Noodling with the Greek grammar in 1 Timothy 2:15

Noodling with the Greek grammar in 1 Timothy 2:15

While I have made a very strong point of the Greek grammar in 1 Timothy 2:15 with the singular “she” and the plural “they” (no specific gender for “they”), some have been trying hard to wiggle out of the implications that Paul is referring to a specific woman because the only living person at that time that “she” can refer back to is the woman Paul is stopping from teaching in verse 12. Verse 15 has a very specific grammar construction with both “she” AND “they” referenced. I have made the argument that “she” cannot be the same thing as “they” otherwise 1 Timothy 2:15 would have improper Greek grammar. The only way to keep the grammar within the rules is for “they” to be people (at least one other person) in addition to the “she”. Paul could have said “She will be saved….if she…” or “They will be saved…if they…” and both of these could be general statements about either women or generic woman, but it would be improper to say “She will be saved…if they….” if “she” and “they” are the exact same thing.

Back in September of 2007 I had an audio debate with Matt Slick of CARM and since that time Matt has been trying to find a way to refute my exegesis and prove and “she” is the exact same thing as “they”. He cannot prove such a thing since it is improper Greek grammar so it is interesting to note that he is now stating that the Holy Spirit can inspire an error in the Greek grammar if he wants to. I can hardly believe that an evangelical apologist would resort to noodling with the Greek grammar in order to keep his biased view that Paul is restricting all women for all of time from teaching true biblical doctrine to men. But at the same time that Matt is setting up such a charge against the Holy Spirit of inspiring an error in the grammar, his own Greek expert is refuting his premise. Let’s see how this is done.

On May 22, 2008 Matt Slick’s Faith and Reason show, Matt had on his radio program some students studying Greek and with them is Barry Wilson, Matt’s Greek expert from the Charnock Institute of the Bible.

Matt asks Barry Wilson if there are any Greek grammar errors in the Greek text. While the young women students answer “yes”, Barry says “No”. He says that there are scribal errors in the copies, but in the original text there are no Greek grammar errors. Hear the audio clip here of Matt’s question and Barry Wilson’s answer.

The next question that Matt Slick asks is if the students think that the Holy Spirit would ever inspire anyone and have them make a grammar error? You can hear the student answer “no”. Listen to the audio clip here.

Next Matt Slick builds his case that the Holy Spirit could inspire grammar errors if he was inspiring poetry. He says that the Holy Spirit could inspire grammar errors on purpose and thus not be breaking any grammar rules if it was on purpose. Matt Slick then says that the Holy Spirit can break a grammar rule, but so what? Listen here to the audio clip about how Matt Slick believes that the Holy Spirit can break grammar rules.

Matt Slick then asks an amazing question. He asks if they think that the Holy Spirit could inspire an apostle to write something but this apostle doesn’t seem to understand the Koine Greek grammar rules so the Holy Spirit inspired grammatical errors through an ignorant apostle. Here Matt is referring to 1 Timothy 2:15 and he is implying that the apostle Paul broke the Greek grammar rules because he didn’t understand the Greek grammar. Thus he says that the Holy Spirit inspired a passage with grammar errors through Paul on purpose(!) Listen to the amazing audio clip where Matt Slick implies that the Apostle Paul was an uneducated man in regards to Greek grammar!

Next one of the female students tells Matt that “they” includes “she” but includes more as in “women” (plural). This Greek student is correct in that a singular cannot be exactly the same thing as a plural. “She” can be included in the “they”, but “she” cannot be the exact same thing as “they”. This is exactly what I have been telling Matt all along. Listen to the audio file here.

Matt then says that he calls his vice-president, Diane Sellner, “women!” sometimes. He says that we can “play” with words and break the rules because it isn’t a sentence. He is noodling with words and trying to make a case that the Holy Spirit also noodled with the Greek words and the Greek grammar in 1 Timothy 2:15. Listen to the audio file here.

While Matt Slick claims that the Holy Spirit has purposely inspired grammar errors into the biblical text, his vice-president, Diane Sellner has previously argued with me that the Greek grammar rules have changed. She says that what looks like a grammar error now wasn’t a grammar error back then and so what is inspired in the text wasn’t actually an error back when it was written although it looks like a grammar error now. So we have the vice president saying that 1 Timothy 2:15 looks like a grammar error but the rules have changed and Matt Slick is arguing that it was actually a grammar error when it was written just like it is a grammar error now and it was put there on purpose! They are contradicting each other and contradicting the inspiration of the inerrant text. Those who hold to the full inspiration of the original texts do not believe that there are errors in the inspired text.

I wrote to Matt Slick’s Greek grammar expert and asked him some pertinent questions. I found him very gracious and kind. I asked him if the Greek grammar has changed since the time that it was written and he said “No.” So there goes Diane Sellner’s argument. How about Matt Slick’s argument? I asked Barry Wilson if there were any grammar errors in the original text and he answered me the same way that he answered Matt. He said that there are no grammar errors in the inspired biblical text. I also asked him if 1 Timothy 2 was poetry. He said “No.” So there goes Matt Slick’s argument. I am continually amazed at how hierarchists will try anything to wiggle out of the implications of the text.

For the record there are no grammar errors in the inspired text. Paul said exactly what the Holy Spirit inspired through him and the Holy Spirit did not make any grammar errors. When Paul (and the Holy Spirit) said “she”, the reference can only grammatically go back to a single “woman” in verses 11 & 12 since Eve is dead and gone and she cannot do things in the future. The grammar in verse 15 is specifically a singular “she” PLUS a plural “they”. There is no precedent at all for saying that “she” is the exact same as “they”. This would make it a grammar error and that is not possible. No, Matt, “she” is a single woman and “they” is the single woman PLUS at least one other person. You have tried and failed to dismantle the inspired grammar in order to keep your prejudice against women who teach doctrine with authority as 1 Peter 4:11 commands for the one gifted is to speak as if speaking the very oracles of God.

I have also requested to meet personally with Matt Slick and his wife to discuss a Matthew 18 issue with him. Matt has consistently called me bad names because I hold strongly to the inspiration of the scriptures with the inspired words and the inspired grammar. He has also allowed his “staff” to call me evil because I disagree with him on this secondary issue. I agree with him on all of the essentials truths of the Christian faith but that is not good enough for Matt. He believes that those who disagree with him regarding whether or not women can teach doctrine to the entire body of Christ with the authority of 1 Peter 4:11 are heretics and are worthy of being called evil, witches, liberals and whiney people who he will personally bury. I think that any God-fearing Christian would find these things offensive. While Matt Slick has refused to debate me in writing, giving all kinds of reasons why he could not possibly do that, and being that I have already had two audio debates with him where he over-talked me, called me names and acted in an arrogant and rude manner, I think that it is time to call him to account for his treatment of the sheep in such a bad way if he will not meet with me to discuss this in person. He has refused to answer my emails requesting a meeting and so far has refused to answer my request on his discussion board.

The problem is this – hierarchists and egalitiarians can get along with each other with love and respect as long as those who hold back women from teaching with the authority of 1 Peter 4:11 do not attack their sisters in Christ. So many have already left the hierarchal movement because they can see the vitrolic nature of those who attack their fellow Christians. It is time that we as Christians stand up and put a stop to this kind of treatment. When we ignore this bad behavior and condone it because it is coming from a brother in Christ, we are allowing one of God’s servants to beat their fellow slaves. This is a very serious matter and must be addressed so that there can be repentance and turning away from this bad behavior so that forgiveness and healing will follow. How many more precious sisters in Christ will be hurt by this kind of behavior? Who will stand up and help to put a stop to it? My question is, what would Jesus do?

26 thoughts on “Noodling with the Greek grammar in 1 Timothy 2:15

  1. I think discussing the implications of Slick’s exegesis is good enough.  The Holy Spirit will have to help him as he does all of us when it comes to how we handle the Word.  Thanks for bringing up the matter.  I thought Matt had given up on the issue.

    I was wrong.

  2. When Paul (and the Holy Spirit) said “she”, the reference can only grammatically go back to a single “woman” in verses 11 & 12 since Eve is dead and gone and she cannot do things in the future.

    I think “Eve” is representative, and the passage is prophetic.

    Bushnell saw it that way too. This is from her book “God’s Word to Women:

    827. The “childbearing” of Revelation 12 is that same “childbearing” of 1 Timothy 2:15, of which the Apostle Paul speaks prophetically, in connection with those words about the formation of woman after man, in the spiritual sense. He says of woman: “She shall be saved through the childbearing [R. V.], if they continue in charity and holiness with sobriety.”

  3. Matt 18 does not stop with just going to the individual.  It seems you have tried that, at some point you go to his church.
    FWIIW, I have read that the books in the NT range in their being high Greek or low Greek.  That is, some books are very educated Greek and some are not. 

  4. The way I understand 1 Tim 2:15 (my translation) is: She will be saved through the Childbearing; if they each continue in faith and love and holiness with self control.
    The last Greek word is sophrosune, which means sanity or self-control; in any case, it is something that a specific person has, not a group.  So I emend the text to add “each” to clarify this.

    So I see it as POSSIBLE that Paul is talking about individuals in a group.  Each person’s salvation is based on that person’s actions, my working out of my salvation depends on what I choose, not my spouse or friend or whomever.

    Part of the challenge in interpreting 1 Tim is that Paul had a shared context with Timothy that we today lack, so Paul could write in a compressed form and Timothy would know what Paul was referring to, while we are less sure.

  5. missional girl,
    Matt certainly hasn’t given up on the matter.  In fact his vice-president put “sticky” labels on the discussion so that the whole world can know that I have refused Matt’s “invitation” to an audio debate and that I had been refuted already.  Matt has never answered my “refutation” of his “refutation” nor has he answered 1 Timothy 2:15 regarding the grammar except to say that the grammar is in error.  This kind of “refutation” is irresponsible in my opinion.

    I too believe “the childbearing” to be a reference to the fulfillment of prophecy which was given in Genesis 3 to the woman and reiterated in Rev. 12 as the Messiah’s birth.

    It appears that Matt Slick has no interest in meeting with me over any matter even a Matthew 18 issue.  The next step would appear to be going to his church.

    As far as salvation that comes with the help of others, I think there are situations when the deception is so strong that only through the help of the Holy Spirit’s work that often is done through the help of dedicated Christians, can a person come out of the deception.  I know how hard it is for a person to come out of the deception of the Jehovah’s Witnesses as I led a support group for those coming out for 16 years.  If deception is one of the keys to understanding 1 Timothy 2:11-15, then helping the deceived one stay away from the deceiving influences can be a tremendous help.  The pull back into the deception is common.  Many of the people from the support group shared with me the doubts and attack on their mind even years after their exodus from the captivity of the Watchtower.

    I do agree that Paul’s personal letter to Timothy is hard to understand because there are things that Timothy knew about the situation that we cannot readily pick up.  I think there is enough evidence in the text with the specific wording and specific grammar that we can have a good foundational understanding that what Paul is prohibiting is not godly biblical teaching.  What he is prohibiting is the teaching of error.

  6. Don,
    One other thing that I forgot to comment on…the Greek is a higher Greek in some areas of the bible than other areas.  The Greek is a very low Greek with some of the fishermen 🙂  However Paul’s grasp of the Greek is very good and no one makes any grammar errors in their level of Greek.  The fully agree with Matt’s Greek expert on this.

  7. Paul was a diaspora Jew who was a Torah scholar.  The idea that he would make a Greek grammar mistake under the inspiritation of the Holy Spirit is preposterous.  When someone goes to that length, it just shows how far they will go to make Scripture say what they wish.

  8. Amazing. Matt is really really reaching on this issue.

    Do you have a link for the entire interview.

  9. Yup, I just got suspended from CARM.  You cannot call them to account.  I asked for a meeting with Matt Slick to have a Matthew 18 meeting with me.  He won’t answer me.  Now I am banned/suspended from CARM.  When people refuse to conform to God’s truth, they will do anything they can to stop the truth from being told.  If they can’t control you, they will shut you up.  But the fact is they cannot control me here.  They cannot stop us from speaking out regarding what the truth is.  God’s freedom is so beautiful, isn’t it?

  10. But at the same time that Matt is setting up such a charge against the Holy Spirit of inspiring an error in the grammar, his own Greek expert is refuting his premise

    This is a big problem now, Mr. Matt is not claiming God “The Holy Spirit” errors!!!!!!!!!!! I think you should put this topic or argument in you teaching DVD on the Trinity. Use his quote and rebuke it on your DVD. I’m sure there are more people who are listening to his false teaching! This needs to be in your DVD Cheryl!

    I hope you are doing well, did you get my last e-mail Cheryl? Keep going strong for our Lord Jesus!

  11.   This is a very serious matter and must be addressed so that there can be repentance and turning away from this bad behavior and forgiveness.  How many more precious sisters in Christ will be hurt by this kind of behavior?  Who will stand up and help to put a stop to it?  My question is, what would Jesus do?

    I stand with you on this issue Cheryl, I’m your second witness! A matt. 18 needs to be done because they are messing with the Holy Spirit and this bad behavior of his needs to stop! I would not want to be in his shoes on judgement day! I support my sisters in Christ all the way!

  12. Michael,
    I am sure I did get your last email.  I have just been so busy that it has been difficult to keep up.  The Trinity DVD has already been scripted and filmed and it is longer than I would like so I will be working to try to edit it down a little.  There is so much more that could be said but I have to stick to the most important parts regarding the authority of the Son in the Trinity.  Perhaps there will be further opportunity for another DVD on this subject.  Right now I am up to my ears in editing and it is coming along really well.  Lots to do but it is very exciting seeing it come to life at my fingertips!

  13. Thank you Michael for standing with me!  I have gone the next step in Matthew 18 and gone to Matt’s Pastor.  If he is a really good Pastor he will do something about the abuses.  My Pastor has already tried to get Matt to see things rationally but Matt wouldn’t listen.  Perhaps Matt will listen to his own Pastor.

  14. Any group can decide the reasons for membership and non-membership.  But you now have received an HONOR that a few others that were at CARM also received.  I am sure you can see why it is an HONOR.

  15. Don,

    Yes, I guess it is a true honor because this “honor” is granted at CARM for those who push for truth. My push for truth was regarding Matt’s statements that the Holy Spirit can inspire errors in the grammar on purpose and that the “errors” in 1 Timothy 2:15 were put there on purpose, inspired by the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul because of Paul’s ignorance of the Greek grammar(!) I don’t think so! Matt attempts to qualify 1 Timothy 2:15 as a piece of “poetry” when it is obviously not poetry but instructions by Paul to Timothy, absolutely boggle my mind. My pointing out this unorthodox attempt at looking at the Greek grammar in an “attempt” to refute me and also my request for a meeting with Matt to resolve his attacks on my character was too much for them to handle. Honestly, I can only say that Matt appears to be a runner who isn’t about to be called into question for his actions. Fearful men run away when they are challenged to work things out in person. I used to think that Matt was bold, but I think he is only bold when he thinks he has control and can win. If he is called to admit that he made an error or called to account for his abusive language against a sister in Christ, he is nowhere to be found. That is certainly not bravery. He is not interested in following the biblical method to resolve these problems. I feel very sorry for Matt.

    Of course they will still continue to monitor my blog as they always do, in order to read what I have to say. But now they can’t even respond to what I write because they kicked me off their discussion board and they have vowed not to comment here. They have even less control now then they ever did before. 😉

  16. One of the ways to have pride is to think it is not possible to be wrong.  This can lead to arrogance.

    My take is the leaders at CARM deal with cultists a lot and it is very easy to see how they are wrong in a big way.  But dealing with believers is different.

    I want to always be willing to learn more and change.  I have changed what I believed about something many times in my walk, I am certainly not the same as when I first believed.

  17. Thank you Michael for standing with me!  I have gone the next step in Matthew 18 and gone to Matt’s Pastor.  If he is a really good Pastor he will do something about the abuses.  My Pastor has already tried to get Matt to see things rationally but Matt wouldn’t listen.  Perhaps Matt will listen to his own Pastor.

    There is so much more that could be said but I have to stick to the most important parts regarding the authority of the Son in the Trinity.

    Thanks Cheryl for getting back to me, Our lord will help you in the editing! Maybe once you wrap time one up, work on a second. This DVD should be more then enough though, Getting and Finding the right Real Jesus of Scripture! Once this is out I can’t wait to buy alot of copies! I’m sending one to Harvest church,  IL. Remeber I was going back and forth with he on this issue. This DVD will be such a blessing of Great Light! Also maybe offer a two pack later on WIM & Trinity DVDs ! Just giving you ideas! What is the Title of you New DVD going to be? Also if you need any money don’t be affraid to ask us/me. Set up a donate system through paypal when you have time, so we can give. I feel the Lord leading me in this way. Bye for now

                   Much Love In Christ To You and your Family, Michael

  18. Michael,
    The name of the 2 DVD set is
    “The Trinity – Eternity Past to Eternity Future
    Explaining Truth & Exposing Error”

    Thanks again for your support.  This is a very important project and we sure do need prayer support.

  19. I am rereading Bruce Fleming’s book “Familiar “Leadership” Heresies Uncovered” (P.S. I think this is a very strange title but has great insights.).

    On p. 268 he says Paul repeats a word from 1 Tim 2:9 in 1 Tim 2:15 (I deduced the word is sophrosune (sobriety).  He claims this is an anacoluthon connecting the 2:15b with 2:9.

  20. That is an interesting observation, Don

    The famous passage whence cometh the concept of the “Titus 2 Woman” also has a relative of that same word twice within the span of a few verses.

    For women to have “sophron…….” is apparently EXTREMELY important to Paul and to God!

    I got to digging into the Greek words and roots in Titus 2:4-5:
    I noticed  the repetition of a similar word: sophron (rendered “sober”) and sophronizo (rendered “discreet”)
    Titus 2:4-5 That they may teach the young women to be sober <4994>, to love their husbands, to love their children,
    [To be] discreet<4998>, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
    So I looked at all the definitions under those entries (<4994> <4998>)  and I looked at their root words which are listed “sozo” and “phren”: <4982> <5424>
    Here’s a list of the meanings (you can look at the links if you want to see for yourself):

    to restore one to his senses,
    to moderate, control, curb, disciple
    to hold one to his duty
    to admonish, to exhort earnestly
    of a sound mind, sane, in one’s senses
    curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate
    and from the roots:
    to keep safe and sound, make well, heal, restore, save—> the mind, the faculty of perceiving and judging

    I see in there God’s intention that the mature women teach the neos (newer, younger) to the end that their mind will be whole, sound, healed, that they will live consecrated, set apart for God, being able to perceive what is good and constructive and what is evil, that they have the charge to GUARD their home/marriage and keep themselves safe, protected, and chaste within their home and with their husbands.

  21. Here is an insight into Titus that Kenneth Bailey had which I like.

    Titus is charged to teach older men, older women (these might be the elders) and younger men, but the older women are charged to teach the younger women, per Titus 2:1-6.  Now WHY might Paul instruct Titus to not directly teach younger women?  I think the answer is because it would be cross-gender to a person of similar age. 

    A teacher is in authority while teaching (to maintain order).  So to avoid any appearance of impropriety in the 1st century, Titus should avoid directly teaching young women, as he is a young man.  It helps to know that adultery was just assumed when a man was along with 1 or more women, as the Jewish sages taught that they would seduce him.  This last from Instone-Brewer, not Bailey.

  22. Insightful, Don!

    I wonder if the older women are given that responsibility because they understand- by long experience and trial and error- the nature of living in a woman’s skin with a sinful man?  “WIVES, submit to your husbands” Eph 5 and “Likewise you WIVES…” 1 Pet 3 are clearly addressed right to WIVES, whom God, Peter, and Paul apparently trust to discern the meaning apart from male “intermediaries” (and or “scholarly credentials”, I might add).

    I have seen teaching of passages which Paul, Peter, God address exclusively to wives and women “twisted” in a certain way which on the surface- seem “beneficial” to men (in the way it stifles conflict and accountability) but really is not at all in the man’s best interest.  Some Christian “marriage books” sound to me more like manuals to enable ongoing husbandly immaturity, sin, and selfishness.

    Interestingly, I have had several older female Christian mentors and never once one who teaches me “to love husband and children” in warm fuzzy weak non-confrontational way I think some  perceive a “Titus 2 woman”. 

  23. The man was the paterfamilias of a family, as such he was in charge of his wife, kids and slaves.  Paul addresses comments to all 6 roles and puts the weaker of each pair first in his discussion, in the position of honor.  The cultural assumption would be you just tell the man and he can take care of the rest of the details, but Paul does not do that.  The man in that culture has effectively no limits over his household but Paul gives limits.  This was revolutionary, but may not seem so today, it may seem like Paul is just giving good advice, which he is doing, but he is doing a lot more than that.

    This is why I consider it essential to know the 1st century context when interpreting these verses, so many so-called teachers do not do that and miss a lot.

  24. Thanks Don!  It looks like a substantial piece of work.  I haven’t had the time to read it yet as I am in the final stages of editing work, but I will save it for later and it is listed here for anyone else who would like to have a look at a scholarly work.

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