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. 

 

 

Womanology

Womanology

As I study the subset of anthropology in Systematic Theology, I am disturbed at the lack of placing woman in the scheme of things. If she is addressed it usually is in addendum to man. How did Eve contribute to Adam’s sin? How did woman solve man’s loneliness? There is a general insistence among theologians that man holds the focal point at the center of God’s interaction with humans. Woman is a bit player used to thicken plot and add beauty to the tale.

I am very aware of the fear of feminism in the church. I recently heard the story of a Catholic college that offered a course on the Women in the Bible. The nun teaching the course began her first day by apologizing for not being born with a penis. She spent the entire course upholding women as paragons of power and defied all forms of orthodox anthropology. This flaming rhetoric is at the core of the church’s fear of feminism, and is not what I propose. I admit to being very sensitive to how women fit in the scheme of God’s plan, but isn’t that logical seeing that I am a woman? So, I’m naturally curious about what God had in mind for me? I am also sensitive from years of being taught bad womanology in Sunday School and churches. My “nonsense meter” is often in overdrive. And although I hear my own frustration with patriarchy mirrored in the nun’s apology, I pray the Holy Spirit will temper my rhetoric with grace and truth.

My ideas may seem horribly unorthodox. But as I study, I am realizing that many of our core doctrines are held together by a few clear statements of Scripture and lots of philosophical glue. And often that glue differs from theologian to theologian. Its time to add some more feminine glue to that pile. She is there holding things together even if the scholarly world neglects to recognize her.

Have you found any female theologians that have explored womanology? Please share.

Re-posted Rant on Unity

Graceful Election

Have you ever had a shift of purpose? A time when your actions didn’t change, but YOU did? And then it seems EVERYTHING changes? When I was in college, I had one of these shifts. I was raised a Christian. I know I had that child-like faith that saves. But, I didn’t KNOW Jesus. Jesus, to me, was something I did. I chose Him. I learned about Him. I did good things for Him. I didn’t do bad things for Him.

In college, I read the Bible myself and BELIEVED it. In the middle of that avid reading, I fell in love with doctrine. Not because it was something more I could know, but because I wanted to know more about WHO God is because of Him. One doctrine in particular smacked me hard. God chose me. I wasn’t taught election (If I was, I don’t remember it.) by people or books. I found it myself in the words of Jesus. I knew Jesus loved me. I believed He is the Son of God. But the understanding that He knew me and wanted ME transformed my life. Grace.  Outwardly, I still acted Christian. But because my understanding had shifted, I REALLY acted Christian. Does that make sense?

It was no longer duty, it was love. My actions pointed at God because they were birthed in thoughts of God, not thoughts of self. That’s love. Other-orientation. Self forgetfulness. Funny how grace does that. Humans would reason why God deserves our choice. God gives freely regardless of our choice. Reason won’t transform a soul. Free grace does.

Lovely Submission

Submission is another shift of motive. For years, I submitted to my husband because my mom submitted to dad. Crazy as this sounds, I was kinda competing with her. My husband didn’t help. He’d ask, “Why can’t you treat me like your mom does your dad?” And no, I wasn’t wise enough to NOT answer that. lol. Submission was about how I behaved. It was self focused. I wanted to be the best submissive wife for my husband that I could be! There was love involved. I love him. But for many years, we were both a mess because we were  pointing our actions, that were supposed to be wrapped up in the other, back at ourselves. A manipulation dance. I’ll “love” her so I can get my way. I’ll “submit” so he’ll love me and let me get my way. You know what I mean.

BUT. I changed. My husband did too, but he’s not writing. So I’ll tell you how I changed. I didn’t become more or less submissive. Submission just wasn’t my purpose. This was: loving him, hanging out with him, learning to like what he liked, seeing him as a legitimate other that I could intimately know as well as I knew myself.  (If this sounds like I have it all together, don’t be fooled.  I SO don’t.) I was no longer focused on MY submission, I was focused on HIM.

How did this happen?

In the same way the grace-filled doctrine of election made me choose Jesus all over again in love, equality (not fighting for it, but a genuine belief I am on the same spiritual level as men) taught me submission. I no longer HAD to submit. I wanted to.

A recent email to me put it like this:

“As I think about how I’ve been steeped in “godly womanhood,” I realize that I have told myself over and over to accept that my husband is somehow automatically more… ummmm something, what’s the word? Responsible to God? than I am.  That God would choose to talk to and direct our family through him.  I am so used to that idea.  The very idea of God seeing my husband and me as standing side by side accountable as a team in mutual submission and Him seeing me as equally accountable/valuable/usable is at once, exciting and terrifying.

My actions look the same but I serve my husband first simply because I LOVE HIM and I am choosing to be second to him NOT out of duty or rank.  I am honoring HIM not his position. Holy Crap.  That is so radical when you think about it.

It’s blowing my mind to think of the implications of taking the duty and rank out of the equation.  It’s causing me to wonder, did Christ come out of duty or simply love?”

I love how she says “I am honoring him, not his position.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told as a wife that I am submitting to the position, my head. Gah, I don’t care about that! I want to submit to the man I love! Because I love him, not because he has authority over me.

Unity, Equality and Luv

Jesus enjoys equality with the Father. If he doesn’t, becoming submissive while on earth was no big deal. Rather like a lead angel. It was BECAUSE of His equality, that He proved his love by refusing to claim his equal rights. And that’s not paying lip-service to equality. Jesus is God, not some lesser form of God, not now or ever. There is no hierarchy in the trinity; no inherent superiority or responsibility or authority of the Father over the Son, or the Son over the Spirit. They are one. And they love each other.

This equal love; this setting aside of personal rights; this other-focus; this self-forgetfulness; this unity; this is the marriage God calls us to enjoy. There is no danger to the gospel in this. This is gospel.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ~John 17

A little confession

I am pretty lazy.

That might be a bombshell for everyone but my mother and a few sisters. I hide it well. But I notice my lazy streak flaring up in my daughter. She takes the easiest route. She leaves things half done. She does her work as quick as she can (translation: poorly and messy) so she can relax. She does not jump into new projects with enthusiasm, because she is counting how much work it will involve. In other words…a mini-me.

I’ve been wondering if my old complementarian position was influenced by my inclination to take the easiest route? I can remember many times saying something like this. “Once you understand God’s plan for wife’s submission, things become so much easier!” And truly, it did. It was easier to do let my brain numb up when his arguments sounded convincing rather than research for a few hours to counter them. It was so much easier to let him take the blame for our failures, because I was “submitting.” I was doing the complementarian “duck and let God hit him” manuever. The trouble was, I was getting whacked as well! Not only in the pain of living with past mistakes, but in burying my talent in the ground and ignoring it…in other words, being lazy.

No so anymore. I’m still submitting, but it looks very different. And dangit! It’s more work! I realize I have a responsibility to present my viewpoint and apply my rationale to decisions. I can no longer “check out” as my lazy nature likes to do. I believe our decisions will be stronger and better when I work at them, too. And I believe wholeheartedly God wants me to dig up that talent I buried out of laziness – disguised as “wifely submission” – and start investing in the path our life will take.

Recently, that means working at understanding legalize and crunching numbers…ick! Many times, I admit it’s too much for me. I ask for the same clarification over and over. That stuff won’t stay in my random access memory! I want to give up and let him do all the work. It is here I recognize how wifely submission fit well with my lazy streak.  I wasn’t necessarily submitting to him, but to my own pleasure!

There was a reason God created male AND female, and it wasn’t so men would always have a servant to care for them. But, because together, they are one. I am trying hard to not let my laziness create an imbalance this time around.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them.
male and female he created them.Genesis 1:27

Last year was a Proverbs 31 kinda year.

Ever honest, I am. So, here’s some truth from this stage of my life.

I detest (that sounds too harsh) do not care for small children. Yes, I do have three of them. And yes, I do love them, but I do not enjoy being with them all day. I informed my husband that a nanny would probably raise our children better than I was. I think he agreed.

Many times last year, I found myself in Proverbs 31. No, not the end. The beginning.

Let beer be for those who are perishing,  wine for those who are in anguish!  Let them drink and forget their poverty  and remember their misery no more.

Ever biblical, I am.

Bottoms up! Here’s to forgetting!

In all seriousness…I’ve only heard one sermon on this passage, and like 3 billion about super woman at the end. How come?

I’ll explore it next.

Be careful what you say

It is so easy to speak harshly of those who believe differently than you.

I have entered what Brian McLaren calls the third stage of faith: perplexity. Everyone has an opinion. Who knows what is right? And I’m slowly shifting to the fourth: Harmony/Humility. Love God. Love Others.

My thoughts

As I begin a new Bible study group this fall studying the Pentateuch, I’ve considered this week how to handle Genesis 1-2. Did God create in a literal week? Did He use evolution? Why was woman created? What is the creation mandate for marriage?

I know how I used to teach these things. What is the right way for today? How will I react when someone differs, or passionately clings to their understanding and condemns mine? Will I bristle at the labels: biblical, clear teaching, plain meaning and traditional? Can I express the liberal truth of inclusion in a humble way? I know what I used to think of those who believe like I do now…can I take the judgement myself?

Science and faith

History astonishes me. Because we usually repeat it.

Everyone once believed the earth was the center of our solar system. Why? Because the Bible said so. The world cannot be moved. It is firm and secure. It is held by strong pillars. (Psalm 93:1 Psalm 96:10 Psalm 104:5 Job 9:6 Psalm 75:3 1 Samuel 2:8) Science was proving the earth revolved around the sun. But because that “theory” went against the “clear” teaching of Scripture, that theory must be condemned as un-biblical and wrong. The people who believed it were accused of being in sin, rebellious and anti-God.

 “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.'” `John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72  (Read the whole article here.)

Sound familiar? Evolution, genetics, brain chemistry and homosexuality are being probed by science. Does the science match our understanding of “clear” biblical teaching? If not, how do we respond? Like Calvin? I know I have…

…but now, I am humbled by my ignorance. And I am motivated to understand more. I am cautious about dogmatics. And I hope to love those in a different stage than I am with kindness, patience and sometimes simple silence. It is better to be quiet than to argue, namecall, or  condemn.

Simple silence

It is so hard.