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.