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.

 

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A young feminist reads 1 Timothy

A young feminist reads 1 Timothy

Recently, my daughter was reading through a certain New Testament book that I knew was going to get her all hot and bothered. I knew that if my little feminist read that letter to a particular young man, she would only see the words written at the end of the second chapter, lose her temper, and then feel confirmed in her impression that her mother was stupid for making her read this archaic, misogynistic nonsense. So, when I saw that this book was next on her  Bible reading chart, I prefaced it with a bit of background, hoping to jump start her critical thinking ahead of her thoughts of criticism.

“Honey, let me give you a little background on why this book was written before you jump in. That way as you read, you can imagine why Paul wrote the things he did.”

“Okay.”

“Because if you isolate Paul’s words from the historical setting and his motivation for writing the words, you’re going to not understand God in the right way.”

“Okay.”

“1 Timothy is a personal letter written to Timothy from Paul. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus when he had to leave it suddenly due to the whole city demonstrating against him for preaching against Artemis.” My avid Greek mythologist perked up at that name. “You remember Artemis?”

“Yeah. She was a hunter and Apollo’s twin. She stood up against men.”

“Yep. She was a virgin, and she refused to consort with men. In Ephesus, they had built a huge temple in her honor. It was bigger than the Parthenon. Inside was a gigantic statue of Artemis, and people from all over the Roman Empire came to Ephesus to worship her. The wealthy Ephesian aristocrats dedicated their young, virgin daughters to serve her. It was very prestigious to be a priestess of Artemis. She was also the goddess of childbirth, not because she gave birth herself, but she was supposed to sympathize with women in labor. Her own mother, Leto, labored for seven days to give birth to Apollo. So, pregnant women prayed to Artemis to help them in childbirth. Half of the women in those times died in childbirth, so Artemis had great power with women. The women would bring her beautiful clothes and dress up to worship her at temple.”

“What does this have to do with Paul and Timothy?”

“The church in Ephesus had people that were teaching the wrong things about God. Paul wanted Timothy to correct that bad teaching. So, Paul gave him specific instructions about how to do that.”

“What does Artemis have to do with God?”

“Exactly. She doesn’t have anything to do with the real God. She is an idol, a made-up story. But, she had a strong influence with the Ephesians, and some were mixing her worship with the Christian worship. Especially the women. Because Artemis had such appeal to women.”

“Okay.”

“So, as you read, just keep in mind the women were influenced by their previous devotion to Artemis, and Paul wanted to clear up that confusion. Jesus is the one, true, living God.”

“Are you done? I want to just get this reading done.”

“Fine.”

…stay tuned.

 

References:
Ames, Frank R. “Appendix One. The Ephesian Social World Providing the Backdrop for Paul’s Teaching in 1 Timothy,” in What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2. By Jon Zens. Lincoln: Ekklesia Press, 2010.
Baugh, Steven M. “Cult Prostitution in New Testament Ephesus: A Reappraisal.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (1999), no. 3: 443-460. 
Glahn, Sandra L. “The First-Century Ephesian Artemis: Ramifications of Her Identity,” Bibliotheca Sacra 172, no. 688 (2015): 450-469. 
Glahn, Sandra L. “The Identity of Artemis in First-Century Ephesus,” Bibliotheca Sacra 172 (July-September 2015): 316-34. 
Oster, Richard E. “Acts 9:23-41 and an Ephesian Inscription.” Harvard Theological Review 77 (1984), no. 2: 233-237. 

 

 

Women in the Text: Creation Order 4

Photo: José A. Warletta

Let’s stretch forward thousands of years. The creation order figures into the Apostle Paul’s letters in a few spots. Those spots are hot beds of patriarchy confusion. Can we look at these passages with “ignorant” eyes and hope for clearer understanding? I doubt it. But, I’ll give it a shot. The texts that reference the creation order are 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11 and  Ephesians 5. I’ll start with 1 Timothy 2.

A bit of understanding

These verses are foundational to hierarchists. Foundational because the Bible is viewed through this lens. It is the starting point for interpreting any passage that references women. These verses are the filter by which understanding of men and women is sifted. In my previous posts, this is the filter I tried to remove to honestly examine if God designed gender roles into the psyche of humans before the fall.

1 Timothy 2

9 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, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Whew, there is a lot to argue about in that passage! Fancy hair, “bling”, quiet women, non-teaching women, the only use of the word authenteō for authority in the Bible, deceived women and women saved by babies! This passage is exceptional…it mentions a number of things that aren’t discussed anywhere else. This makes me reticent to base any major belief on my understanding of it.

The topic for this post is the creation order of genders and roles. The question… is gender authority tied to the creation order or cultural context? I will try to sum one reason why I answer cultural.

Chronological order and deception

Verse 13 says Adam was created first. Yep, he was. Verse 14 links that first formation to what? Authority? Nope. Adam’s  first formation is linked to not being deceived to sin. Does this mean Adam didn’t sin? Nope. It means his sin wasn’t because of deception. His sin was intentional, but that isn’t the point being made in the text.

The implied point (Implying and assuming is where the arguing starts, I realize.) is that Eve’s formation after Adam contributed to her being duped. The deception was due to Eve chronologically arriving later than Adam. This is the reason Paul gives for limiting the role of women in this church. I interpret this reference to the creation order as specific to Adam and Eve’s situation. Eve didn’t witness God’s power as Adam did (Gen 2:8-9;19-23).  Proclivity to deception isn’t hard wired into all women. But Eve was prone to deception because of her immaturity. Just as some women, maybe those Paul is referring to in this letter (1 Tim 2:9-15; 3:11; 4:7; 5:3-16), are limited in understanding and also prone to being deceived and spreading heresy.

I believe Paul uses the chronological creation order in this passage to illustrate proclivity to deception due to limited understanding, not as props for hardwired male authority.

Guard against deception

Paul uses Eve’s particular deception again in 2 Corinthians 11. This time he leaves the creation order out.

I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. 3 But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 4For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.

Paul condemns putting up with another gospel; going along with false teaching. We should not follow Eve’s example regardless of our gender or spiritual maturity.  The only two places Eve is mentioned outside creation, is in context of being easily deceived. And Paul wants us to protect ourselves better than Eve did.

What filter will you use?

We all have our favorite angles. We understand scripture based on what is important to us. Patriarchy supporters use their understanding of the unusual 1 Timothy 2 to interpret gender roles at creation; to dismiss the women leaders in the early church; and compromise the authority-rejecting teaching of Jesus. I don’t. I begin with creation and work through to Jesus, and let that filter my understanding on this passage. What Paul says here will not contradict the truths found at creation and in Christ.

I realize there is much more in this passage related to gender roles, but creation order is relevant to this post.

Previous Creation Order Posts

Creation in Genesis

Headship established at creation?

Last shall be first!

Creation Order and the temptation