“Women as Gossips and Busybodies: Another Look at 1 Timothy 5:13”

This is the title of my paper which has just been accepted for the Disputed Paulines Consultation at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in November 2007.  The abstract of the paper is below and no doubt I shall be musing on this here as my thoughts develop.

Nearly all English translations translate the
phrase
flu&aroi kai\
peri/ergoi
in 1 Tim 5:13 as “gossips and
busybodies” (ESV, GNT, NAB, NIV, NKJV and NRSV, for example), and the
concluding phrase
lalou~sai
ta_ mh_ de/onta
as some variation of “saying what they should not
say”.  This paper revisits the suggestion
by Spicq, Hanson, Kelly and others in their commentaries on this passage that the
former phrase has to do with working magic and the latter with the actual
formulae used.  I argue that the phrase
“gossips and busybodies” has, therefore, been consistently mistranslated and
that the apparent misogyny of this passage has to be seen in the context of
very real opposition arising from what the writer views as false teaching and
magical practices within the community.

First Timothy 5.3-6.2: Honoring Means What?

This whole passage has been in the back of my mind for some time. In it are the following three premises:



  • Honor widows who are truly widows ($esv(1Ti 5.3-16))
  • Double honor for elders who “lead well” ($esv(1Ti 5.17-25)); those in error are to be corrected
  • Slaves are to honor their masters ($esv(1Ti 6.1-2))

Sure, that’s all fine and dandy — until you ask the question, “What does it mean to honor?” In the case of widows and elders, the text makes it fairly clear this means taking care of them materially. Widows are to be provided for, and elders who rule well are to be doubly provided for (5.18, with its OT quotes, makes this fairly plain).


And slaves are to “honor” their masters. But surely this doesn’t mean that slaves are to provide materially for their masters, does it? What really does 6.1-2 say?



1 All who are under a yoke as slaves, let them consider their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and our teaching might not be maligned. 2 But those having believers as masters must not be disrespectful because they are brothers, rather they must serve more, because the ones who benefit from their good work are believers and beloved. (my own translation)


This all comes down to “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” which, as some of my co-workers will tell you, pervades my very being. I suppose my basic problem is that the same terminology is used for “honor” throughout the passage whether it is discussing widows, elders or slaves/masters. But in context it doesn’t mean exactly the same thing in each instance, even though all three exist in close succession and in an overall similar context. But can it mean such different things in such close succession? Why wouldn’t the third instance of “honor” carry similar meaning to the first two?


Is the difference because the “honor” explained in detail in the first two (widows/elders), and left unmodified/specified in the last? That is, the method of honor itself is not fully explicated, though the effects of having the honor are?


(gotta go, but that sums up my basic thoughts as I’ve mulled over this text for the past months) 


Update (2007-03-08): Of course, if slaves submit to their masters and do what they are told, then the master will benefit materially (assuming the master is acting in his own interest and has some sensibility … perhaps too much to assume?). The end of 6.2 alludes to this, ” …  the ones who benefit [masters] from [the slaves’] good work are believers and beloved”. And by “serving more” if their master is Christian, then the master benefits more. So maybe there is some sort of connection with material gain here?

Updates and News

As you’ve likely noticed, there have been several changes here at PastoralEpistles.com.

The biggest change is that there is now more than one blogger. In addition to Rick Brannan (yours truly), Perry L. Stepp, Lloyd Pietersen and Ray Van Neste have agreed to begin posting to PastoralEpistles.com.

Perry is Associate Professor of Biblical Studies at Kentucky Christian University. He’s recently had a book published by the Sheffield Phoenix Press, Leadership Succession in the World of the Pauline Circle. He’s also presented papers at SBL in the Disputed Paulines group. It’s great to have him aboard.

There will likely be at least one more blogger added to the team; more information on that in a future post.

Lloyd is a Research Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies  at the University of Bristol. Here’s some further information on Dr. Pietersen from his web site:

Dr Lloyd Pietersen obtained his PhD from the University of Sheffield. His thesis has been published as The Polemic of the Pastorals: A Sociological Examination of the Development of Pauline Christianity (JSNTSup 264; London/New York: T & T Clark International, 2004). He is currently a Research Fellow in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Bristol and is co-chair of the Social World of the New Testament Seminar at the British New Testament Conference.

Ray is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies and Director of the R.C. Ryan Center for Biblical Studies at Union University. He is also author of Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles (JSNTSup 280; Lonon/New York: T&T Clark International, 2004). And he has his own personal blog too.

What is this site all about, then?

Well, it’s about the Pastoral Epistles. Folks who blog here have a more-than-average interest in the Pastorals. We’ll blog about stuff like:

  • Quick reviews of books, articles, chapters, etc. that we read that have to do with the Pastorals. The same book or article may be discussed by multiple authors on the site.
  • Extended reviews.
  • Reviews of or interaction with conference presentations or papers.
  • Interaction with other web sites, blog posts, etc. that mention things that primarily or tangentially refer to the Pastoral Epistles.
  • Thoughts, musings and whatnot. We’ll feel free to use the blog as a scratch pad of sorts as we think through topics or exegetical points having to do with the Pastoral Epistles.
  • Whatever else seems interesting to us, as long as we can relate it back to the Pastorals.

If you’re familiar with the older PastoralEpistles.com site, it is still available at http://www.pastoralepistles.com/oldsite. Content may or may not migrate over to the new site.

Anyway, thanks for your support of the site. Please bear with us while we get the place set up. And please do update your RSS / Feed reader links. The new link is http://pastoralepistles.com/SyndicationService.asmx/GetRss. You can use this in any feedreader/aggregator or online tool such as BlogLines.

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