J I Packer and 2 Tim. 2:2
Now I shall write about how he responded when I asked him about 2 Tim. 2:2.
Suzanne: I have to ask you about 2 Tim. 2:2. Did you think that anthropos referred to 'men' in this verse?
Dr. Packer: I think it means 'men' exegetically. We think that it means 'men'. You know surely that one of the rules of linguistics is that the meaning of any word in any sentence is that which adds least to what is already there in the sentence.
Suzanne: I was brought up with that verse in our Christian Fellowship and I always thought that it was 'men and women'. It was quite a shock to me to find that people would think that it was 'men only'.
Dr. Packer: Well, Paul doesn’t say that it was 'men only', he just says 'men', but in the situation, it was to the teachers, surely it is obvious from the context that they were men.
Suzanne: But isn’t it adding something. If I sit down with a Greek woman today and I ask her to read that verse back to me in English she will say it is 'people' in plain English.
Dr. Packer: Plain reading by a contemporary Greek, well, 1900 years have a gone by, you can’t take it out of the situation.
Suzanne: Luther translated it mensch. He didn’t add the masculine meaning. It was a disappointing verse for me.
Dr. Packer: Remember though until very recently the word, that the masculine word 'men' was understood as generic, 'men' was including women when the context implies it. Are you saying that the context implies women teachers especially in light of the second half of the second chapter of 1 Timothy?
Suzanne: I would have thought that taking meaning from the context would be an interpretation and would not turn up in the translation.
Dr. Packer: Let me say straightaway, we will have to agree to disagree. I get to specifics from the context. I start with the flow of the context, what is the whole thing about, the paragraph, things like that.
Suzanne: Thank you. You have answered my question.
In any case, this verse had not been translated by the ESV in such a way that it is 'transparent to the Greek.' I want it on the record that this is why I did not stop to understand and enjoy the rest of 2 Timothy during the manuscript copying project. The ESV translation committee did not consider that it was written for women.
However, in light of the final verses of 2 Timothy I would be interested in hearing if there is another way of interpreting this epistle so that women could be included.
- Greet Prisca and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. Erastus remained at Corinth, and I left Trophimus, who was ill, at Miletus. Do your best to come before winter. Eubulus sends greetings to you, as do Pudens and Linus and Claudia and all the brothers. ESV
I have written more about this and other topics on my bookshelf blog.