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bible2-620x403Now that the Supreme Court has issued its sweeping ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, we can expect an avalanche of commentary, analysis, and punditry. I’m not a law professor, a politician, a talk show host, or a public intellectual (whatever that is). I’m a pastor. I study and teach the Bible for a living. Which means, among all the things I may not be an expert on, I may be able to say something meaningful from the Scriptures. So as we pour over legal opinions and internet commentary, let us not forget what the Bible says.

The Bible says the Lord alone is God and we should have no other gods before him (Ex. 20:2-3). Not the state, not the Supreme Court, not our families, not our friends, not our favorite authors, not our cultural cache. No gods but God.

The Bible says we should love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:39). And who is your neighbor deserving of such love? Wrong question, just worry about being the neighbor you’d want for yourself (Luke 10:25-37).

The Bible says love is not the same as unconditional affirmation (James 5:19-20). Love is patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

The Bible says that disciples of Jesus will be hated as Jesus was hated (John 15:18-25; 2 Tim. 3:12). If the world loves us, it is not a sign of our brilliance, but that we belong to the world.

The Bible says that when reviled we should not revile in return (1 Peter 2:21-25). We should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44).

The Bible says Jesus came into the world to save sinners, especially the worst of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). That means people like me, like you, and like the Apostle Paul who at one time opposed everyone and everything he later came to love and defend.

The Bible says marriage is between a man and a woman (Gen. 1:27-28; 2:18-25; Mal. 2:15; Matt. 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) and that homosexual practice is sin (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10; Jude 7), but a sin from which we can be washed clean (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Any Christian who really believes the Bible must believe all of the Bible. You can’t applaud what Jesus says about loving your neighbor from Leviticus 19, if Leviticus 18 and 20 are throwaway chapters. You can’t unpack the good news of Romans 8, if Romans 1 is overstuffed with cultural baggage. You can’t marvel at the goodness of God’s creation, if there is no good design in how he created things. Either the Bible is God’s Word or we are sufficiently godlike to determine which words stay and which words go.

The cultural breezes are blowing against us. The worldly winds are stiff in our faces. But the hard parts of the Bible are no less true for being less popular. The Bible says what it says, so let us be honest enough to say whether we think what the Bible says is right or wrong. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a decorated church historian and gay man who left the church over the issue of homosexuality, has stated the issue with refreshing candor:

This is an issue of biblical authority. Despite much well-intentioned theological fancy footwork to the contrary, it is difficult to see the Bible as expressing anything else but disapproval of homosexual activity, let alone having any conception of homosexual identity. The only alternatives are either to cleave to patterns of life and assumptions set out in the Bible, or say that in this, as in much else, the Bible is simply wrong. (The Reformation: A History, 705).

Yes, those are the only alternatives. I know books are right now being written by the dozens trying to make the case that the Bible is really keen on gay marriage, but it can’t be done. Not with exegetical and historical integrity.

Not with gospel integrity either.

A holy God sends his holy Son to die as an atoning sacrifice for unholy people so that by the power of the Holy Spirit they can live holy lives and enjoy God forever in the holy place that is the new heaven and new earth. Is this the story celebrated and sermonized in open and affirming churches? What about twenty years from now? And what if we flesh out the gospel story and include the tough bits about the exclusivity of Christ and the reality of hell?  What if the story centers on Calvary, not as a generic example that love (defined in whatever we choose) wins, but as beautifully scandalous picture of a love so costly that God sent his Son into the world to be the wrath-bearing propitiation for our sins? What if the story summons us to faith and repentance? What if the story calls us to lay down everything–our ease, our desires, our family, our preferences, our sexuality, our stuff, our very selves–for the sake of the Storyteller? What if part of the story is believing that every jot and tittle in the Storybook is completely true?

I’d rather not talk about homosexuality again. But the world hasn’t stopped talking about it. And the Bible hasn’t stopped saying what it has always said. So let’s not be shrill and let’s not be silent. If you already know what the Bible says about homosexuality, don’t forget what the Bible says about all of life and godliness. We can be right about marriage and still wrong about everything else that matters. And if you like most everything else the Bible says, why would you on this matter of homosexuality decide the Bible suddenly can’t be trusted? If you won’t count the cost here, what else will you be willing to sell? The support for homosexual behavior almost always goes hand in hand with the diluting of robust, 100-proof orthodoxy, either as the cause or the effect. The spirits which cause one to go wobbly on biblical sexuality are the same spirits which befog the head and heart when it comes to the doctrine of creation, the historical accuracy of the Old Testament, the virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus, the resurrection, the second coming, the reality of hell, the plight of those who do not know Christ, the necessity of the new birth, the full inspiration and authority of the Bible, and the centrality of a bloody cross.

If Jesus is right and the Scriptures were spoken by God himself (Matt. 19:4-5) and utterly unbreakable (John 10:35), then the place to start when it comes to something as fundamental as marriage is also the place to end, and that’s by asking the question “But what does the Bible say?” As Christians living in the midst of controversy, we must keep three things open: our heads, our hearts, and our Bibles. Don’t settle for slogans and put-downs. Don’t look to bumper stickers and Facebook avatars for ethical direction. And don’t give up on the idea that God has a clear word and a good word on this issue. God has already spoken, and he specializes in gracious reminders, so long as we stay humble, honest, and hungry for the truth. After all, man does not live by bread alone (or sex alone), but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deut. 8:3; Matt. 4:4).


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87 thoughts on “But What Does the Bible Say?”

  1. Colin O'Brien says:

    I wish a few of the commenters would have taken a course in biblical hermeneutics before they wrote down their thoughts. They seem to have no sense of both the continuity between the old and new testaments, and the profound changes that occur under the new covenant. They are completely unaware of the portions of old testament law that are fulfilled in Christ and therefore no longer applicable: dietary laws, ceremonial laws, sacrificial laws. Those are shadows of what is fulfilled in Christ. So what remains? The moral law, and even that without the particular punishments prescribed for their violation. The moral law regarding sexuality remains clear, and Christ does not abrogate it in the slightest. In fact, he affirms it and applies it to our hearts and not just our actions!

    Thank you Kevin for your sound, biblical perspective. It is refreshing to my ears.

  2. John says:

    My understanding of 1 Cor 5 would be I must separate from those who claim Christ but participate/support/affirm homosexuality. That’s the current issue, but earlier it was abortion, etc. I’m sure other cultures have supported other biblical evils where the same action is required. I think the faithful witness of Jesus’ bride is at stake.

    So many people have the rainbow on FB or in some other way support the SCOTUS decision. If they claim Jesus, do we need to “not even eat” with them? That’s how I’m reading things at this point and can’t see (without extreme twisting) a way around it. Thoughts?

  3. JON says:

    Thank you Kristen H. (above) for properly articulating the real issue this article raises!

    So the Supreme Court grants equality under law to homosexual marriages, and Mr De Young take to the barricades and writes a passionate article arguing that the Bible forbids homosexual practice.

    What? Tell me something I don’t know!

    I do not need Mr. DeYoung to convince me of the Biblical basis for a traditional, orthodox ethic of Christian sexuality. So why did he feel the need to write this on the heels of this decision?

    What I WOULD like to hear Mr. DeYoung answer are questions like these:

    Am I right to conclude that you do not believe that equal civil rights should have been extended to Ameican citizens simply because their lifestyle runs contrary to your own understanding of the Bible’s teachings?

    It’s ironic that Christians will often label their Muslim neighbor as dangerous (and a threat to democracy) because of their desire for their own national governments to someday be ruled by Shari’a Law, but how, Mr. DeYoung, are your sentiments any different?

    And finally, do you really think that deep, complex, and difficult issues of Biblical exegesis are so easily dismissed with a simple “the Bible says it, I believe it, so should you, end of discussion” kind of tone? Can’t you see that in many matters of theology and ethics, it is much more sincere and honest (not to mention attractive to the reading world), to admit that this is about what YOU believe is the best way to understand, interpret, and apply the Bible to contemporary life?

    So many have already commented and made this point – the Bible is a complex book spanning centuries of history and cultures (not to mention multiple genres). The discerning Christian does NOT interpret nor apply it all in the same way. Sadly your post does not do any justice to these nuances. Was this an oversight on your part or would you not even concede the point?

    Christians should never confuse their faith in the infallible Word of God with their own fallible attempts at interpreting it.

  4. To Jon

    I agree with nearly all what u say Jon except one matter. In a Westminster system of justice country the expectation that sharia law will rule is not a realistic expectation. If that is what Muslims want then they would need to find a country that has it already. If they immigrate to a country that does not have sharia law they need to accept that culture and system of justice once they accept citizenship. If we went to their country of origin they wont change for us. In fact we would likely experience a punitive response for calling for change. Blessings

  5. Larry says:

    US has separation of church and state. Our constitution is not based on biblical laws, nor should it be. We have freedom of religion… to live our lives based on our religious beliefs. This gives NO ONE PERSON the right to deny any other person their right to equality based on denier’s religious beliefs… to do so is hypocritical.

  6. Elena says:

    I understand what Jon is saying here. The Bible flat out says gay marriage is not okay and we should do our best not to follow that path. But the Bible also says “Love thy neighbor” which means we are not supposed to destroy people over their beliefs. I don’t personally think gay marriage is right, so I don’t have to do it myself. But that also gives me no excuse to tear people down over it. Other people can do what they want because while I haven’t committed that particular sin, I’m not a saint either. The only person with the right to judge is God himself, so if you think gay marriage is wrong that’s totally fine, you don’t have to participate in it. But do you really think our God would want us torturing people to the point of suicide over it? God will deal with the sins. We just need to be kind to each other and mind our own business.

  7. PaulD says:

    The “anti-Conservative” views posted here (for want of a better term) seem to boil down to one of two views:

    1. “It is arrogant and presumptuous of you to think that your interpretation of Scripture — that homosexuality is wrong — is necessarily the right one. In fact, there are many of us who disagree with you.”

    2. “Yes, we can agree that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is wrong, but as Christians we shouldn’t be attempting to force our views on society as a whole.”

    I don’t have much patience with the first view; I agree with others that this reflects a hermeneutic that is more concerned with eisegesis than exegesis.

    But I do have sympathy with the second viewpoint. If in fact it is the Christian’s responsibility to use the ballot box to support Christian notions of morality in the public sphere — and perhaps it is — it seems to me that there has been woefully little cogent teaching in our churches on why exactly that should be so. If Paul taught that God judges those outside the Church, what is the compelling reason to keep unbelievers what they don’t feel compelled to do on their own initiative. Again, perhaps, if given the chance, we should recriminalize sodomy. But where is the clear teaching one way or another? If it exists, it’s not making it to the man and woman in the pew.

  8. Jeanne says:

    It seems to me a lot of culture shifts have made certain scriptures seem obsolete. Do you think we should still not allow women to speak in the church? Or should slaves obey their masters, because slavery is acceptable? I have begun to question how the Bible is infallible when it was written down and put together by infallible men. However, I still believe it is my best guide to hearing the Father.

  9. PaulD says:

    Jeanne – Inasmuch as Pastor DeYoung does not seem to be participating in these comments, I will venture an answer. (By calling him “Pastor DeYoung” I do not mean to imply that he is my pastor; we have never met.) I would first say this: that putting yourself in the position of judging God by critiquing His Word is a reliable path to atheism. I say that, I trust, with true humility, and indeed I would say the same thing to a loved one.

    There is indeed much discussion over the extent to which “culture shifts” affect the validity of particular commandments in Scripture. Is it, for example, a must that we greet one another with a holy kiss? That would feel quite natural at a French church, I would think, but not so much in a Korean congregation.

    My best understanding regarding women speaking in the church is that in the first century church there was quite a bit of theological wrangling and discussion during the service itself, the likes of which one would rarely see today in a church service. This wrangling, I would argue, should be conducted by the men; the women should talk about these things with their husbands at home. I would say that at a group prayer meeting women should be allowed to pray, and I see no reason why a woman could not give a reading of the scripture. Others may differ on the details; on a matter such as this there is room for some disagreement between persons who are honestly submitting to the Word.

    Slavery is not condemned per se in the Scriptures. If you lived in the first century and were a slave, yes Paul’s and Peter’s apostolic teaching to you would be to work diligently as to the Lord and to render respect. Paul would also say that you should seek to become free if you can. I do not believe a Christian should ever act as an agent to promote slavery. But the principle seems to be that you should render obedience and respect in the circumstances you find yourself. Show respect to your employer. Show respect to officers of the law. Submit to your husband if you are married.

    There are indeed certain touchstone issues which tend to reveal the bent of the heart. That is, are you more interested in loving and obeying the Lord or in maintaining your good standing in the eyes of the secular community? No one today takes the view that the earth was created in six days or that women should not serve as pastors or that homosexuality is wrong because it is the path of least resistance. It is not. But I believe that God is pleased with those who humbly remain faithful to Him and His Word.

  10. The Dude says:

    Lolwut. We are apparently godlike enough, considering it was a council of freakin men that decided what stayed in the Bible and what went.

    Lol at “infallibility”. It’s a collection of myths and some beautiful literature, as well as some hilarious archaic laws.

  11. Pastor BillyBob JoMamma says:

    What the bible says is of no matter whatsoever.
    As regards SCOTUS, the issue is “What The Constitution” says.
    Cozy up to your ancient scrolls, if you must.
    But do notshove them up the rectums of decent Americans.
    Thank you.

  12. Neville Briggs says:

    What the Bible says is of utmost importance, because the Bible says that Jesus rose from the dead in time and space and history.

    If the resurrection is untrue, then the Christians might as well give up their faith and join the “fun”.

    If the resurrection is true then Christians are the salt of the earth and the light on the hill, and must continue to get in the faces of the world until the judgement of the world is complete.

  13. Paul Reed says:

    “Any Christian who really believes the Bible must believe all of the Bible”

    Most Christians haven’t even read the Bible, let alone follow it. For the first 400 years of Christianity, there wasn’t even a Bible. A Bible is as far removed from a 1st century Christian as an iPhone is from a 17th century American pilgrim. Secondoly, very few actually believe the Bible. The Bible recommends we kill homosexuals, not merely ban marriage. When you understand why you don’t follow this part of the Bible, you’ll understand why homosexual-activists don’t follow other parts.

  14. Neville Briggs says:

    Just a couple of thoughts for Paul Reed.

    If there was no Bible for the first 400 years of Christianity, what were the apostles quoting from as scripture in their early letters to the church.

    How do you know how many read or believe the Bible, what research and surveys have you done to establish these “facts” .

    I can’t find anywhere in the Bible that RECOMMENDS that WE kill homosexuals or the WE kill anyone.

  15. klinhton onuagluchi says:

    May God have mercy on us the sinners, by mere common sense gay is absolutely a wrong ideal to advance mankind

  16. To Paul Reed. The new testament was written by Christs Apostles who spent 3 years on the earth with him daily.They witnessed what he did, his crucification and his resurrection along with another 500 witnesses. The apostles wrote the letters and eye witness accounts which form the new testament. These letters were inspired by God the Holy Spirit and were used to teach believers in the years immediately after Christ went back into heaven. The price for following Christ was often death by terrible means, yet that reality never stopped them from doing what God called them to do.No where in the new testament does it call on Christians to kill homosexuals. I have no doubt Christ loves homosexuals and heterosexuals but he doesn’t love wrong doing in all its forms. The bible still is one of the best selling books ever printed to this day, read by millions of people all over the world..Hope this helps.

  17. Flyaway says:

    Just checking to see if the comments are closed.

  18. Flyaway says:

    The Bible is a love letter from God. As I study and discuss it with other believers whether in Bible Study Fellowship, Community Bible Study, Precept Bible study, or in Sunday school I learn more about God and love Him more.

  19. Valerie says:

    I am tired of people saying We have to choose all of the Bible or none of it. I don’t know many churches anymore that require women to cover their heads in worship, though Paul spends a lot of time discussing it. And my Mennonite friends think I’m totally disregarding God’s law by not doing so. Rev. Dr Young does not belong to a church that speaks in tongues or practices Faith healing. Why not? Scripture is clear. This statement is ingenuous and hypocritical.

  20. PaulD says:

    Valerie – The word you want is “disingenuous.”

    You raise some good points. With regard to head covering, here’s a principle for you to consider: People are more likely to compromise the teachings of Scripture if they perceive that conforming to it is going to come with a great cost. Viewed from that perspective, you can see why there is a great incentive to twist the words of Scripture that have to do with homosexuality. If you have a same-sex attraction, life-long celibacy is admittedly a high price to pay to be faithful to Scripture. But is there a high cost involved in women covering their heads? Hardly. You buy a nice hat or a veil and you’re done with it. That makes me think that most people who don’t practice head covering simply don’t think that it applies today. Most everyone would say that there are some commands in Scripture that are culturally conditioned. As I mentioned elsewhere, greeting one another with a holy kiss might be one.

    As far as the sign gifts go, you have a good point there too. I am a cessationist, but I am always quick to say that the biblical case against tongues, for example, is rather weak. The argument is that the sign gifts authenticated the ministry of the apostles and hence, when they died off, the sign gifts died off with them. But I don’t think it is appropriate to berate my fellow Christians for believing that tongues are still active. A case where I think Scripture IS very clear is that women should not be pastors. In 1 Tim 2 Paul explicitly gives as a reason a foundational event in the Garden, clearly demonstrating that it is a trans-cultural command. (And again, the “cost” for an ambitious woman to believe that leadership in the Church is limited to men is rather high.)

    When it is said that we have to choose all of the Bible, it means that we need to make a good faith effort to ascertain how it applies to us. Do I need to abstain from pork? No, God told Peter that the dietary laws were symbolic of the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles. In one fell swoop God broke down the separation between the Jews and the Gentiles AND nullified the dietary law. (More generally, Paul teaches, Christians are not under the Jewish Law, per se, though generally the moral teaching of the NT corresponds to that in the OT. Note though that many Reformed believers would say that we ARE under the moral aspects of the Law, but not subject to its penalties.)

    The most important thing, though, is that you honestly seek out the meaning of Scripture. The tone of your post is that of a schoolgirl who is only in class because she has to be. That’s not what a relationship with God is supposed to be like. You don’t HAVE to do anything. If you are going to be a Christian, take ownership of it.

  21. To Paul D some food for thought-Women and Gifts
    There are many questions about women serving in church . In Tim. 3:1-10; 11-13. The question is whether the church should have male leadership only or male and female leadership alongside one another. Although the word “man” is used in 3:1, 5 for someone seeking the office of Bishop, the Greek word used is tis, a neuter word meaning male or female. Had Paul wanted to communicate that this office was to be limited to the male gender, he would have used the word andron which specifies male only. In the KJ on Titus 1:6, the word is also tis.

    Women served as elders and deacons in the early church just as the men; yet with the onset of apostasy, their ministry declined. By the third century, women deacons were being called “deaconesses.” Although they were still being ordained, their ministry was looked upon as something less than a male deacon. Think with me about women “likewise” (3:11). That women are included in the list of qualifications for bishops and deacons is seen in the word “likewise” which is hosautos in the Greek. “Likewise” joins the whole list of qualifications of bishops/elders with deacons and with women which translates as “wives.” Paul first gives the requirements for men seeking the office of bishop/elder and deacon and then gives some additional ones for women.

    In relation to gifts I can find any scripture in the new testament that articulates the end of spiritual gifts. Gods miracles happen every day. You just have to be willing to see them especially in the third world where all they often have is Gods grace for help. The second and third generation of believers in the new testament were not adverse to gifts nor should we in my view.

  22. PaulD says:

    I’m sorry, Grahame, but your argument for female elders seems to me a most egregious example of special pleading and poor exegesis. Having said in 1 Tim 2.12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man,” and then going on in 3.2 to say that an elder must be “the husband of one wife,” you conclude from a neuter pronoun in 3.1 that Paul is fine with women being elders?

    Kevin DeYoung quotes Diarmaid MacCulloch (DM) in which DM is honest enough to say that the Bible does not approve of homosexual activity. DM concludes that the Bible is just wrong — from which I conclude that engaging in homosexual activity is more important to him than being a Christian.

    Similarly, many years ago, I came across a passage in Paul King Jewett in which he said (and I paraphrase), “It is true that Paul teaches that women are to be in submission to men — but he was wrong.” I commend Jewett for his honesty as well — though of course I lament the passage of any Evangelical scholar to the place where they have jettisoned the authority of Scripture.

    I will not categorically deny that God can do signs and wonders in the present post-Apostolic church age. But I will say this: I think Satan has used the many bogus miracles in recent times to discredit Jesus’s quite real miracles as recorded in the Gospels: “If this is the kind of miracle that Jesus did, I’m not impressed.”

    Please forgive me if I come off as hostile — I don’t mean to be. I am jealous for the integrity of the Word. Before I became a Christian I had no issue with homosexuality, and — if I had given it any thought — wouldn’t have had a problem with women being elders. I think many in secular society think that conservative Evangelicals like myself are using Scripture as a pretext for our narrow minded views. But I can say in my case that that is not the case.

  23. Thanks Paul D for you reply. Some of my previous reply got lost in cyber land. I will be more detailed once the net settles down tomorrow. There is a Greek translation reply you will find interesting and food for thought.

  24. To Paul D

    So here is the point of contention……Paul D..”Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”–Paul, 1 Timothy 2:11-12. I’ve spent a far amount of time researching this so hope it informs the discussion.

    Paul’s letters are difficult to interpret because they are like listening to one side of a telephone conversation, but incorrect translations only further complicate our understanding of his words. There are a few key words that are mistranslated in 1 Timothy 2: 11-15.
    Hesuchios/Hesuchia: Traditionalists normally translate this word as “silence” (at least in passages concerning women), but the word in all other places is translated as “peacefulness” “Peaceable” or “quietness.” The word does not carry the meaning of literal silence or absence of speech, but of an atmosphere or presence in which learning should take place. Strong’s Greek Dictionary define shesuchios/hesuchias as “properly, keeping one’s seat,” “stillness” “undisturbed,” “undisturbing,” and “peaceable.”
    When Paul has absence of speech in mind, he uses the term“sigao.” The same word is used just nine verses earlier and is translated as “peaceable,” 1 Timothy 2:1-2. Hesuchios/hesuchia is translated as quiet/quietness in 1 Thess. 4:11, 2 Thess. 3:12, 1 Peter 3:4. None of these verses are about silence, as in the literal absence of speech, but a tranquil quietness or peaceable presence/environment. This fits the context much better than a literal silence, since Paul just rebuked the men in the congregation for praying while angry and quarrelling. Obviously, this would NOT be the optimum environment for anyone to learn in. Thus, Paul tells Timothy to make sure the woman can learn in quietness or peacefulness, and not amid the chaos that was taking over church meetings.
    Paul also instructs that women should learn in full submission. This is not a unique request asked only of women, but men are also suppose to learn in full submission to the gospel and sound teaching. The reason this command is directed toward women here is only because teaching women in the same way as men was still a revolutionary practice and still repulsive to many men, believers or not.
    Now, onto the main mistranslations and controversy….
    “…nor to have authority over [authentein] a man…”
    Exousia is the normal word used for “authority,” a carrying out of one’s official duties. But this is not the word Paul uses here. He instead picks the word authentein and it is the ONLY time this word appears in the New Testament. Exousia, however, appears over 100 times. Other uses of authentein from the same time period show that this word does not simply mean legitimate or routine authority, but carries violent, sexual, and dominating meanings.
    Authentein. It cannot be stressed enough how unusual this word is, especially for Paul. Paul writes about authority quite a bit and he never uses authentein as a synonym for legitimate, godly authority. For most mentions of authority, he uses exousia. Louw and Nida’s Lexicon lists 12 common ancient Greek words that are synonyms for routine or legitimate authority, exousia being the most common throughout the new testament. There are 47 words that are synonyms for legitimate “rule” or “governing.” Yet Paul uses none of these words in 1 Timothy 2:11, he chooses the unusual authentein. I can’t find any evidence that authentein, in any of its forms, connotates a routine or legitimate authority until the late third to fourth centuries, far too removed from Paul’s era to provide relevant meanings and contexts. And even once the word took on a less severe meaning in later centuries, THIS passage was ALWAYS been understood as Paul forbidding women to dominate a man, not simply exercise legitimate Christ-like authority. Consider these early translations: Old Latin Version from the second – fourth century translates this verse as “I permit not a woman to teach, neither to dominate a man {neque dominari in viro}.
    The Vulgate, from the second to fourth century, translates this verse as “I permit not a woman to teach, neither to domineer over a man {neque dominari in virum}.
    “There is a basically unbroken tradition, stemming from the oldest version and running down to the twenty first century, that translates authentein as “to dominate” and not “to exercise authority over.”-Linda Belleville
    It is not until the 1500s that the verb authentein used in this verse changes from the drastically negatively-charged “to dominate/domineer” to a slightly water-downed phrase, “to usurp authority” (thanks, King James). Still different from exercising legitimate authority, but much less forceful than the violent and even sexual connotations of the originalauthentein. The King James version asserts that women are not to wrestle authority or seize it from men. No believer is permitted to usurp authority or act in self-interest over others. It is not until after World War II that authentein really gets the botched-translated: “to exercise/assume authority over.” That’s right, less than 80 years ago! So, the notion that women may never exercise godly authority within the body based on this verse is completely unbiblical, both logically and historically. Interesting isn’t.

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Kevin DeYoung


Kevin DeYoung is senior pastor of University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan, near Michigan State University. He and his wife Trisha have six young children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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