Reconciling 1Ti 4.3 and 1Ti 3.2

I’ve had the question of how 1Ti 4.3 and 1Ti 3.2 fit together rolling around in my head for awhile.

1Ti 4.3 is in the context of a description of the false teachers of Ephesus, noting things they (unjustly) forbid. Below is 1Ti 4.1-3:

4.1 Τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα ῥητῶς λέγει ὅτι ἐν ὑστέροις καιροῖς ἀποστήσονταί τινες τῆς πίστεως προσέχοντες πνεύμασιν πλάνοις καὶ διδασκαλίαις δαιμονίων, 2 ἐν ὑποκρίσει ψευδολόγων, κεκαυστηριασμένων τὴν ἰδίαν συνείδησιν, 3 κωλυόντων γαμεῖν, ἀπέχεσθαι βρωμάτων, ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἔκτισεν εἰς μετάλημψιν μετὰ εὐχαριστίας τοῖς πιστοῖς καὶ ἐπεγνωκόσι τὴν ἀλήθειαν. (1Ti 4.1-3, NA27)

4.1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. (1Ti 4.1-3, ESV)

1Ti 3.2 (along with 1Ti 3.12 and 1Ti 5.9) specify a marriage relationship for those in leadership positions in the fellowship.

3.2 δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι, μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα, νηφάλιον σώφρονα κόσμιον φιλόξενον διδακτικόν, (1Ti 3.2, NA27)
3.12 διάκονοι ἔστωσαν μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρες, τέκνων καλῶς προϊστάμενοι καὶ τῶν ἰδίων οἴκων. (1Ti 3.12, NA27)
5.9 Χήρα καταλεγέσθω μὴ ἔλαττον ἐτῶν ἑξήκοντα γεγονυῖα, ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή, (1Ti 5.9, NA27)

3.2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, (1Ti 3.2, ESV)
3.12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. (1Ti 3.12, ESV)
5.9 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, (1Ti 5.9, ESV)

So, how does all of this fit together? The false teachers say that marriage is forbidden, but Paul says that those in positions in the church (Overseer, Deacons, and Widows) should be or have been married.

This popped in my head again as I’ve been reading Lloyd K. Pietersen’s $amz(0567081834 The Polemic of the Pastorals), where he mentions the "status degradation" aspect of the whole thing:

Finally, Garfinkel draws attention to the fact that, in any successful status degradation ceremony, the typical, negative characteristics of those being denounced must be appreciated by the witnesses by means of a ‘dialectical counterpart’. In this way the community cannot conceive of those denounced without reference to this positive counter conception. In the Pastorals, the qualities of bishops, elders and deacons serve as dialectical counterparts to the deeds of the opponents. Thus, for example, the injunction in 1 Tim 1.2 [sic] that the bishop should be μιας γυναικος ανδρα serves as the dialectical counterpart to the opponents who, among other things, κωλυοντων γαμειν (1 Tim 4.3). Goulder is thus right to argue that the qualifications of leadership function polemically. (Pietersen 111)

I don’t buy all of what Lloyd mentions here (specifically that the Pastorals may be "a literary version of a status degradation ceremony" (Pietersen 111)), but I do think there is significant value to noting that what the false teachers forbid (marriage) is prominent in the descriptions of those in positions of leadership and influence in the church.

Whatever your view of the polemic/paraenesis of the Pastorals, this disparity between the what the false teachers espouse (no marriage) and what Paul espouses for those in prominence in the church (marriage is not just OK, it is expected) needs to be noted.

Comments

  1. I agree about the importance of noting the direct contrast between the claims/practice of the opponents and the exhortations of the author. I have noted very similar thigns in Titus, where I argue the description of elders in 1:5-9 is shaped intentionally to contrast the description of the opponents in 1:10-16. Furthermore, the exhortation to the rest of the church is also in direct contrast to the description of the opponents.
    I, like you Rick, am not persuaded that this suggest somethign overly complex. Rather it is just good argumentation to use bad examples as the foil for teachign what is right.

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