I suffer not a woman….

In a recent comment, Brian writes,

    If this gets read, I heard somewhere Kroeger’ work ‘I suffer not a woman…” was at some time and place totally discredited and supposedly Kroeger admitted falsifying stuff in their work. Is this true, where I could I find any info related to it? I ask because I have the book and had no idea it was so controversial.

    Someone said Grudem’s constant appeal to lexicon’s is tiresome, I agree in fact, I find Grudems constant harping on this issue tiresome.

Brian is referring to I suffer not a woman by Richard and Catherine Clark Kroeger which has been reviewed by Al Wolter in the JBMW Vol. 3, No. 3. It is reprinted in Evangelical Feminism and Biblical truth by W. Grudem.

There are several issues here. Before attempting to answer this question, I would like to respond to a couple of comments made about the complementarian/egalitarian debate in the last month or so.

I personally do not think we can, or should try to, prove the egalitarian position through retranslating key passages in scripture. I am personally committed to using a pattern of translation that is traditional, literal and transparent, when doctrine of this importance is being discussed. I do not believe that gender inclusive language has been used to change the understanding of any key doctrine in the Bible since the first translations into modern vernacular.

I deplore the various attempts of others to try and reinterpret scripture without strong text critical evidence and scholarly consensus. I personally believe that neither complementarian nor egalitarian positions can be proved from scripture texts, nor should they be used to establish new translations. Having said that, I find the egalitarian position to be consistent with Christ’s teaching to give up the use of power over other, and treat others as you would like to be treated.

I admit that I have not read the Clark Kroeger’s book, nor is it on my list of books to read. I do not need to have egalitarianism proven to me, I simply need to know that the proofs for complementarianism contain many statements which are in error.

However, the question is, whether this book I do not suffer a woman is discredited. Al Wolters wrote a scathing review of this book, claiming that it was “riddled with linguistic blunders” and many significant errors.

My difficulty with this review is that it contains certain shaky information itself. Wolters makes the claim that “authentein is attested in New Testament times in the meaning of “have authority over”. Ev. Feminism and Biblical Truth. by W. Grudem. page 312. However, when the 82 citations from Baldwins study are analysed only two are in New Testament times.

I had a friendly email discussion with Al Wolters recently with reference to other matters mentioned on this blog. I took the opportunity to ask him what he thought of the two citations of authentein which might be relevant to the discussion. He wrote,

    I’ve puzzled long and hard over authentew in BGU 1208 and in the Philodemus fragment. Although most of the lexicographical authorities seem to give it the meaning “have authority over” in those contexts, I don’t think anyone can really be sure. Most people (including Grudem) are too sure about their conclusions in this regard. I do think it’s quite well established that authentes and its cognates often have to do with mastery and authority.

I would have to disagree with him that “most” give the meaning of “have authority over” since Grudem’s own work quotes “compel” for the first and “powerful” for the second. However, please note the difference in tone. First Wolters claimed that the meaning is “attested” but in the email he admits to being puzzled and unsure. That is because the data is ambiguous, fragmentary and not particularly convincing. Yet, Wolters review may well be responsible for discrediting the Clark Kroeger’s book.

When I asked if it was valid to characterize the spelling of Hygeia and aretology as errors Wolters answered,

    As for my review of the Kroegers’ book, you are quite right that the misspelling of “Hygieia” and “aretalogy” is a relatively trivial matter. It only serves to illustrate, as I say in the review, the “innumerable minor errors throughout the book.” The substance of my review deals with a whole series of what I take to be much more serious mistakes. As for the semantic history of Greek authenteo and its cognates, I refer you to my article “A Semantic Study of authentes and Its Derivatives,” which appeared in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2004) 145-175 (also now available at www.cbmw.org/journal/editions/11-1.pdf). Needless to say, I disagree with Linda Belleville on these matters.

I can only say that the Clark Kroegers did not misspell these words and to pretend that they did is dishonest. I read Wolters study of authentes and its derivatives and found that it concluded that authentein does not mean to “murder”. While this article may disprove one meaning of authentein it does not prove any other meaning.

I haven’t read the Kroeger’s book, but I see absolutely no proof anywhere in the two examples of authentein that are contemporary with the NT to further this debate. We don’t know if the word meant something bad like “have control over”, or something good like “authority”. The evidence leads away from “authority”. However, we know that authentein is not a synonym of “exousia” and if it were the whole thing would be very odd, because Paul only once discusses authority and that is to build up the church. In fact, maybe he means that he has power only to build up, not for any other purpose.

Neither side can be proved and there is a lot of nonsense being written about these things. Wolters critiques the Kroegers, but, in my opinion, he makes his own mistakes and overstatements as he does so. I suspect there are errors on both sides, but I haven’t confirmed this. I am a fan of Wolters writing on other topics, but when the subject is one of men having authority over women, few authors are impartial.

This cannot be solved by endless appeals to lexical studies. Sometimes the scriptures are difficult to understand.

It is as simple as whether people should treat others as equals or if God really intended that the most pervasive and intimate relationship on earth, and a reflection of his creation, was intended to be a hierarchy in which one person makes decisions for the other or not. Is that the core of the gospel, power of one over another? How can this not be a matter of self-interest?

8 thoughts on “I suffer not a woman….

  1. Peter Kirk says:

    Wolters’ review of the Kroegers’ book is not in JBMW Vol. 3, No. 3. It has also disappeared from the CBMW website, despite this URL being found in a search there. You can probably find it here, but this means downloading 3 MB of EFBT (PDF), and I don’t consider that worth that much disc space.

  2. Peter Kirk says:

    Michael Kruse is still keeping in close step with you (and no longer ignoring you) with this new post. In it he quotes from a more recent Catherine Kroeger article on the ancient meanings of “head”. Presumably she has had plenty of time to benefit from any criticisms of her and her husband’s methodology made by Wolters.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    Wolters’ review is in the Calvin Theological Journal 28(1993) and is reprinted in full in Ev. Fem and Biblical Truth by Wayne Grudem. Without duplicating the research, as I did with the Junia article, I have no way of knowing if there are errors in the Kroeger’s work or not. There are some obvious misstatements in Wolters’ review. Other than that I just don’t know. I wouldn’t say that the egalitarian position depends on Kroeger’s research, although they have certainly made a significant contribution.

    The egalitarian position really depends on one’s view of God as revealed in the scriptures.

    I am having some trouble navigating the new CBMW site and google results do not line up with actual pages for the moment.

  4. John says:

    An important principle of interpretation, biblical or otherwise, is to interpret obscure passages in light of clear ones.

    That’s where people who depend on the authentein passage go completely wrong. This passage, read as part of Scripture, has to be interpreted in the light of other passages which clearly countenance or describe women teaching men.


  5. Bryan L says:

    I agree John. I find it odd that so much hermeneutical weight is placed on that passage, making it the lenses through which all the other scriptures are viewed through, when it obviously isn’t as clear or straightforward as some would like to believe it is.

    Bryan L

  6. Brian F. says:

    Thanks for the post Susan. I do appreciate it. It has been a while since I read the book but I think it is just explaining 1 Tim 2:12 and not necessarily a “proof” of egalitairianism per se. Thanks again.

  7. Suzanne McCarthy says:

    I’m sure the Kroeger’s writing has been very valuable. The truth is that I am not that familiar with it.

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