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Lesson Six: Women and the Assembly in Ephesus

Women Serving God: Wednesday Evening Study Series
John Mark Hicks and Mark Manassee
March 3, 2004

Women and the Assembly: 1 Timothy 2:8-15



I. Text: 1 Timothy 2:8-15 (NIV)


Prayer

I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Teaching

A woman should learn in quietness (silence, NRSV) and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

Rationale and/or Illustration

For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women (she, NRSV, Greek) will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety (modesty, NRSV).


II. Exegetical Questions

A. Contextual Questions for 1 Timothy 2:8-15.


1. Why does Paul write this letter to Timothy?

2. What is the significance of the fact that Timothy is dealing with false teachers in his community (cf. 1 Tim 1:3; 6:3)?

3. What are these false teachers pushing in Ephesus (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-3)? Who are they influencing and with what effect (cf. 1 Tim 5:13; 2 Tim 3:6-9)?

4. How much of this text is relative to the culture in which it resides and how much reflects theological perspectives that should shape culture?

B. Prayer (2:8-10).

1. Does this text envision a “house church” assembly or is this general ethical instruction?

2. Should “men” and “women” in this text be translated “husbands” and “wives”?

3. Does the text imply that only men prayed in the assembly?

4. What does “modesty” mean in this text and is this culturally determined?

C. Teaching (2:11-12).

1. What does “quietness” or “silent” mean in this context?

2. Does Paul’s wording “I do not permit” mean that this is his own personal opinion or that it is a temporary situation?

3. What does the word “teach” mean in this context? What kind of teaching does Paul mean?

4. What does the word “have authority” mean in this context? Does it have primarily a negative meaning (“domineer”) or a positive meaning (“spiritual authority”)?

5. Does “neither teach nor have authority” have two separate referents or does it mean to “teach in an authoritative way”?

D. Rationale/Illustration (2:13-15).

1. Does Paul appeal to the creation of Adam as a rationale or an illustration?

2. How does the reference to Eve provide a rationale for or illustration of Paul’s point?

3. What is the connection between “childbearing” and “salvation”? What does the shift from singular (“she”) to plural (“they”) mean?

III. Interpretative Approaches

A. Complementarian Understanding.


1. Paul’s letter is concerned with congregational stability and leadership (e.g., elders in 1 Tim 3:1-7; deacons in 1 Tim 3:8-13; evangelists in 1 Tim 4:1-14; widows in 1 Tim 5:1-16; and inter-congregational leadership in 1 Tim 5:17-6:2). The presence of false teaching in the community is the occasion for this concern.

2. 1 Timothy 2:11-15 orients women toward quietness, submission and domesticity while it orients men toward teaching, authority and leadership of the community.

3. The rationale for this orientation is rooted in creation (Adam is primogeniture—the male is firstborn and thus carries responsibility and accountability for the human family) and in Eve’s negative example of leaderships where she assumed responsibility that did not belong to her.

4. Complementarians will disagree regarding the application of this text.

i. Some complementarians believe that Paul only excludes women from certain kinds of teaching, that is, teaching that arises out of the function of elders and evangelists as they are conceived in 1 Timothy. In 1 Timothy, only Timothy as the evangelist and the shepherds take on the function of teaching (cf. 1 Tim 5:17; 4:11, 13, 16; 6:2). Paul uses the term “manage” (1 Tim 3:4-5; 5:17) in reference to the elders of the church, and Timothy also gives direction to the church by teaching as well as by rebuking elders when needed (1 Tim 4:11-14; 5:20).

ii. Other complementarians believe that Paul excludes women from leading prayer in the assembly (1 Tim 2:8) as well as any kind of teaching that involves mixed audiences of men and women since all teaching involves authority.

5. Complementarians generally read 1 Timothy 2:15 as a contrast between the “authority” role of men in the church assembly while women find their primary role in relation to the home. The statement does not mean that only women who bear children are saved, but that the role of women is primarily located in the home as they exhibit Christian virtues. Eve is representative of the “mother of life” as women are the ones through whom life continues within creation.

B. Egalitarian Understanding

1. I Timothy is written “so that you [Timothy] may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine” (1:3) and so that “you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God” (3:15).

2. Apparently, there is a problem with false teachers who “occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies” (1:4) while “desiring to be teachers of the law” (1:7). Some are “liars whose consciences are seared with a hot iron” (4:2) who “forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods” (4:3). Their teachings are “profane myths and old wives tales” (4:7) and they seek money for their teachings (6:5). In the end, their teaching is “profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge (6:20).”

3. There is a concern for the good reputation of the church among outsiders throughout I Timothy and the Pastorals (3:2,7,12; 5:7,14; 6:1).

4. If one looks at every passage referring to women, one notices possible problems related immodesty, indecency (2:9) and immorality (5:11). Some “learn to be idle, gadding about from house to house; …gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not say (5:13)” and “some have already turned away to follow Satan (5:14).” In fact, the false teachers have made “their way into households and captivate silly women, overwhelmed by their sins and swayed by all kinds of desire, who are always being instructed and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth (II Timothy 3:6-7).”

5. In light of the above problems, women are to learn (in contrast to the false teaching) with a disposition of submissiveness or quietness (2:11) as in 2:2. It is not a prohibition of all speaking. The focus is on how one should listen.

6. Paul’s phrase, “I am not permitting” (2:12) points to specific instructions in a specific situation rather than a permanent ordinance.

7. The word translated “to have authority over” is used only once in the N.T. and has the sense of “to domineer.” Moreover, “domineer” qualifies the word “teach” and specifies what type of teaching Paul is prohibiting. It is that women are “teaching domineeringly” that Paul speaks against especially in light of the false teachers. Rather, the women are to be “silent” which again specifies an attitude of peaceableness/quietness (2:2).

8. The “For” of verse 13 indicates an illustration or example rather than a theological rationale. Just like the serpent deceived Eve, so many of the Ephesian women have been deceived by the false teachers.

9. In light of the problems in Ephesus, women are encouraged to value the domestic sphere (2:14-15) as was in keeping with Greco-Roman society.

10. As a result, if women (and men) learn with a peaceful and gentle spirit (2:11) and teach in a peaceful and gentle manner (2:12) with good information (1:3), Paul would have no problem with women (or men) teaching.

Resources:

Egalitarian: Christopher R. Hutson, “A Study Guide to 1 Timothy 2:8-15;” Carroll Osburn, Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal (Abilene: ACU Press, 2001), 207-252; Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women & Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1992), 101-132.

Complementarian: Douglas Moo, “What Does it Mean Not to Teach or Have Authority over Men?,” pp. 176-192, in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Wayne Grudem and John Piper; Andreas Kostenberger, Scott Baldwin and Thomas Schreiner, eds., Women in the Church: A Fresh Analysis of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995) and Dan Doriani, Women and Ministry: What the Bible Teaches (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, ), pp. 87-100, 175-179.




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