A Listener’s Response to Jim Hamilton (Part 2)

In “A Listener’s Response to Jim Hamilton (Part 1)” I posted listener Allison’s response to my interview with complementarian Dr. Jim Hamilton, who himself appeared to respond to my interview with egalitarian Dr. Philip Payne. What follows is Allison’s part 2, which you can also find at her blog. Incidentally, Dr. Payne recently let me interview him a second time for his response to Dr. Hamilton, and you can find part 1 of that interview in episode 103.

A Response to the Egalitarianism of Dr. Payne? Pt.2

The next portion of Dr. Hamilton’s critique of Dr. Payne focused more on content than the previous one. Still, often it seemed as though most of the key content of Payne’s argument was left untouched. Since Payne himself will be responding to Dr. Hamilton (and will be far more informative), this portion of my critique will be more limited and will only cover some of Hamilton’s comments that stood out to me.

Man as the “Head”

Many English speakers assume Paul is referring to leadership when he uses the metaphor of “head” (kephale) in his letters (ex: Eph 5 and 1 Cor 11). However, the majority of recent scholarship understands the meaning to be “source.” Some of these scholars are those who still believe men have authority over women (see extensive footnotes in Payne’s Man and Woman, One in Christ 117-118). Payne provides 15 reasons in his book for why we should accept source as Paul’s meaning and also tells us that authority is not a well-established meaning of the word. Dr. Hamilton does not engage with the majority of Payne’s reasons, but does somewhat respond to the first reason.

The translators of the Greek Old Testament (LXX) did not think kephale was a good word to use to convey the Hebrew metaphor of head as leadership to Greek speakers. Why think this? There are only 6/171 clear instances of them using it this way. Not good odds. What is Hamilton’s response to this? He appeals to Grudem’s statement that there is not one example from 8BC- 4th century AD where a person is kephale and is not in authority over another person or group. I wonder why Hamilton thinks the person has to not have any authority in order for Payne’s claim to be true? Surely kephale can be used of a leader even if the word itself does not mean leadership. In addition, Hamilton does not mention that Payne talks about what Grudem said in his book starting on p122 and gives examples of head being used of persons without the connotation of authority. Dr. Hamilton does not address one of these examples or go into detail about Payne’s understanding of other Biblical instances where kephale appears, such as Col 1:18 (128). Instead, Hamilton just labels Payne’s understanding as “asinine.”

Dr. Hamilton accused Payne of just picking out details Payne thinks will help his case while ignoring the rest. This was an odd statement to make without exploring the majority of what Payne actually had to say on the matter—the evidence. It was also strange because Hamilton did this very thing in the interview. He decided to pick out Psalm 110:6 because it was thought to be a clear instance of head meaning authority in the LXX, but ignored that Payne was claiming that only in 6/171 instances is this the case, not that this is never the case (it is a Hebrew metaphor after all). When Chris points this out to him, Hamilton accuses Payne of not utilizing context. However, Payne does this in great detail in his book.

Man as Head in Ephesians 5

Many zero in on the verse that tells wives to submit themselves to their husbands, but miss the verse above it telling husbands and wives (the whole church) to submit to one another. It is also often not known that the verb “submit” is not actually there when wives are addressed, but is instead inferred from the verse saying to submit to one another. The whole church is to place themselves under each other—wives included.

Dr. Hamilton responds by claiming that Payne picks out what he likes and ignores the context. Again, this statement is made without actually going through Payne’s case in Ch. 15. Instead he tells us that while mutual submission is present, authority is also implied. How is it implied? Dr. Hamilton says that husbands are not to submit in the same way wives are. They are to lay down their lives and then there is the analogy of Christ and the church (Christ is the leader and the church is submissive?).

I agree that Paul tells men to submit by laying down their lives, but it is not as though this is only told to the husbands in Ephesians 5. After all, the whole church (wives included) are told to be “imitators of God” and to “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us…”(5:1-2). This means that women will also take on the role of Christ in giving up their lives for others. Paul does not say this is only something husbands should do.

In addition, it is not wise to go beyond the way Paul is using his analogy. Dr. Payne points out that “Christ head of the church” is the “savior of the body” (283). This grammatical construction (called apposition) means that the second explains the first. The role as savior is what is in view for headship. This is also clear from what follows: the way Paul describes Jesus’ relationship with the church does not focus on leadership, but his role as savior. Yes, Jesus is the leader of the church, but is his leadership part of this analogy? No, he is talking about laying down one’s life and being a source of nourishment for the body. None of these necessarily include or exclude leadership. One cannot read into Paul’s analogy what he does not use. Leadership may not be read into the text.

Something else I should note is that Dr. Hamilton makes an example of functional hierarchy with ontological equality out of the command for children to submit to parents. However, Payne in his book raises the question of whether adult children are still under functional subordination. Overall, Hamilton’s way of viewing the analogy does not get at the heart of what egalitarians and complementarians disagree on. A child is not subordinate forever and the reason behind the subordination is purely functional (ex: children are much more vulnerable). Is being the only one subordinate on account of gender something purely functional with no bearing on your personhood?

1 Timothy 2:12-15 “Exercise Authority” or “Usurp Authority?”

The next issue that was brought up concerned a word that only occurs once in the New Testament. “Authenteo” is translated differently in Bibles. Some say it means “exercise authority” others translate it as “domineer” or “assume/usurp authority.” The first one has a positive connotation and the last two are negative and not something Christians should do. Payne rejects the first two translations and opts for the third. The reason why he accepts the last option (and why the TNIV which has prominent Complementarians on its committee accepted this option) is because the word often occurs with this negative connotation of unlawful authority or an authority taken upon oneself (ample examples in pp.385-391). There are also only two unambiguously documented cases of the word up to Paul’s day and one of those fits our context. Payne also explains that in the context of 1Timothy’s appeal to Genesis the situation fits. Eve assumed authority (God’s authority) when she ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to her husband who was there with her. What does this translation mean for our understanding of 1Timothy? It means that women are not forbidden from having authority, but from usurping it. If this is the case, then this passage does not forbid women from taking leadership positions.

First Dr. Hamilton responds by letting us know that he does not think false teaching is the reason for Paul giving this command, as I believe Payne would. He points out that the Bible does not say something like “I do not permit heresy…” but “for Adam was not deceived…” Hamilton takes this as an appeal to the created order (created order meaning leadership in his view). However, Dr. Hamilton should not overlook the fact that the expressed purpose of Paul writing his letter was to address false teaching.

“…Remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine…certain persons…have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (see 1 Tim 1:3-7).

It is not just the beginning of the book where Paul talks about false teachers, but all throughout and at the end. Much of this is also directed towards women with similar language used of the false teachers (Payne has a nifty chart on p300). For example, some of the younger widows “turned aside after Satan.” Some women spoke “nonsense, saying things they ought not.” The women were “going about from house to house” doing this and were “thoroughly deceived.” The false teachers taught rubbish (see examples of what would fall in that category on p302) and the women taught rubbish—the word itself does not ever mean “gossip” as some translations render it.

In addition, “for” in Greek does not always mean a reason is being given. Often it is used for an example (“for, you see”) and at times our English Bibles don’t even translate it. So, a reason is not necessarily being give. However, Greek uses something called the imperative when a command is given and in this passage the imperative is not given except in regards to letting women learn. If “for” is meant to be a reason, it could be giving a reason behind women needing to learn in quietness and submission and not taking authority.

“Teach” is a positive word, does this mean that authenteo has to be positive too?

Since this is too large of a discussion I will just say, no. The word joining the two can join a positive and negative concept like is the case in Gal 3:28 “slave and free.” In addition, our passage might be joining two negative things because the activity that used to be positive (teaching) has now become a bad thing since it is false teaching that is in view throughout the letter. The false teachers were teaching with authority they took for themselves. They usurped authority. For a broader discussion and discussion of Kostenberger’s work see chapter 19. Ultimately, context decides and Payne gives ample evidence from context.

For Payne’s discussion on Genesis and Paul’s use of Genesis here when it comes to who is born first and its significance, I will let you all read his book. There is so much that could be said. For now, I should just mention that the Bible has a whole pattern of choosing the younger over the elder. Just a very few are: Jacob, Moses and King David. In addition, the word “helper” describing Eve is not denoting a subordinate position as it does in English, but one who is equal or greater helping another. It is most often used of God who is the helper of Israel. It is a term of strength.

Gender Neutral Language in 1 Tim 3?

Hamilton (and everyone who reads the Greek) agrees there are no masculine pronouns in the passage on the requirements for overseers. Our English Bibles say “he” probably because the closest neuter pronoun we have is “it” and people are not things. Greek does have a neuter pronoun and this is what is used in the passage instead. So, everywhere it says “he” just imagine “one” or “they” (even though it is not plural).

Here is what I did find strange about this discussion:

The first was that Hamilton seemed to be claiming (maybe I have misunderstood him) that the gender of the other words meant that a man was in view (apart from an appeal to the set phrase “one woman man” see link below). However, it is the pronouns themselves that usually change depending on whether a masculine, feminine or neuter object is in view. Our pronouns are neuter. In addition, nouns do not follow what Mounce calls “natural gender.” Example: “sin” is a feminine word, but has no actual gender connotations.

The last thing that was odd was what Dr. Hamilton said about “tis.” It’s meaning is “anyone.” “If anyone aspires to the office of overseer…”What was strange was that it seemed as though Hamilton was saying (and I hope I am wrong on this) that “tis” was a masculine word. Chris went out of his way to ask if there was a feminine form of the word and Hamilton just replied something like “well, there is a neuter form.” Problem: “tis” is Feminine and Masculine, not just masculine. It means “anyone.” If you want to double check you can go to the beginning of “Basics of Biblical Greek” by Dr. Mounce on p80 and you will see the chart.


There were other minor topics covered at the end that would take too much time to go through in this post alone (you are welcome to migrate to my blog and discuss the specific issues with me when I am not busy with school), but the following have been taken from Payne’s website and might be helpful if you do not already own his book.
http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=501- No female leaders named in NT? Phoebe
http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=490- Jesus being male = Elders must be male?
http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=426- “One woman man” = must be male?
http://www.pbpayne.com/?p=456- General

Overall, I did not find Dr. Hamilton’s response to Payne persuasive. The main reason was because he often did not interact with Payne’s evidence or appeals to context. There were many times when I wondered if Hamilton was aware that Payne had addressed specific points that he brought up—but Hamilton did not provide this information or engage with it. I got the impression that instead he just offered his own broad thoughts on different topics instead of aiming to counter the egalitarianism of Dr. Payne. Don’t take my word for it (or Dr. Hamilton’s word), read Payne’s work (either his book or blog) and decide for yourself whether Payne’s arguments and evidence are compelling.

I would also like to add that while Payne’s work offers many unique contributions, it is not unique in being an Egalitarian work that takes Scripture seriously and gives compelling arguments. There are many great publications that have been around for a long time. Some other great Egalitarian scholars you should get acquainted with if your are interested in knowing the best Egalitarians arguments (after Payne in my opinion) are Craig Keener, Linda Belleville, Gordon Fee and Ben Witherington. There are also some free articles available at the website of Christians for Biblical Equality.

6 thoughts on “A Listener’s Response to Jim Hamilton (Part 2)

  1. Hello.

    I get really frustrated with egalitarian reasoning, especially with Ephesians 5. I do not want to write a blog post of my own in this box so I will limit what I want to say to egalitarian arguments/responses to that. Let’s take the first thing she says after quoting Eph 5:1-2, “This means that women will also take on the role of Christ in giving up their lives for others. Paul does not say this is only something husbands should do.” Why did the Spirit even both prompting Paul to write vss 25-33? If the same thing was meant from 1-2 then surely 25-33 is redundant? But further, in vs. 33 there is a distinction of what Paul is talking about and this verse serves like a conclusion or summary of what he just said with the point being: Husbands love their wife as their own self and wives respect their husband.

    Sorry I am not more eloquent or articulate but what bothers me so much obviously isn’t that people care so much that they go to the Bible to see if they have things right or that they are persuaded by a part of the secular worldview and go into the Bible to see if that part is correct. Don’t we all do that with things? Rather my problem is the egalitarian understanding of Eph 5 (and 6) just doesn’t make sense when taken in context. That is why it is so frustrating.

    The only thing I find less compelling than egalitarianism is pedo-baptism! (That was a joke :))

  2. Hi Robert,
    Thank you for your interest.
    Personally, I don’t find these to be problems. Here is why:

    “Why did the Spirit even both prompting Paul to write vss 25-33? If the same thing was meant from 1-2 then surely 25-33 is redundant?”

    Paul often singles out individuals or groups that especially need to know something even if he has stated something along those lines elsewhere in the letter or other writings. This is no different. 5:1-2 gives something general the whole church should be doing (taking on the role of Christ by imitation and laying down one’s life). Paul repeats this to husbands and uses it to go into more detail about Christ’s relationship with the church. It is not redundant (where something is repeated unnecessarily). Rather, a key point is repeated and used as a springboard to bring out a greater point.

    “But further, in vs. 33 there is a distinction of what Paul is talking about and this verse serves like a conclusion or summary of what he just said with the point being: Husbands love their wife as their own self and wives respect their husband.”

    I agree that this is a summary for this section. A couple of things could be said though: 1) I take the section to begin with 5:21 (which serves a double function of concluding and introducing) and ending with 33. The point is mutual submission. What this includes is partially brought over from the section before which starts with 5:1. In other words, the fact that wives should respect husbands and husbands should love wives does not undermine anything I have said. 2) This section points out some much needed applications for husbands and wives, but does not claim that wives should not lay down their lives for their husbands or love their husbands. If this were the case, then we would have a contradiction with 5:1-2 and elsewhere where wives are commanded to love their husbands. Point: Making this a summary does not undermine what has been said.

    “…what bothers me so much obviously isn’t that people care so much that they go to the Bible to see if they have things right or that they are persuaded by a part of the secular worldview and go into the Bible to see if that part is correct.”

    Personally, I became Egalitarian by studying the Scriptures more deeply. My father was a pastor and he instilled in me a deep love for the Bible and God’s church. This is what primarily formed my thinking, not some secular worldview.

    I could be more responsive to your critiques if you were to engage my perspective (or Dr. Payne’s since it is actually his view we should be discussing) rather than assuming a paradigm that is not mine.

    “…the egalitarian understanding of Eph 5 (and 6) just doesn’t make sense when taken in context. That is why it is so frustrating.”

    What in Dr. Payne’s discussion of context did you find unpersuasive. He did appeal to context, what part of that did you not agree with?

  3. I can’t even come close to buying that. Husbands are the heads of wives, Christ is the.head of the chirch. The egalitarian position tries to equalize or even reverse this and that is heresy. Christ doesnt imitate us we imitate him.We do not tell him whwt to do and set an example for him.

  4. Robert, while I remain a complementarian at this point, I do think your statement, “Husbands are the heads of wives…The egalitarian position tries to equalize or even reverse this,” begs the question. You are assuming that what Scripture means when it says husbands are the heads of their wives, and Christ the head of the Church, that it is using “head” in the sense of authority over. But that’s the very question that needs answering.

  5. Like Chris, I lean more toward the complementarian position at this point. However I did find Dr. Hamilton’s indignant tone and the disrespectful way he spoke about Dr. Payne to be very off-putting.

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