Harold Hoehner, distinguished professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, argued in a paper at last month’s national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Washington, D.C., that pastor-teacher is a spiritual gift in the New Testament and not an office. Hoehner uses this argument to affirm women as pastor-teachers in the church.
Are pastors and elders synonymous concepts in the New Testament?
Harold Hoehner, distinguished professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, argued in a paper at last month’s national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Washington, D.C., that pastor-teacher is a spiritual gift in the New Testament and not an office.
Hoehner uses this argument to affirm women as pastor-teachers in the church. Jim Hamilton, assistant professor of biblical studies at the Houston, Texas campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, calls Hoehner’s separating of the office of elder from pastor-teacher a novel interpretation.
“Dr. Hoehner’s novel conclusion that ‘pastor-teacher’ is a spiritual gift to the exclusion of it being an office can only be maintained by committing what looks like a word study fallacy of insisting that the particular noun, ‘pastor,’ is not related to the cognate verbal forms ‘to pastor’ which are used to describe what elders are to do,” Hamilton writes on his weblog.
As Hamilton points out, Hoehner’s argument in the ETS paper is consistent with his teaching in his commentary on Ephesians. In that work, Hoehner postulates that Priscilla and Aquila taught Apollos the way of God more accurately according to Acts 18:25-26, and concludes that women may teach men in the church.
In his paper, Hoehner asserted that Ephesians 4:11 indicates that “pastor-teacher” is a spiritual gift and not an office in the local church.
“It is shocking to me that Dr. Hoehner here expressly affirms that women can do what Paul expressly forbids them from doing in 1 Timothy 2:12. On the basis of an example recorded in the narrative of Acts, Dr. Hoehner is prepared to overturn a direct apostolic prohibition.
“Aside from the hermeneutical issue of reading the narrative in a way that contradicts an apostolic prohibition, is this example in the narrative even analogous to the situation Paul addresses in 1 Timothy 2:12?” Hamilton asks.
“For all we know, this conversation with Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos happened only once, whereas Paul is surely addressing teaching that happens in the regular gathering of the congregation in 1 Timothy 2:12. The incident with Priscilla, Aquila, and Apollos happened in private, whereas Paul is addressing the public gathering of the assembly in 1 Timothy 2:12.”
While Hoehner sought to answer the question of women as pastor-teachers in his paper, Hamilton points out that Hoehner’s arguments raise additional questions regarding his move toward egalitarianism.
“The suggestion that a woman may not be limited to teaching only women with the citation of the incident where Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos aside is standard egalitarian fare,” Hamilton writes.
“Could this point to a drift toward the egalitarian position? Or if, as Dr. Hoehner argues, a woman can be a pastor, and if women are not ‘limited to teaching only women,’ is the slide toward egalitarianism already complete?
Hamilton’s entire commentary is available on his weblog at http://jimhamilton.wordpress.com/2006/12/06/pastors-are-not-elders-an-egalitarian-suggestion/.
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