Monday, May 3, 2010

1 Timothy 2: 8 - 15

This passage in my Bible is sub-headed: 'Faithful Lives Fitting For Prayer'

8. I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;+ 9. 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, 10. but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 11. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12. 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. 14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. 15. Nevertheless, she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control.+

+2:8 - Prayer must be united with quiet and godly behavior. Does this contradict praying secretly, not to be seen by men (Mt. 6:5, 6)? No. The warning is against spiritual showmanship, not congregational prayer. The secret 'room' (Mt. 6:6) is a person's innermost being, perfectly consistent with praying everywhere. In contrast to the Jewish emphasis on one primary earthly place for prayer (the temple in Jerusalem), Christians experience the fullness of prayer wherever they may be.

+2:12 - The Church's greatest saint is a woman, the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Some women, including Mary Magdalene, are called "Equal to the Apostles," others serve as deacons (Rom 16:1). While sharing full equality in Christ, women are not ordained to the offices of bishop and presbyter.

+2:15 - If salvation is holistic, involving all of one's life, then women who have children are saved, in part, by motherhood, if they persevere in godliness. Our God-given role in life is the place of our salvation.

I think we can guess what verses are the 'problem' here. Silence, submission, no authority to teach over man, yadda. It's clearly not a universal rule that women cannot speak, teach, etc. Women can (and could) prophecy. They were important members of the early church. Women were not being marginalized here. I view this as a passage that was very specific to the problem that St. Paul was addressing. Again, we don't have the letter that was written to him, and what the issues were. We have only his response, so, half the discussion, at best. I also take this as one of those passages that was more St. Paul's opinion than anything else. *pauses for lightning strikes* Compared to the other passages we've looked at, he says 'I' an *awful* lot here. 'I' desire this, 'I' do not that. I could be wrong, of course, but that's how I view this passage.

However, even if that weren't the case, we fall back to the arguments from the previous passages that we've looked at. Women weren't to speak in church (clearly this was an issue, or it wouldn't have been addressed) - there was likely a steep learning curve and the women, who, for the most part, were not as educated in religious matters as the men, were asking questions, trying to learn. Which is not a bad thing, but there is a time and a place for questions, even in a school environment. The 'no authority over man' - women could not be priests. Period, end of discussion. I know that this is in no way going to convince those who believe otherwise, but that's the way it has been, historically, in the church. From the beginning. Women could (and can) hold very important roles in the church. But they could not (and cannot) act in the person of Christ. As for the Adam, Eve thing. *sigh* Being a saint does not make one perfect.

Susanne, the next reference, 1 Timothy 3:8 is about deacons and how they must not be liars, drunks, or greedy. I checked 2 Timothy 3:8 is about Moses and the Egyptian magicians. So...I'm not sure which verse was really meant. :)


  1. I still vaguely remember people sighting these verses when women were trying to get permission to read from the gospels in church. Its amazing how it was rather recent ( probably 15-20 years ago) that women were finally allowed to do readings and lead song in church in front of the congregation (my experience is my Catholic church fyi). I was discussing this with a friend but in terms of how Islam hasn't made a lot of changes for segregation and women yet and I turned to him and said "Islam is 1400 years old, Christianity is over 2000 and it took till the early 60s for changes to start in the Church. And they have 600+ years on Islam"

    Im still super fascinated by the clothing requirements in the Bible that I never noticed till now.

  2. Verse 9 is kind of interesting... For some reason I always thought that verse was in I Peter 3. So, let's see... I don't normally braid my hair, indeed, I don't normally display it publicly at all. But I do from time to time wear ornaments that might even be gold-plated, and even a little pearl necklace (there are ways of tying a head covering so that you can wrap the necklace around the covering a couple of times, securing the thing in place with a bow tie). And I have to admit to being curious how we should define the word 'costly'... Even respectable, modest and sober (those are the terms I would go for, in that order, having looked at the original) are open to interpretation.

    I admit I used to dress a good deal plainer than I do now. But then one night I was sitting talking to M, and it seemed appropriate given the topic to point out that I am not exactly trying to draw attention to my body - indeed, quite the contrary. Now, you should know that M is no fashion plate. So when I saw that little hint of a smile as he said, 'Ah yes, I had noticed...', I figured that if I'm dressed so plain that it's amusing even to someone like him, I'm probably going overboard. So I began to make some changes.

    No doubt some would be scandalized by the present... non-plainness of my garb. I comfort myself that I am going to turn heads whatever I do, given my size. I don't want to wear a placard on my chest, as it were, advertising my religion, so I try to dress nicely enough so people don't notice immediately how little flesh they can see... It's a fine line, a balancing act. God only knows if I've got it right.

    At any rate, God willing, my clothes won't distract anyone from the meat of the matter, which is the doing of good deeds.

  3. Now, I am supposed to be in bed, but I'm not, so I'm going to try to make this short. There was a time when I used to assume a one-way authority relationship between men and women. I even covered my head at church for such reasons. This was until I began to wonder if I wasn't committing idolatry.

    So I began studying, and it turned out that God expects exactly the same things from both parties to a marriage. He expects both to be subject to each other, and He expects each one to lay down their life for the other, to such a degree that I concluded that any differences mentioned had to have their foundation in some kind of earthly considerations such as civil law. And indeed, the people to whom Paul was writing Ephesians (about which you wrote before) were living in a society which literally gave men the power of life and death over their wives and children. Since I do not live in such a society, I therefore view myself as having the same rights and obligations as my husband (if I ever marry). And it was a very short step from there to ceasing to cover my head.

    Particularly in the Greek cultural circle, there were, however, other considerations. The proper behavior of women was considered to be more or less what is normal for very conservative Islamic circles nowadays. Decent women were supposed to stay home for the most part. If they went out, they were supposed to be covered. And they were not supposed to get into discussions with men.

    There were indeed ladies in Greek society who went out by themselves, wore short or even no hair at all, kept their heads uncovered, and engaged in philosophical disputation with men. But they also did other things - specifically, with their personal life - which no Christian woman in her right mind would even want to give the appearance of doing. So the long hair, the head covering, the exhortation to learn in quietness and submission - it's all part of a certain package which is predicated on the proper relationship between man and woman, and that (by process of elimination) in purely temporal terms.

    In Greek society, there was also some precedent for women to do such things as prophesy in public. The problem is that they normally uncovered their hair while doing so. And perhaps they even did other things as well. They were pagan priestesses, oracles etc. and not 'nice, decent women'.

    So there was a also certain sense of distancing oneself from pagan religious practices. There was a tightrope to be walked between doing revolutionary things (letting women learn at all, letting 'nice, decent women' prophesy in public, etc.) and maintaining decency.

    There are astute observers who have noticed that the more restrictive rules mentioned in the New Testament only appear in the letters written to audiences in the Greek cultural sphere. Those in the Roman cultural sphere were another matter - the public decency rules were much more lenient. Sure, the men still had that life-and-death authority, but the ladies had much greater freedom of movement - no one was going to think they were a lady of ill repute just because they happened to be out alone.

  4. I mention all of this because I think it all has to be taken into account when we try to decipher what Paul had in mind when writing to Timothy. Notice that Timothy's Mom was Jewish, but Dad was Greek. So we can get a clue right there what cultural milieu he was functioning in. The matter of context becomes all the more important when we realize that one of the key words appears only once in the New Testament and is in fact very rare even in other literature.

    Then there is the question of priesthood and ordination. Every time the word 'priest' is used with reference to Christians in the New Testament, it is clear that every Christian is a priest. The most obvious verse is I Peter 2:9 - 'But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy people...' This means that every Christian has the right to act in the place of Christ.

    So the question is not whether they can be priests, but whether they can be elders or bishops. And for me, the question is whether these are offices or functions. I do not see any evidence of actual ordination in the New Testament, so I am inclined to view them as functions. And if there was a prohibition on women speaking or teaching - which is in fact questionable - given the rest of what Scripture says about men and women, I view it as rooted in temporal considerations which do not have to exist forever (any more than slavery has to exist forever), and do not necessarily exist today.

    And if someone wants to argue about 'how it was at the beginning', very well: Eve was to be Adam's 'ezer kenegdo' (Genesis 2). 'Ezer' - help, helper - is also applied to God with respect to us elsewhere in Scripture. So it can't imply submission. 'Kenegdo' is a word implying a relationship of equality, rather than one looking up to the other. Furthermore, the Scripture says (in Genesis 1) 'And God created man in His own image. In His own image created He him, male and female created He *them*. And God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply, rule over the earth and subdue it."' Notice: both in God's image, both given dominion over the earth.

    Ah, but someone will argue 'What about that verse in Genesis 3 that states that the woman's desire will be for her husband, and he will rule over her?' I will emphasize, again, that God created them as equals from the beginning. Notice that this business of control-based relationships happens after not before the Fall. It is a departure from the arrangement before the Fall, and I would therefore understand it as a description rather than a prescription - indeed, quite the contrary, this business of power struggle, of men ruling over women, is evidence of sin at work!

    Someone else will argue that woman was created from man and for man, that man is the head of woman, and this is now balanced out by the fact that men are born of women. Someone might claim that this is what Paul had in mind - that men get their dominion by teaching, etc., women get their dominion by having babies. It might make more sense if a man's wife was taken out of his side nowadays. But since that isn't happening, it doesn't make any more sense to claim that literal, personal having babies is what gives me my dominion.

    Then I will remind them that this equality I am speaking of existed before any children appeared. Furthermore, children are in no way part of the material of the marriage. Man leaves father and mother, cleaves to his wife, the two become one flesh. This is the definition of marriage. Nothing about children.

  5. Someone will argue that 'one flesh' means children. I will remind them that the Torah considered the two to be one - enough so that to dissolve the relationship required a divorce - before they had even slept together, much less had children. And furthermore, there is an entire book of the Bible (Song of Songs/Song of Solomon) devoted to sexual love in its various aspects. There is not one word about children, even of the most metaphorical type, in all of its 8 chapters... So I would say that that equality exists even without childbearing being in the picture.

    Oh, and while I think of it, it is true that the Old Testament pictures marriage as something that a man does to a woman. The word for 'man' means 'male person' (as opposed to 'generic person'), and the word for 'cleave' is in the active voice. Now, in the New Testament, the word for 'man' means 'generic person' (and there is a different word for 'male person'), and the word for 'cleave' is in the... passive voice. Note that in Greek, there is even a middle voice, and it has different endings from the passive, so it is clear: marriage is something God does to the two. In other words, both parties are on the receiving, 'passive' end of God's action.

    And then notice: in 1 Corinthians 7, Paul talks about how just like the man has authority over his wife's body, *in the same way* she has authority over his body. The word for 'authority' really cannot be translated any other way. It is evident (to me anyway) that just as our parents are supposed to be our highest earthly authority in our youth, once we get married, their place is taken by our spouse. For both parties - husband and wife - the highest earthly authority is now the spouse.

    OK, I was supposed to be in bed over 3 hours ago. The bottom line is this: the equality in the Bible is so radical that any differences have to be based in something temporal because there just isn't any other possibility. And temporal things are just that: temporal. They do not have to exist forever, and when they cease to exist, lots of things can end up changing - things that previously were advisable and even commanded. To have everything be on a proper foundation, we have to look at how things were meant to be at the beginning, what has not changed, what applies equally to everyone.

  6. LK,

    Actually, women still can't read the Gospels during Mass. That's reserved for the priest or the deacon. I don't know of any (current) restrictions on them reading during any other kind of service, though there likely was in the fairly recent past. :)

    That's why I keep rereading the Bible. You find new things that you never noticed before every time.

  7. Amber, I enjoyed the notes you shared from your Bible. I laughed when I saw you asked me a question right in your post. :) Perhaps the question dealt with the first few verses of I Timothy and whether or not women could be leaders in church. Verse 3 would suggest no unless women could be the husband of only one wife. :) You are excused from that passage unless you just want to talk about it.

    Thanks for this post!

  8. caraboska,

    It actually is in 1 Peter 3 as well: 3. Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - 4. rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

    I tend to view these verses less about banning actually, literally braiding ones hair, or wearing jewelry and more about the impression that one means to give with those things. Not to get too materialistic and caught up in keeping up with the Jones' as it were. Don't dress for the approbation of society and to show off how well off you are (or want people to think that you are), but focus instead on the things that actually count.

    I may strike some people as, while not plain dressing by any stretch of the imagination, someone who takes these verses literally, but for me, it's more personal preference than anything else. I'm not a jewelry person, really. I have it, and I'll wear some occasionally, but not as a general rule. And when I do, it's one or two pieces. My hair, well. It's too short to braid, and no one could see it anyway. :) And I'm a sale shopper who actually hates to shop, so I doubt any of my clothes could count as costly.

    'At any rate, God willing, my clothes won't distract anyone from the meat of the matter, which is the doing of good deeds.'

    I think that's the important point, really. What we wear should not hinder our following of God, or make a severe contrast between what we preach and the image we give to the world.

    One way authority between man and woman doesn't work, so far as I can tell. Especially if we're talking about in a marriage, there has to be a partnership of equals. But even then, there are going to be areas where one leads and the other follows. It's almost a 'whatever works for you' scenario. No two marriage are ever alike.

    I tried, in the beginning, to get behind the entire, wifely submission thing, but, honestly, it doesn't make any sense to me. As you point out, God expects us the same level of dedication from each person in the marriage. The phrasing is different, but it all boils down the same, in the end.

    'And it was a very short step from there to ceasing to cover my head.'

    This is neither here nor there, but I thought you did still cover? Or is it from modesty reasons now, as opposed to male authority from before?

    Anyway. :)

    *nods* All very true. Understanding the time and the place and the circumstances where a letter was written is very important to understanding the cultural cues and helping to understand what was meant.

    'Then there is the question of priesthood and ordination. Every time the word 'priest' is used with reference to Christians in the New Testament, it is clear that every Christian is a priest. The most obvious verse is I Peter 2:9 - 'But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy people...' This means that every Christian has the right to act in the place of Christ.'

    Here, of course, I must respectfully disagree. While all Christians are a 'royal priesthood', and we are called to preach Christ to the world, and to intercede with one another, Christ did institute a priesthood within Christianity, based on the Apostles and their successors the bishops.

    'And if there was a prohibition on women speaking or teaching - which is in fact questionable - given the rest of what Scripture says about men and women,'

    I don't actually see that there was a prohibition on *all* women teaching or speaking. Clearly there were women teachers in the early church. I feel those instances where women are instructed to be silent were very specific to the time and the place, and the issue that they were having.

    I have nothing to add to the rest of your comments except 'Exactly.' And a smattering of applause. :)

    I hope you got some sleep. :)

  9. Susanne,

    Maybe. There is commentary on the qualifications of a deacons wife, but it's just...'their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.' *shrug* Sounds like a generally good rule to me... :)

  10. Amber, The bit about the 'wives' of deacons is far from clear. Problem is, there is no separate word in Greek for 'husband' vs. 'man', or 'wife' vs. 'woman'. You have to get it from the context. And in this particular passage, it could go either way. They may well be talking about women deacons.

    The thing about Peter's version of the dress code is that it says nothing about the expense (or lack thereof) of the clothing. It just mentions an outer garment similar to a draped abaya or sari. So that if that verse from Timothy weren't there, it would be crystal clear: it is no more sensible to absolutely prohibit braids or jewelry than it is to prohibit the wearing of outer garments (What about modesty? What about the weather? You get the idea).

    I actually agree with your take on this matter, but I admit that
    my clothes are sometimes... artistic in nature (i.e. embellished, draped etc.) and while I try to get good value for money (buying material online to make my own stuff), and largely succeed, I would definitely not broadcast their exact price to the general public. So I did treat those verses as a caution to be careful about this aspect of modesty and sobriety and not engaging in material display.

    I did not cover for several years after coming to the conclusions I came to about relationships. But then I began to cover last year - not for the same reasons. Yes, there's an element of modesty, an element of my clothes being a prayer garment, as it were a portable place of worship. I delayed taking this step lest I appear to be someone I am not, and only took it when I was able to view the Scriptures as giving me the right to cover full-time if I so choose. And so I decided to exercise my rights :D

    My point about the priesthood (in the sense of 'acting in the place of Christ', as opposed to 'being a presbyter') is that it's not in the Bible, except in the form I mentioned. It's only in tradition. And for those who believe in tradition, that is a sufficient argument. For those who adhere to 'sola Scriptura', it isn't :D

    Soli Deo gloria.

  11. Caraboska,

    They did, historically, have deaconesses, so the argument that the 'wife' who needs to be temperate, etc. may have been a 'husband' is valid. That ministry has gone out of use, though I do know of a few small groups who would like to bring it back into usage.

    Unless someone tells you how much their clothes cost, or make certain you know the 'label', it's hard (for me at least) to know how much they spent on it. Of course, someone draped in jewels is being ostentatious, but clothing wise, I think you can get away with some artisticness without being materialistic. :)

    'is that it's not in the Bible, except in the form I mentioned. It's only in tradition. And for those who believe in tradition, that is a sufficient argument. For those who adhere to 'sola Scriptura', it isn't :D'

    And for those that believe in Tradition, it is in the Bible, properly understood. Tradition and the Bible go hand in hand, of course. :) But yes, for those who have gone 'sola Scriptura', I can see the confusion. :)


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