary to their own views, but violates the context!

I also notice how the part about husbands laying sacrificing themselves for their wives was conveniently left out. When you selfishly demand your own way like this and call that “submission,” you are going to have to skip that part because it calls your motives into question.

But I want to turn the corner now and go back to the discussion with Steven Pinker I explained above. Pinker’s criticism of the neural networks and deep learning models was that they didn’t take the concept of forms into account and the discrimination between things like regular verbs and irregular verbs. He nevertheless concluded that neural networks are necessary and account for a lot, even if you can’t reduce all language down to them. But what have we noticed about all of these arguments from our patriarchalist author Toby Sumpter? They all involve how these forms are related to other conceptions in the text. In other words, they relate to networks. What is the nature of the wife’s submission and how do concepts of headship and submission relate to concepts of care and love? In what sense are husbands and wives considered “one?” Even things like pragmatic free enrichment of words like “all” are at issue as to how words like this relate to the context. We have seen the same thing in hard complimentarianism. Look at how we saw, in the previous article, how the word some translations translate “act like men” in 1 Corinthians 16:13 was not even considered in terms of its frames and metaphors. Are we starting to notice a pattern? Yes, hard complimentarianism/patriarchalism is *radically* formal in its views of language, and does not consider how the forms of scripture for a network of things like frames and metaphors. Sumpter automatically assumed that the “one” of Genesis 2:24 had something to do with voting, and the divided house had something to do with disagreeing whether to vote for a Republican judge or an independent judge. He also assumed that headship meant he could do something about it by his husbandly fiat, because of the specific forms “Wives, submit to your husbands,” ignoring how that submission and headship was put in network with self sacrifice.

So, the question must naturally be what lead to the reframing of these things in the way he did. It is obviously difficult to say for sure, as mind reading is never a good idea, but certainly picking up these ideas either from southern culture which was heavily influenced by the Stoicism and Libertarianism of the Victorian era, or by someone who was influenced by these ideas somewhere along the line. That explains why the conceptual relationships actually found in the text were missed. But I think it goes deeper than that.

This morning, I was talking to my mom, and she told me that she was hearing more and more that husbands and wives were being divided over who to vote for. On a hunch, I did a Google search for “election 2020 husbands wives,” and came up with this story published only 10 days ago in the Fayetteville Observer. It seems that there is a serious issue with husbands and wives disagreeing on whether to vote for Trump or Biden even some disagreements threatening their marriage. I can see that, because Trump and the radical leftist Democrats have utterly incompatible worldviews when it comes to central issues of morals and economics. From a Biblical perspective I would say voting for Biden is completely unethical right now, given how far that party is to the left. It could move even further to the left if Biden is impeached or resigns due to cognitive decline as Harris is one of the most leftist people in politics. How you justify voting for that party Biblically, I don’t know.

But as I have said many times with these patriarchalists/hard complimentarians, I don’t disagree with the fact that there is a problem. I disagree with their diagnosis of the problem and it’s solution. For example, they look at a problem like men and women being almost ready to divorce over many wives wanting to vote for Biden, and they say the problem is that men aren’t “manning up” and taking responsibility for their wives’ voting. It is applying Victorian Stoicism to the problem, and assuming that it is the background to forms like “one,” “head,” “submission,” and “house divided” you find in the Bible.” I look at that, and say that the problem isn’t men not “manning up,” because cursed is the one who trusts in man for issues like this (Jeremiah 17:5). The problem is a departure from God and his word which thoroughly condemns leftest policies in the harshest of terms.

Indeed, I have a book here by George Lakoff waiting for me to read called The Political Mind[3]. I have cited George Lakoff many times on here, and I am very familiar with his ideas, but what you should know is that Lakoff and his views on language have been used by leftists for a long time. In this book, he explicitly points to empathy as a point of political persuasion, and it is well known that one of the differences between men and women is the value put on empathy in their personal relationships. The problem is that Stoicism has an extremely simplistic view of the relationship between reason and emotion. It is this idea that you can think with reason or you can think with your emotions, and what you really want is to have a stiff upper lip and think with your reason. This view, however, is *known* to be wrong. It was refuted by the neurologist Antonio Damasio in his now famous book Descartes’ Error[4] by documenting the inability of people with lesions in emotion centers to make rational *or* emotional decisions! The reality is that “thinking with your emotions” is not the problem because it is unavoidable. Even thinking with out of control emotions is not the problem as no one blames a six year old boy for crying uncontrollably at his mother’s funeral.

You might be asking how it is then that I can then see a problem with speakers being shut down by angry protesters on college campuses or leftists who can’t control themselves emotionally so that you can’t have a rational dialogue with them. The answer is that the diagnosis of thinking with emotions is the wrong diagnosis. The correct diagnosis is that emotion is *malfunctioning* in the reasoning process. I differ from Damasio slightly here in that I think that the issue is that emotions reflect our values. A young boy weeping uncontrollably at his mother’s funeral is doing so because of the very high value he places on his mom who he has just lost. When someone goes emotionally out of control simply because someone disagrees with them, it shows they put way too high a value on themselves and don’t value truth above their own opinion. Thus, emotion would seem to be more important than reason in constructing a worldview, because the only way you will ever take reason into account is because you *want* to take reason into account…ie, because you love and desire truth.

But what is the consequence of dismissing something as “thinking with your emotions” often in a very angry or mocking (dare I say it, emotional) way? First, it makes you look like a hypocrite. You are thinking with your emotions while condemning thinking with your emotions. But second, it allows people like George Lakoff to use the techniques found in this book to alter your worldview and your wife’s worldview, with your wife being the more susceptible one. When you, furthermore, act like a selfish jerk demanding your own way because you are the “head,” and then, when you see what is happening, all you can do is cry “submit!,” it is not hard to see why your wives will keep leaving and running off to the left. Indeed, only considering forms rather than the networks associated with those forms also makes you look manipulative, and I would say women are much more likely to see through that. The solution is to face facts, and recognize that the use of empathy is an attack upon your values, and to talk to your wife about these tactics before anyone ever tries to use them, so you can see them and deal with them.

Again, all of this gives us a fascinating look into the mind of the patriarchalist/hard complimentarian. Karen Campbell calls this movement “patriocentricity” to emphasize the idolatrous place the husband is put in this system. It also demonstrates that it is a system built on modern controversies like feminism framed in terms of Stoic and Victorian philosophy. In this system, the Bible is just a prop with forms like “head” or “submit” pulled out only to be reframed in terms of this foreign philosophy. The results are disastrous, not only *not* solving these problems, but driving women away right into leftism. Indeed, if you keep demanding that your wife form her values from *your* whims as if you were God, the results will be disastrous, because you are *not* God, and only with a Divine basis for these values can this storm every be weathered. Until the conflict of values that is inherent in this emotional struggle is dealt with on the basis of *scripture,* and the process of sanctification applied to our emotions so that we *don’t* value what is evil, this attack will never be stopped. Sadly, hard complimentarianism/patriarchalism vs people like Lakoff is a mismatch of epic proportions, and the patriarchalists/hard complimentarians are losing big, and, given the kind of nonsense in the photo I posted above, I don’t think that will change.

[1]Tannen, Deborah. You Just Don’t Understand, Men and Women in Coversation. Kindle Edition. Harper Collins. New York, NY. 1990. Pgs.23-24.

[2]Tannen, Deborah. Gender and Discourse. Kindle Edition. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 1996. Location 268.

[3]Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Books. New York, NY. 2009

[4]Damasio, Antonio. Descartes’ Error. Penguin Books. 1994

Of Frames, Metaphors, “Manning Up,” and 1 Cor. 16:13

It has amazed me how bad some of the hermeneutics are in the hard complimentarian/patriarchy movement. Part of it stems from the fact that modern exegesis has mistakenly thought that language begins with forms and then moves to meaning. However, that is totally wrong. If that were the case, then why do children first gain some conception of what their “daddy” is before they ever learn the word “daddy?” The idea that the mind and cognition as well as the social cognition *determine* grammar is simply not even considered. In primarily meaning based views of language, these things must be taken into account first and the grammar explained in terms of those things.

Instead, what has happened is that the forms are simply there in the scriptures, and people are able to pretty much put whatever meaning they want on them and frame them in whatever way they want. To challenge this, we must understand how the authors of scripture are using frames and metaphors so that we can point out the arbitrary nature of the way in which a text is being framed. One of the clearest examples of gross nonsense to come out of the hard complimentarian/patriarchy movement is their understanding ανδριζεσθε of 1 Corinthians 16:13 to mean “man up.” We can easily use frame semantics and conceptual metaphor to dismantle this argument.

Denny Burk, who I have criticized many times on this blog, has again tried to defend the indefensible at this point. He writes:

For my part, I think either translation is acceptable. Both translations capture something true and important about the original expression. The Greek word in question is built on a root that refers to adult males (aner). That means that there are at least two semantic oppositions here, not one—male as opposed to female and adult as opposed to child. As Thiselton explains, “it does not simply pose a contrast with supposedly ‘feminine’ qualities; it also stands in contrast with childish ways.” In other words, the root idea invokes both masculinity and maturity.
This is a terrible argument. First of all, there is no such thing as a “root idea” of a word. Period. Meanings of words come as they are related to conceptions of reality conventionally. Also, what root a Greek word is built on gives us interesting historical information about how a word might have developed, but other than that, it is, again, irrelevant to its current meaning. The English word “nice” is related to a root meaning “to be ignorant.” Does that make nice people ignorant?

I know how Burk will reply. He will reply that not all words lose the meaning associated with a particular root in a language. That happens to be true. But how does Burk know this root *hasn’t* changed in its meaning in *this* word? If it is possible for a word to change in its meaning from its root and you don’t address whether or not it has changed, then aren’t you really doing nothing more than begging the question? Are you not being slightly misleading when you bring up information like this and just assume it is relevant rather than proving it? But Burk takes this and runs with it:

For my part, I think either translation is acceptable. Both translations capture something true and important about the original expression. The Greek word in question is built on a root that refers to adult males (aner). That means that there are at least two semantic oppositions here, not one—male as opposed to female and adult as opposed to child. As Thiselton explains, “it does not simply pose a contrast with supposedly ‘feminine’ qualities; it also stands in contrast with childish ways.”[4] In other words, the root idea invokes both masculinity and maturity. The term’s actual usage, however, is idiomatic and reflects the stereotypical connection between manliness and courage. It’s a call to bravery that relies on a trope about masculine strength that was common in the ancient world. This particular usage means roughly the same thing we mean when we say “be a man” or “man up.” It calls for readers to put away whatever inhibitions or fears they might have about doing something, and do it. As commentators Ciampa and Rosner argue, it means “to faithfully carry out one’s responsibilities even in the face of extreme danger and frightening circumstances.”
Again, this is where I have a real problem with simply going to roots, and assuming their relevance to the meaning of a particular term. I would like to challenge these things by reframing it according to the way Paul himself does in this verse. Remember our previous post responding to hard complimentarianism in 1 Timothy 2 and the use of conceptual frames. I cited George Lakoff who used the example of how in hospitals you find scalpels, needles, operating rooms, patients, surgeons, doctors, and nurses, and how there are certain things that are supposed to happen in frame: doctors operate on patients in operating rooms with scalpels. We also must remember [and this is key] that every word *including ανδριζομαι* is defined relative to a frame. So, a word like menu is defined relative to a restaurant. However, also relevant is the concept Lakoff presents of conceptual metaphor and how metaphor can be used to relate frames together. Here is the video again for review:

The most natural thing to do is to look at how this section flows and understand the relationships from there. This is a small verse wedged between a verse assuring the Corinthians that Apollos is coming and that they are to do all things in love. The verse reads like this in the NASB which translates the critical word as Burk does:

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

Look at the rest of those words. Do they form a conceptual frame that we are familiar with in scripture? The answer is, most definitely. “Be on the alert” and “stand firm” are common concepts associated with military battles. For example:

1 Peter 5:8-11 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Again, notice all of the conceptual parallels, some of them even verbal. For example, the word for “be on the alert” is the same one that we have back in 1 Corinthians 16:13. But you also have being firm in the faith in verse 9, the very same concept found in 1 Corinthians 16:13, and you even have God himself strengthening in verse 10. Although not found in our verse in 1 Corinthians 16:13, the concept of being sober as opposed to being drunk is important. It connects it with passages like:

1 Thessalonians 5:6-11 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with Him. 11 Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

Again, we see several familiar things here such as “being alert” as well as “being sober” and not drunk. Notice, again, how faith is mentioned in verse 8 as well as clear military language of the breastplate and helmet. Again, this is a military frame. And of course, it likewise recalls probably the most famous military passage of all in the Bible, Ephesians 6 and the armor of God:

Ephesians 6:10-19 Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, 19 and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,

Notice, again, the conceptual parallels to 1 Corinthians 16:13 are astounding. Right of the bat in verse 10 you have being “strong” in the Lord. In verse 11 you have “standing firm.” Verse 16 mentions the shield of “faith,” again, paralleling 1 Corinthians 16:13. In verse 18 you have “be on the alert,” again, just as you have in 1 Corinthians 16:13.

So, having established that the frame we are talking about in 1 Corinthians 16:13 is that of the military, the next natural question is to ask is whether the word we are discussing, ανδριζομαι, is part of a military frame in Greek. The answer is, unsurprisingly, yes. In fact, it was a common word used of military battles, and it simply meant to fight bravely. For example, the Septuagint uses it most famously in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua:

Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:7 Then Moses called to Joshua and said to him in the sight of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall go with this people into the land which the LORD has sworn to their fathers to give them, and you shall give it to them as an inheritance.

Deuteronomy 31:23 Then He commissioned Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and courageous, for you shall bring the sons of Israel into the land which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

Joshua 1:6 “Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.

Joshua 1:7 “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:18 “Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words in all that you command him, shall be put to death; only be strong and courageous.”

Joshua 10:25 Joshua then said to them, “Do not fear or be dismayed! Be strong and courageous, for thus the LORD will do to all your enemies with whom you fight.”

Now, the Hebrew word the Septuagint is translating has nothing to do with masculinity. It is the Hebrew term חזק, which simply means “to be strong.” Yet, the context is intensely military, as the book of Joshua is about the Israelite conquest of the land of Canaan. Hence, it would appear that the meaning of the term in a military frame is “to be strong” or “to fight with courage.” Indeed, at this point, we must push harder and ask Burk what evidence he has of actual usage of this term in a military frame where it continues to bear any meaning associated with behaving like men or masculinity. As far as I can tell, none exist, as all the examples I have seen of this term in a military frame simply mean “to be courageous” with no concept of masculinity in sight.

But let’s say that an individual wants to persist and say that all of the militaries were made up of men at that time period, and so it has some relevance. Again, that would require linguistic evidence, for which there is none. But let’s assume that this is the case and we are talking about the gender or age of men fighting in a military battle. The other problem is that of conceptual metaphor. In 1 Corinthians 16:13, Paul sets up a metaphor with the use of the Greek preposition εν. He says: στηκετε εν τη πιστει, “stand firm in the faith.” This sets up a metaphor which specifically puts this standing firm, being strong, being courageous, etc. in respect to the faith. Hence, Paul is using the notion of reference and respect to create and bring in a different cognitive space of faith and to relate it to the frames and subframes associated with war. To put it in more traditional metaphor theory, Paul is using the metaphor “Faith is war.” The problem is, faith is the source domain for that metaphor, and will control what can be mapped to the concept of war. That causes a problem if you want the manhood part to control the meaning, as that is the target domain not the source domain. So, the next question is how *does* Paul map these two domains together? As we have already seen, Paul maps these together in many places. Looking at passages like Ephesians 6 or 1 Thessalonians 5, we all know what Paul is talking about. In Christian circles, we call it “spiritual warfare:” The battle to fight sin in our minds, in our hearts, and to keep the faith until the end. It is *this* fight Paul is exhorting the Corinthian church to be brave in. Hence, does it have anything to do with “Biblical manhood?” Nope. The only thing it is relevant to is spiritual warfare as that is how Paul frames this word and relates it metaphorically. To rip it from the context of spiritual warfare is, again, pure eisegesis.

One final note about Burk’s notion of a metaphorical usage from stereotypes: It is entirely possible that what he describes is how the word historically developed. But how does he know that it still continued to bear a meaning like “act like men” in the New Testament time period? For example, our word “understand” means “to comprehend,” and has nothing to do with standing under something. Now, it is quite possible that, at one point in the history of the English language, standing under something was seen as a metaphor for comprehending something. However, no one thinks of standing under something today when we use the word “understand.” Indeed, even if the meaning still was in use in the NT, the problem of conceptual frames comes up. Take an English word like “beat.” It can have the meaning “to strike” as well as the meaning “to defeat in a competition.” But does anyone think that the meaning of striking is present in a sentence like “Maria beat John at the chess tournament yesterday?” Does it mean Maria hit John at the chess tournament like Maria might hit a rug in a sentence like “Maria beat the rug to get the dust out?” Even if a word maintains its meaning to the time of its usage, the question as to whether conceptions are present in a particular frame is a major one. As we have seen, all of the evidence points to the simple meaning “to be courageous” when we are talking about a military frame. Indeed, the Lexicon of Louw and Nida, which I particularly like because of my view of frame semantics, specifically says the following about ανδριζομαι:

(a figurative extension of meaning of ανδριζομαι ‘to be manly’ or ‘to become a man,’ not occurring in the NT) to exhibit courage in the face of danger – ‘to be brave, to be courageous.’ …’stand firm in the faith; be brave; be strong’ 1 Cor 16.13. [emphasis mine]
Notice how Louw and Nida specifically say this meaning does not occur in the New Testament. It simply means “to be brave, courageous.” That is why the Septuagint can use this word to translate the Hebrew word חזק, knowing full well that, if kept in a military frame, no one is going to take it as having anything to do with masculinity. Indeed, I can find no evidence of any meaning of masculinity when ανδριζομαι is used in a military frame, just as no one will be able to find any example of the word “beat” meaning “strike” in the frame of competition. And, even if one could, adding the “in the faith” limits what we are talking about to spiritual warfare, and hence, it is pure eisegesis to use this passage as having anything to do with “’Biblical’ manhood,” (which, as I have said before, is anything but Biblical) when there is a specific reference point to what we are talking about, namely, spiritual warfare.

So, again, why did this happen? I think people start looking at things they perceive as cultural problems such as men not behaving in the way they want them to (which, as Rachel Miller pointed out, is nothing more than a rehashing of old Stoic and Aristotelian views of manhood). With those views of manhood in mind, they see this word, maybe in English translation, and they then go to the Greek word, assume certain things about the time and conceptual framing of the text due to the perceived problems in the culture, and they then read it back into the text. I have said a bazillion times that it is hard to be an apologist or cultural commentator and an exegete. People who try to do both run the danger of reading cultural controversies back into the text and framing it in a way that Paul does not frame it. The hard complimentarian/patriarchy movement is guilty of that all over the place. That is what makes their exegesis so bad. They can’t follow the thought of the text because it is not the thought of the text that is their guide, but current cultural trends that they don’t like. They may even have a point with regards to things like removing sex from Biblically defined marriage or the promotion of neo-Marxist ideology. But, even there, I have seen uses of scripture that make my eyes roll. Before one asks how the Bible is relevant to cultural problems, one must think of the Bible as a closed system, relating one idea to another in a particular way. Only when we first look at how scripture sees the world can we then bring in cultural problems to apply it appropriately.

The other problem is, when we don’t begin with how things relate conceptually, we miss critical elements of a frame that are important. For example, military officers weren’t only valued for their bravery in fighting but also for their wisdom. Indeed, the book of Proverbs is full of statements talking about how wisdom will keep us from sin. Yet, the one thing that this bull-in-a-china-shop approach to masculinity cannot account for is wisdom. Indeed, acting in this way often makes matters worse. Many of these people forget, as Paul puts it in Ephesians 6, that we are to be strong *in the Lord* [v.10] and not in our own strength, as “manning up” will cause us to fall flat on our face. These things are never considered in this movement because the cultural concerns narrow their frame of focus. But that is dangerous as it can lead to a complete reframing of these concepts in abusive ways. That is where I believe much of the abuse is coming from in these circles.

Indeed, the way out of this mess of gender confusion is not arbitrarily putting the word “Biblical” in front of some concept of manhood and then forcing it back onto the text of scripture. It is not taking a foolish approach to manhood that leaves out wisdom and values strength without also mentioning that strength comes from the Lord. A Christian who cannot say “I am weak, but God’s power is perfected most fully in my weakness” is simply trusting in himself and not in God. The foolish bull-in-the-china-shop approach to Christianity can only lead to foolish, nonsensical results. We don’t need men like that. We need more men of wisdom: men who act like Solomon in his earlier years or even men who act like Paul in his later years. Acting the way the so called “Biblical” manhood movement wants us to act will only lead to our own destruction as the book of Proverbs explicitly says. Instead of “manning up,” the church needs to wise up. If we don’t learn wisdom and learn it fast, I fear for the church in America. A church that could undergo real persecution that also has little wisdom is a church in a very bad situation indeed. Yet, that is what we face.

A Critique of Two Arguments for Broad Complimentarianism

Seeing a master pick pocket at work is a thing of beauty. Not only must the timing be right, but the pickpocket must create enough of a diversion that he will be able to sneak in to steal the unsuspecting victim’s possessions. It is as much an art as it is a skill, and if it is done well, it can bring audiences to their feet, as is the case with this performance from legendary pickpocket Bob Arno:

The reality is that all of the methods pickpockets use rely upon human cognition, and, especially, how attention can be manipulated and controlled. Scientific American did an excellent program with two cognitive neuroscientists Stephen L. Macknik and Susana Martinez Conde, and a magician named Apollo Robbins. For a good introduction to these issues (which will become important later in this post), I recommend you listen to the program, and try to figure out what is going on:

Why would I start a post critiquing two arguments for hard complimentarianism by discussing human cognition and how it can be manipulated by pickpockets and magicians? The answer is that language is intimately related to human cognition. While you cannot equate language and thought, it is clear that language and thought are related. Indeed, the concept of “embodied cognition” in cognitive linguistics as well as its close cousin, the concept of “modality” in neurolinguistics, have demonstrated that forms are *not* primary in meaning. Logically, meaning comes first, and forms come second. Hence, how the mind works in relating reality together is critical in explaining both form and meaning in language. That is why children first gain some understanding of the world before the form words and even sentences. Indeed, this can be true irregardless of one’s position on the innateness hypothesis. As linguists will say, “Words don’t have meanings; meanings have words.” Yet, for most people involved in the debate over narrow vs broad complimentarianism (aka hard and soft complimentarianism) haven’t really demonstrated any thought as to how the mind processes language. Indeed, I have seen so many simply wrong assumptions about how meaning in language and cognition work that I am offering this critique of the two main arguments I have heard for hard complimentarianism here.

First, to define our terms, Josh Buice gives a good definition of “narrow complimentarianism” and “broad complimentarianism” here:

• Narrow = The idea that women have distinct roles that differ from men in a narrowly focused area of the home and narrowly focused in relation to the office of elder within the church, however, women should be allowed to exercise her teaching gifts alongside men in the local church and beyond so long as she is not ordained to the teaching and shepherding office of elder.
• Broad = The idea that women have distinct roles and such roles and boundaries are not oppressive nor discriminatory. They are for her good and the glory of God as put on display in a broad sphere including the home, the church, and the society as a whole. Such boundaries in the church would prevent her from ordination to the office of elder as well as the function of preaching and teaching the Word to a mixed audience in the local church and beyond —because of the biblical texts such as 1 Timothy 2:12-13[1].

The debate centers on the last text mentioned here which reads as follows (I am going back a few verses to get the context):

1 Timothy 2:8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Women Instructed
1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments,
1 Timothy 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.
1 Timothy 2:11 A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness.
1 Timothy 2:12 But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
1 Timothy 2:13 For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve.
1 Timothy 2:14 And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
1 Timothy 2:15 But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.

Argument 1:

The first argument centers around 1Timothy 2:12 and the phrase “to teach or exercise authority.” To counter the claims of broad complimentarianism, Craig Blomberg, in his book From Pentecost to Patmos, argues that this phrase forms a figure of speech known as a hendiadys. He writes:

Verses 11-15 next call on the women of Ephesus not to supplant the male role of leadership in church. Verses 11-12 define this role as one of authoritative teaching. . . . Verse 12, at first glance, seems to make two separate prohibitions (”teach” and “have authority”), but they are probably intended as mutually defining (a figure of speech known as a hendiadys). After all, Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos (Acts 18:26), women apostles like Junia by definition would have taught multigendered audiences (see on Rom. 16:7), and women deacons like Phoebe obviously exercised delegated authority under the eldership over the rest of the congregation (see on Rom. 16:1-2). What is more, 1 Timothy 2 seems to be full of pairs of roughly synonymous expressions that say basically the same thing in two different ways (cf. vv. 1a,b; 2a,b,c; 3; 4; 7a,b; 8b; 9b; 11). . . . The authoritative teaching role that Paul prohibits women from taking would thus be the office of the overseer or elder, inasmuch as 3:2 and 5:17 assign the combined function of teaching and exercising authority uniquely to this office. . . . The bottom line for this interpretation would then be that the ultimately authoritative teacher in a given church should be male . . . In congregationally structured churches this would be the senior pastor; in other forms of church government it might be a person “higher up” (e.g., a bishop or pope)[2]

However, there are serious problems with this proposal. Jim Hamilton gives a nice summary of some of the standard criticisms of this view when he writes:

Blomberg asserts that the two things prohibited–teaching and exercising authority–form a hendiadys. He cites many scholars in his discussions, but he doesn’t cite Douglas Moo, who argues that this is not a hendiadys. Moo argues against Philip B. Payne, an egalitarian whom Blomberg does cite, that while teaching and exercising authority are closely related, they are nonetheless distinct, as can be seen from the way that they are distinguished from one another in 1 Timothy 3:2, 4-5 and 5:17. Nor does Blomberg interact with Andreas Köstenberger’s argument that this is not a hendiadys. Köstenberger has shown (in the first [1995] and second [2005] editions of Women in the Church) that there is a partial overlap between the two terms–teach and exercise authority–with teaching being one manifestation of the exercise of authority—but these are two activities, not one. Nor does Blomberg answer William D. Mounce, who noted in his commentary on the Pastorals that in the original Greek these two terms—teach and exercise authority–are separated by five words, which argues against them forming a hendiadys, wherein words are usually side by side. The likelihood is that this is not a hendiadys. This means that a central element of Blomberg’s argument that women should do exactly what this text says they are not to do (teach men, which Blomberg indicates women should do more of, he even says they should have opportunities to preach—as long as they’re not elders), is highly disputed and probably wrong.

While I am not in full agreement with everything Hamilton says here, he is right in his criticisms of this as a hendiadys. This is especially the case when he rightly notes that the form in Greek isn’t [NP Conj. NP], but each of the two NPs are separated by 5 words. Indeed, cross-linguistically, hendiadys always require the form [NP Conj. NP]. However, notice what Hamilton concludes from this…namely that Bloomberg’s view is “highly disputed and probably wrong.”

At this point, I must express my deep disgust with both sides of this argument. There are several assumptions here about the way language and the mind interact that are just plain wrong. The assumption here is that meaning must be compressed into linguistic form, and it is the form you have that gives you the meaning. Hence, if you don’t use the form, then you don’t mean the meaning contained in the particular form.

Indeed, this formalism is seriously disputed and probably wrong linguistically. It ignores that these forms arise from *conceptual* relationships that may not be limited to one form. Indeed, thinking in such a way is misleading. Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner give this excellent analogy in their book The Way we Think, Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities:

When Patroclus donned the armor of Achilles to battle the Trojans, what the Trojans first saw was the spectacular armor, and they naturally assumed it was Achilles, and were terrified, and so the armor by itself looked as if it was turning the battle. But it didn’t take long for the Trojans to discover that it was just Achilles’ armor, not Achilles himself, and then they had no pity. In our century, we often look at form the way the Trojans looked at the armor, and indeed, the armor is indispensable-without it, even Achilles would fail. The gods may put considerable effort into making superior armor for the mortals, but they take the power of the warrior for granted. Clearly, the miracles accomplished by the armor depend on the invisible warrior inside[3]

Indeed, if we use the analogy of form to armor, what each of the scholars is doing is asking the question as to whether an individual form or “figure of speech” is to be found in this text. When it can’t match this text to any particular form, we assume this text must not have *any* of the meaning associated with the form. If it isn’t Achilles’ armor, it must not be Achilles. But is that true?

The answer is a laughable “no!” Take the two words “red” and “scarlet.” They are two different adjectives. Therefore, following this logic, since redness is associated with the first form it cannot be associated with the second. Even in Greek, does the imperfect tense referring to a past tense action preclude the aorist tense likewise referring to a past tense action? Of course not. Does the idea of the genitive meaning possession preclude the dative also being used for possession? Again, of course not. Now, I must clarify that I am *not* saying that these forms have the exact same meaning, but rather that certain components of their meaning are shared by different forms such that you can’t automatically assume that a meaning *isn’t* present just because the form isn’t present.

So, the possibility is that there is some meaning lying behind a hendiadys which links the meaning of “to teach” and “to exercise authority,” but is not necessarily limited to a hendiadys. However, before we discuss what that might be, we need to get our facts straight. The fact that “teaching” and “exercising authority” are distinct is irrelevant to the issue of hendiadys. “Nice and hot” is a hendiadys meaning something like “nicely hot,” but niceness and hotness are not the same thing. Indeed, there are some foods that are so hot that they will burn the roof of your mouth off! Hence, niceness and hotness are not the same thing, even though they are related. So what is the issue, then? The issue is *conceptual* relationships, where the whole entire context is taken together. And of course, hendiadys is not necessary for such a relationship. For example, such a relationship exists between word pairs in Hebrew poetry, but they clearly are *not* a hendiadys as they do not have the form [NP Conj NP].

What becomes obvious at this point is that what we are talking about is what is known in cognitive linguistics as “conceptual framing.” Conceptual framing began with the work of Erving Goffman in his book Frame Analysis, but quickly seeped over into the fields of linguistics and cognitive science. George Lakoff gives an excellent introduction to the concept of framing here:

It would seem like these words “teaching,” and “exercising authority,” as well as things like “lifting holy hands” (referring to worship) [v.8],and the opposition of false teaching (vrs. 14-15)[4] are all part of the frame “Elder,” just as “Doctor,” “nurse,” “operating room,” and “scalpel” are all part of the frame “hospital.” Indeed, the fact that he is writing to an elder in Timothy, and is about to talk about the qualifications for elder [3:1ff] should clinch the deal. Elders are involved in leading the worship of the church, they teach, exercise authority, and are to rebuke false teaching.

If this is right, then this frame sets the situation into which we are to understand “teaching.” As George Lakoff said, frames are intensely political. So, for example, when we encounter opposition to homosexuality, we find that Christians and leftists frame it in two different ways. The Christian will use language from the frame of immorality like “sexual sin,” “immorality,” “abomination,” and “rebellion.” The leftist will use language from the frame of racism like “hate,” “bigotry,” “homophobia,” (paralleled with “xenophobia,” and “discrimination.” Hence, one understands the opposition to homosexuality in terms of proper moral opposition and the other understands it in terms of racism. However, if Paul is using language of the church office here, and, indeed, directly mentions the church office in 3:1, then he is thinking of teaching in terms of the church office in the same way a leftist understands opposition to homosexuality in terms of racism.

It is also worth mentioning that, if this is the case, then the argument that male headship “goes back to creation” is way to simplistic. It is about as simplistic as saying that a right triangle goes back to a hypotenuse. While it is true that the concept of a hypotenuse is necessary to understand a right triangle, other concepts are needed as well, such as a right angle and a triangle itself, as well as adjacent sides and trigonometric relationships. Headship *does* go back to creation, but it also goes back to the fall, the church office, worship, and other factors Paul mentions here. Indeed, trying to reduce everything down to creation like that reeks of Stoic philosophy. Indeed, when Josh Buice quoted this text, did you notice how he stopped at verse 13? However, Paul *doesn’t* stop there, nor does he begin at verse 12. He has already setup a conceptual frame that involves far more than just creation, and will go on to add more things to it.

Just one more think left to clean up the plate. What then do we make of a hendiadys? It think that the use of the two words together draws our attention to the relationship between the two words. Like how Apollo Robbins controls the frame of attention of those watching his performance, hendiadys like “nice and hot” draw our attention to the niceness and hotness of something and their relationship. However, it is not necessary to draw our attention to “teaching” and “exercising authority” in any specific way, especially since the conceptual frame already sets up the situation of the church office. Hence, the armor of hendiadys is not necessary to have the meaning related to conceptual frames.

Argument 2:

The second argument seems to take more seriously the need to discuss relationships between these words, but, as we will see, completely misunderstands how the mind links these things together. Tom Schreiner came up with this argument, and he first presented it on Twitter[5], but it has been repeated by Denny Burk[6], and was recently used by him in a book review of Aimee Byrd’s Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood[7]. I will quote the series of Tweets in which Schreiner presents this view:

Some complementarians read 1 Tim 2.12 (I don’t allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man) to say that women can’t serve as pastors or elders. I agree that the verse means that women can’t serve as elders, pastors, overseers (the same office), and there is a parting of ways with egalitarians here. Complementarians have significant agreement here, and we should rejoice in our agreement.
On the other hand, 1 Tim. 2:12 doesn’t speak directly to eldership but to function, and the command is rooted in God’s good creation (1 Tim 2.13)–in Adam being created before Eve. So I think the function of a woman teaching/preaching scripture in a sermon or a mixed Sunday School class is also prohibited.
Notice that the verse speaks to function directly, not the issue of office. Our view of office is a conclusion we draw from the functions that are disallowed. So, those who allow the function but ban from the office are not heeding, in my opinion, what Paul says. In fact, such a view seems quite inconsistent. Why can a woman engage in the functions without occupying the office? Is that just males holding onto power?
But if Paul disallows the function and the office, his view says something about what it means to be a man and a woman. His view on men and women isn’t nominalism; it accords with the created order. To put it another way: the rule isn’t arbitrary. It reflects a profound understanding of what it means to be male and female.
I taught a Sunday School class for many years when I wasn’t an elder. Because of my teaching I had more authority in practice than some of the elders. That is entirely natural and accords with 1 Tim. 2.12.
Of course good people who are evangelicals disagree! I am not saying that anyone who disagrees with me isn’t a complementarian, even if I am worried about their view and its consequences for the future.

So, the basic thrust of this argument is that what “teaching” and “exercising authority” have in common is that they are “functions,” and hence, the text is only talking *functions* and the church office only by implication. But this is simply *not* how the mind works. It doesn’t pull out everything that is similar, and then say that we are talking about what is similar between everything. In fact, this argument is too easy to parody. Consider the following passage:

The mechanic opened up the hood. He looked at the spark plugs, the gears, and the pistons, and then said, “This car is not safe to drive!”

Now, by parody, one might point out that what pistons, spark plugs, and gears all have in common is that they are all metal parts. Hence, any car that has a metal part in it (or these particular metal parts in it) is not safe to drive. Yet, we know that *every* car has metal parts, and we know that every car has *these* metal parts. Is every car then unsafe to drive?

The reality is that the mind doesn’t atomize like this. It constructs a conceptual whole. One wonders how Schreiner would explain the binding problem. For those not familiar with that, when we look at a coffee cup, we see a rim, a handle, and a body. Yet, we conceive of them as one object…a coffee cup, and not three separate objects: a handle, a rim, and a body. Why is that? The answer seems to be related to attention, and the fact that there is a linkage of brain rhythms between the perception of these objects such that we perceive them as one[8]. Yet, Schreiner has not accounted for this in his description of how the mind links these functions.

As has been known since the days of Gestalt, the mind seeks to unify reality into a whole. This can be demonstrated through the use of optical illusions. Consider the following picture. What is this a picture of?:

If you are like most people, you will say it is a star. You will not be very likely to say that it is a series of Packman shapes. That is because of the Gestalt principle of closure where the missing lines of the star are filled in by the mind.

Also, consider this illusion:

Which monster is taller in this picture? Most people will say that the one in the back is taller. Yet, if you get out a ruler and measure, you will see that they are exactly the same size. This is because the mind automatically adjusts for background and size relative to where objects are at in a visual field. Hence, conceptual wholes can even be adjusted for perception in the real world.

In the same way that the mind will integrate metal parts like “spark plugs,” “gears,” and “pistons” into the entirety of the car engine, the mind will integrate functions like “teaching,” “exercising authority,” and refuting false teaching with the background of worship together into the office of elder. Schreiner’s argument is as crazy as looking at the picture of a star, and saying that the star is only meant to be there by implication. It is actually a picture of a bunch of Packman shapes. No, the mind will integrate these things together such that it is *primarily* a picture of a star.


I must say, it is really surprising to see such an unnatural breaking up of the text in this way. This is certainly *not* the hermeneutics anyone would use for the Trinity, justification by faith alone, or any other essential Christian doctrine. But why is this happening? Indeed, when you read Schreiner and Burk, it all seems to go back to the Southern Baptist Convention, and a certain fear that this will lead to female pastors. If women are allowed to teach like men and pastors are, then, eventually, the distinctions between these functions of the church office and female laity will be eradicated. However, this is horrible logic. So, because women can sing in a worship service like men and ordained officers can, eventually, the distinctions between the functions of the church office and the laity will be eradicated????????????? Makes no sense. However, there is a clear fear on the part of these men that this will happen. Remember what Stephen L. Macknik said at the end of the video with Apollo Robbins. One of the interesting things the found was the way emotion affects attention. Obviously, if you are afraid, you will focus on what you are afraid of. Hence, we begin to see why it is that there is an atomizing of the text. Certain elements are focused on to the exclusion of others out of the fear of female pastors becoming a reality in the SBC.

However, this can’t explain everything. How exactly do you go from female Bible teachers to female pastors? What is the connection? It is here where I would turn the corner and say that the real issue here is ecclesiological with the SBC not gynecological. As a background, Southern Baptists claim to hold to the idea that the churches in their denomination are independent, and the Convention is just part of “Southern Baptist Life.” In other words, it is *not* part of their polity. However, listen to this interview with Tom Buck on The Dividing Line, and ask yourself whether it sounds like these churches are independent:

Why is Tom Buck so concerned about a woman being the head of the Convention? Because the head of the convention has to preach at a certain number of SBC churches a year. Wait…*has* to preach in a certain number of SBC churches???????? I thought these churches were independent. If these churches are independent, how can the Convention bind them to do anything? What if *no* church wants to have the head of the Convention? Why is Tom Buck so concerned with Resolution 9? Because it *can* be used in disputes. Wait, it *can* be used in disputes? Says who? On whose authority? How can that be the case when these churches are independent? Why can’t these churches just ignore these resolutions and none of them take them seriously?

The reality is that Southern Baptists are halfway between Congregationalism and Presbyterianism. The Convention can bind certain things on these churches like Presbyteries can in Presbyterianism, but these churches are still considered free…relatively speaking. That is why the head of the convention need not be a pastor or elder because it isn’t considered official church polity. The reality is that there is no Biblical warrant at all for such a halfway house. However, what this halfway house does is open up the door to female preachers. Now, if you get a woman in as head of the Convention, the a Convention can force her preaching on these churches. If you get a Resolution passed that says that critical theory is a proper analytical tool, that ideology can be forced down the throats of the SBC churches.

As a Presbyterian, this is a totally unacceptable ecclesiology because it is thoroughly unbiblical. They may try to say the Convention isn’t part of their church polity, but their actions belie such a statement. Until Southern Baptists face the truth about what their polity really is, they are going to (rightfully) have this fear of female pastors which will force them to atomize 1 Timothy 2:11ff because it will shift their attention to the “teaching” element of that passage ignoring the rest of the frame. In other words, they think that, if they forbid a woman from teaching a man in any context, they avoid female pastors, because they then cannot be forced on them by the Convention. That is the only way in this kind of polity. However, as a Presbyterian, I have a different suggestion for my Southern Baptist friends. Face the reality that the Convention is part of your polity, and either turn it into the Southern Baptist General Assembly so that everyone involved in the Convention must be a church officer and hence a qualified male (my preference), or take away *any* ability the Convention has to determine things like who must speak in the churches and how many times, as well as what can be used in disputes, so that you become consistently independent and Congregationalist. Then you won’t need to atomize 1 Timothy 2:12-13. Back when I studied theology, my professor stressed how modern theology is a matter of consistency between various branches of theology. Your Christology must be consistent with your soteriology which must be consistent with your theology proper. In this case, a problem in ecclesiology and church polity leads to a problem in gynecology. A fear engendered by bad ecclesiology leads to bad hermeneutics and a misuse of 1 Timothy 2:12ff. Is this true of *everyone* in the SBC who promotes broad complimentarianism? No. But, when I read these guys, there is clearly an internal worry within their own denomination, and it makes sense given the problems I see with their polity. That seems to me to be a *big* factor.

All in all, I have not been impressed with the exegetical and linguistic level of this debate. It has been sloppy and *very* political. We have been pickpocketed because our attention has been diverted by fear. My hope is that this post will help to increase the level of discourse on this topic and point the discussion back to the text. The methods I have used here can be found in any textbook on Cognitive Linguistics or Pragmatics[9]. It is also based on empirical observations about how the mind works. My hope is that these things will lead to a much more elevated discussion than the political garbage I have witnessed over the last several weeks. It is to that end: faithfulness to scripture, that I have written this. May God be glorified in it. Amen!

[1]Buice, Josh. An Assault upon Complementarianism Is an Assault upon the Bride of Christ. Available at Yes, broad complimentarians can be a bit melodramatic in their language…not to mention a bit naive in their exegesis!

[2]. Blomberg, Craig. From Pentecost to Patmos, an Introduction to Acts through Revelation. Broadman and Holdman Academic. Nashville, Tennessee. 2006. Pgs. 363-365

[3]Fauconnier, Gilles. Turner, Mark. The Way we Think, Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. Basic Books. New York, NY. 2003. Pgs. 4-5

[4]Indeed, it is interesting to me that Paul doesn’t mention “able to refute those who oppose” in 1 Timothy 3, but he *does* mention it in the qualifications in Titus! I think it is because that was already something implied by the discussion of Eve and the serpent.


[6]Burk, Denny. Can broad and narrow complementarians coexist in the SBC?. Available at

[7]Burk, Denny. A way-station to egalitarianism: A review essay of Aimee Byrd’s Recovering from Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. Available at

[8] Reisberg, Daniel. Cognition, Exploring the Science of the Mind. W.W Norton and Company. New York, NY. 2016. pgs. 79-80

[9]Although, pragmaticists would put things a little differently as many of them assume a semantics/pragmatics distinction…a discussion of which would take us far afield.

On the New ESV Translation of Genesis 3:16

There has been quite the rumbling of late about the announcement of a new translation of the ESV in Genesis 3:16. Here is the old translation:

Genesis 3:16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

And here is the new translation:

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to[a] your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”


aGenesis 3:16 Or shall be toward (see 4:7)

I have put the relevant change in underlined bold.

There have been many reactions to this. The Aquila Report published an article by Sam Powell [full text found here] against the translation, and Scot McKnight has written and article against it [with support from Carl Trueman], but Denny Burk has chimed in as being in favor of the translation. There is no shortage of opinions on whether the ESV did the right thing in changing this translation.

The issue involves things that linguists deal with all of the time such as intertextuality, disambiguation, translation theory, etc. Yet, in my view, there is considerable sloppiness in terms of how the text is being handled by both sides of this discussion. For example, to quote Powell:

It seems to me that using Genesis 4:7 to interpret Genesis 3:16 is rather sketchy exegesis. It would be similar to saying that God spoke against Baasha (1 Kings 16:12 – the preposition is ‘el) and God spoke unto Moses (Ex. 3:14 – the preposition is the same) therefore, God was against Moses just as he was against Baasha. It’s really bad exegesis. It seems to me that the meaning of the phrases must be determined in the context.

The fact is “sin” and women are not the same thing, and their desires are not the same thing. I wonder why we make the assumption that women’s desires are always for domination and manipulation even when the text doesn’t say so. Simply saying “Sin desires to manipulate and dominate and since the same preposition is used this applies to the woman as well” simply will not cut it. That’s not how language works.

I would say this is a misrepresentation of the facts. It is not just that the preposition is the same, but that the entire vocabulary and syntax is the same:

וְאֶל־אִישֵׁךְ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָתֵ֔ךְ וְה֖וּא יִמְשָׁל־בָּֽךְ׃

וְאֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ תְּשׁ֣וּקָת֔וֹ וְאַתָּ֖ה תִּמְשָׁל־בּֽוֹ׃

Note the bold and underlined elements of the Hebrew text indicating how many words these two passages share. In other words, it is not just the preposition אל, but it is a whole range of vocabulary. Not only that, but the surface structure of the syntax of each verse is almost completely identical to the point where the exact same phrase structure tree can be drawn for each verse [with the exception of the one determiner in 3:16 that is not in 4:7]:


So, you have almost identical vocabulary, and almost identical syntax. Hence, the similarity is hardly limited to one preposition! Seeing as many examples of intertextuality as I have in my Discourse Analysis of the Hebrew Bible and other texts, I think it is utterly futile to argue that this is not an example of intertextuality. When the vocabulary and syntax line up like this, it is almost certain.

However, it is the *interpretation* of the intertextuality that bothers me. Now, Denny Burk has chimed in on the issue of interpretation. He writes:

All translation is interpretation. No matter what translation philosophy one pursues (essentially literal/formal equivalence or dynamic equivalence), one is dealing with an interpretation philosophy. What distinguishes these approaches is not that one translates and the other interprets. The difference (in part) is that one exhibits a tendency toward more narrow interpretation (dynamic equivalence) while the other tends to leave more interpretive options open (essentially literal/formal equivalence).

As James Barr has pointed out, it really depends upon what is meant by “all translation is interpretation.” If we mean that we must interpret the words in the source language in order to represent them in the target language, then, indeed that is the case. However, translation is not writing a commentary, and I think such statements miss the point. Again, James Barr puts it quite eloquently in his article on the topic of translation, the task of translation is to accurately represent the semantics and pragmatics of the source language in the target language. That means that the issue of formal vs dynamic equivalence is really unimportant. The goal of the translator should be to use *both* as tools to most accurately represent the semantics and pragmatics of the source language in the target language.

However, the question is how to interpret this intertextuality. I think what is clouding the discussion is what my former professor, Dr. Willem VanGemeren used to say is the evangelical tendency toward an A=B approach to interpretation. When I taught a chapter on semantics in a hermeneutics class at my church, I brought a chair up to the front of the class, and said, “What is this?” The reply was, “A chair.” You can see the formula A=B in that response as “this is this.” Then I said, “What is a chair.” And like a knee jerk reaction, the class said, “Something you sit in.” Again, you can see the A=B approach. I then said, “Well, then, what is a bench?” The problem is that A=B doesn’t work in terms of meaning, because meaning often involves multiple semantic elements. Eventually, it will break down as it did there.

However, in intertextuality, it is even more complicated than that. For example, the overlaying of structures can be indicated by intertextuality. Similarity in topic can be indicated by things like texts having the same register or the same genre. So complicated is intertextuality that entire books have been written on the topic.

One of the main functions of intertextuality is to cast a statement in a new or ironic light. I don’t think that has been considered in regard to this text. Thus, I think there is a grain of truth in what Powell has said above about there being differences between these two texts, even though I also think there are similarities. For example, I think the concept of hostility is to be found in both texts. I think the mechanical translation of “rule” for משל does not bring this out. As much as I have disagreed with Denny Burk in the last two posts to this point, I find considerable agreement with him when he writes:

Likewise, the man’s domination of the woman is a curse but it is not commanded of him. The interpretive issues at stake here are complex, so let me cut to the chase. I agree with Ray Ortlund’s interpretation which views the man’s “rule” not as the benevolent, self-sacrificial headship of Genesis 2 but as “ungodly domination” on the part of the man (RBMW, p. 109 ). In short, the man’s rule is sinfully motivated. God doesn’t prescribe or command anyone to sin. So the husband’s rule in this sense is anything but prescriptive. It describes the sad state of affairs that afflicts the relationship of husband and wife because of the man’s sin. This isn’t the nullification of the headship principle; it’s the sinful distortion of it. McKnight suggests that the complementarian view turns men and women into “contrarians by divine design.” Nothing could be further from the truth. That is not what this text is teaching, and it is not the complementarian view.

I don’t know that I would agree with Burk that this is a sinful distortion of the headship principle. I would say it is completely and totally unrelated to the headship principle. Too often concepts such as “headship” are read into terms like “rule” due to current controversies within the church when the context doesn’t support it. However, I agree with everything else Burk has said here. There is a clear context of domination provided by the intertextual connections to Genesis 4:7, and that should frame how we look at the ruling in Genesis 3:16.

But, if that is all we see, then we miss the point, and don’t take Powell’s observation that there are differences between these texts seriously. Just as there is a relationship battle in Genesis 3:16, there is a relationship battle in Genesis 4:7 between Cain and Abel. However, one of the questions you must ask yourself in doing Discourse Analysis is “Who are the participants involved?” In Genesis 3:16, it is framed in terms of a conflict between the woman and her husband. In Genesis 4:7, instead of Abel being put in opposition to Cain, *sin* is put in opposition to Cain. It is an ironic twist that takes this principle out of the context of interpersonal relationships, and into the realm of a battle with sin. Ultimately, the battle against the domination of fellow human beings is the a battle against sin, not against the other human being. I think what the text is saying is that the domineering battle to the death must be against sin, not against the other person.

Also, this re-framing of the discussion also moves the text beyond a discussion of marriage, and to human relationships more generally. Thus, although marriage is certainly affected by the fall [and thus, you will have sinful attempts to dominate the other person in marriage in a fallen world], nevertheless, such sinful attempts to dominate others are not limited to marriage, but can involve all other human relationships. Sin, therefore, threatens one of the very foundational elements of civilization – the ability of man to relate to his fellow man. Indeed, the rest of the story of Genesis bears this out, from the violence mentioned before the flood [Genesis 6:11] to the whole of humanity seeking to undermine God himself at the tower of Babel. The problem is that man has to learn to have that tyrannical attitude toward his sin, and learn to destroy it – not to be a tyrant to his fellow man so as to destroy him.

Having been through all of this, I want to go back now, and assess the ESV’s revised translation:

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.

My first concern with the ESV’s translation is that it uses the term “contrary to” to translate the preposition אל. While it is true that אל has an adversative meaning, this translation makes it look like what is going on here is that the man wants pizza for lunch, and the woman wants a bean burrito, and this is somehow sinful. In other words, her desire is “contrary to” his because he wants one thing for lunch, and she wants something else. The meaning of the passage is much more sinister than that. Not only that, but using the bear term “rule” here does make it sound like headship is involved, when I don’t think it is. The use of the term “but” does the same thing, making it seem like there is a contrast between a mere disagreement and male headship. Thus, in order to remove these difficulties, I would translate it this way:

Your desire will be against your husband
and he will be a tyrant to you.

In the same way, one might also translate משל in Genesis 4:7 as “tyrannically rule.” so that we would have:

Sin is crouching at your door. Its desire is against you, but you must tyrannically rule over it.

This would highlight the intertextual connections between these two texts, but also show their differences as well. As Barbara Johnstone has rightly argued in concluding her textbook on Discourse Analysis, people make use of old forms and structures in language, but the put their own twists and nuances on them. I think that is clearly what is going on here in Genesis 3:16 and 4:7. The goal of the discourse analyst is to see both the similarities as well as the differences.

In this case, ironically, those supporting the complementarian side are prone to see the similarities while those on the egalitarian side are prone to see the differences. What this says to me is that both sides are grossly imbalanced. The complementarians, in an effort to fight feminism, have forgotten or at least underemphasized the fact that women are alike men in many ways. The egalitarians, in an effort to fight abuse, have so emphasized women’s equality with men that they have ignored or underemphasized the differences between them. Saying men and women have many things in common is not egalitarianism. Saying men and women are different is not complimentarianism. In my view, more balance is needed from both sides, as it has affected what they are able to see in the text of scripture. That is exceedingly dangerous.

Addendum: Sam Powell has kindly taken the time to comment down in the comments below, and has added a clarification to what he said in his post. He is right to say that we both have the same concerns, and don’t seem to be that far off.

Relevance Theory in the EFS Controversy

I have said many times that NT scholars anymore give me hives. As someone who studies pragmatics as heavily as I do, it bothers me to see that field engaging in linguistic thinking that is sloppy at best, and sloppy in regard to linguistic pragmatics. We have already seen how Mike Licona virtually ignored the Gricean principle of quality. However, in a current controversy, again I am puzzled as to why pragmatics is being so heavily ignored. I have been following the recent controversy between eternal functional subordination [EFS] proponents [like Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem] and classical Trinitarians [like Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt]. There was recently some controversy over an article by Denny Burk in the Journal of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It, again, left me shaking my head, and wondering if anyone in the field of NT studies has ever even heard of Paul Grice, much less people like Laurence Horn, Dan Sperber, Deirdre Wilson, or Stephen Levinson who have expanded upon his work.

The issue has to do with the classic text in Philippians 2:6. It reads:

Philippians 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped

The issue has to do with fact that the phrase τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ [to be equal with God] is articular, containing the article τὸ. The classic Greek grammar of Blass Debrunner and Funk and others have taken this to be an anaphoric use of the article. Now, as someone doing my masters thesis on discourse anaphora in Biblical Hebrew, that made my ears pop up. What NT scholars are referring to here is actually a very common form of discourse in language. A noun is introduced in an indefinite manner, and then references back to that noun are made through the use of the definite article:

John adopted a dog. The dog was brown, and had blue eyes, but John loved the dog because he was such a good friend.

Burk argues that the article here in Philippians 2:6 is not anaphoric, but is simply used to mark the syntactic position of the phrase τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ [to be equal with God] Thus, according to him, the article means that the sentence should read “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” instead of “did not regard a thing to be grasped as equality with God.” He writes:

Sometimes there is the potential for confusion in distinguishing the accusative object from the accusative complement. For this reason, Wallace has set forth a set of rules that help to distinguish the accusative object from the accusative complement. The object will either be a pronoun or a proper name, or it will have the definite article. In Phil 2:6, the only way we can distinguish the accusative object from the accusative complement is by the definite article at the beginning of the infinitive. If the article were absent, the syntactical relation of the infinitive phrase to the rest of the sentence would be unclear. So the article does not show up here in order to link “equality with God” to the “form of God.” The definite article appears here to distinguish the object (τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῶ) from the complement (ἁρπαγμὸν).

So, the only way in which you can distinguish between an object and a compliment in trivalent verbs like this is by one being a pronoun, a proper name, or having the article. First of all, there are some languages that, unlike Greek, are not inflected for case. If they are not inflected for case, how do you know what is the subject? There can be strong patterns in word order, but even those do not always hold. Just look at Hebrew poetry. According to Burk, it would seem like we are forever shot into a black hole of ambiguity in such situations. And yet, they arise often enough in natural language that using the ambiguity analysis throws language to Grice’s modified Occam’s razor. Again, it is as if concepts such as context, background assumptions, [even semantics!] and other factors do not play a role in disambiguating which phrase goes with which thematic role. However, in natural language, all of these factors can be used to distinguish which thematic role each phrase goes with.

I will not spend much time on how the semantics of the verb in question can be used in that endeavor, as it is not really relevant to this passage. Suffice it to say that certain verbs require certain arguments at certain places that other verbs with similar meanings will not. Consider the following sentence:

John poured gasoline into the tank.

Now look at what happens when we try to use the similar verb “fill” to describe this event, but use the same thematic roles:

*John filled the gasoline into the tank.

Now we have a sentence that is ungrammatical, because the theta sequence agent – theme – goal, although it fits with the semantics of the verb “to pour,” it does not fit with the semantics of the verb “to fill” which requires a sequence of agent – patient – instrument.

However, the main issue I would like to deal with is the use of pragmatics to disambiguate which nouns go with which thematic roles. There are times in which our background assumptions can disambiguate which nouns go with which thematic role. For example:


How do we disambiguate which noun is the subject of the verb “to pet” and which is the object? We simply recognize that, given the state of affairs of our culture, men pet dogs, and dogs do not pet men. While Greek would distinguish between the two by using different cases for each one[1], even in a language like Hebrew which does not have a case system, we can know which is the subject and which is the object.

Now, if we are in the context of a narrative, and the dog and the human have switched bodies, then it might be different. That also brings us to another way in which the assignment of thematic roles can be disambiguated, and that is through the use of context. Consider the following:

John was carrying a box of rocks when he tripped, and the rocks went flying. ROCKS LARRY HIT, and bruised him badly.

In this case, the context tells us what is flying in the air, and there is a relationship between someone getting hit with something and getting bruised.

In relating things to context, I have found that Relevance Theory has often been helpful in dealing with how such ambiguities are resolved according to context. One aspect of relevance theory that is helpful in Philippians 2:6 is the concept of “processing effort.” Compare these adjacency pairs:

1. Does the hardware store have a 1/4 inch nail?
Either martians dance on Swiss Cheese, or the hardware store has a 1/4 inch nail.

2. Does the hardware store have a 1/4 inch nail?

Notice how much more effort is required to understand the response in #1 as opposed to the response in #2. Thus, the answer in #2 is said to be more “relevant” than the answer in #1, because it has less processing effort. In this case, processing effort usually involves the time taken for the brain to process the meaning of an utterance. In #1, the brain must first compute the disjunctive syllogism before it can arrive at the answer to the question. However, no such disjunctive syllogism is needed in #2.

Sperber and Wilson argue that, unless there is some reason for it, the speaker will make maximize relevance in their contribution. For example, unless the speaker wants to compare the absurdity of the idea that the hardware story doesn’t have a 1/4 nail to the idea that martians dance on Swiss cheese [thus highlighting the absurdity of the idea that the hardware store doesn’t have it], he will reply as in #2. This is critical to Philippians 2:6. Note the preceding context:

Philippians 2:3-6 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

I have emboldened the above section to establish that the context here is humility. Hence, the environment to which we must disambiguate this text in verse 6 is humility. Indeed, there seems to be a connection between the φρονεῖτε “think” of verse 5 and ἡγήσατο, the key verb of verse 6. ἡγεομαι is what is called a “psych verb,” that is, a verb that deals with thoughts, feelings, etc. Hence, both of these verbs belong to the same semantic category. Hence, if we are disambiguating correctly, the disambiguation must have something to do with humility.

Now, if there were no article before εἶναι in verse 6, you would have two possible disambiguations:

1. did not regard a thing to be grasped as equality with God,
2. did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.

The question is to how #1 would be seen as relevant to the concept of humility. #1 is speaking about idolatry, not humility. I suppose one could try to save #1 by arguing that having idolatry of something to be grasped is something that requires a whole lot of arrogance, and hence, goes against the principle of humility. However, remember that the speaker [or, in this case, writer] is going to be seeking to maximize relevance. Consider the following things the brain has to compute for each:

1. humility -> ~Idolatry -> ~arrogance = humility
2. humility -> not holding onto one’s position

Clearly, #1 requires *far* more processing effort than #2. Thus, if we are assuming that Paul is following the principle of relevance [and, in the absence of any reason for him to *not* be following the principle of relevance here] we assume he means #2 and not #1. However, if that is the case, then Burk is simply wrong to argue that there is no way we could know which phrases go with which thematic roles unless the article is there.

However, it only gets worse for Burk. Burk writes:

According to Rosén, when the article appears in contexts where it is grammatically obligatory, one cannot press the usual semantic value that the article has as a determiner. This procedure is consistent with Robert Funk’s observation concerning the significance of the article in Hellenistic Greek, “Where the article functions more or less exclusively as a grammatical device, i.e., where it is lexically entirely empty.” He elaborates that in such situations, “The article in Greek is often a purely grammatical device and should be assigned only grammatical “meaning.”’ The rest of this essay builds upon the same presupposition. Therefore, in the following analysis of articular infinitives in the New Testament, whenever it can be demonstrated that the article is required as a function marker or case-identifier, we cannot conclude that the article definitizes the infinitive (thereby making it anaphoric).

Of course, I would say that this is nonsense. Can not a noun not hold a particular position in the syntax *precisely because* it is definite? Let us take linking verbs for example. Is it not the case that, when one noun is definite and the other is not definite in a linking verb construction, the subject is the definite noun? Consider John 1:1:

καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος
and the word was God

Here, because λόγος is definite, it is the subject[2]. However, if one wants to argue that the article does not definitize the noun, would it be appropriate to translate this as “a word was God?” And if not why not? In fact, one could argue quite strongly that this article is *likewise* anaphoric, pointing back to “the word” spoken of earlier in the verse. How can all of this be?

What Rosén and Funk are stating here is entirely reductionistic. Again, the reason is that pragmatics have not been considered. Definiteness vs indefiniteness and grammar are categories of syntax and semantics, not pragmatics. However, anaphora borders on the interface between syntax and *pragmatics.* If you do not allow relationships between these various disciplines of linguistics [and, if you completely ignore one of them], one can see how you would come up with this syntactic reductionism[3].

As you can tell, my argument [and the argument of people like Stephen Levinson and Yan Huang who have heavily influenced me] is that anaphora is a pragmatic concept following Gricean and Neo-Gricean principles. This is because of something in relevance theory called “bridging cross reference.” An example would be this:

The Jones family took at trip to a beautiful spot on the ocean. The sunsets were beautiful.
+>There were sunsets at the spot on the ocean the Jones family went to.

In bridging cross reference, you have a noun that is usually indefinite followed by a noun that is usually definite. These two nouns will have certain relationships that are relevant to one another based upon to our background assumptions of reality. In the above example, because we know that sunsets can be seen over the ocean, we process the relevance as meaning that sunsets were over the ocean at the place the Jones family went to.

The key is that the relationship between the two nouns can be of any kind including equality, and usually the first noun is definite and the second noun is indefinite[4]. In our text in Philippians 2:6, the issue is the relevance between “form of God” and “being equal to God.” The classic interpretation found in the Blass Debrunner Funk Grammar and held by N.T. Wright is that these two are identical, namely, that “the form of God” and “being equal to God” are the same thing. However, Burk wants to separate these two and say that “the form of God” is different from “equality with God.” Equality with God, in his view, refers to having the same functional role. Thus, on his reading, it means that, although Christ existed in the form of God, he did not take an equal role functionally. That is very difficult to hold in the context, as the following verses state:

Philippians 2:6-8 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Clearly, the following verses are referring to Christ’s incarnation. So, how is that relevant to EFS? Burk makes the claim that the connection between the two is the pactum. In other words, EFS is to be found in the fact that Christ voluntarily took a subordinate role from eternity past when it submitted to the will of the Father for him to take on human flesh in the incarnation.

Aside from theological problems with this view[5], there is also the problem of relevance. Again, note the processing effort needed to get Burk’s interpretation compared to the traditional interpretation:

Deity of Christ -> EFS -> pactum ->incarnation
Deity of Christ -> Giving up that equality-> in the incarnation

It requires far more processing effort to go through EFS and the pactum than to simply see a link between the form of God, equality of God, and the incarnation. Plus, there would be no reason to go through the pactum and EFS as lessening himself in the incarnation would prove humility just as surely as would going through EFS and the Pactum. Thus, ironically, by the principle of relevance, Burk’s interpretation is pragmatically untenable.

This whole exercise continues to highlight the needs for the field of NT studies to seriously consider linguistic pragmatics as an important part of the training of their scholars. Proliferation of meanings and analyses of ambiguity abound in NT exegetical literature. It is not that ambiguity and polysemy do not exist in language. It is simply that such an overload on these things like you find in literature on the exegesis of the NT destroys the economy of one’s view of language, making it much harder to learn how to do exegesis, and making one less accurate in doing exegesis in the long run. This a major problem I would like to see linguists of the Greek New Testament address.

Now, as far as EFS goes, it is extremely weak exegetically. Yet, amazingly, is not only defended, but garners very violent reactions when opposed. I suppose EFS will always have support among intellectuals and young believers within the church. However, it is grossly unnecessary, and, what is worse is that it cheapens the Deity of Christ and the incarnation. Even worse than that, it has been used by cultic movements such as the Christian Patriarchy Movement to maintain control over their members. Sadly, often these idealistic intellectuals in the Christian church don’t really care about the practical implications of their teaching so long as their teaching is “Biblical.” Whether the linguistic methodology and hermeneutics used to arrive at those teachings is correct or matches linguistic reality is never really asked, and fierce anger [or total ignoring of the one asking] often accompanies such asking. However, idealism is every bit as dangerous as liberalism. When the church comes up with anti-liberal ideals, and will not listen to the voice of her Lord through proper exegesis and hermeneutics, she becomes a sitting duck for all kinds of evil to infiltrate her ranks in the name of that idea and vision. The fact that this view will probably always be popular among intellectuals within the reformed churches is thus sad testimony of the state of the reformed movement in the United States today.

[1] However, in situations involving linking verbs, Greek uses the same case in both the subject and the predicate nominative. In such situations you often have the same problem.

[2] θεὸς here is probably not definite, but qualitative.

[3] I also think what might lay behind this is the nonsense of interpreting the article as having some significance that is entirely far-fetched, but, clearly, the idea that “being equal to God” refers back to “being in the form of God” is not far fetched.

[4] Of course, one could imagine examples such as:

We went into a parking lot near the fair grounds. A car had a ticket on it for parking in an unauthorized place.
+>there was a car in the parking lot we entered with a ticket on it.

Thus, even if Burk is right about a “purely grammatical” function to the article, it still does not rule out bridging cross reference. However, usually, the second noun is definite. This is why I, I would say, the anaphoric use of the article has been identified by grammarians of many different languages including Hebrew and Greek. However, the phenomenon is primarily *pragmatic* in character.

[5] There are many criticisms of EFS theologically, but the most relevant has to do with the criticism that EFS logically reduces to monothelitism, the idea that there is one will in Christ rather than the orthodox being that there are two wills in Christ. If Christ takes on a human nature and thus a human will at the incarnation, then the pactum would be that Christ will submit according to his human will when he takes on that human will. Hence, there is no submission in terms of the Son’s Deity in eternity past.

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