Pursuing Partnership: New Light on Timeless Texts – Week 20

Does Paul Really Think Women are Gossips and Busybodies?

Wall Fragment with Two Women; Unknown; A.D. 1–75; Fresco

By Wendy Wilson, Missio Nexus, Mission Advisor for Development of Women

This article is part of the series Pursuing Partnership: Men and Women in Ministry.

Does Paul Really Think Women are Gossips and Busybodies?

A note from Wendy Wilson, MissioNexus, Mission Advisor for Development of Women:

Earlier in this series we addressed the issue of how English translators have often used male pronouns and descriptors for words that carry no gender assignment to men specifically, but rather speak to “people.” Because our language can use the word “men” to also mean “humans,” we are sometimes confused in our reading of the English text as to whom it is addressed.  Other times, the translator makes an interpretive decision in intentionally choosing men rather than people. Here’s an interesting example from 1 Tim 1:3 of why it matters . . .

The link to the blog article is below . . .but here is an excerpt from “Does Paul really think women are gossips and busybodies?”:

“English-speaking evangelicals are three to four times more likely than the population at large to use male wording when the original author had “people” in mind. And 1 Timothy 1:3 is an example of an instance in which it hurts us to do so. While we know the word “men” can really mean “people,” we still tend to read the word “men” in 1 Timothy 1:3 as “males.” And that leaves us thinking that males were the ones doing all the teaching, including falsehood, in Ephesus.

Yet the word rendered “men” in 1 Timothy 1:3 is indeed the neuter pronoun tisin. Tisin carries no suggestion of male or female (as the NET Bible’s rendering, “people,” correctly suggests). So Timothy was to teach certain people not to teach strange doctrines.

We know that some of the younger widows were teaching false doctrine, because two chapters later, Paul writes the following description of them: “And besides that, going around from house to house they learn to be lazy, and they are not only lazy, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13). . .

Does Paul think women are more prone than men to gossip? Nothing in the text suggests such an idea. Indeed, gossip is not a female weakness; it is a human one. Sticking our noses into others’ business is not a female weakness; it is a human one. And teaching false doctrine is not a male weakness; it is a human one. Let us be careful to avoid projecting gender stereotypes onto the Scriptures. Otherwise, we may fail to hear warnings intended for us all.”

Read the whole article:  Does Paul really think women are gossips and busybodies?

Be sure to enjoy the recording of Dr Glahn’s recent Missio Nexus webinar on new understandings about 1st century biblical culture that assist us in interpreting confusing texts:The Cost of Missing Half the Church: Let’s not Fear a Re-look


Dr. Sandra Glahn is Professor of Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary. She is an author, co-author, or general editor of more than twenty books including Vindicating the Vixens: Revisiting Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized Women of the Bible. Learn more about her at her website: aspire2.com.

This article is submitted by Wendy Wilson of Missio Nexus and of Women’s Development Track.  Women’s Development Track is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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