Buried Talents: 1 Tim 2, Usurping Authority — Introduction

Now we get to the most challenging of the passages. We have shown that the interpretation of Genesis 3 as a curse, and not as a command, results in a sensible, consistent interpretation of many other verses. It all fits together as a logical, unitary whole. Our understanding of even familiar passages is deepened as we see how our marriages fit into God eternal plan for mankind.

But 1 Timothy 2 seems to run contrary to this pattern. Or have we missed the point entirely?

The immediate context.

Before embarking on the study of 2:11-15, let’s first observe something of the first three paragraphs of the chapter.

1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men-the testimony given in its proper time. 7 And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle-I am telling the truth, I am not lying-and a teacher of the true faith to the Gentiles.

8 I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing.

9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

First, all Christians are urged to live peaceful and quiet lives, men and women.

“Silent”

The word translated “quiet” in verse 2 is hesuchios, the same word translated “quietness” in 1 Timothy 2:11 and “silent” in verse 12. “Hesuchios” does not mean silent — it means peaceable or tranquil.

Zodhiates gives the definition as “quiet, still. Quiet, tranquil, undisturbed from without.” Compare 1 Pet. 3:4 “a gentle and hesuchios spirit,” often translated quiet, but not meaning “silent,” and Isa 66:2 LXX “poor and of a contrite spirit,” translating the Hebrew nakeh, meaning contrite.

Strong’s Dictionary defines the word —

keeping one’s seat (sedentary), i.e. (by impl.) still (undisturbed, undisturbing):– peaceable, quiet.

Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words states that while eremos means tranquility arising from without, hesuchios

indicates tranquility arising from within, causing no disturbance to others.

This is a different word from sigao, translated “silent” in 1 Corinthians 14:35.

Finally, as hesuchios is in contrast to “usurp authority,” peacableness or tranquility fits the context, and the natural interpretation is to be consistent with the use of the word in the immediate context. Why change meanings from that used in 2:2?

Second, Paul instructs men to “lift up holy hands in prayer” (v. 8). This sentence is written as a command in the plainest of terms. Its broad scope is emphasized by the use of “everywhere.” We know from history that the custom of the Jews in those days was to pray looking toward the heavens, with hands raised and palms opened toward the sky. This is very different from our modern custom. Ironically, I know of instances where people have complained about the lifting of hands during services, it being perceived as “denominational” or Pentecostal. We learn something about ourselves when we observe our members protesting obedience to a direct command!

And yet I agree that Paul does not require the lifting of holy hands today. The eternal, universal command is to pray. The lifting of hands is the manner of complying with the command dictated by the customs of the day.

Third, Paul instructs women to dress modestly and not with costly apparel, gold, or braided hair. And yet we readily accept women in church in fine, expensive clothes, with gold or pearl jewelry, and with braided hair. In fact, expensive clothes are standard for most congregations. Who repealed this law?

Once again, we understand that the eternal command is modesty and simplicity. What constitutes modesty and simplicity varies from culture to culture (although I think that many of our churches are very far from obeying this command even by today’s standards). And although I question our obedience to this command, I see no sin in girls wearing pig tails or French braids or corn rows. Braided hair is simply not immodest or lavish in today’s culture.

This brings us to the fourth paragraph.

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be [peaceable]. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

Paul states that women may not teach or have authority over a man, but rather must be in submission and in quietness. But unlike the two preceding paragraphs, we have chosen to bind this command as an eternal command. We overrule the lifting of holy hands and prohibition of braided hair as based on culture, but we decide that the requirement for women to neither teach nor exercise authority is eternal. Why? Certainly not based on the context! The immediate context suggests that the universal rule, that women are to be submissive, is to be applied in the First Century cultural context by not teaching or exercising authority over men.

We need to be very cautious in dealing with a passage that is colored in our minds by our own culture (past and present) as well as being colored by First Century culture.

Scholars present us with three possible interpretations of 1 Timothy 2:11-15:

1. Paul prohibits women from teaching a man in public or having authority over a man in church affairs.

2. Paul prohibits women in Ephesus from teaching or exercising authority because certain false teachers were taking advantage of the ignorance of the Grecian women of the day to spread false doctrines.

3. Paul prohibits any teaching by a wife of her husband that is domineering or that otherwise contradicts her role as his complement.

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About Jay Guin

I am an elder, a Sunday school teacher, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a lawyer. I live in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the Alabama Crimson Tide. I’m a member of the University Church of Christ. I grew up in Russellville, Alabama and graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University). I received my law degree from the University of Alabama. I met my wife Denise at Lipscomb, and we have four sons, two of whom are married, and I have a grandson and granddaughter.
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