Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bible Study Help: 1 Timothy

One of our Bible Study Home Fellowship Groups is studying 1 Timothy 2 this Friday. It has some very controversial words in it, particularly the ones in Verses 8-15 about:
  • The limits of women teaching and exercising authority (and the link with Eve.)
  • That difficult verse about women being saved though child-bearing.
Can any of you offer my friend Nathan (who is leading) some insights into these verses?

Anything may be of help. Or even if you could point Nathan to the best resources on those texts.

Pic on Flickr by ~Haani~.


Anthony Douglas said...

I found Gibbo's MA stuff on 1 Timothy to be brilliant overall. I'll send the relevant bit to your email.

Jim said...

Tough verses!

We did them in leaders group earlier this I should remember more.

I think we took the 'Saved through Childbearing' as a line of Jesus thing.

Biblegatewat advises it should read "but *she* will be *restored* through childbearing'.

I take the 'she' to refer to Eve.

David Ould said...

Mate, we just preached this on Sunday so....
1. the sermon's here.
v15 is tricky because of the grammar. At the very least it's got to refer to Gen 3:15 - Eve is saved by the promised child. But there's something possibly about "childbearing" (in it's wider sense of fulfilling a certain role) that is right and proper for women.

in terms of the extent of "teaching", if you follow the didask* word group in 1Tim you find that it's a very wide scope - wider than I had first thought. So I think that means that the prohibition is pretty wide as well.

Steve Webb said...

Hi Nathan,
This is a fascinating and tricky passage! I've often rattled my brain trying to figure it out. From what I have gleaned from it, this passage liberates us from endless strivings for "equality" and motivates us to live more Christ-like and Bride-like lives: men leading their congregations and their wives; wives joyfully respecting their husbands and savouring the wonderful task of Christian motherhood.

In my mind vv 11-12 are pretty straight forward. But v15 seems quite odd. I'll comment on it.

My understanding of 1 Tim 2:15 is that if a woman is occupied with the responsibilities of child-rearing: bearing, nurturing and teaching their kids, this will protect her from falling into the temptation of wanting to lead her husband, just as Eve fell into the temptation of usurping her head.

The logic of this passage is:

1. Paul wants men to pray and women to to be modest in their dress, appropriately worshipping God (v8-10)

2. He instructs that women are not to teach nor have authority over a
man (v11-12)


3. Since Adam was formed first (v13), he is responsible to lead and have authority over Eve [cf. 1 Cor 11:3]

4. v.14 shows HOW BAD IT IS when the husband's headship is contravened. Eve followed Satan's lie and then lead her husband into eating the fruit as well. Eve was tempted and ought to have looked to her husband for leadership, but broke God's good intention for her husband's headship, thus buying into Satan's lie.

Thus, this begs the question:
How are women ever going to stop this desire to rule over men, if
at the very first possibility Eve (and Adam) stuffed up?

I think v 15 is providing the answer to this question.

A wife will be rescued from the dilemma of the desire to usurp her husband's headship BY devoting herself to the ministry of child-raising since she will direct her energies towards her children, not leadership of her husband. I'm sure this is not a flaw-proof method, but to me this understanding fits best with the context of submission in vv 11-12.

Lastly (v.15b)She is to continue to trust God in all this, being holy and modest, in order to ensure she won't fall into Satan's deception. Likewise, 1 Peter 3:1-6 suggests that the submission of holy women of the past was enabled by the fact that they "hoped in God".

Another passage which seems to make the same point is 1 Timothy 5:11-15. Here Paul holds up marriage, busyness at home and childrearing as an antidote to turning away to follow Satan.

In the garden, when Eve was forced to take up dealings with Satan, her negligent husband simply stood by, saying nothing. Eve's vulnerability here resulted in her believing Satan's lie, disobeying God's command and reinforcing a disregard for God's good intentions for male leadership. Appropriately, it was to Adam that God went first, holding him responsible for his and his wife's actions (Gen 3:9).

Steve said...

Just listened to David Ould's sermon, which is very a helpful, faithful and fair explanation of the passage. And he gives men a good kick up the butt!

David Ould said...

steve, have to point out that my boss, Craig, preached the sermon.

Steve said...

oh, sorry. i enjoyed Craig's sermon.

A friend who emailed in a response said...

I had some unformed thoughts on 1 Tim 2 that I didn't think were worthy of posting on the blog. They're speculative and for all I know heretical :). But I thought I'd run them by you.

Just from a glance at the Greek (again, a dangerous thing), it seems to me the word "hold authority" seems to have connotations of bossiness. It seems like Paul isn't rebuking women's authority, but their abuse of it...being strong willed.

That also fits in the historical setting because in Ephesus the main religion was a female only cult, females held presiding overarching authority-but not Christian authority, which is why Paul's tone is so different in this letter than any other.

As to the bit about childbirth, this actually doesn't seem like too much of a problem with me. It seems that Paul is referring to "s"alvation instead of Salvation, being "kept safe" instead of "soul saved". You could go back to the OT and use the example of covenant promises that were valid to people who weren't "saved" (in other words, curse Israel-you're cursed, bless Israel you're blessed-theres an element of *gasp* works :)). But this isn't work righteousness, Paul tacks on the caveat, "if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety".

Perhaps Paul is saying that childbearing is a participation in the body of Christ and the life of God? It makes almost poetic contextual sense. He's just talked about Eve and Eve's seed-her childbirth-is the hope of humanity against the fall. The word saved also looks like it could be translated "restored", which fits even better.

Paul is praising the uniqueness and beauty of the feminine. Eve might have sinned, but she's the only one who can bear the image of God (and the Son of God!) in her womb. Maybe as moderns we look down on pregnancy as a virtue and assume that being a woman is more than having ovaries. Maybe. But Paul is clear that part of the beauty of the feminine (the sacred feminine - take that Dan Brown :P) is the ability to bear children.

Edmo of the No-Blog said...

Our churh has been studying this recently - link to sermon above. Anyway - these are the questions that were (rightly) asked by parishioners and not entirely answered...
1/ What does the word 'authority' mean? This particular word is used only once in the NT (here), while the word we use to understand authority (and to explain the 'conservative' position) is used elsewhere by Paul (Rom 12). What is this authority?
2/ Why does 1Cor14 say that women are not to speak (at all, period), and that this is based on "the Law"? What do we do with 1Cor14 when we've talked ourselves out of arguing that "be silent" in 1Tim2 is just about peacefulness? In 1Cor14, Paul is talking about husband and wife - is this significant and could it inform our understanding of this passage?
3/ Paul argues that women were deceived, and were therefore made subservient (this is evident in the curse of Eden). But isn't this reinforcing the nature of the fallen order, not the created order? Was Eve really submissive to Adam in creation, just because she was second (bearing in mind, the rest of creation was made before Adam, which would make Adam second last!!)? Apparently, the word 'Helper' in the OT is used predominantly of two people - Eve, and Yahweh!! Presumably, one would not argue subservience or submissiveness in the character of God.
4/ A lot of stress was placed on the 'for' in v.13. The premis here is that because a 'theological' (Biblical? Historical? Exegetical maybe?) exaplanation was given to a command that we might be tempted to interpret culturally, we can not look beneath the command to some principle Paul was getting at For example, vv8-9, is clearly not meant to imply that women shouldn't pray with holy hands raised high, or men shouldn't dress modestly - something else was on his mind!! The problem then becomes 1Cor 11, in which Paul provides a 'theological' basis for his argument that women should cover their heads!! It's quite extensive, and shares a number of principles as 1Tim2 (but ironically, or paradoxically, this passage is quite okay with women prophesying in church, whatever that means). So the question is, is there another way to understand Paul's use of the Genesis narrative to inform his desire for orderly worship in the church and in families? (FF Bruce says there is by the way, but that's what you're paid the big bucks to find out).
Curiously, our Bible Study didn't really struggle with v.15 - it was so obviously inconsistent with a Gospel of grace that, whilst we didn't know what was meant by it, we knew intuitively what was not meant by it!!
It's a very good sermon, and Craig is right to tell blokes to step up. He invites us to engage with the ambiguity around the issue, provided we do so Biblically - I can't stress how important that was for my fellow sheep. I would encourage one to not be too dogmatic on an issue like this (where - and I stand ready to receive a broadside from my associate minister - I do believe there is ambiguity), lest one runs the risk of failing to be persuasive. Embrace the confusion, my son, for our God is an awesome God.

Edmo of the No-Blog (Reprise) said...

PS: You see, I can be serious.
PPS: Rev. Ould - remember, I pay your bills. Who's your daddy? I am. Be gentle with me.

Anonymous said...

Hello Steve and All, Thanks for all of your feedback.

The group did have a very good discussion (we went 30 mintues over).

We had 2 broad questions that we looked at:

1-How does leadership in the church (where God is the shepherd and we are mere sheep) contrasts with expectations in the broad culture or in contrast to the examples of certain cults?

2-We also asked the ladies of the group to list things that make life difficult for women in society and looked at how the church serves the women in its congregation very counterculturally?

For curious minds, two of the difficulaties mentioned were double standards and objectifying women as sex objects; we looked at double standards in culture and turned to verses in 1 Tim2 that asked women to learn in quietness and to be submissive and looked in the letter to the Ephesians (My archeological study bible dates that letter only a few years prior to 1 tim) and in comparison we see Paul also asks this of men. We also looked at different versions of the text NRSV and Amplified versus NIV and KJV.

In terms of spiritual leadership, we tossed around the idea that Paul is not asking the women to do anything differently from the men (in Ephesians) except for the unique role of training up Godly children that women have, discussing Timothy as an example of his mother and grandmother's training. We also looked at Paul's other epistles and the role of women alluded there.

Regarding the tough words on Eve we did ask if women are more easily deceived...We looked at cults and agreed that they are often more frequently targeted by charlatans...We linked naivete with lack of knowledge/wisdom/understanding...all the good stuff from proverbs...We also looked at learning not only as a safeguard against deception but also as a countercultural element of the early church for Greek and Jewish women alike.

We also agreed that men are also called to renew their minds so as to discern God's will through Scripture and test the spirits and not be deceived. However in Adam's case, we presumed he was standing right next to Eve (Gen 3 says he was with her) so if he was not deceived then Adam was acting in willful ignorance or unbelief (Paul confesses this sin in 1 Tim 1) and Adam sinned by abdicating his leadership. Was Eve only redeemed by childbearing we asked? Was not Adam also redeemed? Looking at these allusions to Gen 3 helped us to better understand the Hebrews verses that called Christ the last Adam. We touched on parallels we might see in Adam and Eve as types for Christ the Lamb of God, and the Church the Bride of the Lamb. So as a rhetorical question, we asked is Paul applying double standards to men and women?

the second complaint was culture (hollywood, vogue) objectify women sexually.

We then asked why Paul urged men to "lift up holy hands in prayer to God" instead of just more sunccinctly asking men to "pray" as in Ephesians. We believed this was a rebuke to men who were not living accountably (guys coming to church with the single or double motive of adding to there little black book) and an encouragement to men living in integrity to continue in faithfulness. We looked at churches and cults where men dont live with integrity and frequently there is sexual scandal. it was eery to have so many members having personal experiences and stories to share about the church.

Finally, we looked at the repetition of the Gospel that the man Christ Jesus is our mediator...Also, reading that the heart of God desires that all men (and women) be saved... After reading Chapter 1 Paul said the gospel was entrusted to him and it reminded us of the parable of the talents...Just knowing that God's will is for His salvation to reach as many people as possible helps us to know that the church is not a members only club but is missional and outward focused, which in turn helps us to align our behavior...In chapter 3, we would read more about leaders and how their integrity should be apparent to outsiders.

so we closed with another rhetorical question:
Is 1 tim2 pigeon holing / stereotyping women or calling them to leadership and equipping them to serve.

Thanks again all for your time, your contributions, and your prayers for us as we studied this difficult chapter.