A friend recently told me this story. He had just started a missional community and the question came up, “Are we a church?” The group decided together that they were a church. One young lady, who previously had taken an active role, stopped speaking. After a while they asked her why.
Her reply: “If we are now a church, then I’m not allowed to speak any longer.”
It’s stories like these that convince me of the need to communicate a different understanding of the challenging Scriptures that appear to limit women. I have read extensively around this topic, and I try to make complicated concepts simple enough that anyone can understand them. In the last post, I overstepped the mark. I should have been more careful and I apologize. (I’ve changed the blog post so that anyone reading it who does not go through the comments will not get incorrect information.) What I implied was that there was no word for “the” in Greek. (I had looked at 1 Timothy 2:12 and that statement is true for that verse). Thankfully someone commented to correct me.
It doesn’t change the basic concept. However, the explanation is a little more complicated. I’m indebted to David Hamilton and Loren Cunningham in their book Why Not Women: A Biblical Study of Women in Missions, Ministry, and Leadership for one explanation of this. (If I could have written one book on the topic of women, it would be this one.)
So here goes!
In 1 Timothy, Paul goes continuously back and forth between personal instruction to Timothy and teaching on the ministry of the church. This is called a literary interchange or an A-B-A-B structure.
There are two other forms of communication we need to be aware of in understanding 1 Timothy 2.
- Particularization is where a writer makes a general statement that he then illustrates with several specific examples.
- A chiasm is where a writer makes several points and then backpeddles through them in reverse order: so Idea A, Idea B, Idea C, followed by Idea C, Idea B and Idea A.
In this passage, we have particularization and a mini-chiasm within a literary interchange!
Have I lost you yet?
Here’s David Hamilton’s diagram:
This is how it works in 1 Timothy 2:
- The general principle, and the core reason for the epistle is that God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2: 1-7, especially verse 4)
- First example: Paul speaks to men–and how they are to pray (1 Tim 2: 8)
- Second example is a mini-chiasm: Paul speaks to:
- all the woman (1 Tim 2: 9-10). The women are likewise to pray (implied) and their modest dress (especially in a promiscuous city like Ephesus) is important
- a woman (2:11-15a). Instructions are given to a particular woman who was causing problems because of false teachings. She is not to teach but is to learn in quietness with all submission.
- all the women (1 Tim 2: 15b). They are to continue in faith, love and holiness.
Certainly men were involved in deception in Ephesus. Paul mentions two of them by name–Hymaenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim 1:20). But the pronouns used in other places in the epistle are gender-inclusive indicating that women also were involved. (If anyone teaches false doctrines; some have wandered away from the faith etc). The punishment for the two men was that they were thrown out and handed over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. It makes this woman’s fate seem mild in comparison!
What do you think?