Pondering 1 Timothy 2

From the archives – Summer 2003

(I make no claims to be a Biblical scholar, but this was my honest attempt to understand Scripture by looking at the text itself.)

This morning, I was reading I Timothy 2, the ever so controversial passage since those that argue against women teaching in the church use this passage as grounds for their belief. I myself strive to know the truth about this matter, since I have never reached a firm conclusion on this issue (although I know what I am inclined to believe even if I do not have sufficient “proof”). As a result, I have been very aware of Scriptures pertaining to the roles of men and women and decided to pay especially close attention as I read. During the process, I wrote down some of my thoughts.

I Timothy 2:11
Allow a woman to learn in quietness and submissiveness.

Women are allowed to learn. I’m glad to hear that. Although I’m not completely sure what Paul means by “quietness” and “submissiveness.” Taking a stab at it, I figure that in learning, one should submit to the authority of their teacher. In doing so, one recognizes the credibility of their instructor and postures himself accordingly so that he is ready to receive the knowledge that his teacher will impart. It seems rather ridiculous to think that one would learn from another he feels is deficient in or void of knowledge. A great example of this is when students pay no attention to their professor because they believe they know everything about the subject already. You learn from those who know what you do not know (abstract or concrete) and only if you conform to a posture of humility or submission that recognizes that you are able to learn from another person.

It would be necessary to participate in quietness in order to show respect for the teacher and other learners present. Being disruptive never lends to effective learning and merely proves a distraction. Since Paul didn’t say that Timothy should allow a woman to learn “in silence” but in “quietness,” I would assume that he doesn’t mean that a woman should never speak a word, just that she should remain focused on the task at hand, which is learning in this case.

I Timothy 2:12
I allow no woman to teach (over men). She is to remain in quietness.

Paul does not allow women to teach, but notice what he does not say. He does not say “allow no woman to teach,” but indicates preference in his statement by saying that he does not allow women to teach. Paul does something very similar in I Corinthians 7 when he expresses his perspective on permitting divorce and says that singleness is preferable to marriage. In that particular instance, he further clarifies his position by expressly noting that he is sharing his opinion on the matter and not recounting a direct revelation from the Lord.

It would seem that if a more objective or prescriptive statement was intended, Paul would have said, “Do not allow a woman to teach. . . ” as he does in verse 11 by saying “Allow a woman to learn. . .” So the question I am left with is whether or not Paul really means to say that women should never ever be allowed to teach over men, as some believe is the case.

Due to his omission of other persons, I could assume that Paul only has an issue with allowing a woman to teach over men, but not with her teaching other women and children. However, it seems that quietness does not involve teaching since quietness is given as an alternative behavior to teaching. This seems to be consistent with my earlier definition of what it means to learn in “quietness,” since apparently one cannot “teach in quietness.”

I Timothy 2:13
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.

Reason # 1: Using a colloquialism most of us can relate to, Adam had first dibs on shotgun.

Paul refers to Genesis as his basis for his position. I kept a finger in Timothy and thought I’d flip back there for a quick recap. Back in Genesis 2, we see:

  • Adam was put in charge of the Garden of Eden.
  • He was given the command from God not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
  • He was also given the responsibility of naming each creature.
  • God determined that it wasn’t good for man (Adam) to be alone.
    So after Adam was all tuckered out from naming the animals, God allowed him to fall into a deep sleep, formed woman from a rib in his side, and brought her to him. Adam named her “Woman” because she was “bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh” (Gen 2:23).

There is significance to the fact that Adam was created first, but in relating it to the issue at hand, is it a sufficient reason for Paul not to allow women to teach over men?

I Timothy 2:14

And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman who was deceived and fell into sin.

Reason #2: Ah, yes. The woman led mankind on the path to destruct-o land. Darn that Eve!

The serpent (Satan) approached the woman and questioned her. “Did God really say that you shall not eat from every tree in the Garden?” Wow, what a sneak! This was a good test to see if Eve really knew what God commanded regarding the tree. Test yourself. Can you see the point of contention in the serpent’s statement?

Well, Eve did a fine job of botching it all up. “We may eat of every tree except the tree in the middle of the garden. God said you shall not eat or touch it or you’ll die.” Let’s see. Do any of you remember God saying, “Touch it and die?” Didn’t think so. And gravies, the woman didn’t even mention the tree by its name. We all should have known we were doomed by then.

In the final blow, the serpent questions God’s integrity by telling Eve that she shouldn’t trust Him since He’s out for His own good. So, Eve decides, “Hmm…looks pretty tasty to me,” takes a bite, and then (get this!) passes it on to her husband Adam, who has apparently been there the whole time, and he eats it.

As we all know, this is where the story completely falls apart. Their eyes were opened, etc., etc. They decide to play the blame game when God questions them about what they’ve done: Adam acted like a real weenie and blames God for giving him that cursed (read: cur-sid) woman, the woman blames the serpent for tricking her, and of course the serpent didn’t say a word. The consequences resulted in the fall of mankind and the curse that is responsible for the world as we know it. Boy, when mankind falls, it falls all the way!

So, Back to I Timothy 2
Even after checking into Paul’s sources, I feel like I’m left with more questions than answers. After all, using the fall of mankind as a footnote is kind of huge.

Here are the main points I see in Paul’s argument:

  1. Adam was created before Eve.
  2. Eve was deceived and ate the fruit.
  3. Adam knowingly ate the fruit.

Somehow I don’t find much comfort in the fact that Adam knowingly ate the fruit, where Eve was deceived. I’m not quite convinced that being duped into doing something stupid is worse than knowingly participating in stupid behavior. Is this really sufficient reason for not allowing a woman to teach over men? What else am I left to think after reading Paul’s words?

Is the fact that Adam was created before Eve and given so much responsibility the reason for women not to be entrusted with the responsibility of teaching men?

Should we suppose that women are more susceptible to deception than men and thus should not be in a position to teach over men?

Why doesn’t Paul recognize Adam’s wrong in all of this? He had been given a huge responsibility from God to care for the Garden and for Eve. If we want to play the “He was created first” card, then we must look at all of the implications involved. After all, Eve was bone of Adam’s bone and flesh of his flesh. You’d think he’d be more responsible in taking care of her and would have enough sense not to partake of the fruit too.

If you continue on to I Timothy 3, Paul writes to Timothy about only giving men who are able to keep their own household orderly permission to be bishops and teach. However, let’s review Adam’s scenario: Adam sits next to his wife as she is being deceived by the serpent, doesn’t say a word as she eats the fruit, and then eats it too because his wife hands it to him? Hmm, doesn’t sound like a good role model for these bishops. Perhaps Adam shouldn’t be working on his nomination for bishop anytime soon.

Finally, it’s important to remember that all of the parties involved, Adam, Eve, and the serpent, were punished by God as a result of their actions. Although Eve was “deceived and fell into sin,” Adam knowingly jumped into it (if you will). Doesn’t Paul have a problem with that too?

Well, it doesn’t look like I’ve reached a definitive conclusion on women teaching over men, but I think I’ve asked a lot of good questions in the process. With the help of the Holy Spirit and recognizing Scripture as primary, I know that I will find the truth someday. I’m just glad that God knows what the truth is even if I don’t. All I have to do is keep pursuing the truth and trust that He will reveal it in due time.

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