Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More on the Thorny Issue in 1 Timothy 2

I recently taught on 1 Tim. 2.11-15. It is a thorny passage that I have commented on before. I began my instruction where I believe all interpreters need to begin when approaching any of Paul’s letters. We have to remember that all of his letters are first and foremost letters to an individual/church in the first century Greco-Roman world. In this case it is a letter from Paul to his representative, Timothy, as he is trying to correct the false teachings of the overseers there at the church Paul founded in Ephesus. That is the first thing we need to keep in mind.

We have to remember that we are dealing with a distance of time, language and culture.

Again, we need to remember the major thrust of the letter that is the correction of false teachers at the church. We see the references in 1.3-7: men teaching false doctrine [myths and genealogies] as well as a faulty understanding of the Torah.
We need to see how these false teachers seemed to target women (perhaps younger widows). In 1 Tim. 5.11-13, we see these young widows being idle, going from house to house, being gossips and busy bodies, saying things that they ought not to. They are encouraged to get married, have children and manage their households. This is if they cannot live a single life devoted to pleasing the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 7). In 2 Tim. 3.1-7 and especially verses 6 and 7, we see false teachers worming their way into weak willed women’s homes. These were women who were always learning but not acknowledging the truth.

Then we turn to Paul’s injunction against women teaching or having authority (or domineering) a man.
Before we come to any consensus on the meaning of this passage, keep in mind also that Ephesus was the center of the worship of Artemis, a fertility cult centered around the goddess Artemis.
Keep also in mind that in verse 8, he had to deal with disruption in the church; this was men who were acting in anger and in quarreling. Then in verses 9-10, he deals with the disruptions caused by the women of Ephesus and their immodest dress.
The question, was this injunction against women leaders and teachers a contextual issue related mostly to Timothy and his community at Ephesus or is this a permanent injunction that Paul lays down for all churches and for all times? How should we interpret this passage today?

More to come...

No comments: