The problem with this passage is that it doesn’t feel right. The Bible has a history of being very egalitarian, no one is better than anyone else. But we don’t want to dismiss what it says just because it doesn’t sit nicely with us.
This little essay is divided into 2 parts
The Bible before 1 Tim
a) Old testament
a) So what does all the pre 1 Tim stuff mean
b) The history of the situation
c) The passage
The Bible before 1 Tim
A) Women in the Old testament
· For example: Esther (a woman) saved the nation of Israel (God’s people)
· Women were prophets. Nehemiah 6:14 and Ezekial 13:17-23 are examples of “bad” female prophets but it certainly doesn’t say that they were bad because thye were female or that a female prophet was wrong.
· Unlike the other cultures around them Israel had the same laws for men as it did for women. Israel only had different laws for free people as compared to slaves and they had the kindest laws about slaves.
B) Women in the gospels
· Jesus went against the culture of the time and went out of his way to treat women in the same way that he treated men. The twelve disciples were men to symbolically replace the twelve tribes of Isarael
· Women even make it into Jesus genealogy
· Women are frequently 'mentioned' in Luke-Acts infact Luke goes out of his way to make an almost equal mentions.
· Elizabeth (1.5-25, 36, 39-60) [paired with Zechariah, her husband]
· Mary (1.26-56; 2.1-52) [paired with Zech, as parallel]
· Anna (2.36-38) [paired with Simeon]
· Herodias (3.19) [paired with husband Herod]
· Widow of Zarephath (4.25-26) [paired with Naaman]
· Peter's Mother-in-Law (4.38-39) [paired with Possessed Man]
· Widow of Nain's Son (7.11-17) [paired with Centurian's Servant]
· Those Born of Women (7.28) [no pairing]
· Sinful Woman (7.36-50) [paired with Simon the Pharisee]
· Women with Jesus (8.1-3) [paired with the Twelve]
· Jesus' Mother and Bros. (8.19-21) [no pairing]
· Jairus' Daughter and Woman with Hemorrhage (8.40-56) [Gerasene Demoniac?]
· Mary and Martha (10.38-42) [no pairing]
· Woman praises Jesus' mother (11.27-28) [no pairing]
· Queen of the South (11.31) [paired with Ninevites]
· Mother vs. Daughter (12.53) [paired with Father vs. Son]
· Crippled Woman (13.10-17) [paired with Many with Dropsy]
· The Leaven (13.20-21) [paired with Mustard Seed]
· Discipleship and Family (14.26) [paired with Father and Brothers]
· The Lost Coin (15.8-10) [paired with the Lost Sheep]
· The Divorce Saying (16.18) [no pairing]
· Lot's Wife (17.32) [paired with Lot]
· Women Grinding (17.35) [paired with men(?) sleeping]
· Widow and Judge (18.1-8) [paired with Pharisee and the Tax Collector]
· Leaving House, Wife, Etc. (18.29) [no pairing]
· Woman with 7 Husbands (20.27-40) [no pairing]
· Devouring Widows' Houses (20.47) [no pairing]
· Widow's Offering (21.1-4) [paired with Scribes, see 20.47]
· "Those with child" (21.23) [no pairing]
· Maid accuses Peter (22.56) [paired with Man Accuses Peter]
· Women who Wail (23.27-31) [no pairing]
· Women at Crucifixion (23.49) [paired with Other Acquaintances]
· Women Witnesses (24.1-11, 22-24) [paired with Two on Road to Emmaus]
· 1.14: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
· 2.18: Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.
· 5.14: Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number.
· 8.3: Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.
· 8.12: But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.
· 9.2: and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.
· 9.36: In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37 About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room.
· 13.50: But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city.
· 16.13: 13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul's message.
· 17.4: Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.
· 17.12: Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.
· 17.34: A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.
Infact in Luke women are often portrayed as better than men.
· Mary illustrates faith; Zechariah demonstrates unbelief (Lk 1.26-56; 2.1-52)
· The sinful woman illustrates being forgiven and loving; Simon the Pharisee is the opposite (Lk 7.36-50)
· The Crippled Woman is cast against her Objectors in Luke 13.10-17.
· The Widow is righteous, over against the Unjust Judge in 18.1-8.
Luke consistently points out the leadership contributions of women in his writings.
· In Luke 1-2, he has three women prophesy: Anna, Elizabeth, Mary.
· We have already seen the passages in the Gospels where the women are portrayed as 'traveling disciples' (e.g. 8.1-4).
· He records the resurrection of Tabitha, a woman praised for her good works (9.36-42)
· Mary, mother of John Mark, hosts a church at her house (12.12-17)
· Lydia is the first convert in Macedonia, and Paul establishes his base of operations in her home (16.11-15)
· Priscilla, along with her husband, disciples the prominent Apollos (18.26)
· Luke points out that Philip has four daughters who were prophets (21.9).
Luke was probably influence by Joel 2 (Acts 2) 'sons and daughters' prophecying and Isiah 40 - 66 in particular 43:6-7, 49:22, and 60:4.
In Matthew we see women used to portray attitudes of true discipleship in contrast to Jesus’ male disciples.
· In chapter 9, we have a "Pairing": the story of the Woman with the Hemorrhage juxtaposed to that of the Raising of Jairus' Daughter. Jairus is the socially-acceptable ruler, approaching publicly. The Woman is a social outcast, due to her long-standing disease, and approaches privately. But notice that they BOTH receive the desired healing, but ONLY the woman is commended publicly by Jesus, and ONLY the woman's inner thought patterns are revealed to the reader. Jesus' public commendation establishes her as a role model alongside other examples of active faith (e.g. 8.10; 9.2).
· The story of the Canaanite woman--a social and cultic 'outsider'--is also set up as a foil. This foreign woman calls Jesus "Son of David"--an acknowledgment of His messianic authority. But, Chouinard points out: Such an insight in the context of Matthew 15 is clearly intended as a foil against which are heightened the "blindness of Israel's leaders" (15:14, 24; see 2:1-4), and the lack of perception among the disciples (15:16ff). (WS:EWEC:440)
· In the all-important Passion Narratives, women again play a decisive role in modeling the elements of true discipleship.
· The woman who anoints Jesus for His coming burial (26.6-13), is contrasted with the disciples: "While the disciples struggle with the reality of Jesus' imminent passion, this women is portrayed as understanding the necessity of the passion and responding accordingly." (WS:EWEC:441).
· In the final scenes of the story, women assume a role that should have been played by the disciples. They were present at the Cross (27.55, vs. The fled-disciples), present at the burial (27.61), and the first to learn of the resurrection (28.1-7).
· Women were Prophets (Acts 21.8-9):
C) Women and Paul
· Paul considered Priscilla, the wife of Aquilla a "fellow-worker" (Rom 16.3)
· They were persecuted equally. (Acts 8.3)
· Lydia who was the patron for the church at Philippi (Acts 16:14-15, 40), and Priskilla who with her husband was a significant figure in Corinth and Ephesus (Acts 18:2-3, 26). The author made it a point to note women of substance. The same pattern is present in the Pauls letters. Paul called Phoebe a "benefactor" of the church in Cenchreae (Rom. 16:2). Apphia presided with two others as leaders of a house church in Colossae (Philem. 2). Nympha in Laodicea, Lydia in Thyatira, and Phoebe at Cenchreae supervised the congregations that met in their homes (Col. 4:15; Acts 16:15; Rom. 16:1)"
· Although the NIV doesn’t think so but many translations think Junia(s) in Romans 16:7 is a female aposrle. It wasn’t until the 1200’s that people thought this must be wrong
· Women were Deacons: In Rom 16.1-2, the female Phoebe is called by the MASCULINE form of 'deacon'--strongly suggesting that it is the technical term of the office of deacon.
Clement of Alexandria wrote about women deacons The Council of Chalcedon specified that "henceforth a deaconess must be at least forty and unmarried" (ROC:108)
Pliny the Younger, in his correspondence to Trajan, reported that he had tortured two young Christian women "who were called deacons" (Epistle 10.96.8).
Origen argued on the basis of Rom 16 that the EXISTING institution of women deacons should be continued. (commentary on Romans).
· Women were Paul's "co-workers" (synergos) and "hard-workers" (kopion)
They assisted in composing letters (Rom 16:22; I Thess 1:1), carried apostolic messages to local churches (1 Cor 4.17; 16:10-11), sought to encourage the believers on Paul's behalf (1 Thess 3:2), reported to Paul the status of congregations under his care (1 Thess 3:6) and even occasionally hosted house churches (1 Cor 16:19)...In view of this wide range of ministry, it would be ludicrous to deny that Paul's coworkers possessed authority in the churches (1 Cor 16:17-18)...a role which included the task of admonition (1 Thess 5:12)...Paul spoke readily of women, as well as men, as his coworkers.
These semi-titles are used of: Euodia (Phil 4.3) Syntyche (Phil 4.3) Priscilla (Rom 16.3) Mary (Rom 16.6) Tryphena (Rom 16.12) Tryphosa (Rom 16.12) Persis (Rom 16.12)
In fact there is not a single title of leadership mentioned in the NT that is not ascribed to a female sometime within the first 3 centuries of the Church's life--as evidenced by literary and/or archeological data.
a) So what does the history mean
Now really this doesn’t prove that Paul is wrong or that what he said was in a particular cultural context. What it does prove is that what Paul has said seems to go against the grain of the rest of the Bible. The rest of the Bible seems to be on the cutting edge of equal rights. The Jews treated women better than other cultures around them. Jesus talked to women and treated them very differently to his contemporaries. Rabbi Judah once prayed "Blessed be Thou for not having made me a Gentile, a woman, or an ignoramus." Paul said, in Galations, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” Paul instructed husband sand wives to submit to one another when other cultures particularly the Jewish culture of the time were saying wives obey your husbands.
What this does mean is that Timothy on a first reading certainly seems to go against the grain of the rest of the Bible and against what you would expect Paul to say.
b) The historical setting (very important): -
· Ephesus was legended to have been founded by the Amazons in the 12-13 centuries BC (ISBE, s.v. "Ephesus"), and maintained one of the strongest goddess worship centers in history (WS:ISNW:47-54). This was worship of the Great Mother or maternal principle, who allegedly gave birth to both humans and the gods.
· "From the earliest times in Anatolia, female religious officials known as 'old women' kept alive the ancient myths." (WS:ISNW:64).
· Ancient writers attest that distorted stories, including perversions of the Adam and Eve saga, were already circulating in the first century of the common era. Recent scholarship suggests that Gnostic-like myths opposed to traditional biblical values may have been afloat in Alexandria as early as the second or first century before Christ. Philo, who died in CE 45, utilizes the very theme which was to draw rebuttal by Paul; namely, mythologizing Eve as the one who brings knowledge and meaningful life to Adam" (WS:ISNW:65)
· The cult of Artemis, the main revenue-generator and "claim to fame" for the city, was particularly woman-centered and immoral (ZPEB, s.v. "Ephesus"):
When the son of Codrus, last king of Athens, founded the city, he placed his colonists near the shrine of an ancient Anatolian goddess whom the Greeks, following the religious syncretism common in the ancient worlds, called after their own goddess Artemis. This was perhaps in the 10th, 11th, or 12th cent. B.C., so uncertain are dates in this borderland of legend and history. The cult thus recognized was that of a nature-goddess, associated with carnal fertility rituals, orgiastic rites, and religious prostitution.
· The success of Paul's ministry at Ephesus would no doubt have included some of the priestesses of Artemis (cf. the story of the burning of incantation scrolls by cult practitioners in Acts 19.19). Mickelsen (cited in WS: WIC: 126) shows how these might be in view in a number of the textual situations:
In Ephesus with its huge temple to the goddess Artemis were hundreds of sacred priestesses who probably also served as sacred prostitutes. There were also hundreds of hetaerae, the most educated of Greek women who were the regular companions and often the extramarital sexual partners of upper-class Greek men. Possibly some of these women had been converted and were wearing their suggestive and expensive clothing to church. Since hetaerae were often respected teachers of men in Greece (many are named in Greek literature), they would be more likely to become teachers after they became part of the church.
Paul, of course, had lectured in a Greek secular school for two years there (Acts 19.9), and if the pattern was anything like that in Athens (Acts 17.34), educated women were probably there and were converted under his teaching.
· The earliest strands of proto-gnostic and proto-mystery religions we know of had the characteristics of the false teaching in the Pastorals: nonsense syllables, ritual immorality, belief that the woman (variously Eve or other primal female figures) was the source of /origination of the man, belief that this primal Woman was NOT deceived but rather 'enlightened' by the Serpent--and subsequently 'enlightened' the deceived male; obsession with spiritual genealogies, and prohibition against marriage and childbirth.
c) The Passage.
I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument; also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. (Women not to dress like sacred priestess prostitutes) Let a woman learn in silence (not talking is probably a better translation: Quite fair to say that all students who will eventually teach should learn in silence see: Historical setting point 2) with full submission. (Not really an issue… as we should submit to teach other and especially a student submitting to a teacher. This would be quite a reversal for women who are used to doing the teaching) I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. (OK, the greek word here for authority is authentein and this is the only time it is used in the New Testament and there is still some debate over what it means. If Paul wanted to read it as regular word for Authority he would have used exousia or exousiazo. Ussually is translated as "domineer" or "usurp authority." Thus this is directed against women who have abused the proper exercise of authority in the church an authority which is not denied by Paul elsewhere to women, but certainly not one that can bed taken by usurpation or domination of the male leaders and teachers in the church at