Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Neither male nor female" (6)

1 Timothy 2:8-15

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

There are several matters in the immediate context which should prepare us to think in terms of cultural relativity:

• v.8 "lift up holy hands in prayer." This posture for prayer is not often seen in the church today.

• v.9 "I also want women to dress ... not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes." The church today does not discourage or prohibit women from wearing gold, pearls or expensive clothes or braiding their hair (the opposite is more frequently the normal situation! We actually expect people to wear their 'Sunday best’.)

The structure of this passage indicates that the whole context is about public prayer:

- v.8 Men should pray without anger or dispu­ting (conflict among the men was probably a common occurrence in this particular church, and was affecting their public prayers, see 3:3; 6:4-5)

- v.9 The Greek literally has "Likewise also the women" i.e. Women should pray in public without drawing atten­tion to themselves by their clothing, hairstyles or jewelry.

v. 11 "A woman should learn" - this statement by Paul challenges the Jewish view that "Talmud Torah" (study of the Law) should be restricted to males. The Rabbis were critical of formal educa­tion for girls or women (Encyclopaedia of the Jewish Religion: Education).

v. 11 "in quietness" and v.12 "be silent" - This is the same word in the Greek and is a different word to that in 1 Cor 14:34 (see notes). The Greek here is hesuchia. A related word hesuchazo is used in some of the fol­lowing ways where silence is obviously not intended:

• Acts 11:18 (KJV) When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.

• Acts 21:14 (KJV) And when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done.

• 1 Thess 4:11 (KJV) And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.

• Luke 23:56 and rested the sabbath day accord­ing to the commandment.

Another related word hesuchios is used in the following ways:

• 1 Timothy 2:2 (pray) for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
• 1 Peter 3:4 ... the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

Grimm-Thayer (Greek-English Lexicon of the NT) defines hesuchia as "descriptive of the life on one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others" as in 2 Thess 3:12 ("Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat"). The use of these words indicates that silence is not intended in this context, but, rather, a quiet and receptive attitude should be adopted by the women to their learning. The same word is applied to men in the immediate context (v. 2) and to believers in general in most passages.

v.12 "I do not permit a woman to teach"- The Greek word for "teach" here is didasko and means formal teaching which comes with disci­plinary authority (it is the opposite of learning quietly and submissively).

Paul’s intention here is that women should not teach until they have first learnt [the same is true of men. Not all men qualify as teachers. Elders are to be chosen because of their ability to teach (1 Timothy 3:2). Teaching was seen as a particu­lar gift in the early church (e.g. Ephesians 4:11; Romans 12:6-7) and James even discouraged men from aspiring to this responsibility (James 3:11).]

v. 14 "it was the woman who was deceived" - some interpreters of this passage have thought that Paul was saying that all women are gullible and therefore untrustworthy as teachers. His respect for Priscilla, who instructed Apollos (Acts 18:26), his wide use of women fellow-workers (see notes on Romans 16) and commendation of the teach­ing given to Timothy by his mother and grand­mother (2 Timothy 3:15; 1:5), and instruction that older women should teach the younger (Titus 2:3-4), all argue against such a position.

Paul is not arguing for male supremacy on the basis of the order of creation (such an argument would therefore have to accept the supremacy of a flea over a man, because fleas were created first). Nor is he arguing that all women are more gullible, and therefore should not teach, because Eve was deceived. If so, it would logically follow that all men are rebellious, deliberate sinners because Adam was, and therefore men should not be leaders in the church.

The reason Paul may not have wanted women to teach in Ephesus is that much of the false teach­ing there, while originating with men, was being spread through women in the church. In the first century Ephesian culture the uneducated women provided the network the false teachers could use to spread their doctrines (see 2 Tim 3:6-7 'They (i.e. men who oppose the truth) are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” See also 1 Tim 5:13 Younger widows "get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house (po­ssibly meaning house-church to house-church). And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips phluaros) and busybodies (periergai), saying things they ought not to." The word phluaros is never used in Greek to mean "gossip", but is used in contemporary philosophical literature to refer to ''foolishness' that is contrary to 'truth'. The word periergoi is used in Acts 19:19 when speaking of 'sorcery' in referring to Jewish exorcists in Ephesus who were "invoking the name of the Lord Jesus". Some of the Christian women may have adopted the methods of these wandering exorcists. "Saying things they ought not to" could refer to their magic spells, or their false teaching.

Paul is therefore prohibiting these uneducated women who have been indoctrinated by the false teachers from teaching in the church. He sup­ports his argument by referring to Genesis:

• "For Adam was formed first, then Eve." i.e. Eve was not present when God gave the com­mandment, and was thus dependent on Adam for instruction. She was inadequately educated, like the Ephesian women.

• "And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." The best way to read this is as an analogy. Paul elsewhere uses Eve as an analogy of the gullibility of the whole Corinthian church, men and women (2 Cor 11:3). The uneducated Ephesian women are deceived like the inadequa­tely educated Eve, not because they are women. Paul reminds them that teaching from a position of ignorance will have inevitable consequences, as it did in Eden.

Paul's final reference to the effects of the curse (pain in childbearing) shows that he wants no-one to misunderstand his appeal to Genesis: elements of the curse are passing away because of Christ's victory. Once the Ephesian women have “learned in quietness and submission” they will no longer be able to be deceived. They will then be acknowledged as fully capable of teach­ing as the men. The other effect of the curse - marital strife and inequality of the sexes (Gen 3:16) - will then also pass away. The fact that Priscilla, acknowledged by Paul as a competent teacher and "fellow-worker", later lived in Ephesus (2 Tim 4:19) could suggest that she moved there (or was sent by Paul) to help in educating these women and continuing Timothy's work of setting things right in the Ephesian church.


Paul's argument in this part of 1 Timothy can be summarised as follows:

• Men are to change the way they pray publicly.

• Similarly, women are to dress appropriately when they pray publicly.

• Women should learn the truth with a receptive and quiet attitude.

• Because of the problems in Ephesus with uneducated women spreading the doctrines of the false teachers, they are not to teach until they have properly learned the truth.

• The Ephesian situation is analogous to the situation in Eden where an uneducated Eve was also deceived.

• However, as Christ's victory causes the effects of the Curse to be phased out, so women will be eventually delivered from the curse of a conflict between the sexes.

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