Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Is 1 Timothy 2:8-15 ignored?

Adrian Warnock has posted an overview of 1 Timothy in which he writes:
Gender issues are addressed in 1 Tim 2:8-15. I realise that good people differ on the interpretation of this passage - what exactly is “teach or exercise authority”? But, the key question is - do we in any sense feel these words apply to us today? It is those who want to totally ignore them that do irreparable damage to their view of the Bible.
I am not sure if Adrian intends to suggest that egalitarians, those who allow women to take any role in the church, want to totally ignore 1 Timothy 2:8-15 (this link should give the TNIV reading). I agree with him that this would not be right.

However, there is plenty in this passage which I as an egalitarian would not want to ignore. Let's look first at verse 8 (TNIV):
Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.
This is clearly addressed to men, males. But I am sure that no one would teach that it is OK for women to pray with "anger or disputing". Paul addresses this verse to men, and not to women, presumably because this was a problem among men, in general or in the specific context of Timothy's church. And indeed in churches today men tend to be more angry and disputatious than women, for all kinds of biological and cultural reasons.

So then with the instructions for women in verses 9-12. We don't have to assume that these instructions applied only to women and not at all to men, but rather that they were perceived as especially relevant to women, at least in the particular setting for this letter, the church in Ephesus. It seems likely that in this cosmopolitan and liberal city some Christian women were dressing immodestly and expensively, whereas others (or perhaps the same ones) were showing themselves to be unteachable and trying to put themselves forward as teachers. Therefore Paul writes verses 9-11 to correct these specific wrong attitudes.

It is of course the duty of all Christians, men and women, to "learn in quietness and full submission" (v.11, TNIV) to those who are the appointed teachers in the church, and not to "assume authority" (v.12, TNIV) or "teach... in a domineering way" (v.12, TNIV margin). Paul addresses these points to women not because they don't apply to men, but because there was a particular problem with certain women on these issues. There may be similar problems with unteachable and self-promoting women, or men, today, and this passage can be applied to them.

As for verses 13-15, I accept that it is rather difficult to find an application of these in the church today. Part of the problem is that no one really understands what is really meant by what TNIV renders as "be saved through childbearing" (v.15). But I think we need to understand these verses as a message to the particular women who were causing the problem addressed in verses 11-12. If so, this is one of many passages in the Bible which all evangelical Christians accept as applicable today without being able to see exactly how they are applicable.

Now I accept that there are real issues about the interpretation of verse 12, and whether the egalitarian understandings of this verse can be defended. See for example this recent discussion, in which I took part, and my previous posting on this. The main problem concerns the meaning of the very rare Greek verb αὐθεντεῖν authentein, translated "have authority" or "assume authority", or perhaps "domineer". Egalitarians tend to interpret αὐθεντεῖν authentein as a very negative word, as it certainly could sometimes be in Greek. But it is quite wrong to suggest that egalitarians are simply ignoring this passage.

2 Comments:

At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 4:46:00 pm, Blogger Ruud Vermeij said...

I don't know why you wrote "this link should give the TNIV reading," but the link is broken!

(There is something with a "href" too much within the href.)

 
At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 4:59:00 pm, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Ruud, thank you for pointing out the error. I have now corrected it.

 

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