Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Wrapping Up (one of) the Thorny Issue(s) in 1 Timothy 2

Back to the verses in 1 Timothy 2.11-12: I do think that Paul is saying “I do not permit a woman to teach or dominate a man.” How do we interpret this verse today? I definitely think that Paul was giving this injunction to the Ephesians because there was a connection between false teaching and women, whether they were targets of false teachers or the propagators of false teaching (or likely both). Is this an Ephesian issue or a universal timeless one?

Let’s look some exemplary women of the New Testament:
Philip’s daughters, Phoebe, Chloe, Euodia and Syncthe, perhaps even Junia (a relative of Paul, who, with her husband Andronicus, was outstanding among the apostles). Were they silent in the churches?
In the context of disruptions in the assembly (1 Corinthians 11-14), Paul discusses women praying and prophesying. Paul, therefore cannot mean that women must remain silent, can he? What about 1 Cor. 14.34-35? It is shameful for a woman to speak in the church? How can she pray and prophesy but not speak? (We’ve already mentioned Philip’s daughters who prophesied).

Once again we cannot divorce Paul’s words from the cultural situation of the writing of Paul’s letter to Timothy. It would have been culturally unacceptable (with some exceptions) for women in the Greco-Roman world and in the Jewish context to teach men in an assembly. There is a quote from the Mishnah (ancient Jewish commentary on the Law) that it would be better to burn the Torah than to instruct a woman. It would have blown everyone's minds if he would have laid down rules encouraging women teachers in the first century. It was just enough that they were encouraged to learn.

If Paul’s injunction against women is universal in 1 Tim. 2.11-12 (and 1 Cor. 14.34-35), then how literally should we carry out the stipulations that women remain silent in the church? Doesn’t that mean that we should have no women giving testimony in the church or even singing in the choir?

No matter how you interpret this verse for your context, I think you need to approach this (and any passage) with extreme humility and with the awareness that you there are cultural barriers, time barriers and language barriers. Again, we also need to remember the occasional nature of Paul’s letters.

Ultimately I think the issue is one of order in the assembly and submission to the proper authority. All of us, men and women alike, need to submit ourselves to Christ’s authority. In accordance with Ephesians 5, there needs to be proper order between husbands and wives. Women are to submit to their husbands as their husbands submit to Christ (and give themselves up for their wives). There are so many household codes in Paul’s writings because the household was both a metaphor for the body of Christ and it was literally the place where the first century church met. Thus, if the church met in homes, there needs to be a proper amount of submission, wives to their husbands, but also all members to their overseers. I think that all members of the assembly who take any kind of leadership positions must be in proper submissive relationships to their overseers. God desires order in the assembly and most of the thorny injunctions from Paul to his churches dealt with disruptions in the churches.

And I didn't even get into the whole "women will be saved through childbearing issue"...

4 comments:

jkyarnell said...

And I didn't even get into the whole "women will be saved through childbearing issue"...

Is that the next post? I'd like to hear your thoughts on that as well. I appreciate you tackling this part of Scripture, it's one of the tough ones that I really haven't come to a conclusion on yet.

I read somewhere that in this passage the close relationship between the words man and woman here imply that it would better be translated husbands and wives. The understanding then is that when the husband is present but the wife is teaching, it undermines the established authority God has placed in the family. Any thoughts on that?

billy v said...

I have heard that, jky, from a credible source. The problem is that the Greek really is ambiguous. That understanding (husband and wife) would fall into my understanding of everyone being in proper submission (to Christ, wives to husbands, members to the overseers).

The MAN Fan Club said...

I'm sure it can be slanted to which ever way you would want it to be.

The MAN Fan Club said...

I'm sure it can be slanted to which ever way you would want it to be.