Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Correcting Abuses in Ephesus

Chapter 2 is where it all begins—the great debate concerning women in ministry. Verses 8-15 are the verses in question, but to determine the meaning of the passage, we must analyze its context: for, as I was taught in my hermeneutics class, “A text means what it means in its CONTEXT.”

Turning to verse 1, we see that Paul wants all those in leadership positions to be prayed for, “that we may lead a PEACEFUL AND QUIET LIFE…” Paul will use the word “quiet” several times throughout this entire chapter of the Book of First Timothy. In verse 3, Paul says that to lead such a life is pleasing to God, “who desires all people to be saved and to come TO THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.” Paul mentioned in chapter 1 about the law being good if it was used “lawfully,” or “correctly” (1:8); he now goes back to this theme of “truth.”

In verse 5, Paul writes,


This is the only place in the canon of Scripture that the phrase “the man, Christ Jesus” is used. This will serve a purpose in vv. 8-15, the verses of our current debate on women in ministry. We will come back to this verse later.

In verse 7, Paul says that he was made an apostle and preacher because of the testimony of Christ. But then, he says something interesting:

“(I am telling the truth, I AM NOT LYING), a teacher of the Gentiles IN FAITH AND TRUTH.”

In verse 7, Paul uses the word “truth” TWICE! First, he has to defend his calling, his place in the body of Christ. He says, “I am not lying,” probably because Paul was assumed to be a liar in the church. This church had so much false teaching coming within it, that even Paul wasn’t trusted by everyone to be who he was.

Verse 8 is where the “exegetical camera” ZOOMS in on the situation:

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands WITHOUT ANGER OR QUARRELING.”

The problem he has here with the men is not that they’re praying—but that they’re praying with ANGER. Even times of prayer aren’t peaceful, which is why Paul prayed for peace for those in authority in verses 1 and 2 of this same chapter. The false teaching has had such an effect on the church that the hearts of men are angry and frustrated at prayer time.

In verses 9-10, Paul makes another request: “likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is PROPER FOR WOMEN WHO PROFESS GODLINESS—WITH GOOD WORKS.”

First, we notice the word “likewise” (hosautos) in the Greek, meaning “in the same way” or “in the same manner.” When the women pray, they should dress modestly, clothing that isn’t too revealing or too indicative of a “loose” woman. This is why Paul says “Not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire.” Braided hair, and gold and pearls were indicative of a rebellious woman, just as the women at Corinth were viewed as loose and rebellious because they refused to wear their marriage veils. In addition, notice that braided hair, gold, pearls, and “costly attire” are indicative of wealthy women. Paul later writes to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:17, “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who RICHLY PROVIDES us with everything to enjoy.” In verses 18-19, Paul says,


These instructions were written to the well-to-do of the congregation. So we know that when Paul writes about “costly attire,” it is because there were a good many women in this congregation who were very wealthy. Paul said at the end of verse 10 that these women should not be wealthy in clothing and attire, but GOOD WORKS!

In verse 11, he goes on to what constitutes good work: “Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness.” Notice that women are not just to LEARN, but to learn QUIETLY! Remember how at the beginning of the chapter, Paul prayed for the leaders to lead a “peaceful and QUIET life” (2:2)? Women are not just to learn quietly, but with submissiveness—to subject themselves to their teachers, to listen and take in what they are being taught. Why would Paul be telling them this if their teachers were teaching them wrong? He wouldn’t. So for him to tell these women to submit to their instructors, he is telling them to submit themselves to THE TRUTH.

Now, in this context of what constitutes “good works,” listening to one’s instructor, let’s head to verse 12:

“I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, rather, she is to remain quiet.”

I won’t go into the word “authentein” at this moment, since my task first involves showing the context of 1 Timothy. However, notice that Paul tells them “to remain quiet.” This is the opposite of teaching and to “authentein” a man. I am also not arguing this moment about the connection between ‘teaching” and “authentein.” I am simply saying that being quiet is how they submit, but this is the opposite of what they are doing. They are causing quite an uproar. Remember that the chapter starts with Paul’s prayer for leaders to have a “peaceful and QUIET life,” followed by the anger and wrath among the men who pray, and now, Paul chooses to focus on the problems occurring amongst the women of Ephesus. The rebellious behavior of these women students before their instructors was not an example of “good works” that they ought to be doing.

However, verse 13 can shed some light on “teaching” and “authentein”:

“For Adam was formed first, then Eve…” What happens in this verse is that Paul begins to appeal to Genesis to argue for women to “remain quiet.” However, Paul isn’t showing something new here—for Genesis records that Adam was the first human God made from the dust of the ground (Genesis 1:26-27). Paul is, however, arguing for the ORDER in which Adam and Eve were created. Why would he have to affirm something already recorded in Genesis—UNLESS the creation story was IN DISPUTE among the believers at Ephesus?

Verse 14 completes the thought started in verse 13:

“and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” In addition to having to DEFEND Adam’s designation as the FIRST human, Paul now has to also defend Adam from not being deceived, and argue that “the woman” was the one deceived. Adam’s name is mentioned in verses 13 and 14, but Eve’s name is only mentioned in verse 13. In verse 14, Eve becomes “the woman.”

Why does Paul have to label “the woman” as being deceived? Because there was a false teaching going on that involved the creation story. Remember chapter 1? The nature of false teaching at the church at Ephesus consisted of “myths and endless GENEALOGIES.” I provided a definition from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which said that a genealogy is an “account of origin.” So here, one of the genealogies of the false teaching seems to be the problem—the idea that Eve was created before Adam, and that Adam was deceived instead of Eve. Paul has to defend Adam’s headship over the entire human race, as well as Eve’s deception. The verb “authentein,” an infinitive, will be translated to the effect of “to be the original” or “to be the author of” man. As a result, “teaching” and “authentein” will be connected because of Paul’s appeal to the Law; authentein, then, will refer to the nature of the teaching, not the common idea of “having” or “exercising authority” over a man. The word “over” is nowhere in the text, so the word itself does not refer to someone being “in authority” over someone else: it consists of women claiming Eve is the original man instead of Adam.

Verse 15 concludes the argument:

“Yet, she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness with self-control.”

Who is the “she” and “they” of verse 15? The “she” refers to Eve, for “the woman” of verse 14 is “Eve” of verse 13. The “they” of verse 15 refers to the women. So, Eve’s reputation would be saved or preserved through the women bearing children, IF they should continue in the faith and live godly. It seems then, that the attempt of the women to claim that Adam was deceived and that Eve was created first was an attempt to salvage Eve’s reputation, to save her from being the epitome of the scorned female gender.

Paul’s appeal to the law here to give this prohibition against women is because these women “desired to be teachers” (1:7) but were speaking false doctrine in ignorance. Before they could teach the law, they had to learn the law and correctly interpret it (“rightly divide the Word of truth”, 2 Tim. 2:15).

There’s more to go into about this passage—such as the fact that this teaching about Eve was a Gnostic teaching that fully organized itself in the second century AD. However, all the other details surrounding this passage will be saved for another time.


  1. Interesting! I just had a commenter on one of my blogs suggest that Eve was the first human (link)
    and I think it comes out of the same motivation you suggested "an attempt to salvage Eve’s reputation, to save her from being the epitome of the scorned female gender"I'm sure you know that there is a definite article in front of childbearing?

    “she shall be saved through the childbearing if they continue in…” I am not a Greek scholar but I looked up the Greek word translated “saved” sozo some of the alternative meanings of saved are – made well, healed, restored.

    “will be saved/restored” is in the future.
    Restored HOW?
    I think it refers to the preceding verse “the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. She will be restored through the childbearing if they…”.

    Perhaps the promise applies to everywoman. She is offered the opportunity of restoration to the garden state of intimacy with the LORD (as Eve enjoyed before the transgression) if she allows Jesus to be formed in her and “continues in…”? (where “the childbirth” signifies her personal sanctification. Paul uses childbirth as a metaphor for sanctification in Gal 4:19)

  2. Gem,

    You are absolutely correct! I have done research on the word "sozo." As you can imagine, since I adhere to the Greek on the blog regularly, I always use it (whether I write on it or not).

    Your insight here as well as in other posts is phenomenal...thanks again. And feel free to comment anytime you'd like...
    - Deidre


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