Many people today who claim to be and likely are sincere followers of Jesus Christ aren’t properly educated in the discipline of biblical exegesis and interpretation. Of course not everyone can or wants to go to seminary to study this topic. We can’t fault people to be ignorant about rather complex matters.
However, an introduction to the art of interpretation wouldn’t hurt anyone. My reasoning behind this assertion is that the lack of basic understanding of exegesis causes unnecessary conflict within the church. In the rest of this articles, I would like to show an example of this. Please bear in mind that the arguments presented here aren’t meant to convince anyone of any particular position, but rather, to show how difficult these arguments can be.
Let’s dive right in. Many people in the church today argue over the issue of women’s position within the Christian society. Some argue that they are equal to men in all regards and some argue that God created men and women in his image but for different purposes. This becomes an issue in two particular passages: Ephesians 5 where we learn of how the husband and the wife are to conduct themselves in the marriage; and 1 Timothy 2 where Paul forbids women from entering into the office of an elder.
Let’s look at the Ephesians passage first. When women read that passage, the first thing they think is that they are by no means going submit to their husbands because they live in a society that doesn’t discriminated based on gender. They dismiss the biblical account based on how they see themselves in the 21st century society. The Pauline theology is deemed out-dated and irrelevant to the modern person. If instead they read on and paid attention to what the husband’s responsibilities are, they might learn that much greater burden is placed upon him. The husband is to love his wife with the same love that Christ loves the church! The same love with which the Father loves the Son. The sacrificial love that allowed Jesus to suffer and die for undeserving sinners. And that’s no small task!
The passage from Timothy is dismissed on similar grounds. A women is as able as a man and shouldn’t be told to refrain from entering into office based on her being a woman. However, this passage says nothing of competency or intelligence. The passage in question in question reads as follows:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 1 Timothy 2:12-14
In this case, it’s a question of language that is being ignored. What is Paul’s reason for forbidding the woman from teaching? The order of creation. When God was finished creating the world, he announced that it was very good. This was before the sin entered into the world. Paul grounds his argument in the work of God. He follows God’s hand in history and is consistent with it. This means that we cannot dismiss this instruction as having come from a particular city where women were causing problems and meaning that it doesn’t apply to us.
The biggest problem in today’s layperson interpretation is that they project their own ideas onto the biblical text and refuse to accept those verses and ideas that don’t align with they own. This is a very flawed approach. Rather, we should approach the Bible with an attitude of awe, expecting the God of the universe to speak to use in his infinite wisdom. Sadly, a great many people today choose to ignore their God and pursue their own egos and agendas.