Special Study Regarding Women and 1 Timothy 2:12

This presentation is an analysis of 1 Timothy 2:12 in particular and thus the broader scope of the meaning of 1 Timothy 2:11-14. I will conclude that the point of 1 Timothy 2:12 has nothing to do with keeping women out of leadership roles in the church. I confess that I am not comfortable talking about this because of the scary waves it may make. On the other hand, if I keep silent about it, I feel like I’m some kind of secluded monk who is studying the Bible and learning things I would never confess in public. It just may be the case that keeping silent about 1 Timothy 2:11-14 may do more harm than just presenting my findings and letting people judge them. That’s what I am about to do.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 (HCSB)
11 A woman should learn in silence with full submission. 12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. 15 But she will be saved through childbearing, if she continues in faith, love, and holiness, with good judgment.
Most Bible students will agree that this passage is difficult to understand. What use are Paul’s three supporting points?
1. Adam was created first, then Eve.
2. The woman was deceived and transgressed.
3. The woman will be saved through childbearing.
I believe we can get a pretty clear understanding of point #1 and begin to understand points 2 and 3 if we dig into the likely heresies Paul was attempting to put down in his letter to the Ephesians and two letters to Timothy.

The two letters to Timothy are more than just personal letters. They are intended to be used by the church in a church context. We obviously look at those personal letters when we are looking for guidance in the selection of elders and deacons, for example. Most of us look at 1 Timothy 2 to attempt to glean some guidance about the proper role of women in a church context. So the letters to Timothy are written as open letters; but we must accept that some things that are said in those two letters are very personal and refer to earlier conversations and/or sermons. I suspect the three supporting points above fit that context. They refer to points that were defended in previous sermons or Bible studies.

We look at the beginning of the Ephesian church as is documented in Acts 19.
Acts 19:9 – There were many Jewish Christians in Ephesus.
Acts 19:10 – There were many Greek Christians in Ephesus.
Acts 19:19 – Witchcraft was practiced in Ephesus.
Acts 19:23-28 – The goddess Artemis was worshiped in Ephesus. Ephesus was home to a major metal smith guild of idol makers.
Acts 19:33-34 – A man named Alexander lived in Ephesus. He was pushed forward by the rioters. He was supposed to say something with which (at least) some of the crowd would agree. He was not able to speak because when the people saw him they could see that he was a Jew. This man was possibly the coppersmith mentioned by Paul in 1 Timothy 1:20 and 2 Timothy 4:14, who sided with the Jews against Paul.

That is the basic background. The rest of the information will need to be gleaned from the epistles.

There were various influences in the Ephesian church. When they came together they gave birth a new and unique heresy.

It is not difficult to spot Jewish influences in Ephesus. Ephesians 2:11-3:6 betrays the usual Judeo-centric heresy that salvation requires conversion to the Jewish religion.

Ephesians 5:3-20 is a reminder to avoid pagan practices.

There was some kind of weird eschatology being taught in Ephesus as evidenced by 2 Timothy 2:18.
“They have deviated from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and are overturning the faith of some.”

Using this passage as a beginning point, we can go through the Ephesian letters (Ephesians, 1 & 2 Timothy) and investigate whether that particular heresy is in view at all in the rest of those letters. I will do my best to provide some order to what I have found; but it may seem a bit scattered.

2 Timothy 2:18 is right next to 2 Timothy 2:19 which charges believers to turn away from wickedness. It seems the former claim (the resurrection had already taken place) was being used as justification for practicing wickedness.

Well, Timothy is charged to be not to hasty to discipline anyone but also to not be seduced into the sins of others (1 Timothy 5:22. “Do not lay hands too readily on anyone, and do not share in another’s sins. Keep yourself pure”) (NABre). This passage reminds me of Galatians 6:1. “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted.”

There was a teaching (post-eschatology) in Ephesus that was being forwarded as justification for sin.
Ephesians 5:3 warns against fornication.

In Thyatira (an Asian church mentioned in the book of Revelation), there was a woman (nicknamed Jezebel) who was teaching that fornication was alright (Revelation 2:20).

One more passage and we can start to see a picture.

1 Timothy 4:1-5 (HCSB)
1 Now the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will depart from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and the teachings of demons, 2 through the hypocrisy of liars whose consciences are seared. 3 They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods that God created to be received with gratitude by those who believe and know the truth. 4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing should be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, 5 since it is sanctified by the word of God and by prayer.

Our knee-jerk reaction here is to understand the above teaching is an outgrowth of Jewish influences; but it is almost certainly the teaching of a pagan or wiccan influence. It seems that the post-resurrection teaching led to a set of doctrines based upon what life should be like in a post-resurrection environment. People would no longer marry or be given in marriage (Mark 12:25 = Matthew 22:30 = Luke 20:35); and they would eat like humans did before “the fall.” That is, food for people post-resurrection would be the same as the food for people in the days of the Garden of Eden. They would eat only vegetables. Thus, Paul gives defense that anything good for food is God blessed as long as it is received with thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:4-5). Paul reveals that the immediate teachings of forbidding marriage and certain foods is connected with myths and wives’ tales (1 Timothy 4:7).

There is an important myth in Ephesus that bears on this topic. That myth is that Artemis was born before Apollo! If the believers in Ephesus blended the Adam and Eve account with the Artemis and Apollo myth then there would be a basis for the claim that Eve was created before Adam! That doctrine might provide a claim for women to assume preeminence over men. They were created first (according to myth) and Artemis is head of God’s (Zeus’) people. If that particular heresy was being taught, then women were not seeking equal roles in the church but they were seeking dominance over men! Refuting the heresy of female preeminence would be thus the basis for Paul’s argument that Adam was created before Eve (1 Timothy 2:13). It is too early to be confident about this conclusion. I will continue below to investigate the consistency of a possible body of post-resurrection teaching.

It is neither Artemis nor Apollo who head’s God’s people. It is Christ, as is the point of Ephesians 1:4. Christ preexisted the creation (and thus, any myths about Artemis and Apollo).

Immortality is a basic feature of the doctrine of Christ (2 Timothy 1:10, 13-14). If the resurrection has already taken place (the people in Ephesus need to know), then people should be immortal; but clearly, mortality is still a feature of earthly existence. The book of Ephesians focuses a great deal on “the heavenlies.” We should not be surprised—with the major focus of earthly existence of the post-resurrection heresy in Ephesus.

If there is no longer any marriage, then (by logical extension) there is no need for sexual fidelity; so fornication is just fine in a post-resurrection setting (according to this heresy).

Ephesians 1:3 suggests believers were putting their focus on tangible blessings over spiritual blessings.
Ephesians 1:4 promotes holiness over immediate gratification.
Ephesians 1:10-14 teaches that the resurrection is yet future.
Ephesians 1:19-20 teaches that God’s power is in the resurrection of US.
Ephesians 1:20-21 teaches that all authority is in Christ.
Ephesians 1:21 teaches that the current age is not the last. There is an age to come (refuting the post-resurrection doctrine).
Ephesians 2:3-4 teaches that God enables us to live without gratification of fleshly desires.
Ephesians 2:5-6 teaches that, indeed, there has been a resurrection—from the grave of sin and to a life of holiness.
Ephesians 2:8-10 teaches that we were created to be holy (not to return to Eden).
Ephesians 2:13 Fellowship with God is possible through the blood of Christ. This teaching appears to refute the doctrine of Gnosticism, which teaches that fellowship with God comes through secret knowledge.
Ephesians 3:18-19 appears also to refute Gnosticism.
Ephesians 4:14-16 Correct teaching exalts Christ. False teaching serves the teacher.
Ephesians 4:17-18 refutes teaching that justifies sin.
Ephesians 4:21-24 warns the Ephesians about a corrupt form of holiness.
Ephesians 4:25 refutes a teaching that promotes falsehood (lying) and anger.
Ephesians 5:21 Avoid efforts to dominate. We will come back to this when we return to 1 Timothy 2. Notice that this verse warns about all efforts to dominate. The antidote is being in subjection to one another. He then levels his correction directly at wives (vs 22). It seems that wives were attempting to assume a dominant role in families. Paul goes on to provide counsel on proper household arrangements—all the way through 6:9. Paul said it is important that families have the proper arrangement because families are allegories of the church (vs 32).
Ephesians 6:11f provides notice that your brothers and sisters in Christ are not the enemy. The enemy is the devil and a host of unseen enemies “in the heavenlies” (vs 12).
Ephesians 6:14-17 presents the Armor of God. The point is that these believers still need to add these features to their character. They are not righteous, do not practice peace, value sight over faith and still need salvation.
Ephesians 6:19 admits that there is a mystery but it is not supposed to be a secret.

Returning to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, Paul says, “I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (vs 12). The Greek word that is translated “authority” here is rare. It appears only one place in the entire New Testament. Right here. On the other hand, the other Greek words that are typically translated “authority” (there are four) are all over the New Testament. They all mean “authority” in a regular, privilege/delegated sense. For example, Pilate had “authority” to crucify Jesus (John 19:10). In 1 Timothy 2:12, the word means to dominate/usurp authority. It refers to a person who exercises dominance, often without delegation. The word is negative and often (in Greek literature) refers to somebody who is taking it upon himself to do something illegal (Strong). That’s the word employed here that women should avoid doing. Nobody should act in this kind of authority. Nobody has regular authority to act with this kind of authority.

It seems there were women in Ephesus who were denying 1 Timothy 2:13 (that Adam was formed first, then Eve) based upon the myth that Artemis was born before Apollo. They were using that argument to assume roles of dominance. That means 1 Timothy 2:13-15 are Paul’s arguments in support of the women toning down their dominance attitudes. If you are using the preeminence of Artemis as an excuse to dominate men, just realize that Adam was created before Eve. Eve was deceived.

The above investigation concludes my examination of 1 Timothy 2:12. It is a correction of a teaching that Eve was born first and then Adam. First Timothy 2:12 has nothing to do with leadership. It has to do with overlording. Women shouldn’t overlord (but neither should men) and they should stop teaching the associated heresy.

I have concluded my investigation; but there are two parts of this study that remain hanging. It just feels wrong to not talk about them.

WHAT DOES PAUL MEAN BY THE CLAIM THAT WOMEN ARE SAVED THROUGH CHILDBEARING? I have a theory about 1 Timothy 2:15; but I cannot as yet prove it. Perhaps somebody else can look into it more closely for me. I think, in 1 Timothy 2:15, Paul is quoting a popular saying. If it is a popular saying, what is its context? I think it is a common claim of Jews of that day. Jewish Christians believed the believing Gentile men needed to submit to circumcision in order to be saved. How could women be saved since they cannot be circumcised? Answer: They can be circumcised by surrogate, having their male children circumcised. Something close to that theory happened to Moses. Moses’ wife Zipporah circumcised her son and touched the foreskin to Moses’ feet. It seems that action was credited to Moses as his own circumcision (Exodus 4:24-26).

Now, for a more level-headed explanation:
More likely what Paul intends is that woman’s salvation from the transgressions brought about by similar deception and ultimately for eternal life, is to be found in her being a model, godly woman, known for her good works (v. 10; cf. 5:11). And her good deeds, according to 5:11 and 14, include marriage, bearing children (the verb form of this noun), and keeping a good home. The reason for his saying that she will be saved is that it follows directly out of his having said “the woman came to be in transgression.”

But Paul could never leave the matter there, as though salvation itself were attained by this “good deed,” so he immediately qualifies, “Provided of course that she is already a truly Christian woman,” that is, a woman who continues in faith, love and holiness. This is obviously where her salvation ultimately lies, as is always true with Paul. It is assumed such a woman already has faith, which is activating love and holiness. But the whole context of the letter, and the present argument in particular, has generated this rather unusual way of putting it. Even at the end, however, he has not lost sight of where he began, so he adds, with propriety. (Gordon Fee, “1 and 2 Timothy, Titus,” New International Biblical Commentary, Hendrickson, 1988, 75-76)

WHAT ABOUT 1 CORINTHIANS 14:34-35? These two verses seem to contradict 1 Corinthians 11:5, 11-12. Possibly, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 does not mean what we think it means.

These two verses follow closely upon the heels of verse 29, “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others weigh what was said.” This verse suggests that following a word of prophecy, there was a customary question-and-answer period. Maybe another member would supplement the word of prophecy with some passage from the Old Testament. Since the women in verses 34-35 were not teaching, but rather, they were learning, it appears the problem with these women was manifesting itself during this after-prophecy discussion. They were learning; but too loudly. They had questions that could have been better asked of their husbands at home. The fact that these women are instructed to ask their husbands shows that it was not all women who were to follow Paul’s injunction; but only the married women were supposed to follow it. Strictly following 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, single women could have hogged the question-and-answer period all they wanted with simple, basic questions.

I suggest the problem that Paul was attempting to solve involved the young married women. They were using up too much church time by asking basic questions that their husbands could have easily answered at home. Why not ask the easy questions at home (if the young married woman’s husband has sufficient education) and free up the question-and-answer period for a stronger, critical evaluation of the spoken word of prophecy?

Imagine a husband and wife sitting together and the husband is asking substantive questions born of whatever education he has received up to that point, and next to him, his wife is blurting out questions of a basic nature... questions she could easily ask her husband in private. This scenario would not apply to every couple, such as if the husband is uneducated and/or the wife is very learned; but encouraging the less-educated wives of learned husbands to tone it down would certainly enhance the “decently and in order” worship tone Paul promoted (1 Corinthians 14:40).

That interpretation is in full agreement with 1 Corinthians 11:5, 11-12.

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