Important note: The author requests that you do not read this article unless you have already read all previous articles in this extended paper on Women in the Church. The previous articles provide the over-arching biblical parameters within which this article is written. 

CONCEPT FOURTEEN: LOOKING AT THE TEXTS

© Rosemary Bardsley 2005, 2015

In this chapter I have not specifically outlined the traditional interpretations of the texts; I assume that the reader is familiar with those; what I have done is to suggest possible alternative understandings based on the context and the text. Most of these suggestions of alternative interpretations are not gleaned from other books or teachers, but are based on the possibilities inherent in the text and the context when the text and context are approached without presuppositions.

Preliminary note: The interpretation of these texts is rendered more complex than appears from the English text. The same Greek word [aner] is used for man [as distinct from woman] and for husband. And the same Greek word [gune] that translates as woman [as distinct from man], also translates as wife. There is no other noun for ‘woman’. [Note: that while Vine maintains that aner is never used to refer to people generally, Bagster’s Analytical Greek Lexicon maintains that it is used to refer to people generally on occasion.]

In the two passages in question, 1Corinthians 14:34,35 and 1Timothy 2:11,12, therefore, it is not necessarily clear if Paul is giving instructions to wives in relation to their husbands, or to women in relation to men.

There is another word, anthropos, that usually refers to man [human beings] as distinct from animals, and is used to refer to people generally irrespective of sex. This word is not used in either passage.


A. 1CORINTHIANS 14:33-35

A.1 The context
The immediate context of the verses in question is the context of orderliness in church gatherings.

From verse 26 to verse 40 Paul’s subject is the maintenance of some kind of order in the church gathering.

The context of coming together is mentioned in verse 26.

While brothers are addressed in verse 26, we cannot legitimately conclude from this that only men were involved. For one thing, 1Corinthians 11:5 indicated that women were praying and prophesying. For another, Paul frequently addresses to ‘brothers’ things that he says that are equally applicable to and equally true for both men and women.

Everything that is done must edify [build up] the church [26]

To keep the gathering orderly Paul gives instructions about speaking in languages [26-28]   

If anyone speaks in a different language they must speak one at a time

No more than two or three must speak in other languages
Someone must interpret
If there is no interpreter they must keep quiet in the gathering and just talk to themselves and to God

To keep everything orderly Paul also instructs ‘prophets’ [29-32]

Only two or three are to speak
Everyone else should weigh up what they say
There should not be two speaking at the same time.
The whole point is that everyone can be taught and encouraged
Their spirits are subject to them. [The inference being they mustn’t lose control – they should know when to sit down and shut up.]

God is not a God of disorder but of peace [33]

Everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way [40]

A.1.1 What is Paul trying to achieve in the context?
The relevant questions here are: 

What is this disorder that Paul wants to eliminate?
And what is this peace and order that he wants to encourage?

[1] Whatever it is, the purpose of it is that the church will be strengthened (built up, edified, confirmed) [26], instructed (will be taught, will learn) and encouraged (comforted, consoled, exhorted) [31].

[2] He is trying to eliminate the verbal/audio disorder caused by

More than one person speaking at a time [27, 30,31]
People saying things which no one can understand [27,28]
Too many people contributing to the service [27,29].
People getting carried away so they don’t know when to stop [32]

Note that this is not the disorder of cultural or religious inappropriateness, but the disorder of confusion – an audio overload that makes it impossible to concentrate on any one thing. The Greek word used in verse 33 – God is not the author of ‘disorder’ [NIV, GNB, NEB], ‘confusion’ [KJV] – is akatastasia, which literally is ‘not according to stability’.  It means: a state of disorder, disturbance, confusion, tumult. [A contemporary equivalent: when the worship leader is saying something at the same time as the singers and congregation are singing something else; or, when the worship leader is praying and the pianist plays a well known hymn tune that automatically brings its words to mind. The mind can only focus on one set of verbal stuff at one time. If we try to think and focus on both our minds are confused and we lose both.] Note: A woman standing up and taking her turn to speak in the manner instructed in verses 26-33 would not cause this kind of confusion or disturbance.

[3] It is peace and order:

Brought about by the prophets keeping their spirits under their control [32] – hupostasso – under obedience, subdued, subjected.

Peace [33] – eirenes - normal word for peace, quietness, rest.

That happens when everything is done in a fitting way [40] – ‘decently’ [KJV]. The Greek word is euschemonos – ‘beautiful form’. [Vines: ‘gracefully, becomingly].

That happens when every thing is done in ‘an orderly way’ [40] – by arrangement, in due order in contrast to confusion.

Again, this peace and order is that of due control and arrangement, contrasting with confusion, not with religious or cultural inappropriateness.

A.2 1Corinthians 14:34

Transliteration of Greek text:

‘The women [or wives] in the gatherings [or churches] let them keep [or be] silent [or hold their peace] for it is not permitted [allowed] to them to speak [talk, utter]; but let them be under obedience [or subdued] as the law says.’  

‘Women’ – yunaikes - could mean ‘women’ or ‘wives’.

should remain silent’ – sigatosan. Can also mean ‘hold their peace’, or ‘should be silent’. Present tense. Imperative mood. This is the same instruction given to a person speaking another language with no interpreter present. This is the regular word for silence. [A different word used in 1Timothy 2:11,12.]

in the churches’ – is a reference to the gatherings referred to in verse 26. Just the ordinary word for ‘church’ – ekklesiais [plural].

They are not allowed’ – literally ‘it is not permitted to them’. [The word – epitrepo - occurs nineteen times in the New Testament. Of these at least 15 refer to things being permitted, or requests for things to be permitted, that are either unexpected or exceptions to the norm. If this has any significance to this verse and to 1Timothy 2:12, then the possibility exists that in stating his denial of permission in these two verses Paul is stating something that is specific to the circumstances to which he was writing.]   

to speak’. Just the normal word for the physical act of talking or speaking. Used over 1000 times in the NT in both formal and informal contexts. Does not necessarily refer to ‘speaking publicly’. Could legitimately be understood as an instruction to women not to talk to each other or to their husbands in such a way as to disturb and bring disorder into the worship service, preventing others form hearing the word of God. Such an interpretation would fit readily into the context.  This is also a possibility in the light of the information given in the previous section about cultural questions.

‘but’  is the stronger of the two Greek ‘buts’, setting up a contrast between what Paul has just said and what he is going to say.

‘must be in submission’ – same word used in 32 for spirits of prophets subject to the prophets’ control. The word ‘control’ is not in the Greek text of that verse. In 32 it is the prophets themselves who are in authority over their own spirits. Here in relation to the women, there is no immediate identification of who they are to ‘be in submission’ to. The Greek verb – hupotasso – is the verb commonly translated by ‘be subject to’ in the KJV. In the New Testament it is used, for example,  in the context of the child Christ in relation to his parents [Luke 2:51]; the submission of the evil spirits to Christ’s disciples [Luke 10:17]; everything being under Christ’s feet [1Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:22]; our submission to God [James 4:7]; and in every passage speaking of the submission of wives to husbands [see table below for an extended list]. The hupo means ‘under’; ‘tasso’ is a verb meaning ‘arrange’, the related noun means ‘anything placed in order’. This being in ‘submission’ is being subject to the appropriate order or arrangement. Whatever the silence and not speaking are, they are an expression of ‘submission’, that is, of living under a prescribed order or arrangement.

The three possibilities before us here are

[1] a simple maintenance of order rather than confusion in the church meeting;

[2] under the authority of the male leadership of the church, or

[3] under the control of her husband.

Whatever option we choose the bottom line is that women are not to be out of control. This parallels the instructions given to the people who speak in other languages and to the prophets that they must do so within the prescribed order. [Grammatical note: ‘must be in submission’ translates a single Greek word. The verb is imperative mood (a command), and middle voice (something the women have to do to themselves, not something done to them); it is also present tense, indicating a continuing, on-going action.]

as the Law says’. This puzzles scholars. The only reference I have seen referred to by various scholars is Genesis 3:16 ‘he shall rule over you.’ The problem with this is that verse 34 does is not talking specifically about a wife’s subjection to her husband’s rule but to an instruction about her conduct in church gatherings. In addition, Genesis 3:16 is not a command, but a statement of God’s judgement. It is in the Books of the Law, but it is not a command to be obeyed. There are however, several scriptures commending the value of a woman who knows when to talk and when not to talk. These are mostly in Proverbs, but that does not exclude this interpretation because the whole Old Testament is sometimes referred to as ‘the Law’.

A.3 1Corinthians 14:35
Here we have perhaps the kind of talking that Paul is telling the women not to do in church gatherings.

but if’ - In the Greek this verse begins with ‘but if’ [not the strong ‘but’, but still a ‘but’.] The if is not the if of uncertainty [if it does not rain we’ll have a picnic tomorrow], but the if that means something like since or seeing that [biblical example - the tempter came to Jesus and said 'If you are the Son of God, tell these stones ... Matthew 4:3] – so that Paul is assuming that there will be things the women are not understanding, and about which they want to learn the answers, and instructs them to wait till they get home to ask their husbands.

The woman is forbidden to discuss and talk about the messages during the church meeting, but if she wants to ‘inquire about something’ – literally ‘learn anything’ – that is, if she wants to learn or understand [same verb translated ‘be instructed’ in NIV in verse 31; it’s the verb related to mathetes - ‘disciple/learner/student’] she should question [‘ask’ in NIV] her husband at home. The verb translated ‘ask’ is an intensified form of the normal verb for ask. It can mean inquire, interrogate, demand.

Here we have a woman who wants to learn something – a commendable thing. Perhaps she heard something in the meeting that she doesn’t understand; rather than disturb the meeting by asking about it there and then, she should wait to ask her husband at home. [A woman who was actually capable of giving a message in the meeting would not normally be a woman who would have questions to ask her husband, but the women here being commanded to be silent and under submission are women who understand so little that they are bursting with questions they want answered.]

[This need of the women, and the need for this instruction, is consistent with the cultural considerations looked at earlier.]

‘it is disgraceful’ – ‘it is a shame’ – the word strictly means ‘deformed’, is the opposite of ‘good, beautiful’, and came to mean, metaphorically, indecent, dishonourable, or indecorous. It would create confusion that Paul has been speaking against since verse 26.

to speak’ – same word as in 34.

in the church’ – literally ‘in gathering [church meeting]’. [But often simply refers to believers.]

Summary: While the traditional interpretation can be sustained by the text and the context, there is also much to indicate that it is not the only textually valid interpretation. Paul could be simply telling the women not to talk in the meetings because he wants everyone to be able to hear the messages being given. The broader context 26-40 would support this option.


B. 1TIMOTHY 2:11-12

B.1 The context
The context is traditionally assumed to be about church gatherings. The usual word for ‘church’ [ekklesia] is mentioned only in 1Timothy 3:5,15 and 5:16. This use of the word ‘church’ does not automatically refer to a church gathering; rather, it frequently refers to the believers – the people who belong to the church of Jesus Christ, called out of the world by him to be his own people. The usual word for coming or gathering together [sunerchomai] is not used at all in this letter. The only thing that would suggest that the context of 1Timothy 2:11,12 is about conduct within the church gathering is that the whole letter contains instructions to Timothy in his role as overseer of the church, and that in chapter 3 he gives instructions about the appointment of church officials. However, much of the rest of the letter refers to the general conduct outside of church gatherings. There is clearly no textual reason to limiting the context to church gatherings. The NIV heading ‘instructions on worship’ is merely a human addition based on interpretative presuppositions.

Specific points arising from the context:

The command that prayers should be made for everyone is not gender specific, nor, as pointed out earlier, is it regularly obeyed today in church meetings. There is nothing in the context to indicate that this is only prayer in church meetings.

The command in verse 8 is gender specific. Men, [or husbands] as distinct from women [or wives], are to ‘lift up holy hands in prayer’. Where are they to do it? ‘in every place’ . Some interpret ‘in every place’ to mean ‘in every church’, but that is not what the text says. Note, this instruction about lifting hands when one prays, is not obeyed or applied literally or universally within the church today, but interpreted relevant to the theological or cultural environment of the local church.

Then we have to ask ‘what does “lifting up holy hands” mean?’ Is it just a reduplication of the command to pray, or does it have its own significance?

In Hebrew poetry the lifting of hands is parallel [or equivalent to] the following:

Crying to God for mercy [Psalm 28:2]*
Calling to God for help [Psalm 28:2]*
Praising God [Psalm 63:4]*
Meditating on God’s decrees [Ps 119:48* – parallels ‘lift up my hands to your commands’]
Praising the Lord [134:2]+
Prayer [Psalm 141:2* – where prayer is also likened to the offering of incense, and the lifting up of hands is likened to the evening sacrifice.]
Pouring out your heart like water [Lamentations 2:19]+
A turning to God in confession and repentance [Lamentations 3:41]+

We see in this Hebrew parallelism that the lifting of hands refers to a wide range of prayer type activities. Those marked * appear to be private individuals, those marked + are corporate prayer.

Note that the prayer of the men [or husbands] is with holy hands. Is Paul just using a form of speech or religious form? Or is he pointing to the holy lifestyle that should characterize Christian men [husbands]? And their ‘holy hands’ are symbolic of a whole life committed to God? This is the only place in the Bible where the phrase ‘holy hands’ occurs, so we have no clear point of reference. The fact that ‘without anger or disputing’ follows, could indicate here that Paul is commanding a certain lifestyle of the men. Prayer is commanded, but it must come out of a life without anger or disputes [the word – dialogismos – is used in all of its 14 New Testament occurrences to refer to evil or negative thoughts, such as those of the Pharisees when they were rejecting and disputing the teaching and authority of Christ. This command is against praying with thoughts that fight against the truth.]

The questions raised above are difficult to answer with any certainty, but they do have bearing on how we approach the verses that follow. If this instruction is not given in relation to activities in the church gathering, then we have to think twice before assuming that verses 11 and 12 are referring to what happens in a church gathering.

Verse 9 -10 – instructions about women’s [or wives’] clothing, hairdos, jewellery, lifestyle. This command is introduced by the word ‘hosautos’ – which means ‘in the same way’ – comparing whatever Paul has said regarding the piety and attitude of the men [or husbands] to the piety and attitude he is about to require of the women [or wives]. If husbands [men] have to exhibit a certain acceptable lifestyle, so too do women.

They are to adorn [‘decorate’] themselves with modesty, decency and propriety, and not with flashy hairdos, or expensive jewellery or clothes, but ‘with good deeds’ as fitting for women who claim to worship God.

Thus we have both men [or husbands] and women [or wives] given instructions about the kind of lifestyle that should accompany their Christian faith. There is no textual evidence for limiting these instructions to behaviour in church gatherings, or for reference to church gatherings at all. In fact the instructions given to women are certainly applicable to the whole of a woman’s life, not just the couple of hours she spends ‘at church’.


B.2 1Timothy 2:11
‘A woman [or wife] should learn in quietness and full submission’.

‘a woman’ – gune – translates either ‘woman’ or wife’

Note the transition from plural to singular. This supports the interpretation that takes this passage out of the context of the church meeting and into the Christian home.

‘Should learn’ – from manthano – [same verb as in 1Corinthians 14:31,35 – it means to learn.]

‘in quietness’ – hesuchia – ‘tranquillity, stillness, quietness, silence, undisturbed and undisturbing, desistance from bustle or language’. Used only in 1Timothy 2:2,11,12; Acts 22.2; and 2Thessalonians 3:12; 1Peter 3:4. [See extended note in B.3 below.] This is a different word from that used in 1Corinthians 14:34. There the word referred to the absence of sound. Here the word is fundamentally a quietness of spirit issuing from an inner state.

‘and full submission’ – en pase hupotagepase = ‘all’. Hupotage is the noun related the verb hupotasso used in 1Corinthians 14:34. [See table below].

Both the ‘quietness’ and the ‘full submission’ describe the way the woman/wife [singular] is to learn. In other words, this woman/wife who is addressed in verse 11 is a woman who is learning.

Below is a chart listing the use of the noun and verb for ‘submission’ and ‘submit’ in the NT. Note that in the two passages under question, which are traditionally applied to women being in submission to male leadership in the formal church gatherings, it is not specified to whom women are to be in submission. All other references to women in submission are about wives submitting to their own husbands. Note also that there are a number of other aspects of submission commanded, but these do not get the attention that the question of the submission of women is given. One might well ask ‘Why not?’ and ‘Why does the women’s submission/man’s authority in the church get the amount of attention that it does?’ There are, for instance, much clearer commands that Christians should submit to government rules, and clear commands that all Christians should submit to one another. Little attention, and no enforcement is given to them.

Ref Italics = hupotasso [verb] or hupotage [noun] Who submits to whom
Luke 2:51 ‘he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them’ Christ to his parents
Luke 10:17[+20] ‘even the demons submit to us in your name’ Demons to disciples
Romans 8:7 ‘It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so’ Sinful mind to God’s law [negative]
Romans 8:20 ‘For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of him who subjected it’ Creation subjected to frustration by God
Romans 10:3 ‘they did not submit to God’s righteousness’ Jews to God’s righteousness

Romans 13:1

[+ 5]

‘Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities’ Everyone to governing authorities
1 Cor. 14:32 ‘The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets’ Prophets’ spirits to prophets
1 Cor. 14:34 ‘women … must be in submission’ Women. To whom not identified.
1 Cor. 15:27-28 [x5] ‘For he has put everything under his feet’ All things to Christ
1 Cor. 15:28 ‘the Son himself will be made subject to him’ Son to Father
1 Cor. 16:16 submit to such as these and to everyone who joins in the work and labours at it’ Christians to Christian workers
2 Cor. 9:13 ‘men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel’ Christians to the gospel
Galatians 2:5 ‘We did not give in to them for a moment’ Paul to Judaisers [negative]
Eph. 1:22 ‘And God placed all things under his feet’ All things to Christ’s feet
Eph. 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ’ All believers to one another
Eph. 5:22 ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord’ Wives to husbands.
Eph. 5:24 ‘Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives [should submit – not in Greek text] to their husbands …’

Church to Christ

Wives to husbands

Phil. 3:21 ‘who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control …’ Everything to Christ
Col. 3:18 ‘Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord’ Wives to husbands
1 Tim. 2:11 ‘A woman should learn in quietness and full submission’ Women. To whom not identified.
1 Tim. 3:4 ‘he must … see that his children obey him with proper respect’ Children to father
Titus 2:5 to be subject to their husbands’ Wives to husbands
Titus 2:9 ‘Teach slaves to be subject to their masters’ Slaves to masters
Titus 3:1 ‘Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities …’ People to authorities
Hebrews 2:5 ‘It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come’ World to come [to Christ]
Heb. 2:8 [x3] ‘and put everything under his feet … ’ Everything to man
Heb. 12:9 ‘How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live’ Us to God.
James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God’ Us to God
1Peter 2:13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men’ Us to government
1Peter 2:18 ‘slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect’ Slaves to masters
1Peert 3:1 ‘Wives … be submissive to your husbands’ Wives to husbands
1Peter 3:5 ‘’the holy women of the past … were submissive to their husbands’ Women to husbands
1Peter 3:22 ‘with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him’ Angels etc to Christ
1Peter 5:5 ‘Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older’ Young men to older men.

 


B.3 1Timothy 2:12

‘I do not permit a woman [or ‘wife’] to teach or to have authority over a man [or ‘husband’]; she must be silent’ –

‘I do not permit’ – ouk epitrepo – same verb as in 1Corinthians 14:34.

‘a woman’ – gunaiki – [dative singular form of gune] can be translated ‘a wife’ or ‘a woman’. Same word is used for either.

‘to teach’ – present infinitive of didaskein – normal word for ‘teach’, with the meaning of ‘give instruction’. Almost always in NT used in reference to teaching in a small or large group context, in the synagogue, in the temple, in the streets or in other places. It is used in one definite individual context [of the Father teaching the Son – John 8:28] and in one context where both individual and group instruction are valid [Colossians 3:16]. In this latter reference, unless we are going to exclude women from a lot of NT instructions, this refers equally to men and to women – ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom …’

[Note: The way this verse is written in the Greek is: ‘to teach a woman I do not permit, nor to have authority over men.’  Literally, Paul is not saying he does not permit a woman to teach a man; he is saying he does not permit a woman to teach. The positioning of the verb ‘teach’ at the beginning of the sentence puts the focus on it. The word ‘man’ is in the genitive case, which frequently follows verbs relating to ‘ruling’; the word ‘teach’ on the other hand, requires a noun in the objective case. This of course intensifies the question – so that the question, if this is applied to the church situation, is not ‘should a woman teach when a man is present?’ but ‘should a woman teach anybody at all?’ And immediately we have any number of problems, for the scripture elsewhere commands all and sundry to teach, and there are obviously women with a gift of teaching. Note also that both ‘woman’ and ‘man’ are singular.]

‘or to have authority over’ – present infinitive of  authentein – this is the only occurrence of this verb [in any of its forms] in the New Testament. The related noun [not occurring in the NT] is authentes – which is a combination of auto – ‘self’, and hentes, an obsolete noun meaning ‘worker’.

The following list of the use of authentein in secular Greek literature from the centuries before, after and contemporary with the NT is sourced from a currently inactive website:

To rule, to reign sovereignly

To control, to dominate

to compel, to influence someone/thing
middle voice: to be in effect, to have legal standing
hyperbolically: to domineer/play the tyrant
to grant authorization

To act independently

to assume authority over
to exercise one’s own jurisdiction
to flout the authority of

To be primarily responsible for or to instigate something

To commit murder

It would seem that those interpreting this word in 1Timothy 2:12 make their choice from these possibilities on the basis of the viewpoint they already hold regarding women in ministry.

‘a man’ [or husband] – andros – [genitive singular from aner – man/husband’].
 
‘But’ – alla – the strong ‘but’ setting up a contrast. [Not in NIV]

 ‘she must’ – einai – present infinitive of ‘to be’. Literal meaning ‘to be’. What the Greek is saying is literally, irrespective of what the words actually mean, ‘I do not permit a woman/wife to teach or to rule a man/husband, but to be silent’. There is no ‘must’ in the Greek text.

‘silent’ – dative, literally ‘in silence’ - hesuchia – same word as in verse 11. The related verb is hesuchazo; the related adjective hesuchios. The meaning is ‘tranquillity, stillness, quietness, silence, undisturbed and undisturbing, desistance from bustle or language’; or, according to Vine ‘tranquillity arising from within, causing no disturbance to others’. The other uses of these words in scripture are:

Luke 14:4 – they remained silent
Luke 23:56 – they rested on the Sabbath
Acts 11:18 – they made no further objections
Acts 21:14 – we gave up
Acts 22:2 – they became very quiet
1Thessalonians 4:11 – Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life
2Thessalonians 3:12 – such people we command … to settle down
1Timothy 2:2 – that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
1Peter 3:4 – their [beauty] should be … the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit

This ‘silence’ that is commanded of the wife/woman is not primarily focused on the absence of words but on the presence of a peaceful, quiet inner attitude. There is in this ‘silence’, or more accurately, this ‘quietness’ of the woman/wife a peacefulness under the leadership of the man/husband.


B.4 1Timothy 2:13-15
When we move into the verses immediately following we are taken right back to the original husband/wife situation. They are connected to what preceded by the word ‘for’ in the Greek text. It explains why Paul has given his instructions in verses 11 and 12.

The woman/wife is not to be the leader, but to peacefully accept the leadership of the man/husband, because:

Adam was created first, and
Eve was the one deceived.

Here we have both the creation factor and the sin factor brought into Paul’s argument.

The creation factor: That leadership of the husband that was simply there in Genesis 1 and 2 without being specifically mentioned, and which was automatic not commanded, is the basic fundamental reason why the woman/wife is to be tranquil under the authority of the man/husband, rather than trying to boss the man/husband about.

The sin factor: The reference to Genesis 3 is instructive. Paul elsewhere [e.g. Romans 5:12-21] holds Adam responsible for the entry of sin into the world, and sees Adam as the representative head of the human race in terms of sin and sinning, yet he here  states that ‘Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.’ Why is Paul here blaming Eve rather than Adam as he does in Romans? In Genesis 3 both Adam and Eve were out of the Biblical order. In verse 17 God said to Adam ‘Because you have listened to your wife and ate from the tree…’.  

The sequence of events in Genesis:

2:17 – God instructed Adam not to eat from the tree [Eve was not yet created]

At some unmentioned point Adam or God told Eve about this prohibition [in Genesis 3:2-3 Eve obviously knew about it]

3:1-6a Eve listened to the serpent rather than listening to God and/or Adam

3:6b Eve gave the fruit to Adam, obviously encouraging him to eat it [3:17], and he ate it.

What went wrong?

Eve rejected the authority of both God and Adam and acted independently

Adam, rather than leading by example and by verbally re-affirming the command of God, allowed himself to be persuaded by the words and example of his wife.

Eve acted out the role of the leader; Adam acted out the role of the follower.

It is this inversion of the Biblical order that Paul is striving to avoid by the instructions he gave to Timothy. It is not that Paul is forbidding women/wives to speak; rather he is commanding them to have that kind of quiet, peaceful spirit that willingly accepts the Biblical order for the husband/wife relationship, and that does not seek to upset that status quo by verbally haranguing their husbands, or verbally persuading them to act contrary to the word of God.

Verse 15 is rather enigmatic. It seems to be quite unrelated to the context, except by its reference to the Genesis 3 curse on the woman – pain in child bearing.  Here the culture of Ephesus could be instructive. In the previous study, it was noted that Artemis [Diana] was believed to be the protector of women in childbirth. Perhaps Paul, aware that some Christian women in Ephesus were former worshippers of Artemis, and had previously depended on her for safety in childbirth, now needed to know that the true God they now professed to worship [verse10] could keep them safe through the process of childbirth.

But if the worship of Artemis was in Paul’s mind when he wrote verse 15, it is also possible that the worship of Artemis was also in Paul’s mind when he wrote the previous passages. If it was, then it is quite significant, for, as noted in the previous study, Artemis held men in disdain, wore men’s clothing, was aggressive towards any males who thought they were better than she was, and rejected stereotyped gender roles. In this context Paul is calling the Christian women and men to embrace the Biblical definitions of the male and female roles.

Conclusions about 1Timothy 2:11-12:
Traditionally these verses have been understood to refer to what goes on in the context of church gatherings and church order: women are not to teach; women are not to be in authority.

If we put aside that historic presupposition, which is not necessitated by anything in the text, it is possible, and not contrary to the text or context, to understand these verses as instructions concerning wives and husbands, and not referring to specifically to order in the church.

Once we see this possibility we can also see a similarity between this passage and Peter’s instructions in 1Peter 3:1-6. There Peter instructs women to cultivate an inner quietness and an inner beauty, rather than pummelling their husbands with words or dazzling them with external adornment.  

 

If the reader chooses, after all, to see these two passages as still prohibiting women in teaching or authority roles within the church, that particular also, should be held and applied, only within the boundaries and dictates of the larger all-embracing truths culled from the scriptures and detailed in the first eleven concepts of this paper.