Buried Talents: 1 Tim 2, Usurping Authority — Additional Points

Is the assembly under consideration?

The relationship between men and women established in the Garden of Eden surely is not limited to church affairs or to an hour of church assembly. How can we preach on one Sunday that Christianity is a seven-day a week, 24-hour a day religion affecting our entire lives, and then limit God’s laws to Sunday a.m.?

How could an eternal command be begun in the Garden of Eden and yet only apply to the affairs of a church founded thousands of years later?

There is nothing in this passage limiting its impact to the assembly, to Sunday School class, or even to church affairs. Even if we accept the NIV’s translation, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” we have no basis for limiting the command to church. But we don’t.

Is the prohibition of teaching and exercising authority eternal?

There are numerous examples of godly women teaching men and exercising authority over men, Deborah, the judge, leader, and prophetess being the most prominent but hardly the only example. If God has made an eternal rule that women may not exercise authority over or teach men, why did He make Deborah a judge? Surely God could have found a man in all of Israel whom He could have inspired to fulfill the same role. Why violate His own rule and raise up a woman as judge over all Israel?

Likewise, why condone Anna’s teaching in the temple’s highly public courts? Or Huldah’s prophesying to a king?

Priscilla taught Apollos. Some distinguish Priscilla’s teaching by pointing out that her teaching was private while Paul is addressing public teaching in 1 Timothy 2. But where does the Bible say that Priscilla taught in private or that 1 Timothy is addressing public teaching only?

And why are our Sunday School classes “public” when making this argument and “private” when we authorize women to ask questions in class but not during the worship hour?

Saved through childbirth.

What did Paul mean when he said that women will be saved through childbirth? I know three theories that make sense:

1. The Kroegers suggest that many Ephesian cults considered childbearing to be a sin and condemned women who gave birth. Perhaps Paul is dealing with this strange teaching here. Richard Clark Kroeger & Catherine Clark Kroeger, I Suffer Not a Woman (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, 1992).

2. In the Greek, “childbearing” is preceded by “the.” Perhaps Paul has a particular birth in mind, that is, the birth of Jesus prophesied in Genesis 3:15. The curse that imposes such limitations on even Christian women (because of the importance of adhering to society’s notions of propriety, which notions are influenced by male domination) will ultimately fail because of the birth of Jesus.

On the other hand, Greek does not follow English in the use of definite articles. A Greek “the” often does not refer a single or particular object.

3. Paul may be saying that women will be saved, despite the curse on Eve, in whatever role society assigns to them, by living the Christian life in that role. If the role of women is to bear children and not teach or have authority in a given culture, then the women will be saved by their faith, love, and holiness in that role. Submission may require Christians to live as strangers in a strange land and not fully enjoy the freedom that Christ bought. And I think this is right.

I’ve never heard a preacher preach or seen an author write that women who can’t bear children will be damned. If this were so, then it would be better for a single woman to bear children out of wedlock than to die childless! What an absurd conclusion. Therefore, we very properly and consistently limit this teaching to it cultural time and place, just as the preceding verses must be so limited.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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0 Responses to Buried Talents: 1 Tim 2, Usurping Authority — Additional Points

  1. Alan says:

    Even if we accept the NIV’s translation, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” we have no basis for limiting the command to church.

    Why "Even if…?" Would you prefer the RSV? ESV? HCSB? NASB? They all say the same thing. It's not going to be very convincing to argue that all these teams of translators were wrong.

    Whether or not the command was limited to the assembly, it certainly applied there. If we need to repent and apply it other places too, we can do that. But that is not a rational argument against applying the command *at least* in the assembly. Personally, I believe the context is the assembly because of the discussion of learning and teaching. That is a continuation of what Paul said in chapter 1 verse 3, addressing false teachers. He is discussing what should be taught to the church, and who should do the teaching.

    There are numerous examples of godly women teaching men and exercising authority over men

    A vast majority of teachers in the OT and NT are men. We could discuss the reasons for the handful of exceptions, but there is no room for debate that men have held the positions of authority in the assembly of God's people with very few exceptions since the time since the beginning — including in the NT church. And the NT continues to teach that as the way it should be.

    Paul may be saying that women will be saved, despite the curse on Eve, in whatever role society assigns to them…

    Paul doesn't say anything about "cultural time and place", nor indicate that the preceding verses are culturally limited. There is not a hint of that in the text.

  2. Jay Guin says:

    Alan wrote,

    … Whether or not the command was limited to the assembly, it certainly applied there. If we need to repent and apply it other places too, we can do that. But that is not a (rational argument against applying the command *at least* in the assembly.

    You are avoiding the question. Is it or is it not sin for women to have authority over men in non-church affairs?

    Personally, I believe the context is the assembly because of the discussion of learning and teaching. That is a continuation of what Paul said in chapter 1 verse 3, addressing false teachers. He is discussing what should be taught to the church, and who should do the teaching.

    Even if he's speaking of the assembly, he reasons from Gen 2. Does Gen 2 speak only of the church or should Christians honor its teachings outside the church (which was the prevailing view until recent years)?

    Why does Gen 2 prohibit Priscilla from teaching during the assembly but allow her to teach Apollos outside the assembly? Where is the public/private distinction found in Gen 2?

    … A vast majority of teachers in the OT and NT are men. …

    True, but why would God violate his own law by giving women authority that is sinful? If Gen 2 denies women authority over or the right to teach men, why would God ignore the law any time at all?

    [Re 1 Tim 2:15] Paul doesn’t say anything about “cultural time and place”, nor indicate that the preceding verses are culturally limited. There is not a hint of that in the text.

    I've known women in agony of spirit because they have no children (and wish they did) and wonder if this passage condemns them. How would you respond to them?

  3. Alan says:

    You are avoiding the question. Is it or is it not sin for women to have authority over men in non-church affairs?

    I didn't dodge the question. In my comment above I said that I think the context of 1 Tim 2 is talking about the assembly. So, no. It is not sin for a woman to have authority over a man in non-church affairs.

    Does Gen 2 speak only of the church or should Christians honor its teachings outside the church (which was the prevailing view until recent years)?

    Gen 2 and 3 specifically address the context of marriage. As Paul makes clear, that relationship also applies in the church. Aside from that, we don't have specific instructions about where it applies and where it does not.
    True, but why would God violate his own law by giving women authority that is sinful?
    Gen 2 and 3 (and 1 Tim 2) denies mortals the right to alter the relationship God put in place. God himself still has that right.

    I’ve known women in agony of spirit because they have no children (and wish they did) and wonder if this passage condemns them. How would you respond to them?

    This passage says nothing about condemning anyone. It speaks of salvation. Other passages also speak of salvation without reference to childbirth.

  4. Adam G. says:

    This is a topic I really need to study again. My old conclusions from several years ago are pretty shaky.

    Although I'm not certain I agree with his perspective on this, NT Wright has some interesting things to say regarding the role of women in the church. http://tinyurl.com/ywnvy6

  5. R.J. says:

    This phrase in Greek is literally “dia ho teknogonia”

    Childbirth has a definite article preceding it. Plus both words are in the Genitive singular. Dia is a preposition of means(through).

    Literally this should be read as “She will be saved through the birth of [a] child.

    I firmly believe this has reference to the snakes curse. Mary(Eve’s desendant) would bring forth Christ Jesus who would crush Saton under his feet upon the cross!

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