Friday, March 1, 2013

Why I don't think Lionel Windsor has nailed John Dickson, and the worrying approach to language that comes from his reply.

In John Dickson's 'Hearing Her Voice', John puts forward a particular understanding of what Paul means by 'didaskein' in 1 Timothy 2. Lionel Windsor has responded to John's claims. I have said elsewhere that I (and others, including John) are still waiting for someone to do the work on a proper critique. Some have asked why Lionel's critique isn't 'proper'.

This is a debate about the meaning of a particular use of a particular word, so it is interesting to contrast the linguistic approaches of John and Lionel.

  1. Lionel seems to think that words have a 'general' meaning, and perhaps a more 'technical' meaning, and that the general meaning can be assumed until otherwise disproved.
This is a false approach to language. Words do not have a 'core' or 'general' meaning. Words simply mean whatever they mean when they are used. Different contexts, registers, different places in sentences, different combinations of words show different meanings for the same bunch of letters.

So, the word 'set' can mean a complete collection

the word 'set' can mean the hardening of concrete

the word 'set' can mean a unit of games in tennis

the word 'set' can mean to place down

None of these are 'general' or 'technical', they are simply available meanings.

Where words are set within a given set sets their meaning. Game ,set and match Dickson.

Everyone has the burden of proof when the meaning of a word is contested.
But where will this proof and evidence come from?

  1. Dickson looks for his evidence internally to the Pastoral letters of Paul. How is didaskw used in these letters?
    He then correlates his findings to external historical evidence to practices in the first century

Lionel Windsor on the other hand appeals to conceptual analysis of a translated gloss. That is, he is asking philosophical questions about a 'concept' in English, 'teach'. This is the lexicographical equivalent of allegory. It can sound quite profound, and can even bring some insight, but struggles to find objective controls. Whatever may be conceptually said about the concept can be transferred back into the source language, or made the chief emphasis. Lionel goes for a relational dynamic of authority for 'teach', but it could as easily be.. 'all teaching requires the breathing out of truth.. breathing is the essential part of teaching and therefore didaskw.

  1. But conceptual analysis shouldn't be thrown away altogether. There is at least one control in this debate, and that is the way Paul uses other terms about speaking (or breathing out!) truthful statements about Jesus. That is the importance of lexical choice. Now, we shouldn't be fooled into thinking that every time a writer uses a different lexeme they must have a completely distinct concept in mind. Sometimes we use different words simply for variety. But in the conceptual framework of a writer, if they say forbid 'x', but explicitly encourage 'y' and 'z', we would expect ther to be some significant difference between x and (yz). This is exactly the case for Paul, who forbids 'teaching' but encourages 'prophesying and exhorting' for women.
    John's definition makes the difference quite clear by positing 'teach ' as a particular office of handing down the apostolic deposit (an office largely taken by our written Gospels)
    I don't think Lionel's definition of 'relational dynamics involving authority' makes a clear enough difference between 'teach', 'prophesy' and 'exhort' to make any sense of Paul (unless we say that Paul is incoherent, not somewhere I am going). Is there no authority in prophesying? Is there no authority in exhorting? This is particularly distressing for those of us who see authority lying in Scripture, and why Lionel's position, though in theory allows women to speak with a church service, actually allows them no place..lest God exercise his authority through them. (and indeed, why restrict oneself to the church service, or even the church, if what Paul is disallowing is a 'general' conveying of truth within a relationship of authority.... ie taking the definition to it's extremes (which Lionel doesn't), if a female expert in Art History tells me the truth about a painting, and knows more than me, then she is breaking Paul's command)
    That is, because Lionel is unwilling to the historical work of asking 'What relationship?' 'What Authority?' of the text in Timothy, it can be expanded to any and every relationship and authority.

So, there you have my reasons. Jury is still out for me re the whole passage, we still havn't touched on 'authentein'. Nevertheless, I'm still waiting for someone to do a proper job on Dickson's work


Luke Collings said...

Hi Mike,

I can't agree with your analysis on Lionel's critique for a number of reasons.

1) Lionel is not alone in proposing that didasko has general and specific meanings in the pastorals. Indeed, Dickson was the one who said it first. This is demonstrated if you compare the use of the lexemes in 1 Timothy 2 and Titus 2, for example. In both cases Paul is addressing the subject of instruction in the Redeemed Community, which I think you'll agree is substantially different than comparing tennis and concrete. A point that both Lionel and Paul agree on is that both men and women according to the pastorals are to be involved in "teaching", but that a specific restriction exists in 1 Timothy 2.

2) I don't think you can throw out core meanings as easily as you suppose, and the example that you give provides a classic example. The word "set" in the various contexts that you use rely on a core definition of "complete" or "finished". A collection is a set when it is "complete", concrete is "set" when it has "finished" or "completed" hardening, a set in tennis is a number of games that have to be "completed" to reach a result, and an object is set when it has "finished" or "completed" moving. The context in which the word "set" can be used can certainly vary widely, but a common thread unites them all. I would suggest that Dickson's attempt to force a division between the use of didasko in 1 Timothy 2 and other instances where instruction clearly means more than the passing on of a received tradition falls into this error.

Luke Collings said...

3) Dickson's scope for defining didasko places an intolerable double-standard on those who wish to critique him. Dickson, in my view, constructs a very narrow definition of didasko through relying on SOME of the uses of that lexeme in the Pastorals, then reading back into it what he imagines were the teaching dynamics of rabbinical Judaism in the first century. However, when critics object that his usage does not neatly map onto a wider use of the lexeme even within the Pauline corpus, Dickson accuses them of Not Answering The Question. I believe that Lionel was NOT offering a "conceptual analysis of a translated gloss", but was proposing that the wider evidence of the New Testament reveals that the understanding of didasko was much wider than Dickson claims, and in fact one that we would still broadly use today - the use of a received body of knowledge for the Enlightened to bring the Ignorant into Understanding. In this way, I can agree that I don't think Lionel's critique went far enough and is why this argument seems to be going around in circles - we are all arguing about the Means of didsado (trasmission of verbal tradition vs relational instruction) rather than the Ends (memorising and passing on the tradition vs understanding and discipleship in response to the message). We haven't yet moved from the textual to the doctrinal questions (i.e. WHY did Paul place a restriction in 1 Timothy 2? What was the theological reason that women could not "teach" in this context and does it still apply?)

4) If we do consider the doctrinal questions, then I think it is possible for a relational dynamic involving authority to exist in particular situation in the Redeemed Community without the "authority" residing in an individual. In my final post on Dickson's work, I raised the possibility that the true submission that happens during a time of communal "teaching" is by the whole congregation TO Christ THROUGH the Word. God is the true authority in the Church and made present in the Community through Word and Spirit. If we see a parallel in 1 Timothy 2 to Ephesians 5, then we see that as the Church gathers the Household of God is made visible and should have a tangible symbol of submission to it's ultimate Head. So therefore, the didaskalos exercises authority only insofar as God has true authority through the teaching of the Word. But just as the pater famimias did not do EVERYTHING in an ancient Roman household for fear that his rule of it would be compromised, so women in the church can serve and even direct activity without God's authority being questioned. So I would say No, there isn't authority implicit in either prophesying or exhorting as neither necessarily involves communal submission to God through his Word. The extrapolation of this principle to an Art History expert is fanciful, and I must say is beneath you.

Mike W said...

Hi Luke,
1. Yep, fait call, they are both a bit dodgy on that count

can't agree with you on number two. I was (kind of) expecting this response, but it is still a fallacy. Yes, there is some conceptual connection between some of the meanings of 'set' though at least one 'place' has very little connection such connection. (though there are plenty more with no connection), go take a look at oxford English!
To render my sentence
"Words complete in a given complete completes their meaning.

Or even worse, to take a phrase that says 'I do not permit women to have the set' and then use it to tell your female tennis partner she may not win, as well as using it to tell your female collector friend she may not complete her collection, as well as tell your female musicaian friend she may not perform a sequence of songs, as well as tell your female friend she may not have a television, all because there is a 'common thread' of usage in the word is silly.

3 'imagined teaching dynamics of Rabbinical Judaism'. Well here I guess I have to defer to just about every historian of the early church. Start with Dunn.
To use the 'set' analogy, Dickson is saying the context suggests it is talking about concrete, and others are up in arms because they can't use that definition for tennis. There is absolutely no need for Dickson's (or anyone elses) definition to map over 100% of the uses of didaskw. I would still argue that Windsor is talking about the gloss 'teach', primarily because there is no detailed work on other appearances of didaskw (or cognate nouns, but that is a whole other kettle of fish), and no historical work on what they might be referring to. There is simply an assumption of equivocal meaning.
We haven't moved from the textual to the doctrinal questions precisely because the text is under debate.

4. All very interesting and edifying, but in many ways a good example of my criticism about lack of objective controls (ie lexical allegory. The equation of a didaskolos with a pater familias is interesting. What evidence do you have for it? So we are both saying that Jesus is head of the household (ala Galatians 6:10 ((plural households, single faithful one))). What evidence do you have of the didaskolos being seen as the head of the church household? And if they are all meant to be blokes what do you do with the church households that are said to belong to women(Cloe etc).

The question raised by your whole argument however, is whether our churches function as such families? And does every instance of pulpit speech function with such 'communal submission' to the word.
I guess a side question is 'Are you saying that prophey and exhorting are only ok when they DON'T refer to God's word?' Then what does one do with Hebrews?

Mike W said...

Once you are done with Dunn, perhaps Rainer Reisners book will have been translated. (argues for rote transmission as the standard method of 'teaching' in Ancient world'
Otherwise, Bauckham's chapter on transmitting the Jesus traditions in "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" might help you out there too.

Luke Collings said...

Just a few points of rebuttal before I propose a new way forward.

With respect to word meanings, the current discussion cannot be compared to possible to deciding between, for example, a TV set and a tennis set. The context alone narrows our scope to a particular usage and the question at hand is the range. So, for example, we might talk about a set in tennis as a completed idea or one that is still being played. The score may be 1-0 and we could still use the term "set" because the context suggests that it is progressing to completion. So then, with didasko, the question is whether this verb refers to the action of simply passing on the received apostolic deposit OR whether this passing on is also accompanied by explanation and application for the purpose of discipleship and submission to the lordship of Christ. We are not in widely different ballparks here and I think this needs to be restated clearly.

Regarding the rote tradition, Lionel was very clear (and I certainly agree) that this was certainly a central part of the teaching office in the period prior to the acceptance of a written canon both for the Church and Rabbinic Judaism. In this respect I agree with the opinion of Dunn et al. Where I disagree is the belief that the rabbis of the period were limited to this activity when they performed the teaching role. One of the reasons why Rabbinic Judaism was able to spread across the diaspora was that the teachings of the Great Rabbis were not treated as a static entity to be merely repeated verboten, but were explained and applied in a variety of different social contexts. Indeed, the very heart of the rabbinic tradition is that the faith is kept even while empires (and temples) rise and fall around it. It only stands to reason that the oral tradition of Hillel and Shammai would have had to have been explained and applied as part of the transmission process even within the first century as the fortunes of Israel pitched and tossed.

Is the "pater familias" equated with a didaskalos? I would have said it is an analogy rather than a straight equation, but it is certainly in keeping with how Paul speaks about the gifts of overseers in 1 Tim 3 needing to be both pastoral and domestic. I think there is sufficient NT evidence to make the analogy work. As for the example of Chloe, it does not logically follow that because a church may be designated as being in an individual's home that they were automatically the "head" of it. Indeed, the fact that Paul had to outline qualifications for overseers and deacons beyond who had the biggest living room suggests there was more nuance involved.

Does every instance of pulpit speech involve communal submission? I would prefer my theology not be dictated by furniture. But as for the place of non-submissional speech activities in the meeting, I say bring it on!

Prophecy and exhortation may use the Word or they may not. In my reading, the general pattern in the NT is that they don't but I'm not going to be Pharisaic about it. However, teaching always seems to be related either to the oral tradition or the written Word, and I would say that this is the key feature.

Hebrews is a difficult case as it was written to exhort Jewish Christians who were tempted to give up their faith, but was later recognised as being an inspired Word for the whole church.

Luke Collings said...

(con't) The written Word, such as Hebrews or the letter in Acts 15, can exhort believers both in its original context and today. I think we should be arguing that God's Word is a comfort to us. But not ever part of the Word was written for the purpose of exhortation, yet through every part God teaches the whole Church and every part may be taught by those God has gifted for the task.

This debate as a whole has been by turns edifying and frustrating. It has been edifying because it is pointing all sides back to Scripture to see what the text says. The problem is that each side is talking past each other because there is no common consensus on what will resolve the question. This is partially because there is no absolute definition either of "teaching" or "sermon" in the NT, but also because both sides have set up the goalposts to suit themselves and refuse to shoot for the opposition's target.

I need to be absolutely clear about how an appropriate response to Dickson's argument might look. IF I could show from the Pastorals that Paul's use of didasko encompassed more than the mere passing on of the apostolic deposit, then would it be reasonable to assume that the office of "teacher" might not be fulfilled by the New Testament text today?

Mike W said...

Thanks for the cordial response Luke.
"context alone narrows our scope to a particular usage" Indeed! Which is partly my point, the wider, more abstract 'connecting threads' description is somewhat irrelevant. The problem with the abstract definition is that it allows current usage to cover all sorts of activities, that was the point of the silly example. And indeed, the definition has little to say to those who are perhaps to the 'right' of Lionel, who disallow not only pulpit speech, but bible study leading, or any speech in a service.

I'm not sure I can agree quite so quickly as to what the important distinction is. To me (not necesarily Dickson) it makes very little difference whether a didaskolos also commented and applied.
I think what Dickson is arguing is that the main distinction between the three terms is the goal of didaskw as preserving the tradition both for continuing faithful 'performance' and discipleship/submission.
I think it is a false step to say that Prophesy and exhortation do not also have the goal of discipleship and submission (or to imply that they are not based on the Word or lack the Spirit).
This distinguishing function for 'teaching', that is, the preservation of the tradition, is largely taken up by our gospels (indeed perhaps due to the percieved failure/weakness of the oral system). Part of the problem here for us is that many of us view the preacher as more important than the Bible reading. We have a long tradition of reading the story and then saying 'Let me tell you what it REALLY means (insert abstract soteriological theory here...)'
Perhaps it is to our shame that so few of our church members can tell the gospel story ( I mean, the actual one, like it is in the gospels.. not the CREATIONSINJUDGEMENTJESUSDECISION abstraction) . Perhaps Lionel's question is a good one, 'What has happened to our preaching??'. Perhaps we do need to rehabilitate a teaching office of the type Dickson speaks of. But perhaps not, since it would never bear the kind of regulating function that scripture now bears.

re Rabbi's , yep the 'verbatim only' approach is somewhat flawed (Gerhardson?), yet 'faithful performance' is still the goal of all the discussion. (I don't mean this in a moral/ethical sense.) Nevertheless, the Rabbinic evidence is not the only evidence of such tradents ,there is evidence within Paul, and from the wider ancient world.
Bauckham's stuff is interesting on the different regulating function of the tradent and the community

Mike W said...

Hi Luke,
good question, I think to disprove John's argument you would need to show that the pastorals 'didaskw' did not refer to an activity that was primarily about the preservation of the apostolic deposit, also that
2.on this other definition this activity did not overlap in significant ways with prophecy and exhortation (ie these can't be disqualified to women), and also that
3. whatever definition you took, it could map to 100% of the instances of speech in contemporary churches that could be labelled a sermon. (since this is Dickson's whole point ..sometimes it is ok for a woman to preach)

Mike W said...

and to the wider argument you could add... what on earth is going on with 'authentein'
(the best I could say about Baldwin's study is that it is flawed)

Mike W said...

Sorry, one more point to disprove Johns argumemnt

4. You would also have to show that your reading is the only responsible one. John allows room for those that disagree with him but is responding to claims (within our diocese and outside) that it is a sin for a woman to preach, it is a sin for a man to listen to a woman preach (and we might even add after the KCC debacle , it is a sin to listen to a man who might allow a woman to preach!!).

So, you don't like the 'set' analogy because it crosses semantic domains. I still think the 'relational dynamic with authority' definition is too slippery. Here is another one.
Someone says ' I do not permit a woman to be a policeman'.
Looking through various uses we come up with a general definition
'A policeman is someone who enforces the law with authority'. It works for all cases so everything looks good. And perhaps we have come to call in our culture all instances of law enforcement 'policing'
But then we come to historical cases of women (affirmed by our writer) being lawyers and judges.
We provisionally accept that women may do some kind of activity called 'lawyering' or 'judging', but because of our general definition of 'policeman', whatever they were doing couldn't be enforcing the law (perhaps they were only defence lawyers, or perhaps they were just commenting but with no authority).
The more conservative among us would also question whether a wife who questioned her husband at home was in some way acting as a policeman, after all, they were attempting to enforce a code, with some kind of authority.

So a historian comes along and says, "hey wait a minute, when this person was writing, police had batons and guns to enforce the law, and involved themselves in investigation, in fact context seems to suggest that our writer was speaking specifically of cops on the beat, perhaps we could allow women some involvement in court prosecutions, deliberation and even investigation."

But his critics reply, "no, no, we all know what 'policing' means, it means 'enforcing the law with authority'. That definition works in every case. It simply does not matter that you can show copious historical evidence that the practice of policing at that time primarily involved getting on the street and investigating crime. I can even show you some historical evidence of police going into a courtroom, and some other evidence of police directing questions to someone who is accused, the very things you want women to now do as 'lawyers' and 'judges'. I'm afraid this is simply because you want to evade the text"

How does that analogy work for you?

Jonathan H said...

Hey dudes, where can we see Windsor's stuff? Is there a link?

All this makes me think, it's time we evangelicals geared up with some linguistic knowhow. In particular lexical semantics. Some of the discussion seems to be unhelpfully uninformed on this front.

Anwar Fazil said...

good blog. keep it up

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