LESSON 48.

“DIVERS WEIGHTS AND MEASURES.”

363.      Expositors of the Bible will never be able to understand, or to set forth a clear, consistent, correct interpretation of the Word of God as regards women until they abandon, once for all, the attempt to found the social, ecclesiastical and spiritual (as far as this life is concerned) status of Christian woman on the Fall, and found it, as they do man’s social, ecclesiastical and spiritual status, in the atonement of Jesus Christ. They cannot, for women, put the “new wine” of the Gospel into the old wine-skins of “condemnation” before God’s law. The skins burst, the wine is spilled; and such “theology” is responsible for much “free-thought”: among justice-loving persons, who confuse the teaching of the expositors with the teaching of the Bible, and denounce the latter instead of the former.

364.     The Lord says, through the mouth of Moses, “Thou shalt not have in thy bag divers weights, a great and a small,” Deut. 15:13; and Proverbs 20:10 teaches us: “Divers weights and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord.” It seems to us that divers weights and measures have been employed, occasionally, when translating the utterances of the Bible. For instance, the word for “minister, deacon,” diakonos, is used, properly, of a helper of any sort who is not a slave. It occurs 30 times in the N. T., and is almost always rendered “minister.”  It is translated “servant” only 7 times and “deacon” 3 times, and “minister” 20 times. We will notice only those instances in which it may, or certainly does, refer to an ecclesiastical office,¾Romans 15:8; 1 Cornthians 3:5; 2 Corinthians 3:6; 6:4; 11:23; Ephesians 3:7; 6:21; Colossians 1:7, 23, 25; 4:7; 1 Thessalonians 3:2; 1 Timothy 4:6 (rendered “minister”). And Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8, 12 (“deacon”). But in Romans 16:1, where the Apostle Paul says: “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is diakonos of the church which is at Cenchrea,” referring, beyond all possibility of a doubt, to her status in the church, the A. V. translates “servant” (the R.V.margin translates “deaconess”). Bishop Lightfoot speaks of the mistranslation, “servant” in this place. He also gives strong reasons for believing that 1 Timothy 3:11 refers also to women deacons, and adds: “If the testimony borne in these two passages to a ministry of women in the Apostolic times had not been thus blotted out of our English Bibles, attention would probably have been directed to the subject at an earlier date, and our English church would not have remained so long maimed of one of her hands.” We suppose the Bishop’s thoughts went no further than to the thought of a needed order of “deaconesses,” when he penned these words. But they apply with greater force all the way along to woman’s full equality with man in the ministry of the Gospel,¾for until that point is reached, the Church will ever be maimed of one of her hands in her struggle with the world, the flesh and the devil.

365.     It was not until the middle of the third century that an order of women called “deaconesses” (diakonissae) became common in the churches of the East; they were scarcely ever known in the early centuries in the Western branch of the Church. Speaking of the rendering of this title attached to Phoebe’s name,¾“deaconess,” Bishop Ellicott says: “The proposed rendering ‘deaconess’ is open to the objection that it introduces into the N. T. the technical name (diakonissa), which is of later origin.”

366.      Conybeare and Howson, in their Life of St. Paul, (p. 240), call attention to the use, in connection with Phoebe’s name, of two words associated together in technical legal matters, in Paul’s recommendation of her, which indicates that she was abroad on some important business with the courts,¾possibly in behalf of the church. Yet with all this, our translators found no difficulty in leveling her down to the “servant” class. But Paul calls her, not a “deaconess” but a “deacon,” a “minister.” In the Apostolical Constitutions (a third century document of the Church) “deaconesses” are referred to; but here we have the “deacon” or “minister” of the Church. Paul uses precisely the same form of the word that he does in such passages as 1 Timothy 3:8, 12. This goes a long way toward proving that when he gave directions as to ordaining “deacons” he made no distinction as to sex, in his own mind. To be sure, he had to caution Timothy about ordaining any men who were polygamous (women were not likely to have two husbands), which gives such passages more of a masculine twist than they otherwise would have had.

367.     What Paul says of Phoebe as a prostatis (translated “succourer,” literally meaning “one standing before”), proves that she was of no inferior order in the Church. Had the words been given the strong cast into which they are run, when (supposedly) spoken of men only, in 1 Timothy 3:12, we should be reading here about Phoebe, in our English Bibles: “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, minister [or deacon] of the church which is at Cenchrea; . . . for she hath been a ruler of many and of myself also.” This is the noun form corresponding to the verb translated “rule” in the Timothy passages (1Timothy 3:4, 5, 12; and 5:17), where Paul is supposed to be commanding that these men “rule well” their own households. We have only to say that if these men are to “rule” their households, then Paul tells us that Phoebe ruled himself and many others; but if it be impossible to concede that Paul was ruled by a woman, then it is equally impossible, by every law of truthful and just translation, to prove that these passages in Timothy instruct men to “rule well” their households. The translators cannot have it both ways. The Greek noun used of Phoebe, prostatis, means a “champion, leader, chief, protector, patron.” Phoebe held the same relation to the church at Cenchrea, that Paul says church officials should hold to their own children and household,¾that is, they should take good care of them; these passages have no direct reference to rule, or government. In Tit. 3:8, 14, the word is translated “maintain.” When a man is told to “stand before,” his family “well,” men translate the word “rule.” When the Bible tells us that Phoebe is a “stander-before” they translate “succourer.”

368.     Now let us again draw a contrast, between this word “to stand before” translated “rule,” when spoken of men, and a certain word translated “guide,” because spoken of women. Men often talk of the father and husband as the “final authority” in the home. What says St. Paul on the point? The Greek word for “despot” (despotes) furnishes us with our English word. Its meaning is precisely the same in Greek as it is in English. It means an absolute and arbitrary ruler, from whom there can be no appeal. It was the title slaves were required to use in addressing the master who owned them as property. Please read all the passages in which this Greek word despotes occurs. It is rendered “Master” in the following places: 1 Timothy 6:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:21; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18; “Lord” in Luke 2:29; Acts 4:24; 2 Peter 2:1; Jude 4; and Revelation 6:10.

369.     Oikos is a very ordinary word in Greek, meaning “house.” These two words, oikos and despotes, unite to form the word oikodespotes, which, as you can see, means “master of the house,” and it is so rendered, Matthew 10:25; Luke 13:25 and 14:21. Now the Apostle Paul makes use of a verb corresponding to this noun oikodespotes,¾namely, “to master the house,”¾oikodespotein. He says, 1 Timothy 5:14, “I will that the younger women marry, bear children, oikodespotein, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” After the analysis of this word, we can all see how it should have been translated. The A. V., however, translates, “guide the house” the R. V., with a little more justice translates, “rule the household.” Now whom, if anyone, does St. Paul make the “final authority in the home?” The woman. But we believe that Paul would teach that God alone is final authority in a Christian home.

370.     The lesson is this: Expositors having once convinced themselves that Nature (they would not own to doing it themselves), has outlined a certain “sphere” for woman, whereas man is at liberty, under God, to outline his own “sphere;” and having convinced themselves that the Apostle Paul places teaching, preaching and governing outside women’s “sphere,”¾whatever supports this view as to woman’s “sphere” is slightly (and sometimes more exaggerated in our English translation; and what would stand out as proof against this masculine preconception is toned down in translation. This making use of “divers weights and measures” is an abomination in the sight of God. (see pars. 616-644).

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