The passage that is most negative towards women and often used to “put women in their place,” comes in 1 Timothy 2. Here’s what verses 11 to 15 say:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.
At first sight, the meaning is clear. Women are not to teach or to have authority over men.
The context is important. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus when he traveled to Macedonia. The reason? Paul wanted him to correct false teaching (1 Tim 1:3-4). People were involved in endless discussions of myths and spiritual pedigrees. The likelihood is that some women had become involved in the problem.
It is good to understand the cultural context too. Ephesus was dominated by worship of Artemis or Diana, the goddess of the hunt. Her temple was one of the seven wonders of the world and drew crowds of people to it. The operation of the temple and its associated activities were the primary economic resource of the city, most inhabitants getting their livelihood in some way from the temple. Artemis was also the goddess of fertility, virginity and protection during childbirth. Eunuchs and many young female priestesses served in the temple. Girls were initiated into the cult at puberty, and when they married, had to lay something that symbolized their virginity (such as a lock of hair) on her altar. Worship of her included magical and orgiastic rites.
The Amazons were said to have founded Ephesus. The Amazons were famous female warriors of that region who believed they were superior to men.
It is against this backdrop that Paul wrote his letter to Timothy.
More to follow…
The goddess Artemis