Church Leaders, Please Get Training!

As I was viewing Facebook recently I noticed that someone commented on an article at Charisma Magazine’s webpage. The title of the article immediately caught my attention, “One Little Word Dispels the Notion that Paul Silenced Women.” Having done some study on complementarian and egalitarian interpretations of key New Testament texts on the role of men and woman in the home and in the local church, I was interested to see what the author of the article, Eddie Hyatt, had to contribute to the discussion.[1]

The author focuses on interpreting 1 Corinthians 14:34–35, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church” (NIV). After going through the most common attempts to understand this text within the context of Paul’s discussion on spiritual gifts and the historical background of the Corinthian church, the author offers his solution.

The crux of Hyatt’s argument in favor of women partaking in any and all leadership positions in the local church is his discussion of the Greek New Testament word ἤ (pronounced eh) that occurs in 1 Cor 14:36. This word is critical to Hyatt’s interpretation. He states,

The word η … is often used in Greek as an “expletive of disassociation” such as the English, “Rubbish!” or “Nonsense!” or “Get out of here!” Although the word can have various uses, this use was common in the New Testament era and is often used in this manner by Paul himself.

He then goes on to note that the word is used this way in 1 Cor 6:15 and that Liddell and Scott, a Greek-English Lexicon, confirms his conclusion about the use of the word ἤ.

There’s just one problem with this reasoning. It’s fallacious. It couldn’t be more wrong. The little Greek word that bears the full force of Hyatt’s reasoning means “or.” It is “disjunctive conjunction.”[2] It cannot and never has meant anything like “rubbish” or “nonsense.” The word ἤ does not even occur in 1 Cor 6:15, a verse he uses to substantiate his point.

What does occur in 1 Cor 6:15 is the phrase μὴ γένοιτο (mē genoito), which most modern translations render “never!” Of the 15 times the phrase occurs in the Greek New Testament, the apostle Paul uses it 14 times, and every time he uses it he does so because he fears “that someone might infer a erroneous conclusion from the previous argument.”[3] Although the phrase is found almost exclusively in Paul’s letters, it is nowhere to be found in 1 Cor 14:34–36, the very text Hyatt wishes for his readers to properly understand (Rom 3:3–4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11; 1 Cor 6:15; Gal 2:17; 3:21; 6:14).

Before I get to the point of this post, I want to note two important points with reference to studying and using the biblical languages. First, a working knowledge of the biblical languages (Hebrew and to a lesser degree Aramaic in the Old Testament and Greek in the New Testament) is helpful for understanding the biblical text. If someone desires to know their Bible better, then they should seriously consider putting in the time and energy to learn the biblical languages. I personally have profited from learning to study and put to use the biblical languages. I use them regularly for preaching, teaching, and personal reflection. I’ve heard it said that learning to interact with the biblical languages is like watching TV in HD, while relying on a Bible translation is comparable to watching TV in black and white. You can get by with black and white, but you will not get to experience the vividness and detail of HD.

Second, as helpful as it is to understand and use the biblical languages, they are not going to help you unlock some profound mystery hidden in the Bible. This appears to be the way Hyatt uses the Greek New Testament. He has uncovered something no other scholar before him (or hopefully after him) has ever come across. Hyatt’s profound knowledge of New Testament Greek enabled him to once and for all stop the senseless debate between complementarian and egalitarian exegetes. Apart from being just plain wrong in what Greek word Paul actually used, Hyatt falls prey to the idea that biblical languages are a key to unlock the hidden codes of Scripture. Knowing the biblical language will not do this folks. It will open up a world of resources that you might otherwise not profit from, and you may find some nuances in the text that help drive a truth home, and you will be able to interact with the biblical text in a way that you were previously unable to do so, but you will never find anything secretly hidden in the text that has been overlooked by everyone else.

Now, to the main point of all of this. My hope and plea is that anyone who is engaged in vocational ministry of the Word will take the time to get as much training as they can. The person who commented on the Charisma article is someone engaged in vocational Christian ministry. If this person had some training in the biblical languages, they would have been able to dismiss Hyatt’s baseless reasoning, rather than commenting on how “very interesting” the article was.[4] I’m sure this person had no idea they were pointing others to something that was inaccurate. But that’s the point. How could they know if they had not been trained to know otherwise? And how could they prevent others from being led astray if they were led astray themselves?

Part of discipling others is protecting them from false teaching and preparing them to identify it for themselves. This is why it is so important for Christian leaders to get as much training as possible, particularly training with respect to properly handling and interpreting Scripture. It is the Word of God. When we handle it in an inappropriate manner we misrepresent God and what he has declared. We lead others astray if we do not rightly present the truths presented in God’s Word. If leaders truly want to lead those God has entrusted in their care well, they will do everything they can to become better equipped in rightly dividing the Word of truth. This may mean taking a Greek New Testament class at a local college or seminary. Or it may mean taking a class on proper biblical interpretation. Or, if you cannot make the time yourself, it may mean contacting someone who can help you sort through issues regarding the original languages of Scripture. Or if you cannot or will not consider doing any of these things, stay away from commenting on things in which you are out of your depth. There is a reason I don’t go around talking with others about what I know about the inner workings of an automobile engine. It’s because I don’t really know anything at all. I may know where some things are located under the hood, but I have no technical knowledge about the machine. Know your strengths and weaknesses, and where you are weak, get training.

[1] Complementarians essentially believe the Bible teaches the equality of male and female persons, but they see this equality as one of worth and value (both created in God’s image, and for Christians, both are recipients of the same salvation in Christ), which are not incompatible with complementary gender roles and distinctions. Egalitarians essentially believe there is no biblical teaching, rightly interpreted, for restricting any role within the home or church only to men.

[2] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 672.

[3] Ibid., 482.

[4] I don’t wish to make it look like the person who commented on the article is the only one at fault. Others are certainly at fault for publishing this content. Charisma Magazine is at fault. They should have someone on staff who can fact check the articles they post to their site. Dr. Hyatt (D.Min. Oral Roberts University) is likewise at fault for not doing his due diligence with regard to his research. This was a simple mistake folks. I’m not really sure how he could have made it.


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