A chiasm (or chiasmus if you rather) is a writing style that uses a unique repetition pattern for clarification and emphasis. Chiasm is pronounced ky′-az-um. Often called the chiastic (ky′-az-tic) approach or the chiastic structure, this repetition form appears throughout the Bible yet it is not well known. …
Here’s another example from the account of the Flood in Genesis.
Brian Casey offers several examples of Paul’s use of chiasms in Galatians. Clearly, Paul liked to use this structure in making his arguments.
Some will recognize this format from their study of poetry or from mathematics. It’s not unique to scripture, but was certainly a common form of rhetoric in biblical times.
Now, let’s look at 1 Timothy 2:11-14 in this structure —
A 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.
B 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.
B’ 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;
A’ 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.
What is the reason that women should learn quietly? Well, because Eve was deceived.
How do we keep women from being deceived? By educating them, of course. Therefore, Paul commands that “a woman should learn.” And in contrast to the practices of many ancient cultures, Paul insisted that the female Christians be instructed in the word of God.
The NET Bible translators note —
Although the Greek conjunction δέ (de) can have a simple connective force (“and”), it is best to take it as contrastive here: Verse 1Ti 2:11 gives a positive statement (that is to say, that a woman should learn). This was a radical and liberating departure from the Jewish view that women were not to learn the law.
We miss this, because in our culture, the idea of women learning is taken for granted. We focus on the modifiers “quietly with all submissiveness.” But the women of Ephesus (where Timothy was at the time) were surely thrilled that Paul instructed that they be taught.
And it’s clear from 1 Timothy and 2 Timothy that the church struggled with women being deceived by false teachers.
(1Ti 4:7 NIV) 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly.
(2Ti 3:6-7 NIV) 6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Notice, moreover, that “quietly” in v. 11 and “quiet” in v. 12 do not mean “without speaking.” Thayer’s gives as the word’s primary meaning —
quietness: descriptive of the life of one who stays at home doing his own work, and does not officiously meddle with the affairs of others, 2 Thess. 3:12.
And, of course, any student should be in submission to his or her teacher. That would be especially true in an Eastern culture, but it’s true here in the West as well.
What does the fact that Adam was made first have to do with anything? What is the obvious theological significance here? That Adam rules Eve? (Clearly not, since that only happened as a result of the curse on Creation resulting from sin!)
No, Paul is speaking of Genesis 2, not Genesis 3. And in Genesis 2 we’re told that it’s “not good” for Adam to be alone, and so God made Eve to be a suitable helper for Adam. “Helper” does not indicate inferiority in Hebrew, but it does indicate a role.
She was created for a purpose. Eve’s role was to supply what was lacking in Adam — so that Adam would not be alone. She was to be wife to him. And so, Genesis 2 places wives in a role where they should do nothing that shames or undermines their husbands.
But what does 1 Timothy 2:13 say about husbands and wives? Well, the passage uses words that, in the Greek, are completely ambiguous. The word translated “women” could be just as easily translated “wives” and the word translated “men” could be just as easily translated “husbands.”
Now, Greek is the way it is because of a cultural assumption that adult women are almost always wives. While this was certainly not always true, their language reveals that that is how the Greeks tended to think.
Genesis 2 teaches that wives should not undermine their husbands but should help them. What does this have to do with authority?
BDAG, the most authoritative lexicon of New Testament Greek, defines authenteo (“authority”) as to “assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to.” Thayer’s translates “one who acts on his own authority, autocratic … equivalent to αὐτοκράτωρ [autokrator] an absolute master; … to govern one, exercise dominion over one.” Louw-Nida translates “to control in a domineering manner.” Moulton-Milligan defines the word as “master, autocrat.”
Hence, the major lexicons agree that authenteo does not refer to just any kind of authority at all, but exactly the kind of authority that Jesus denies to any Christian over another —
(Mat 20:25-28 ESV) 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Clearly, then, the thought isn’t that a woman may not be a leader within the church or that she may not lead men, but that she may not domineer over men (or over her husband). Why not? Because this would violate the relationship of man to woman (more precisely, husband to wife) established in Genesis 2.
Hence, the Common English Bible translates,
(1Ti 2:12 CEB) I don’t allow a wife to teach or to control her husband. Instead, she should be a quiet listener.
Young’s Literal Translation reads,
(1Ti 2:12 YLT) and a woman I do not suffer to teach, nor to rule a husband, but to be in quietness,
In Women in the Church: Reclaiming the Ideal Osburn points out that “teach or exercise authority” is a Greek grammatical structure known as a hendiadys. Thus, a better translation would be “teach in a domineering manner.” This translation is argued for in great detail by Phillip Payne in New Test. Stud. 54, pp 235-253 (2008).
I realize that few church members are familiar with these concepts, but the outcome has to be right. After all, the New Testament approves Priscilla teaching the gospel and the scriptures plainly approve Deborah as a judge and commander over Israel’s military — and the Bible has to be consistent.
For that matter, Anna, the prophetess, declared that Jesus is the Messiah in the Temple — before mixed company, by the authority of God (Luke 2:36ff). She taught the gospel in the most public place in Judea.
(Luk 2:38 ESV) 38 And coming up at that very hour ]Anna] began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.
Moreover, there is simply nothing in Genesis 2 that suggests that women may not teach men or exercise authority — so long as they remain true to their roles as suitable helpers.
Now, I’m the first to admit that this analysis of the passage is complex and requires a knowledge of language few church members have. But it’s the only analysis I know that’s consistent with the rest of scripture. The story of Deborah is inspired and true. So are the stories of Priscilla and Anna.
In 1 Timothy, Paul was applying universal rules — that sin arises from deception and that wives are to be suitable helpers (but not inferiors!) to their husbands — to the problems that were confronting that congregation. The underlying principles are forever true — but the application will vary with the time, place, and culture.
And so never would it be right to refuse to teach women the scriptures or to allow women to domineer (or men!). For whatever reason, the problem Paul was contending with in Ephesus was unlearned and domineering women, and he refuses to allow it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, this interpretation is the only one I know of that’s consistent with the doctrine of the gifts of the Holy Spirit — where much more plain direction is given —
(Rom 12:6-8 ESV) 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: … the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 … the one who leads, with zeal; … .
(1Co 12:20-21 ESV) 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
Plainly, God expects that the talents he gives us are to be put to use and not buried.