I had a really tough time navigating 1 Timothy 2. It’s just one of those passages of scriptures that spark controversy and are open to interpretation. I looked for “nicer” translations, I read through some commentary, but ended up almost where I started.
Regardless of how you translate it,
I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.
sounds basically the same.
In church a few weeks back, we talked about how to be prepared to give an answer for our faith. Our pastor said in most situations, and this has often been my experience, people come with a “knock-out” punch to faith related conversations. They might come with an blind-sided comment about how the church has behaved publicly in the last few decades, why Christians are self-righteous hypocrites, or pull a controversial piece of scripture out of context. The knock-out is most often a hit and run ending the conversation just as quickly as it happened.
I can see this particular passage of scripture being misconstrued for such ends.
“Did you know that the Bible is anti-feminist?”
“Isn’t the New Testament full of gender inequality?”
“Does God really think the only role for a woman is to have kids and sit quietly in church?”
In an attempt to avoid ending up tongue-tied in such a conversation, I tried to wrestle through some commentary. One explanation lies in Paul’s sensitivity towards culture. It’s no secret that women at the time were second-class citizens. They had few rights, few opportunities, and were generally relegated to domesticated responsibilities. Paul knew where women stood in society. By comparison, his view and support of women is actually rather progressive. Paul permits and encourages women to listen and learn submissively (Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness v.11). Women were largely discouraged from learning by Paul’s Judaic counterparts at the time. Paul’s letter to Timothy shrewdly squares the divine value God places on all people with the social norms of the day.
For more information on the topic, I recommend the following commentary: https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/1Tim/Men-Women-Worship
The commentary ends with this statement: “But easy answers that either simply impose culture on God’s will or neglect culture altogether must be resisted.”
Bottom line: when picking apart tough pieces of scripture, I need to ask – Who was this written to? At what time? For what purpose? Is it for me now or for a specific group of people for a specific reason?
This will help me avoid the temptation to allow culture to fully shape my view of scripture without first fully understanding God’s will.