Does Dickson’s definition of teaching ‘fit’ Paul’s usage of didaskw in the Pastoral Epistles? The answer is obviously yes, of course it does. As you read the Pastoral Epistles it would be possible to come to the text with this very limited definition of didaskw in mind and for the most part it would work. The reason is because Christian teaching certainly includes preserving and laying down the apostolic traditions. This is a sub-section of the larger meaning of the word ‘teach’ in the New Testament (and the Pastorals).
I’m not suggesting that Dickson is trying to force into the Pastoral Epistles a concept that is quite foreign and doesn’t belong. In my previous post I used the phrase “a meaning quite unlike the normal Greek usage” to describe the narrowness of his definition, when this could leave the impression that I thought he had a completely different definition altogether. Dickson picked me up on this and I acknowledge I should have expressed myself more clearly.
But the reality is that Dickson is arguing for a technical and limited definition of teach in the Pastoral Epistles (and beyond at least in some, if not most, cases in Paul). He wants us to think that ‘teaching’ in the Pastoral Epistles is a very specific activity, “a particular subset of the normal usage”. (For some reason he seems to require me to define the normal use of didaskw but exempts himself from the same requirement. I figured anyone could look up BDAG for themselves for a grounding in the normal use of didaskw in NT Greek.)
But Dickson is not just claiming that teaching includes “carefully preserving and laying down for the congregation the traditions handed on by the apostles”, he is also claiming that it is not, among other things, “applying God’s truth to congregational life”.
So for example:
“Modern expositors comment on the teaching, exhort us to heed the teaching, and apply the teaching to modern life.” Loc 679. The implication is that those comments, exhortations and applications are not teaching.
“I have no doubt that Timothy added to these apostolic teachings his own appeals, explanations, and applications, but that is not what teaching means.” Loc 601.
“...authoritative teaching refers not to an exposition or application of the truth, whether in the Old Testament or an apostolic epistle, but to the faithful transmission to others of things things declared by the apostles.” Loc 601.
Starke and I made the ‘mistake’ of joining some fairly logical dots to come to the conclusion that therefore Dickson believes that this technical usage of teaching excludes comments, clarifications, explanation, making connections, showing relative emphasis, making logical and ethical deductions based on the faith once for all delivered. Because Dickson keeps saying teaching is “memorizing and repeating” the apostolic deposit, he can give the impression that teaching is no more than “memorizing and repeating”.
However I have learnt the errors of my ways. Apparently “the important point, which [Dickson] tried to made clear throughout the book, is that the constitutive element of teaching in the Pastoral Epistles is laying down the apostolic deposit.”
“I make clear throughout the book that the work of ancient teachers will no doubt have included explanations, appeals and applications but that these dimensions were not the constitutive aspect of the teaching activity.”
Read the book for yourself and see if you agree.
When I asked John via Facebook (I have been using John’s surname in most of my comments because that is the convention for academic discussion, but it all feels rather impersonal when it comes to a personal communication, albeit on his public wall, so I’ve reverted from here on in to John):
“Could you have football without "running up and down a green pitch"? And if you can't, why would that not be a constitutive element of the game? If you can only have a single constitutive element could you tell us what the constitutive element of football is?”
“The constitutive element of football - and I assume you mean real football - is progressing the ball from the centre point of a pitch through a series of foot passes beyond the opposing team until a player places the ball in the goal of the opposing side. Simple. This is my real expertise, after all. The point is, this core element is not the core element of Rugby or AFL, which have their own clear constitutive elements.”
This leaves me wondering as to the value of this idea of “constitutive element”. It certainly doesn’t seem to help in any way to define or explain what football is (or teaching for that matter).
If someone had never seen these ball sports before and I told them this constitutive element (progressing the ball from the centre point of a pitch through a series of foot passes beyond the opposing team until a player places the ball in the goal of the opposing side), chances are they would watch a game of AFL and think “that’s football”. Sure, people would carry the ball every so often and pass with their hands, but it’s pretty close. More to the point, they could watch a game of football and think it’s not football because the players sometimes threw the ball onto the pitch with their hands and the goalkeeper seemed to pick it up with impunity.
If by constitutive element John means the central idea (not to the exclusion of other essential ideas) then it is helpful as we come to compare words. But if we are trying to define something, or in other words, to set out the elements that if they aren’t there you would no longer have that thing, then I can’t see how this understanding of constitutive element is helpful. (As a caveat, a very very tight definition of almost any word is almost impossible, e.g. the FIFA rule book that describes what constitutes a FIFA game of football is 134 pages long.)
When I read John’s book it seemed fairly clear to me (and apparently to Starke), that he was arguing that teaching was repeating the apostolic traditions concerning Jesus so that any additional comment, clarification, application or any other type of speech made in addition is not teaching but something else. But apparently we are wrong.
So it now seems that what John is arguing is that in 1 Tim 2:12 Paul is prohibiting what John understands by the ‘constitutive element’ of the word ‘teach’ but he is not necessarily prohibiting everything that Paul means by the word teach in that context. (This is my take, I'm not saying John would put it like this.) But I’m at a complete loss to understand how this can be the case.
So it seems we are wrong if we say teaching is passing on the good deposit of the faith WITH clarifications, explanation, making connections, showing relative emphasis, making logical and ethical deductions and other application.
And we are wrong if we say John claims teaching is passing on the good deposit of the faith WITHOUT clarifications, explanation, making connections, showing relative emphasis, making logical and ethical deductions and other application.
I don't think he can have it both ways.
To make matters worse, John responds to my “simple error of logic” and muddled thinking with a further sporting analogy. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/euangelion/2013/02/john-dickson-responds-to-simon-roberts-critique/)
He likens soccer, rugby and AFL to teach, prophesy and exhort in my Venn diagram in my previous post to try and show that “the overlap of activities between them would be significant—running, kicking, some catching and throwing—but this does not make soccer the same as Rugby or Rugby the same as AFL, and so on. We call these different sports even if we all know they contain common elements”.
That’s all very interesting, but it hasn’t got a lot to do with my Venn diagram.
Firstly, I wasn’t trying to say that exhortation was the same as teaching. I’d be very interested to know where John got the idea I was as it wasn’t in what I wrote. Secondly, the analogy John uses is somewhat of a straw man. It’s not really an analogy at all. The key difference is that you can’t play rugby and soccer at the same time. This is very significant because it means you are never confused as to what kind of tackle is legal (for example). Before you do anything, you know what game you are playing.
However you can teach and exhort at the same time. When you say something concerning the apostolic deposit it can be teaching and exhortation at the same time. That is, there is some overlap in the semantic range of ‘teach’ and ‘exhort’. This is what the Venn diagram illustrates. Because John's sports example really isn't anything like what I was illustrating it misses the mark.
The point of the diagram is that in his book John seems to claim that it is always OK for a woman to exhort a man because Paul never restricts this. However, if that exhortation was also teaching (i.e. areas A and B on my diagram) then surely by virtue of the fact it is also teaching Paul would prohibit a woman exhorting/teaching a man in this way. This does not mean that all speech that can be called exhortation is also teaching, but at least some speech that is exhortation is teaching.
In summary, John seems to argue that because anything other than “memorizing and repeating” the apostolic deposit is not the constitutive element of teaching in the Pastoral Epistles then it is not excluded by 1 Tim 2:12.
Firstly, I don't think this is right. Secondly I don’t think the idea of the constitutive element of a word versus its meaning is expressed at all well in the book and so John as a lot more work to do to make his argument both clear and tenable.