The Problem with Prayer in 1 Timothy 2:9-15

The Problem with Prayer in 1 Timothy 2:9-15

If we interpret 1 Timothy 2:9-15 through the lens of the context of the entire letter which is to correct false teaching, then we can understand that the restrictive measures Paul takes against these Ephesian women corrects some blatant error at that place and time. Theextreme” limitations Paul placed on the women of Ephesus is contrary to his customary practice. The mixed-up, no-good, spirituality that was being taught in Ephesus led people astray from the true faith. Extreme measures were needed that solved the problem. Paul’s instructions concerning women must be understood in context of the dangerous false teaching found in Ephesus.

They were praying wrong.

Prayer is the immediate topic beginning in 2:1. The false teaching in Ephesus was affecting who the church prayed to and how they went about their petitioning. We see this is a church-wide problem for Paul urged everyone  to pray for peaceful and quiet lives (2:2). He linked quiet, peaceful, godly living with achieving God’s evangelistic goal of bringing all people to a knowledge of the truth (2:4). Paul urged prayer correlating to the sound doctrine he taught them. We are to pray to the one true God our Savior (2:3), through His mediator, the man Christ Jesus (2:5). Here is the heart of the corrective teaching on prayer, which resulted in the practical instructions to men and women. Prayer directed to the one true God should be marked with peace and propriety, unlike prayer to idols.

Posture in prayer

In verse 8, men were instructed to lift both hands in prayer. This may indicate that a particular posture was in vogue that reflected idolatry. Most certainly, it was contentious, as Paul warned them against anger and arguing.

Verses 9-15 continued Paul’s flow of thought on prayer in verses 1-8, as he connected the prayer of men to the prayer of women with hósautós, or “likewise/also.”

…I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing. I also want the women… (2:8-9a) NIV

As in 1 Corinthians 11:4-5, Paul assumed both men and women would be praying in the church community. And, according to 1 Timothy 2:4, men and women were both to pray in a fashion that would not detract outsiders from knowing the true gospel.  Hesuchia, translated as “quiet” in verse 2, is the same Greek word Paul used to describe the desired attitude for women verse 12, often translated as “silent.” Regardless of how hesuchia is glossed in translation (as silent or quiet), Paul applied it to both genders in Ephesus (2:2), with special insistence that the women comply (2:12).

Apparel in prayer

Praying posture and emotion was affecting prayer for the men. For women, it was their apparel and attitude (2:9-10). Paul asked for modest dress, which he defined as decent and proper – without a show of wealth. Our modern mind equates modest apparel with more fabric, but Paul’s context reflected the idea of simplicity.

I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes… (2:9) NIV

Sandra Glahn argues that in Greco-Roman society, braids, gold, pearls and expensive clothes were a mark of affluence, “associated with a person’s rank.”[1] This suggests that the women of Ephesus were entangled with the love of money (3:3; 6:5-10) and status, and this was evident in their arrogant attitudes and ostentatious attire. Paul distinguished good works as the apparel of those who worship God (2:10), in contrast to the ostentatious display of rank and wealth associated with idolatry. [2] (The next article on Artemis will provide explanation for Paul’s emphasis on apparel in worship.)

The attention given to praying women at the end of chapter 2 correlated with a particular Ephesian problem Timothy needed to correct. We get a clearer picture of what these women were doing with their voluble and interfering ways in chapter 5.  Some women were in danger of judgment (5:12), “saying things they ought not to (5:13),” followers of Satan (5:15), and exploiters (5:6, 16). This painted a picture of women who were not only disturbing the households of the church, but were demanding monetary support, and were implanting teaching that Paul calls “satanic” (5:15). We must not isolate Paul’s instructions in 2:9-15 from the problems he described with the Ephesian women in chapter 5. These women were undermining faith in Jesus Christ, especially when it came to who and how they prayed for help.

The motivation for prayer

If we find prayer as the context for Paul’s instructions introducing 1 Timothy 2:9-15, then we find the motivation for the context at its conclusion. Verse 15, which has been a debated enigma for millennia, states the concern that drove the Ephesians to pray in error.

Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (2:15) ESV

David Scholer calls verse 15 the climax of the passage and links its positive assurance for women with the negative mandate prior in verse 12.[3]

I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man. (2:12a) NIV

The main puzzle to solve in verse 15, to address Paul’s meaning for the entire passage, is the type and method of salvation promised to women. In verse 15, Paul declares that “she (a singular pronoun inherent in the singular verb) will be saved through childbirthing, if they (a plural pronoun inherent in the plural verb) continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.” While there are many explanations for Paul’s switch in grammatical numeric value in this verse, Sandra Glahn suggests a simple explanation. Paul is borrowing a popular, local saying.[4]

“She will be saved through childbirth”

Scholars have identified that Paul often used popular sayings and quotes as a springboard to his teaching, but they are sometimes missed due to the limitations of Greek punctuation and historical context. Greek writing did not have a set way to indicate quotations, so many times archaeology and historical study reveals what could be a quote after years of research. That is the case for  1 Tim. 4:8-9 NASB; 1 Cor. 6:12 NIV; 1 Cor. 7:1-2 NIV; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12, and Acts 17:24-29. Here is a modern example of how this works.

Be all that you can be if they sign up with the right mindset and willingness to work hard.

This quotation, without the quotes to indicate a popular saying, would be lost on anyone not watching American TV in the 80’s and 90’s. But put in the proper punctuation, and wa-la. “Be all that you can be” if they sign up with the right mindset and willingness to work hard. This indicates a context for us to interpret through.

If the phrase, “She will be saved through childbirth,” was a local slogan, Paul borrowed it to make a specific point, not to present an alternative salvation for women. This would be a simple explanation for the switch of numerical value in his subject. And it is a reasonable assumption for two reasons. Paul was known for using common sayings, and the famous, local deity of Ephesus was Artemis, the goddess of childbirth. We will detail her worship in the next article.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Titus 3:5 says salvation is not by works, but by God’s mercy. Paul is consistent that all people are only saved by faith in Christ alone.  We can be confident Paul was not teaching women have a special method of eternal salvation by giving birth. Instead, Paul used a local saying to assure women that they would survive the dangerous ordeal of childbirth.

Why is this particular assurance about surviving childbirth necessary contextually in the flow of Paul’s logic? It must have something to do with the instructions and teaching Paul gave immediately prior to this promise.

Understanding verses 11-14 in context with Paul’s promise to women in verse 15, gives us a glimpse at the false teaching Paul was correcting. In verse 11, Paul uses the only imperative verb in this passage to command the women to learn.

A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. (2:12) NAS

Certainly, they must learn in order to correct the superstitious and fictional notions that had deceived them. What is the best posture for learning? Paul agrees with one hundred percent of teachers, everywhere. A student must keep their mouths shut, and be willing to learn! Apparently, the Ephesian women were talking too much and instead of submitting to learn proper doctrine, they refused to listen.

Not only did these women with false notions refuse to learn, they insisted on teaching and controlling men with their false ideas (2:12). This false teaching most likely had its roots in a creation myth, because Paul proceeded to correct these ideas in verses 13-14. Adam was created first, not Eve. Eve instigated transgression because she was deceived. This was a simple correction of the facts, which the women in Ephesus apparently had not learned or disagreed with.  The refusal to learn (11), the dominating insistence of women (12), and the incorrect teaching about the creation order and fall (13-14) were all bound together in these women’s fear of dying in childbirth (15), according to Paul’s flow of argument.

What is not written in Paul’s words is the specific error his instructions corrected, because Timothy already knew them. For the modern reader to deduce what contemporary error these instructions addressed, a survey of what we know of the Ephesian religion and culture blended with the specific instructions Paul gives, is helpful. Coming soon.

References

[1] Sandra L. Glahn,”The First-Century Ephesian Artemis: Ramifications of Her Identity,” Bibliotheca Sacra 172, no. 688 (2015): 450-469. New Testament Abstracts, EBSCOhost (accessed November 29, 2017), 456.

[2] Ibid., 457.

[3] David M. Scholer, “1 Timothy 2:9-15 and the Place of Women in the Church’s Ministry,” in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed.  Alvera Mickelsen (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 196.

[4] Glahn, 466.

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The Women’s World of the House Church

The Women’s World of the House Church

Modern readers of the New Testament naturally impose familiar surroundings when reading the ancient words of the Bible. Think about it. When you read that Paul sent a letter to a church, do you imagine a group of people sitting in neat rows listening to a reader up on a platform? This is our idea of a church meeting. The reality of the first century church gatherings is worlds apart.

Immediately after the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Jewish believers in Jesus began to meet in homes. In the house environment, they ate together and also taught Jesus’ words. Paul began each work in a new city by visiting the synagogue, but in every case, the gathering of believers ended up in someone’s personal abode.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes… Acts 2:46

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ. Acts 5:42

…Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women … Acts 8:3

 and teaching you in public and from house to house… Acts 20:20

Greet also the church in their house. Romans 16:5

Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house… 1 Corinthians 16:19

… Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house… Philemon 1:2

…and to Nympha and the church in her house. Colossians 4:15

 DomusitalicaNow lets tackle our perceptions of what an ancient first century house was like. Much of our understanding of Roman houses comes from upper-class Pompeii and Herculaneum. A Roman domus, even the modest ones, would have rooms centered around a central courtyard. Simple houses in Palestine tended to have one central room with an open courtyard in front, and an extra “room” on the roof.

Based on this, consider the physical space of the early house churches. Some were in upper class villas, where there was ample space to divide the service along traditional gender lines, but in the vast majority of domestic structures, there was no room for segregation. Women and men worshiped physically together in the same spaces. Children and animals would be present either physically or within earshot.

Not only was the layout and architecture different from ours, the customs around the house and home life contrast with our modern practices. The home was the domain of women, not men. We see glimpses of this ancient mindset in Proverbs 31, where the wife governs the household affairs. Socrates mentions that the husband and wife are partners in the Roman estate: the wife at home and the husband in public. Philo states that a wife has full authority at home. Hospitality is a key virtue for women in the early church. In 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul instructs the married women to be the master of their own house. A wife with good management skills was prized in Roman times. The presence of wives, mothers and widows in the house churches enabled the first churches to blend the traditional female sphere of home with the traditionally male public sphere.

“To step into a Christian house church was to step into the women’s world.” (1)

The locale of the church inside of homes led Pliny the Younger and Celsus to criticize the Christians. Because the home is under the rule of women,  they considered Christianity an assault on Roman masculinity.

In is notable that Christian women did not exercise unique leadership roles in the early church, but they reflected the social and cultural shift of a woman’s place in this time. At the time of the early church, a woman’s legal and social status was in flux in Roman secular society. Women were beginning to recline at public functions and own property and businesses. These cultural shifts coincide with the rise of Christianity, and might have been amplified because of the equality of the gospel. Some women in the first century were listed as head of households. Some even held civic political appointments. Women were engaged in business and had funds to disperse.

Mary in Acts 12:12-17, Lydia in Acts 16, and Nympha in Colossians 4 all managed house churches.  1 Corinthians 1:11 reveals that Chloe is either the principal of a household or has an extended network of clients under her. Women would have presided over meals – the Love feast as well.  It was normal procedure for the one who owned the house to select the menu, facilitate conversation and provide entertainment.  Women in the early church were naturally a part of its leadership because the home was their sphere of influence.

So, next time you start reading through Acts or one of the epistles, employ your new understanding and imagine the church the way it would have been – at home.

References:

This article is a brief summary of the ideas found in: A Woman’s Place by Carolyn Osiek, Margaret MacDonald with Janel Tulloch, 

(1) p. 163. 

The Ephesian Context of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

The Ephesian Context of 1 Timothy 2:9-15

For decades, I used 1 Timothy 2:9-15 as the starting gate for gauging my function in Christianity. I filtered my understanding of my place in God’s world through this passage. I was a woman. I had certain restrictions.

I was wrong.

Like many in Baptist churches, I had been taught a traditional interpretation of Paul’s instructions for women in 1 Timothy 2: women should be silent and never teach or govern men, or some softer variant of these limitations. This interpretation isolates the passage from the greater context of 1 Timothy, and mistakenly became my threshold for all commentary on a woman’s place in the church.

So how else should I understand this passage? Is the only alternative to believe a progressive interpretation that disregards these instructions as archaic, culturally based, and irrelevant for today’s church? In disregarding this passage as obsolete, I could be denying the truth found in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is profitable.  But, what is profitable for modern Christians in 1 Timothy 2:8-15?*

Put in its historical and contextual setting, Paul’s instructions for Christian women in 1 Timothy 2:8-15 reveal God’s desire to see movement from deceptive controversy to unified doctrine.

Ephesian Error

Templum Dianae Ephesinae1 Timothy was written by Paul to guide Timothy in combating the false teaching that infected the church in Ephesus. Timothy was left behind to correct the doctrinal mess being taught by some in the church after Paul fled Ephesus for Macedonia due to the riot caused by the worshipers of the goddess Artemis (Acts 19:23-20:1). If the church fell for what these folks were teaching, the Christian faith in Ephesus was in danger. From his first words to his last, Paul reiterated that the truth of Jesus’ gospel must be protected. Read what he wrote.

“Timothy…command certain people not to teach false doctrines … or devote themselves to myths…” (1:3-4)

“…hold onto faith…which some have rejected…”  (1:19)

“Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales…” (4:7)

“Watch your … doctrine closely…” (4:16)

“…guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.” (6:20-21).

This is the central concern that drove Paul’s instructions throughout the letter. Timothy was to guard the truth against the deceptive and contentious teaching present in the Ephesian church.

This error involved a definitive female target. In the Ephesian church, marriage was abandoned, and celibacy was embraced (4:3). The enrollment of “Widow,” a woman who lived without a man*, was filling with women who refused marriage, who meddled in other people’s affairs and said the wrong things (5:11-15). Older women were superstitious, avoiding the work of caring for others (4:7; 5:9-10). We get a glimpse of these superstitious and magical practices in Acts 19. The Ephesians valued objects with mystical powers (Acts 19:11-12, 19).  Men were not immune to the errors, either. Men and women were devoted to circulating fictional tales, fantasies and traditions (1:3-4, 6), and the men especially were causing disputes and arguing (2:8; 3:2-3; 6:4-5). Men were using the gospel for greed (3:3, 8; 6:5, 9-10).

The reason Paul was so serious about correcting the error was that false teaching results in wrong behavior. Paul was not only concerned that some might destroy their own faith (1:19; 5:15; 6:10, 21), but that others might not hear the true gospel because of the misguided conduct of the Ephesian Christians (4:16). Paul instructed Timothy to teach proper behavior (3:15) so the church would have a good reputation with outsiders (3:7), would not be open to blame (5:7), would not give cause for slander (5:14), and so others would see the consequences of good and evil behavior (5:24-25). In chapter 2, our specific context, Paul linked quiet, godly lives with God’s desire to see all people saved (2:4). To understand 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in a way that can be applied to societies outside Ephesus in the first century, it is imperative we understand what Paul was teaching Timothy: the church’s behavior reflects the church’s beliefs, and the world is watching.

What is profitable for us, today?

If we interpret 1 Timothy 2:9-15 through the lens of its context of correcting false teaching, and assume that the restrictive measures Paul takes against women corrects some blatant error at that place and time, then we can find what is profitable for us, today. This assumption is reasonable in light of Paul’s support of women’s involvement elsewhere. Women and men are equal in the Lord (Gal. 3:28). They worked hard for the Lord (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2, 22:4; Rom. 16:12; 1 Cor. 1:11, 16:19; Col. 4:15), prayed and prophesied in gatherings (1 Cor. 11:4-5, 14:23-24), taught men (Acts 21:9, 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15), served as deacons (Rom. 16:1-2) and apostles (Rom. 16:7) and leaders (1 Thes. 5:12), and were co-laborers with men (Rom. 16:3, Phil. 4:2-3).

The “extreme” limitations Paul placed on the women of Ephesus is contrary to his customary practice. There must be a good reason why.  The mixed-up, no-good, spirituality that was being taught in Ephesus led people astray from the true faith. Extreme measures were needed that solved the problem. Paul’s instructions concerning women must be understood in context of the dangerous false teaching found in Ephesus. And this understanding hints at how we can apply 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to today. Here are some possible suggestions.

  • Desperate times call for desperate measures.
  • False teaching is not to be dealt with lightly.
  • Restrictions should be placed on those who cause the church to loose faith.

Next up, we’ll look at the immediate context of chapter 2: prayer.

References:

[1] Nancy Wiles Holsey, “Response to Scholer and Kroeger,” in Women, Authority, and the Bible, ed. Alvera Mickelsen (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 248-249.

[2] Charlotte Metheun, “The “Virgin Widow”: A Problematic Social Role for the Early Church?” Harvard Theological Review 90, no. 3 (1997): 286-287.

Part 1: A Young Feminist Reads 1 Timothy.
Part 2: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends
Part 3: She kept reading, a win

She kept reading, a win

She kept reading, a win

“Well the Bible says it, so it must mean it.”

Cue incoming brain shut down. This statement has been used to terminate further discussion for generations. I could read the signs written all over the body language of my opinionated teenager. I would have limited time and verbiage to be heard without an argument.

If you haven’t read part 1 and 2 of my daughter’s voyage into the “offending” limitations of 1 Timothy 2, you might want to catch up.

Part 1: A Young Feminist Reads 1 Timothy.
Part 2: 1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

My daughter had just finished reading 1 Timothy 2 through verse 15. Even though I had prepped her reading with interesting tidbits about the pervasive mythology driving Paul’s instructions to Timothy, she had done what many Bible readers have done in the past. She divorced the context from the passage, hence misunderstood the meaning, and then made sweeping conclusions by being complacent with a naive, literal interpretation. Simply, it was confusing and she didn’t want to think any more about it.

I asked, “Who was Paul talking to?”

“Women.”

“Which women, specifically?”

“Uh… the women in Timothy’s church?”

“Yes. You remember where I said they were?”

“Oh yeah. The place where the temple to Artemis was?”

“Ephesus. Can you see any connections?”

“Not really.”

Window of Opportunity closing in 5…4…3…

Speed talking now, I said, “Could it be possible Paul wasn’t talking about women, everywhere, in every time? The women in Ephesus had been deceived by the Artemis myth, and most likely, they were pretty confused. Paul didn’t want them teaching others.”

2…

“Oh, Okay. I just want to get my reading done.” She opened the Book and began flipping to the right page.

1…

“Great. Let me know if you have any more questions.”

“Mm Hm.”

Conversation closed.

She sat on her bed with the Bible open.  She might not understand all the theological points Paul was and was not making in that chapter, but she was still reading. I consider that a successful foray into the mires of a modern mind reading 1 Timothy. Simply understanding that we might not understand, is an important lesson to learn when reading the Words of God.

So, what about 1 Timothy 2:9-15?

It was enough for my daughter to know that I believed the passage taught something different than her literal, isolated understanding of it. For me, that was a gift I could give to her… an open door.

For decades, this passage closed the door to ministry for me. I was taught this passage was written to all women, everywhere, at every time. Like many others, I used this passage to interpret all other Scripture written about women, instead of using Scripture (especially the immediate context) to decode the meaning of these limitations and teaching.

If you’re willing to go deeper with me than my daughter wanted to go, join me for the next few posts as I explore the purpose of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 in context and in application.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Her name was Dinah. #metoo

Her name was Dinah. #metoo

Like all of the abuse allegations recently, the story of Dinah is ugly.

Dinah was the only daughter of Israel (Jacob). Ironically, her name means ‘the one who brings justice.’ It is the feminine version of the name Dan. Lady Justice. I say ironically, because Dinah’s story has little justice. She was kidnapped in broad daylight and nearly abandoned to the men who stole her. Because of the violence perpetrated on her, she was ruined. Her line was barren.

Dinah’s story (Genesis 34)

Newly settled in the land of Canaan, Dinah, who was the imminent matriarch of Abraham’s clan, made the rounds getting to know the women in the area. While she was out and about, Shechem, the local chief’s son, saw her. He wanted her. But instead of pursuing a marriage contract with her parents, he stole her. This was common in ancient times – bride capture. Both Dinah’s grandmother and great grandmother were captured to be brides and escaped unmolested and unharmed through Divine intervention. Where was God’s deliverance for Dinah?

Shechem stole Dinah, a woman from outside his tribe, and carried her home as plunder. He sexually assaulted her. This is where we get the modern day custom of carrying the bride over the threshold. It is a leftover and forgotten symbol of taking your woman home and declaring her “mine!”

The news traveled quickly to her father, but instead of immediately running to her rescue, he decided to wait until her brothers got home from work. He might have been thinking something along these lines, “I’m new to this land, and I don’t want to make waves here.” Or, “This must be the way they do things.” Boys will be boys. Jacob waited. In fact, Shechem’s father Hamor is the first to act. But instead of taking Dinah home and condemning his son, he sought to pacify his son, the perpetrator.

“My son can’t live without your daughter!” Hamor told Jacob. He offered to pay for Dinah. “I’ll even let your sons marry our women! And you can have some of our land. Our tribes can unite with the marriage of Shechem and Dinah.”

Surprisingly, Jacob didn’t answer one way or the other! Was he considering allowing his daughter to marry these barbarian wife thieves? Who would rescue Dinah? The local government was complicit! Jacob was silent. Who would bring justice for Lady Justice?

Teenagers. Teenagers rescued Dinah.

Moral outrage in the hands of youth is passionate, loud and often inappropriate. But, for Dinah’s brothers Simeon and Levi, the truth was clear. Dinah must be rescued. The perpetrator and those who were complicit in the crime must be punished. If the local government and her father wouldn’t protect her safety, then they would.

At the age of thirteen, Dinah’s two brothers knew they were at a disadvantage against the local strong arms protecting their sister’s abuser. And so, taking the lesson from their family history, they tricked Shechem into agreeing to circumcise his entire clan. When the pain from the crude surgery was at its worst, they attacked the camp. They plundered. They captured women and children. They killed the men. They brought their sister home.

Yes, it was literally overkill. They went too far in vengeance. Their character was scarred from their retribution (Genesis 49:5-7), but they had punished their sister’s abusers.

Jacob, thinking only about his reputation, condemned their action. “You’ve made my name stink to high heaven among the people here.”

Jacob, thinking only of his safety says, “If they decided to gang up on us and attack, as few as we are we wouldn’t stand a chance; they’d wipe me and my people right off the map.”

The boys, who became men that day, replied.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

A timely lesson

The Jewish bar mitzvah is the ceremony celebrating the “coming of age” for boys. It marks the transition to personal responsibility at age 13. Ever wonder why the age is 13? Because that’s the age Simeon and Levi are calculated to be when they take up their swords to defend their sister. It signifies the ability to gauge right from wrong; to be held accountable for action … or inaction.

Dinah was delivered to safety, but she never had a family of her own. Sexual violence destroys women’s lives. I think Simeon and Levi’s words should help us point our moral compass better than Jacob’s.

“Nobody is going to treat our sister like a whore and get by with it.”

(re-written from a previous post on Nov. 20, 2011: A time to act or be silent? )

1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

1 Timothy 2:9-15 Offends

Read the first part of this story here: A Young Feminist Reads 1 Timothy.

I thought I had set the stage carefully. I’d explained the historical, cultural and religious background of Ephesus at the time 1 Timothy was written. I had her attention and interest. I thought she could just read through the second chapter, and accept that there were things she didn’t understand, and give Paul the benefit of the doubt. That’s what I had done as a young girl.

I was wrong. A few minutes later, this…

“I CAN’T STAND READING THIS. PAUL MUST REALLY HATE WOMEN. I THINK THIS IS CRAP.” She slapped the Bible closed.

And I absolutely agreed with her.

I would like to cut this portion of our sacred text out and silence it, as it has been used to silence God’s feminine image for thousands of years. 

But if I did that, where would I stop? There are a lot of passages that have been used to harm. Should they all go? Am I the proper judge for God’s Word?

Nodding my head in agreement, I said to her, “I know. Its hard to read. That’s why I spent time giving you context. I wanted you to see the problem these words were addressing. You’ve done what so many other people have done, isolate this passage from the rest of the letter and the rest of the Bible. Do you believe God likes men better than women?”

“No. But this passage makes it seem like it!”

“Yes, it does. But Paul himself said that God does not show favoritism (Rom. 2:11). This is a hard passage to understand, and there are many explanations.”

Let me stop the conversation there.

Take a moment and read the words of 1 Timothy 2:9-15.  The Revised Standard Version reads:

 9…also that women should adorn themselves modestly and sensibly in seemly apparel, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly attire 10 but by good deeds, as befits women who profess religion. 11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

You have just done what many expositors, preachers and theologians have done since… well, forever. You have read these words in isolation.

When we segregate these instructions from Paul’s intent and passion for the truth, it offends. When we quarantine these instructions away from Jesus’s life and ministry, it confounds. When we disengage this passage from its surrounding context, we are kinda horrified. When we detach this passage from Paul’s support of women in Christian ministry elsewhere, we get this zinger of demands that has been used as justification for restricting women for millennia.

This was not its original intention. I can say that with absolute confidence. Because, this passage is nestled in a literary context that Paul explained. Paul was no misogynist. Nor was he worried about acquiescing to the patriarchal culture of his day. Paul saw no difference between Christian men and women in Christian ministry (Gal 3:28). Paul appreciated that women worked hard for the advancement of the gospel (Acts 8:3, 9:1-2, 22:4; Rom. 16:12; 1 Cor. 1:11, 16:19; Col. 4:15). He affirmed their prayer and prophesy in the church gatherings (1 Cor. 11:4-5, 14:23-24). He confirmed that Christian women taught men elsewhere (Acts 18:24-26, Acts 21:9, 2 Tim. 1:5, 3:14-15), that women served as deacons (Rom. 16:1-2) and apostles (Rom. 16:7), and were co-laborers with men (Rom. 16:3, Phil. 4:2-3). The “extreme” limitations Paul placed on the women of Ephesus was contrary to his customary practice.

So, why does he limit women when writing to Timothy in Ephesus?

That’s where we’ll pick up our conversation next time.

 

Navel Gazing: Regrets

Navel Gazing: Regrets

As we age, I think most people have things they’ve done that make them shudder when they remember. I have a list of them that I recall to mind when I need to take my ego down a notch. Thinking about them is my rendition of flogging. I pull these memories out of my personal failures to punish myself, and to remind myself how much I need grace from God and others. I won’t share all of them, as some are just too painful, but I would like to mention three as personal confession.

  • I gave my best friend’s groom, whom I had JUST MET, the “where will you go when you die” third degree after the rehearsal dinner. I was so convinced she was about to marry a man who was not a Christian, I contemplated not being in her wedding party as protest. Ugh. I was so full of myself. I created so much drama. Shame on me.
  • When I was a newlywed, we committed to support two missionary friends for $50 a month. When our start-up business failed, and we were below the poverty line, we failed to keep this commitment. At that time, I was not in charge of our finances, and I was committed to being a submissive, go-along-with-my-husband’s-leadership type of wife. But, I wish I would have nagged a little harder on this one. I always regret letting this commitment slide, and have felt deeply embarrassed by this deficit.
  • I absolutely hate that I missed being a bridesmaid in my friend Deanna Pan’s wedding. I was traveling a lot at this time in my life, and I knew I had promised I’d be there for her wedding, but I was not diligent to make it happen. I got my dates mixed up, and was in the middle of the Amazon jungle when I should have been wearing a gorgeous red Chinese bridesmaid dress in her honor.

If any of my friends are reading this now, I confess I made a mess of those things. I’m sorry you had to suffer for it.

Confess your sins to each other. James 5:16