Firstly, a big welcome to those of you who have come here via Frank Viola’s blog, Beyond Evangelical and his mention of my enhanced e-book on hearing God. My blog, SimplyChurch, generally looks at different aspects of life in the Kingdom, especially as it relates to the simple/organic/house church movement. However, at present, I’m doing a series of posts on the topic of women because I’m in the process of co-writing a book on this subject. Frank is one of the contributors to the book.
I hate headlines like this one:
In this particular case, the lady, who had been a member at that church for more than 60 years and a Sunday School teacher for 54, was fired, at least in part, because of the verse in 1 Timothy 2:12. The pastor of the church wanted to be sure they were obeying the Scriptures. While I respect him for his desire to be Biblical, it is very sad, not only for the lady concerned, but also because of the negative publicity it engenders for the Body of Christ.
We all want to obey the Scriptures. So how can we understand a verse like this?
I discussed the background to the verse (which is very relevant) in this post. The purpose of Paul’s letter to Timothy in Ephesus was to stop false teachers who were causing problems in the church there (1 Timothy 1:3-4). We also know that this is the only verse that apparently forbids women to teach–elsewhere there is every indication that women were free to bring a teaching.
Here’s the challenging passage in full:
I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:8-15 NKJV)
Notice that sometimes the word “woman” is singular and at other times plural. Women (plural) are to adorn themselves modestly. However, “a woman” (singular) must learn in silence and is not allowed to teach or have authority over the man. She (singular) will be saved in childbearing, and women (plural) are to continue in faith, love and holiness with self control.
Here’s the likely scenario that would explain it: There was a woman who was promoting false teaching in the church in Ephesus. Paul wants to stop this, and so he commands that this particular woman is to learn quietly, and is not permitted to teach. This is a disciplinary action against a woman who, like the “Jezebel” mentioned in Revelation 2:20, was causing problems by false teaching. Paul had no intention of it being applied to other women, just the one causing turmoil in the church.
According to Philip B. Payne in his excellent theological treatise, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters, the verb “permit” with one dubious exception, never refers to a universal or permanent situation. So the chances are that this was a temporary disciplinary measure.
I’ll be looking into other aspects of this passage in future posts, but I’m interested in your comments as to where we are so far.