About Philip B. Payne Man and Woman, One in Christ Philip B. Payne, and the cover of his latest book, Man and Woman, One in Christ
July 5th
written by phil

Daniel Buck read my book as a result of interacting with me in another forum. We have had an ongoing communication regarding the implications of “man of one-woman” in 1 Timothy 3:2, and he gave me permission to share our interaction with all of you.

Daniel Buck asked, “You make a big deal of the fact that 1 Timothy 3:1-13 has no masculine pronouns. But there aren’t any feminine pronouns in 1 Timothy 5:3-14, a passage discussing the role of widows. So what’s to keep men who have lost their wives from serving as widows?”

My answer: I have to deal with the fact that the standard Greek texts of 1 Timothy 3:1-13 have no masculine pronouns because most translations insert them into the text, and English readers incorrectly assume that there are corresponding masculine pronouns in the underlying Greek text, when there are not.

Furthermore, there is no dispute that 1 Tim 5:3-16 is dealing specifically with women. Widows are repeatedly identified as the subject (5:3, 4, 5, 9, 16). 5:3 has a feminine article. 5:5 has a feminine participle, which, like the following feminine participles, identifies the subject as female. 5:6 has a feminine article and two feminine participles. 5:9 has a feminine participle that makes it unambiguous that “woman of one man” (ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή) specifically describes a woman. 5:10 has a feminine participle. The comparative adjective in 5:11 is feminine. 5:12 has a feminine participle. 5:13 has two feminine participles. 5:14 has a pronominal adjective identifying the subject to be younger women. 5:16 has a feminine pronoun and is part of this section on widows, so it is not correct to say that there are no feminine pronouns in this passage discussing the role of widows. 5:16 also has a feminine article with “widows.” Each of these factors and the standard use of χήρα to identify female widows [χήρα , ας, ἡ fem. of χῆρος = bereft (of one’s spouse)” BAG 889] make it clear that Paul is not talking about men who have lost their wives as widows.

Daniel Buck also asked, “Why is it that you are so easily able to see women referred to in the use of terms like μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα  (a one-woman man) but aren’t as eager to include men as referents of terms like ἑνὸς ἀνδρὸς γυνή (a one-man woman)?” Note: the genitives should be translated “man of one woman” and “woman of one man.”

My answer: The subject of 1 Tim 5:9 is the feminine χήρα, which, apparently without exception in Greek literature refers only to women. Furthermore, 5:9 has a feminine participle that makes it unambiguous that the one-man woman specifically describes a woman. There is no corresponding element in the context of 1 Tim 3:2 that makes it unambiguous that “man of one woman” (μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα) specifically describes a man.  1 Tim 3:1 specifically states that “whoever [τις the same word used of widows in 1 Tim 5:4] desires the office of overseer desires a good work.” Paul clearly intends this to encourage people to desire this good work. Is it likely Paul would identify the subject as “whoever” and encourage them to desire this good work if for women it was forbidden fruit?

Two of the most prominent complementarians acknowledge this phrase does not clearly exclude women. Douglas Moo acknowledges that this phrase need not exclude “unmarried men or females from the office– it would be going too far to argue that the phrase clearly excludes women….” Douglas J. Moo, “The Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:11-15: A Rejoinder,” TJ 2 NS (1981): 198-222, 211. Thomas Schreiner acknowledges, “The requirements for elders in 1 Tim 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6-9, including the statement that they are to be one-woman men, does not necessarily in and of itself preclude women from serving as elders.” Thomas R. Schreiner’s “Philip Payne on Familiar Ground: A Review of Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters.” JBMW (Spring 2010): 33-46, at 35.

The closest English equivalent to “man of one-woman” is “monogamous,” and it applies to both men and women. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines monogamy on p. 920, “1. the practice or state of being married to only one person at a time 2. [Rare] the practice of marrying only once during life 3. Zool. the practice of having only one mate –monogamist n. –monogamous… adj.”

In any event, there is a general consensus that 1 Tim 3:2 is an exclusionary phrase. It excludes from the office of overseer those who are not monogamous (and probably those who are not living in sexual fidelity). It is generally agreed that it is not a requirement that all overseers must be married. Otherwise Paul and Christ could not be overseers, and Christ is the only person named in the NT as an overseer (ἐπίσκοπος). Indeed, if being a “man of one woman” is a requirement rather than an exclusion, virtually the entire Catholic priesthood would be excluded. If this were an exclusion, even if it were to be proven to be exclusively male in reference, it would not exclude women from being overseers. It would simply exclude men who are not “men of one women” from being overseers.

Daniel Buck responded to this answer, “Thanks! Your answer is very satisfying. I hope you can appreciate my approach, as I represent the typical reader who didn’t take 3 years of Greek and wonders why you Greek scholars seem to play so fast and loose with God’s Inspired Word. Half of your explanation was in the book–that the Greek of ch. 3 didn’t exclude women, counterintuitive as that may seem to someone who read that chapter in the TNIV–which, he had been assured, renders all gender-neutral Greek words into gender-neutral English ones. Therefore it is linguistically appropriate to turn English masculine words into English gender-neutral words, on the basis of the Greek. The other half was what you have just done–explaining that the same things can’t be done in turning English feminine words into English gender-neutral ones in ch. 5, because the underlying Greek sure enough does support the feminine translation only.”

My comment: It is, indeed, misleading when a version assures its readers that it will or will not do something and then does the opposite. The ESV makes many such assurances that it repeatedly breaks when the Greek text, but not its English translation, supports the leadership of women in the church. My forthcoming review of the ESV Study Bible identifies in many specific instances of this. We desperately need a more accurate translation of the Greek of Paul’s passages about the ministry of women. One of the goals of my book is to identify for non-specialists where various translations have not fairly represented the Greek and to provide solid evidence for a natural reading of these crucial texts in God’s Word.

Daniel Buck asked in closing, “As an aside, why do you suppose Paul gave no instructions for widowers?”

My answer: 1 Timothy 5:3 states, “Honor widows who are real widows.” “Honor” in this verse refers to financial support, as is evident in the contrast in v. 4 regarding widows who have children or grandchildren who can support them (cf. vv. 8 and 16, regarding the obligation to provide financial support to one’s widowed relatives) and the statement in v. 5 that by “real widows” Paul refers to widows who are “left all alone.” In Paul’s day, most women were dependent on their families for financial support. Widows without supporting relatives lacked means of financial support in a way that widowers did not. Consequently Paul made these provision for widows and not for widowers, who could work outside the home and as a group did not have nearly the need for support as widows.


  1. Deb Hurn

    Hello Philip. Could you comment on the possibility that ‘one woman man’ is an idiom somewhat like ‘one horse town’ or ‘one trick pony’, such that the individual components of the phrase need not be taken literally, but the entire phrase stands for a concept (i.e. fidelity)?

  2. phil

    Thank you for this thoughtful question. “One woman man” does appear to fit Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of an idiom: “a phrase, construction, or expression that is recognized as a unit in the usage of a given language and either differs from the usual syntactic patterns or has a meaning that differs from the literal meaning of its parts taken together.” “One woman man” is certainly a phrase that must be recognized as a unit in each of its NT occurrences. It also differs from usual syntactic patterns in conjoining nouns without explaining their interrelationship.
    Chrysostom’s Homily on 1 Tim 3:2 states, “This he does not lay down as a rule, as if he [an overseer] must not be without one [a wife], but as prohibiting his having more than one.” NPNF1 13:438.
    In context “one woman man” clearly excludes polygamy and by logical extension may also exclude sexual infidelity. The closest English expression is “monogamous.” Webster’s Dictionary defines monogamy as “the practice or state of being married to only one person at a time.” Even though its component parts “one woman” might be interpreted as gender specific, it is normally used to describe both men and women. Such usage is common in Greek, where by convention groups including both men and women are generally referred to in the masculine gender. Only when no men are included is it conventional to use feminine forms in Greek. Thus, for instance, 1 Tim 5:9, speaking exclusively of the enrolling of widows lists the requirement “one man woman.” This is the corresponding idiomatic expression specifically used to address only women who are monogamous.

  3. Joan M Holmes

    Re Blomberg’s review of Philip Payne’s Man and Woman, One in Christ (2009), and Payne’s response to that review, more particularly his reference to Blomberg’s ‘Neither Hierarchicalist nor Egalitarian’ in Two Views on Women in Ministry (2001) citation of my Text in a Whirlwind (2000):

    Payne correctly reads on to my 92 observation that at 1 Tim.2:12 Paul’s aspectual choices include infinitives conveying his visualisation of didaskein and authentein as either ‘single actions in process at the time of reference, or … actions attempted, continued or begun … The prohibition would … not be upon women ever teaching or exercising authority over a man, but upon some ongoing form of those actions.’ Assuming the ecclesial context for which most scholars argue, my 93 adds that ‘[in] the structures discernible in … [NT] assemblies the teaching prohibition would simply be against too-frequent instruction of the same man … [I]f a woman teaches a man for a certain period, or occasionally, she cannot be described as continuously instructing him. Similarly … [for] authentein … [t]he authority prohibited must be envisaged as continual, not occasional or temporary. A woman commissioned for particular tasks who performs them in humility and in combination with other ministries would not be in contravention of such a prohibition … Her authority would be specific and occasional, not general and continuous.’ Joan M. Holmes

  4. 10/28/2010

    Hi Philip,

    Thank you so much for this information. I have quoted you in a blog-article entitled “Paul’s (gender-inclusive) Qualifications for Church Leaders”.

    Just thought I should let you know.

  5. phil

    Hi Marg,
    You are most welcome. Thank you for passing on the results of my research. In the joy of the Lord, Phil Payne

  6. Karin

    Sorry for coming late to this discussion. I hope it’s still possible to ask questions. I found this article very enlightening.
    One thing I am wondering: if 1 Tim. 3:1-13 is gender inclusive, why specifically mention women in verse 11? And are these women more likely to be women ministers or wives of ministers?

  7. phil

    The reason Paul specifically mentions women in the category of deacons is that he wants to make it clear that women can be deacons and that their qualifications parallel those of men. Then, you may ask, why didn’t Paul state requirements for women overseers as he did for women deacons in 3:11? It is clear from 1 Tim 2:12-15 that Paul was concerned enough about the false teachers’ deception of women in Ephesus that he prohibited the women in Ephesus who did not have recognized teaching authority from assuming authority to teach men. He probably did not want to encourage deceived women to become overseers prematurely because of the false teachers’ influence on them and because of the spiritual influence overseers have through teaching, evident in “able to teach” (1 Tim 3:2). If he had included a list of requirements for women overseers as he did for deacons in 3:11, he would have provided a specific mechanism for women to attain a position of authority from which they could promote false teaching. If he had provided such a list specifically for women overseers, deceived women might have used that list as a basis for demanding the office of overseer, from which they could spread false teachings.
    Nevertheless, one can be confident on the basis of 1 Cor 11:5-13 that Paul was not opposed to women communicating prophetic messages. Furthermore, Paul commands that women learn in 1 Tim 2:11, thereby providing the foundation for them to prepare to teach. In fact, 3:1, “Anyone desiring the office of overseer desires a good work,” encourages women to aspire to be overseers. Paul repeats “anyone” in 3:5 and includes parallels to each requirement for overseer specifically about women in 1 Timothy. He thereby shows that women can fulfill all the requirements for the office of overseer.
    Your second question raises an important enough point that I will make it a separate post, hopefully to go up today. You write, “Are these women more likely to be women ministers or wives of ministers?” Your second question may reveal why you asked the first question and may suggest the very answer I just provided. Perhaps it was because you thought of both sets of qualifications as referring to essentially the same position, “ministers,” that the different character of the two offices described here did not suggest to you the reason for women to be specifically identified only with the second office, “deacon.” “Ministers” in English probably conveys to most people more the idea of “overseer” or “teaching elder” than “deacon.” The word “overseer” does not occur as early as when Romans was written, so “Phoebe, deacon of the church of Cenchrea” had what was, as far as we know, the highest title of a local church leader at that time.

  8. robert

    Hi, Dr. Payne. I’ve just ordered your book and am looking forward to reading it. Forgive me if you answer this in the book… Also let me say at the outset I don’t know Greek, either, so I’m trying to understand your points as best I can.

    In your reply to Buck above you say “5:3 has a feminine article. 5:5 has a feminine participle, which, like the following feminine participles, identifies the subject as female. 5:6 has a feminine article and two feminine participles.”

    In looking at 1 Timothy 3:1-7 at biblos (http://biblos.com/1_timothy/3-2.htm), there are quite a few masculine articles, participles, nouns and adjectives. In 3:2 in particular, “overseer” is a masculine noun preceded by a masculine article. Why does that not indicate that a man is envisioned? I notice that in 3:1, the term “overseer” is feminine noun. Is that why you argue that it is unclear…because by using a feminine noun the first sentence, and masculine in the next, Paul is indicating it’s open to either?

    If so, what about the use of masculine participles, articles and adjectives used throughout the rest of the passage? Were there not neuter versions that could have been used? Or is that not how Greek works?

    Again I’m sorry for the rudimentary/Kione 101 type question. I’m just very interested in understanding. Thanks again!

  9. phil

    Hi, Robert! Thanks for explaining that you do not know Greek. I’ll try to make this simple. In Greek, words are assigned a gender, but their “gender” is not about biological gender. So the word for the office of overseer to be feminine does not mean that it is a feminine office or appropriate for women but not men.

    If you want to identify a person as male, you use a gender specific word such as ANDROS. But even some gender specific words can be applied to the other sex, e.g. “manhood” in contexts where it means “maturity” rather than a “male person.” Galatians 3:28 states that in Christ there is no male/female division, using the gender specific terms for “male” and “female.” But when we read that Jesus died for all “men,” the word in Greek simply means human being, ANTHROPOS. It applies to women just as much as to men. It focuses on one’s humanity, not one’s male gender. Whenever Christ is referred to as “the man Christ Jesus” in the New Testament, the Greek word is always ANTHROPOS, never ANDROS. This shows that the authors were focusing on and asserting Jesus’ humanity, not his being male.

    In Greek, when one identifies a group of people that includes both men and women, it was common convention to use the masculine gender. For instance, the standard Greek Grammar by Blass, Debrunner, and Funk, usually referred to simply as “BDF,” section 135 (page 75) states, “modifiers are in the masculine even when the subject group combines masculine and feminine.” Consequently, one cannot deduce anything about whether women are included in a group from the grammatical gender of its words. None of the masculine articles, participles, nouns and adjectives in the qualification for overseers in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 implies anything about whether women could be overseers, for in Greek the masculine gender is the “prior gender” used to described groups including both men and women.

    However, it was common convention to use the feminine gender when identifying a group of people that consisted entirely of women or if referring to a specific woman. Similarly, it was contrary to convention to use the masculine gender to identify a group that consisted entirely of women or if referring to a single woman. For example, Paul lists four qualifications for women deacons in 1 Timothy 3:11 here using feminine forms. This makes it clear in Greek that he is talking about women, just as the feminine forms in 1 Timothy 5 show that he is talking about widows, not widowers.

    We know that Paul approved of women deacons because he specifically affirmed Phoebe as “deacon of the church of Cenchrea” in Romans 16:1-2 and told the Romans to do whatever she asks them to do “for she has been a PROSTATIS [literally, “one standing over”] many, including myself also.” Paul here implies that he submitted to Phoebe’s leadership when he was in her church. The fact that the four qualifications Paul lists for women [deacons] in 3:11 are virtualy the same and in the same order as the requirements for deacons in 3:8, and because he goes on to give other requirements for deacons in verse 12 shows that verse 11 must also be about the qualifications of deacons. Since women can be deacons, the masculine gender forms in the other qualifications for deacon must not exclude women. Since the gender forms do not exclude women by Greek convention generally, and since they do not exclude women from being deacons, the parallel forms for overseers in this same context must not exclude women either.

  10. Doug Towle

    Hi, Phil, great discussion! I have a comment on your last reply, then a question. Further evidence that Phoebe was indeed a church leader is found in the the Syriac translation of the N.T. where the word for “deacon” is translated “shammash.” This was the designation used for the “president” of the synagogue. I am in agreement with your position that 1 Tim 3:2 is referring to marital fidelity as a qualification for leadership, and that the phrase is probably an idiom. My question is twofold: First, is there any known ancient Greek literary usage of this phrase where faithfulness to one’s spouse is clearly in view? Second, understanding the idea that 1st century Greeks would have understood their own language and idiom, how is it that the ancient Greek Church took the position that it did, namely that multiple or consecutive marriages disqualified one from church leadership? How is it that they did not understand the phrase to refer to faithfulness instead? Thanks!

  11. phil

    Thanks for your input, Doug. I have not seen any studies of ancient Greek use of “man of one woman” outside the four parallels in the Pastoral Epistles. You ask, since “1st century Greeks would have understood their own language and idiom, how is it that the ancient Greek Church took the position that it did, namely that multiple or consecutive marriages disqualified one from church leadership?”
    In fact, many church fathers identify it, instead, as referring to polygamy or bigamy, including Chrysostom, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, Theophylact, Oecumenius, and Jerome.
    The primary influence on the “no remarriage” interpretation seems to have been from asceticism.
    As far as I know, the earliest reference to the view that it prohibits any remarriage is Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3.12. The Stromata are dated 198-203, so this is a full century after the first century.
    The next such reference is, I believe, Tertullian Ad Uxorem i.7, ca. AD 207, but it is written in Latin and does not necessarily reflect first century Greek understanding of the expression. E.K. Simpson, The Pastoral Epistles, p. 50 writes, “Tertullian and the Montanists … were biased in favour of celibacy. By the Greek Church, on the contrary, it has been supposed to enjoin a married clergy. The obvious sense would lead us to regard it as a prohibition of polygamy. We know that Paul treats the nuptial tie as dissolved by death (Rom. vii. 2) and he was the last man [who would] institute a clerical ban inapplicable to the laity.”
    Next, I believe, is Origen, Hom. in Lucam xvii, p. 953, writing in the mid 200s. He is known for his ascetic views. Eusebius writes that Origen castrated himself. His asceticism may have influenced his objecion to any remarriage by overseers.
    Other works interpreting “husband of one wife as excluding remarriage are later and likely influenced by asceticism, which had a powerful influence in the church during these times. The Apostolic Church Order is 3rd century. The Apostolic Constitutuions vi.17 is ca. AD 375-380. The Canons of the Apostles 16 (17) is ca. 400. The Testamentum Domini is 5th century.
    H. Armin Moellering and Victor A Bartling in the Concordia Commentary on 1 Timothy writes, “To the younger widows remarriate is actually commended (5:14)… One of the ancient church fathers commented on [‘wife of one husband’ in 5:9] ‘If she lived chastely with her husband, whether she had only one or was married a second time.’ … Suppose a young widow were to follow the advice of the apostle (5:14) and remarry, only to be widowed a second time. Is it conceivable that Paul would have her excluded from the official list?”
    Homer A. Kent’s commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, pp. 123-124 writes, “Would Paul then advise young widows to remarry again if such was questionable, or would remove them from the possibility of special aid in their later years (5:14)? It seems most unlikely. Paul’s clear teaching was that death of the partner dissolved the marriate bond, and that death of the remaining partner was free to marry in the Lord (Rom. 7:1-3). To cast suspicion upon the holiness of a second marriage is to impugn what Scripture nowhere denies, and reflects the spirit of asceticism which arose early in the church and has plagued her for twenty centuries. … this is the only moral requirement mentioned for overseers. Was [marrying again after the death of one’s spounse] the greatest sexual sin? Was this the only one to be looked for in the candidate for the eldership?”
    George Knight III in his commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, pp. 157-159 writes, “it would be strange for the apostle of liberty, who considered widows and widowers ‘free to be married …, only in the Lord’ (1 Cor 7:39) and who used this principle of freedom to illustrate his teaching on the law (Rom. 7:1-3), to deny this freedom to a potential church officer whose spouse has died. Likewise, the freedom to remarry granted to the “innocent” party when a marriage has been terminated as a result of sexual unfaithfulness (as I believe Mt. 19:9 should be understood) or when an unbelieving spouse has abandoned a believing spouse (1 Cor 7:15) does not seem to be restricted so that they could not apply to a potential officer. … An interpretation that included [these] considerations would do more justice to the totality of the evidence.”

  12. Eduardo Suastegui

    I think Timothy 3:11 merits further consideration. The word translated most often as “likewise” (just as, in the same way, in like manner) sets up a contrast or pivot, strongly suggesting the subject of vs. 11 (women) is not the same as the preceding verses. If women are in view in the preceding verses, the content of vs. 11 is superfluous–it duplicates/repeats prior content. On the other hand, if it is not, then the previous verses were *not* about women, leaving us with…

  13. phil

    Dear Edward, Thank you for your thought-provoking interaction. You write that “likewise … sets up a contrast or pivot, strongly suggesting the subject of vs. 11 (women) is not the same as the preceding verses.” You seem to be asserting two things: 1. that the presence of “likewise” implies that the subject of its clause is not the same as the subject of the preceding statement and 2. that the subject of a “likewise” clause must not overlap the subject of the preceding statement. In fact, neither assertion accurately reflects the NT use of “likewise.”
    As I explained this passage, the subjects of verse 10 and verse 11 are not the same. In verse 10, the subject is all deacons. In verse 11, the subject is a subset of that group, namely “women” deacons. There is, however, nothing in this adverb, nor its description in the DBAG NT Lexicon, that requires a change of subject as you seem to imply. For example, the subject referred to by this adverb in both 1 Cor 11:25 Luke 22:20 is the same as its corresponding clauses in 1 Cor 11:24 and Luke 22:19, namely Jesus, who instituted both the bread and the cup to be taken “in remembrance of me.” Note that the form of the Lord’s Supper tradition known to Paul was the form expressed by his close companion, Luke. Similarly, after affirming “the firstfruits of the Spirit” in Rom 8:23, Paul states in v. 26, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Here, too, there is no change of subject. Nor is there a change of subject with this adverb in Matt 20:5; 21:30 or 21:36.
    Here, as in each of Paul’s uses of this adverb, it highlights something similar. In this case, it is the requirements for the office that are virtually identical for women (all four in the same order) as they are for all deacons. Mark 14:31 and Luke 20:31 are similar to 1 Tim 3:11 in having this adverb connect clauses where the subject of one clause is a subset of the subject of the other. These examples demonstrate that one should not conclude from the specific reference to “similarly women” in v. 11 that women must not have been part of the group of deacons in v. 10.
    Please note that Paul commonly duplicates content for a specific purpose. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul reiterates in identical wording statements regarding husband and wife ten times: in verses 2, 3, 4, 10-11, 12-13, 14, 16, 28, 32 and 34b, and 33-34a and 34c. The effect of this voluminous repetition is to emphasize that wife and husband have equal rights and responsibilities in these ten matters regarding marriage. As far as I know, 1 Corinthians 7 is the broadest affirmation of the equal rights and responsibilities of husband and wife in all of Greek literature. Similarly, the repetition of nearly identical requirements for deacons in general and women deacons specifically emphasizes that women must all meet the same qualifications. Making clear that these requirements also apply to women was important practically in the church in Ephesus Paul is writing to Timothy about. Chapter 5 tells us that some younger widows had already followed after Satan and were “going about from house to house” (house church to house church?) “saying things they ought not.” It was important both to keep unqualified women out of church leadership and to affirm qualified women leaders, like Prisca, who would be in the best position to correct the women deceived by false teachings. After all, Acts 18:26 lists her name before her husband’s name, contrary to Greek custom, for “instructing Apollos in the way of the Lord more accurately.” She was probably in Ephesus when Paul wrote 1 Timothy since Paul greets her in 2 Timothy 4:19.

  14. Pk

    Phil, are you agreeing that an overseer/bishop cannot be a celibate or a polygamist?

    1Timothy 5:9 says a widow can only be enrolled if they have been “one-man woman” so here these three words (henos-andros gynÄ“) means “the wife of one husband”
    so, i’m curious as to what your basis is for saying that 1Timothy 3:2 a bishop must be a “one-woman man” (mias-gynaikos andra) does not refer to “the husband of one wife” ?


  15. phil

    Thank you for your thoughtful question. The most natural interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 does appear to exclude polygamists from the office of overseer, but not to exclude celibates from the office of overseer.

    The way you have written, you appear to make two broad unwarranted assumptions. The first is that “one-man woman” (henos-andros gynÄ“) means “the wife of one husband.” The second is that the corresponding meaning must apply to 1 Timothy 3:2, namely that a bishop must be a “one-woman man” (mias-gynaikos andra), which therefore must mean, “the husband of one wife.” These entail other assumptions that are not warranted.
    First, neither does (henos-andros gynÄ“) mean “one-man woman,” nor does (mias-gynaikos andra) mean “one-woman man.” Neither of these translations reflects the genitive, which adds to the meaning: “woman of one man” and “man of one woman.”
    Second, your translation assumes that “overseer” means “bishop,” but general scholarly opinion is that “bishop” conveys a later, more developed, church hierarchy structure than 1 Timothy addresses.
    Third, it assumes that these words must be translated in the same way. This would only be the case if the two groups are closely equivalent. This, however, is in doubt and probably not the case. Gordon Fee’s 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus: a Good News Commentary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984) 79-82 argues that there was probably not at that time an official “order of widows,” but rather that Paul addresses “who shall be ‘counted among’ the ‘genuine widows’ to be cared for by the church; and to set these widows in contrast to the younger widows who follow” (p. 80). If Fee is correct, and he probably is, then we are dealing with two different categories of requirements, one for determining who receives financial support, and the other for a recognized church leadership position. The husbands of the widows must have died, as required by the definition “widow.” This would not normally be the case with overseers. By your own translation, these would be opposite cases, so assuming this phrase must be translated the same way in both cases is not warranted.
    Fourth, you seem to assume that the particular translations you give are self-evident and obviously what Paul meant in both cases. This, however, based on the wide variety of interpretations proposed, is clearly not the case. Regarding the women, other possible translations with different nuances of meaning include “married only once” or “faithful to her one husband” but, unlike 3:2, would extend to exclude a second marriage” (Fee 80). Regarding overseers, it is almost certainly not that case that it requires that each overseer be “the husband of one wife,” for that would have excluded Paul (1 Corinthians 7:7), who clearly acts like an overseer, to the churches he founded, and even Christ. One ought to acknowledge that several of the “requirements” are not positive requirements that must exemplify all overseers, but are negative requirements, namely exclusions. In other words, only if one has multiple children old enough to be “submissive and respectful in every way” but who are not “submissive and respectful in every way” would one be excluded from the office of overseer. One does not need to be married or to have multiple children old enough to be respectful in every way to qualify to be an overseer. The expression “husband of one wife” if viewed as an exclusion, which it almost certainly is, may simply exclude polygamy, as Chrysostom and Grudem argue. In that case, it would not require being married and would not exclude remarriage by one whose spouse had died.
    Fifth, it assumes that because “man” of one woman occurs here, it must apply only to men, not women. Gordon Hugenberger, JETS 35 (1992) 360 n. 78, has shown that the words “husband of one wife” do not by themselves exclude women since it is so common in Greek and Hebrew (Kautsch and Cowley, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, “prior gender”) for masculine forms to be used generically, namely to apply to groups that either do or could include women. Timothy Friberg (author of The Analytical Greek NT) has counted approximately 8000 generic masculines, namely masculine gender grammatical forms that refer or could refer to groups that include women. Hugenberger argues that even though the Ten Commandments include, “thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” it is obvious that it also applies to wives not coveting their neighbor’s husbands. He shows how common it is in prohibitions and requirements in the Bible for masculine forms to be used in contexts that also apply to women. Consequently, one cannot simply assume from “husband of one wife” that the reverse could not also be understood as an overseer requirement. Note that in spite the many “his,” “he,” and “him” in translations of the requirements for overseer in most versions of 1 Timothy 3:1-7’s requirements for overseers, there is not a single corresponding masculine pronoun in the Greek of this passage.
    As I argue in Man and Woman, One in Christ, the most natural understanding of “women likewise” in 1 Timothy 3:11 is “women deacons likewise” in light of “deacons likewise” in 3:8 and the fact that both verses list almost identical requirements in the same order, and also in light of Romans 16:1’s reference to “Phoebe, deacon of the church of Cenchreae” and her following description in 16:2, including her being, literally, “standing in rank before many including myself also” (prostatis, not parastasis “standing alongside,” which is what would need to be here, as earlier in “help her,” for the translation “helper” to be legitimate). Paul accepted her position of authority even over himself when in her church and trusted her enough to select her to take his most theologically-significant letter to Rome, where she, as Paul’s emissary, would have answered their questions about it. If “women deacons likewise” is not only the most natural reading of 1 Timothy 3:11, but is also the one Paul intended, then the reference to deacons being “husband of one wife” three words later in 1 Timothy 3:12, must not exclude women.
    In light of the above, it is possible to translate both 1 Timothy 3:2 and 5:9 “monogamous.” This closely corresponds to the underlying Greek, but does not give the impression that women are excluded from the office of overseer.

  16. Darryl

    I think the challenge comes from English speakers who do not truly understand declension and the nature of masculine, feminine, neuter words and even the rules of other languages.

    For instance, if you referred to a group of women friends in Spanish, they would be *amigas* (feminine ending). But if there were only one man in the group they would be referred to as *amigos* (masculine ending). Would that mean, then, the group of friends were exclusively male because the ending was masculine? Of course, not. The presence of only one man changed the ending of the plural noun.

    I assume this is the same case with *one-woman-man*–there is no general idiom that would specifically be inclusive of both men and women in the phrase because it’s unnecessary. First-century Greek speakers would automatically understand that it could include both men and women.

    Is that fair to say?

  17. 01/12/2021

    Thank you, Darryl, for your clear and insightful comment. Yes, indeed, that would be fair to say. The masculine form is the natural form to use when men and women are in view. The fact that following 1 Timothy 3:11 “Women deacons similarly” (with virtually the same four qualifications listed as in 3:8 for “deacons”) is followed in 3:12 by, “Deacons must be ‘men-of-one-woman’, confirms that the masculine form is used here to include both men and women.

  18. Paul

    Hello Dr. Payne. Thank you for all of your insightful work here.

    I was wondering if there are any instances outside of the Bible (maybe an epigraph) that we knew of that used the phrase “one-woman man” in regards to a woman, or a group that includes women?


  19. 10/23/2021

    Thanks for your comment and question, Paul. John Chrysostom (ca. AD 347-407 Chrysostom means “golden tongue”; more of his text has survived than any other Greek writer except Galen), Bishop of Constantinople, writes in many places that he, as was typical in Hellenistic culture, disapproved of women in leadership. Nevertheless, in Homily 11 on 1 Timothy 3 John Chrysostom wrote regarding 1 Timothy 3:12, “Deacons must be men of one woman. This is appropriate to say regarding women deacons also.” That Chrysostom would say this in spite of his opposition to women in leadership demonstrates that it was natural for Greeks to understand “man of one woman” as a generic masculine intended to apply to both men and women. This makes sense in light of the standard Greek convention of using masculine grammatical forms when referring to groups of people that include men and women. Timothy Friberg, author of the Analytical Greek New Testament, who is a self-identified complementarian, emailed to me that he counted between 7500 and 8000 instances in the New Testament where masculine grammatical forms either must or could include women. That is approximately one instance per sentence in the New Testament! It was simply conventional when referring to groups of people to use masculine grammatical forms. One is never safe to argue simply on the basis of grammatically masculine forms that reference is intended only to males, not females. By the way, because of the genitive “of one woman,” it is more precise to identify this phrase as “man of one woman” than “one-woman man.” Paul uses the feminine form of this expression, “woman of one man” in 1 Timothy 5:9 because widows were by definition female, but when speaking of a group that included both men and women, Greek convention required using the masculine form. Masculine grammatical forms when referring to groups of people typically include (or could include) men, but they do not exclude women. Writing from the male perspective was so pervasive that James Hope Moulton, An Introduction to the Study of New Testament Greek (5th ed.; London: Epworth, 1955) 109 wrote, “The masculine is used in speaking of persons generally, even when women are meant: as in Acts 9:37 (λούσαντες), Mark 5:38 (κλαίοντος).”

  20. 03/25/2023

    Dr. Payne,

    Thank you for your good work.

    I wonder if you have any citations for the Greek phrase μιᾶς γυναικὸς ἄνδρα in inscriptional literature. I can only find the Latin equivalents. Perhaps I am looking in the wrong places.

    Thank you.

  21. 03/25/2023

    According to Lucien Deiss, notes to the French Bible, the TOB, Edition Intégrale, this Greek idiom “woman of one man” or “man of one woman” was used in Asia Minor, on both Jewish and pagan gravestone inscriptions, to designate a woman or a man, who was faithful to his or her spouse in a way characterized by “a particularly fervent conjugal love.”

    Nicolette Lathouris. In Formam Deorum: Venus, Virtue, and Portrait Nudity. A thesis submitted to Eric Varner, Adviser, Department of Classics, the Faculty of Emory College of Arts and Sciences of Emory University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honors, 2018
    p. 10 “Statius expresses admiration for Priscilla’s status as an univera, or woman of one man. … the fact that Priscilla was previously wed before Abascantus does not deter from Statius’ praise of her devotion to her husband. ‘Your birth was splendid, your aspect pleasing as a husband could desire, but greater the dignity came from yourself – to know one bed only, to cherish one flame.’ (Statius, Silvae, 5.1.53-56). In this way, Statius points out … Priscilla’s … marital commitment to Abascantus.”

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