I believe that there would be much less controversy over this passage but for the references Paul makes to Adam being made before Eve and Eve being the first to sin. While these are true statements, they hardly argue for all women to be subordinate to all men.
After all, although Adam was made first, he was made incomplete (and hence imperfect) — without Eve. And while Eve sinned first, Adam sinned as well.
And in Romans 5 Paul gives Adam the blame for the Fall of Man (Rom. 5:12: “sin entered the world through one man … .”). The world was condemned through the one man, Adam, according to Paul.
And God gave the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge to Adam, before Eve was even made (Gen. 2:16-17). Adam can hardly claim the moral high ground over Eve!
Why does Paul seem to blame Eve here and Adam in Romans? Why has Paul seemingly interpreted Genesis 2 and 3 inconsistently?
I suggest outlining the passage as follows (with a’ explaining point a and b’ explaining point b):
a women should learn in quietness and full submission
b do not teach or exercise authority (in a domineering way), but be peaceable
b´ For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
a´ Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.
This structure is called a chiasm and was commonly used by the ancients in their writings. (The idea for a chiastic reading is from Osburn. My interpretation is a bit different from his.)
a. The reference to Eve being deceived makes the point that women should learn so as to avoid following Eve’s bad example in being deceived. When women do not study, they allow themselves to become victims of false teaching, and they can’t count on their husbands’ learning to protect themselves, any more than Eve was protected by Adam from the serpent’s lies.
This is exactly what was going on in Ephesus at the time, and it continues to be sound advice. Paul’s first command is that the women “should learn.” Only by learning can the women avoid following in Eve’s footsteps.
Paul uses the account of Eve’s deception to make essentially the same point to all Christians in 2 Corinthians 11:3 —
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
As in 1 Timothy, Paul sees Eve’s sin as a warning to Christians against being led astray by false teachers.
b. The argument from the creation order does not indicate subordination. After all, in Genesis 1, man — male and female — was made last, but that hardly argues for subordination of the man to the animals! Moreover, we’ve already seen that the subordination of women begins with God’s curse of the Creation.
Thus, the point must be found in the purpose behind the order of creating men and women. Man was not good alone. He needed a suitable complement. God made women to complement their husbands. Therefore, if a wife domineers, she fails to be the complement that God intended. The order of creation argument therefore supports the command for wives to submit to their husbands that we are already well familiar with.
Thus, Paul says that women should learn because Eve was deceived (and women should not follow her bad example) and that wives should not domineer over their husbands, because they were created to be suitable complements, not dominators.
Nothing in this passage teaches that women are gullible or more gullible than men. Indeed, if being compared to Eve’s sin makes a gender gullible in God’s eyes, then both genders are gullible because both men and women are compared to Eve in 2 Corinthians 11:3.